A quiet revolution of incredible proportions is taking place in adult education, a 100-year-old institution that suddenly snuck up on us.
The complexity and accelerated pace of our era – an era in which the first manned spacecraft had already moved from dream to museum – has apparently obscured the fact that there soon may be more adults attending school than children.
The idea of continuous life-long schooling is no longer regarded by “the doers” as a pedantic and scholarly whim: study is viewed by educators, industry and workers seeking entry and promotion in industry as an imperative – a necessary function to keep up with “the acceleration of acceleration.”
This year, as many as 2 million adults over 25 may attend adult education course in California, approximately 25,000 of these in the Cerritos College District.
As individuals focus in on “the trees” with the hope, or financial necessity, of contributing toward a more detailed view of the technological “forest,” an accompanying increase in schooling will be required to take “the specialties” apart, to learn new specialties and, when possible, to put them all back together again.
The Department of employment already lists [‘66] 36,000 job categories, and the specialties are exploding into more specialties. More technological development has occurred in the last 10 years than in the 100 years preceding this period and the machine “has just begun to automate.”
For the present, automation appears to be eliminating the need for unskilled workers on the one hand, and generating a shortage of highly skilled workers and “thinkers” on the other.
Ultimately, the menial chores automated, there may be few “chores” except to tend to the needy, study or teach or let the machine teach us, if it will, how to get along with the machine and perhaps even ourselves.
As an indication (already outdated) of how the machine might manage without menial manpower, during World War II the women, children and the handicapped largely provided the manufacturing needs of the nation – and the massive demands of the war – by applying a little elbow grease and a lot more automation.
The iron, metal or plastic horse of technology has since advanced at a trot to the use of cybernation, that is the combined use of computers and automation – in effect the machine running the machine.
“We can’t tell for sure what effect the computer will have on the labor market,” reports Herbert Schlain, state employment counselor in Norwalk
“No one seems to have any statistics on the subject. We’ve been trying to guess but there are too many variables,” he continued.
“The rate of change – as to be almost a difference in kind. There is nothing to measure against and the transient stage won’t sit down long enough for us to do an accurate study.”
Economists such as Robert Theobald estimate that already, if our present cybernetic capabilities were fully utilized, only 2 percent of the U.S. work force would be required to produce the gross national product, Schlain noted.
And cybernation, still proceeding at a trot, is soon expected to gallop.
Authorities such as Richard Bellman, USC professor and former member of the Rand Corp., emphasizes that “many industrial and business procedures are not automated today only because of the lack of capacity or the slowness of current computers, or because mathematicians and engineers cannot use available computers as well as they should. Larger and faster computers will bypass both problems.”
Machine Run by Machine
Professor Bellman notes that “the best commercial computer readily and widely available is the result of only 15 years of industrial research.
“In order to see where we are on the scale, it is perhaps useful to compare the development of the commercial airliner, from the Wright brothers’ plane to the modern jetliner. The computer we are thinking of is about at the level of the DC 3. . .
“It is quite misleading to (predict) what the use of computers will be in 10 years on the basis of their use over the last 10 years,” he states.
“Anyone in the computing field can tell a number of stories concerning pessimistic predictions of the need for computers (predictions made 10 years ago) that would seriously embarrass those who made the initial predictions.”
Yet Professor Bellman conjectures that automated technology problems “would be as serious” without the computer.
‘Reins Held On Progress’
“Consider some of the effects of routine improvement in technology, from the well publicized featherbedding of the railroad fireman and the farmer, to the not so well-publicized featherbedding in a hundred industries and occupations.
“Consider, for example, what miniaturization will do, what printed electronic circuits will do: consider the light bulbs that never burn out; the razor blades that last 10 times as long; the tennis balls good for 30 sets; the nylon stocking good for years; and so on and so on.
“American industry in various ways has been able to control some of this for some time. It cannot keep on, if only because other nations with emerging industries, or competitive industries, will not allow it.”
Henry Ford II, chairman of the Ford Motor Company board, chided the business community several weeks ago on “hemming and hawing over the social responsibilities of the corporation.
“The greater disparity between prosperous and poor nations becomes, the higher world tensions will mount,” he said. “Of our alternatives, one is unthinkable. We cannot consider holding back our own progress. That leaves nothing but the choice that we, in our humanitarian tradition, should be happy to make: To do what we can and all we can to bring other peoples into a more comfortable life so that we can continue our own progress without widening the gap.”
Ironically, the technology which introduced the cotton gin and perhaps served more effectively than the civil war to free the slaves, now promises to relieve the worker and harness the master – for the master will have to increase his studies to learn how to get all the parts running in the same direction.
While lesser animals than man may be equipped within a few weeks after birth to run their affairs of life, employment officials report that today’s American male settles on a career at an average age of 32 – but then he has only begun to study.
Continuous study is required for the specialist and analyst, since the techniques he learned in the university are frequently outdated by the time he graduates. In more extreme instances, some report, the techniques of industry are frequently outdated before they get to the university.
The more sophisticated the techniques, the faster the gallop of cybernation.
Cybernation will continued to increase productivity – perhaps for the world’s need and an increasing population, or for the unemployed unskilled, for super-saturated and over-extended credit consumers with a backyard of obsolescent products and solicitors’ paraphernalia, or for shipment to the Moon and Mars.
Some view the increase in productivity as utopia, and a plentiful supply for all. There are numerous variations on the theme. Some, fearing that the machine will replace the working masses and receive the only paychecks to consume its own products, view it as despairingly as the situation in Vietnam or the threat of world population explosion.
“The computer itself, along with sophisticated statistical methods, makes it possible to predict that in the 1970s: (1) there will be 235 million people in the United States; and (2) unless comprehensive programs are pursued today on numerous fronts, the population’s needs in the 1970s will not be provided within the framework of our present political and economic system,” according to Charles Ramsey, author and editor of the Fluor Corporation’s Fluor-O-Scope publication.
Man Adapting to Automation?
“Man’s struggle to balance nature has been so successful that a man-made environment is being created. If man can completely create a custom tailored, unchanging environment to suit his needs, a perfect equilibrium should exist,” Ramsey notes. “But man himself is a vestige of nature, evolving at a slower rate than a machine environment unbound by physiological laws. To demand his immediate adaptation to an automated society is to expect his advancement in one generation of the evolutionary scale to equal that of the past 10,000 years.”
Yet Ramsey points out that “man’s survival over the millennia” proves his ability to adapt to severe changes in his environment.
“While the evolution of technology has frequently created short periods of readjustment, insecurity and displacement for a portion of the population, the overall effect has been the advancement of civilization,” he asserted.
As an indication of advancement in production, a Pennsylvania State University conference last year heard a report that today’s entire national labor force would have to work a 90-hour week in order to maintain present national production with 1919 technology.
Ralph J. Cordiner, retired board chairman of General Electric Co., claims that highly automated electric utilities employ only 400,000 persons, but are responsible for 2.7 million jobs in electrical contracting, wholesale and retail trade, service and repair. These jobs could not exist, he maintained, without economical service by automated utilities.
The Research Institute of America reported at the beginning of 1965 that during the period 1956-63 the most automated corporations in the United States – the 500 largest industrials – raised their employment level by 11 percent, while manufacturing jobs nationwide dropped 1 percent. No statistics were available on the specific number of jobs gained and lost, but the trend toward industrial giants and fewer small manufacturers is apparent.
Cordiner emphasized that General Electric has increased its employment since 1939 at a rate six times faster than the nation as a whole.
He notes that thousands of General Electric employees hold positions today that did not exist in 1939 – “Certainly evidence that technological progress, together with skillful marketing, creates new employment opportunities.”
Yet labor leader Walter Reuther claims that while automation and cybernation may create jobs, it is displacing an estimated 40,000 workers per week.
The “Dictionary of Occupational Titles,” recently released after 15 years of extensive research and compilation by the State Department of Employment, includes 6,000 new job titles not listed in the prior 1949 edition. However, the new dictionary also eliminates 7,000 “obsolete” job titles that had been listed in the earlier edition.
Some of the new listings reflect old jobs recently acknowledged, while some job titles have apparently been dropped from the new dictionary after being combined with similar jobs. But there is little doubt that great numbers of jobs are being both eliminated and initiated, with great hardships for those unwilling, unable or unprepared to keep up with the change.
Can’t Measure Total Impact of Automation
Some authorities have estimated that automation is presently displacing about 2 million workers per year, according to Gaylord Pitts of the State Department of Employment, Los Angeles. Pitts noted, however, that it is difficult to assess how many jobs may be created as a result of automation or a booming economy.
“We can’t measure it (the total impact of automation), and I don’t know of any programs that have attempted it,” he said.
In Southern California, the aerospace industry has indicated that in 1966 it will add more than 5,000 new engineers and scientists to its labor pool.
“Although more than five percent of the American work force today is unemployed, jobs are available. But the computer has so severely altered employment patterns that most of the country’s inactive manpower is neither technologically nor psychologically prepared to fill available jobs,” Ramsey noted following an extensive survey.
Major Problem is Human Factor
“In its simplest terms, the major problem facing the nation is how to continue technological innovations and increase production while still providing for the human factor,” he added.
Assessments of automation vary, yet there is a common concern over increasing leisure promised to large segments of society. What will people do with this additional free time, and what will be the consequences if they misuse it?
The state of marriage and a present California divorce rate that exceeds the marriage rate indicates that additional free time may not come as an unmitigated blessing for every family. Neither do many present standards of recreation auger well for an enlightened, democratic society.
Rene DuBos, ecologist and member of the Rockefeller Institute, claims the major difference between man’s past adaptations and man’s present “challenge” to adapt is that many applications of present technology have little or nothing to do with human biological needs.
DuBos asserts that such applications “create new environmental conditions to which man finds it difficult to adapt.”
Yet man has continued to orient himself toward technological changes and it is “to this challenge that the nation is now directing an increasing amount of its attention,” Ramsey adds.
The average annual increase in output per man hour for the past five years in the United States is 3.2 percent, reports Ed Smith, of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, San Francisco.
This means that each year it takes 3.2 percent less workers to do the same job.
“Where production hasn’t gone up, employment has gone down – this loss is to a large extent owing to technology.”
Smith added, however, that increasing production has led to increasing employment in some industries and particularly in services such as sales and distributions.
Apparently automation, by lessening the need for the unskilled and creating a shortage of the highly skilled and the analytical, is sending the leisured, the high school dropouts and the Ph.D.’s back to school.
‘Can’t See Forest for the Trees’
Although a great percentage of students are exerting a wide-scale effort to meet the specialized job requirements of technology, many argue that this student is dangerously limiting his scope to where he “can’t see the forest for the trees.”
Possibly there is an ever-widening gap between untested philosophical theory and unreasoned technological practice, while the most serious student is uncertain whether to study less and less about more and more, or more and more about less and less.
Some revered theoretical scientists of today have advanced so far beyond empiricism (what can be tested by the senses) as to boast about never having performed an experiment. In contrast, many highly proficient technicians and experimentalists, steeped in specialized data, have too limited their scope to even concern themselves with generalizations or theories.
One is reminded of commentary of author H.G. Wells regarding classical Greece: “But science in Greece was pursued by philosophers in an aristocratic spirit, men, who, with a few such exceptions as the ingenious Archimedes and Hiero, were too proud to learn from such mere artisans as jewelers and metal and glass-workers.
“Ignorance is the first penalty of pride. The philosopher had no mechanical skill and the artisan had no philosophical education, and it was left for another age, more than a thousand years later, to bring together glass and the astronomer (resulting in the telescope).”
Today it appears that the artisan and technician – the doer – is held on higher regard than the philosopher. And tomorrow, if it comes, will record the losses.
In our present age of electronic brains and scientific “teamwork,” the complexities of our expanding universe – or, perhaps even more complicated, of our expanding research, are regarded beyond the comprehension of man.
The claim appears to be an international one – for man, so long regarded as the center of the universe, and comparing himself to the current image of a grandiose, if not never-ending universe, thinks he has become too “insignificant” to understand the “big picture.”
Philosophers claim such an attitude of “insignificance” has been accompanied by a disturbing “eclipse of personal judgment” – as each specialized authority or layman, beyond his area of competence, is forced to know what (or who) he respects more than he respects what he personally knows.
Many are uncertain whether such ready acceptance of specialized authorities indicates a healthy “open mind” or a dangerous “escape from reason” wherein the individual makes few of his own judgments. Only such a reliance upon authority, in its most extreme form, could have made possible the total elimination of personal responsibility leading to the Nazi mind of millions during World War II.
An Open Mind May Be Empty
An “open mind” although a pleasant relief from dogma, may in the opposite extreme represent an ability to accept nonsense. Both may be recognized, perhaps amid the general advancement in the history of science.
Referring to the conservative nature of the scientist and the university, author-historian Herbert Butterfield writes, “It is notorious that the Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth century had to bypass the universities and found it necessary to supplement these with new establishments of its own. And even the scientists cannot escape the constitution of things which “seem to decree that teaching bodies are more fitted to continue the globe in its existing course than to guide it into new regions of the sky.”
On the one hand, in the theoretical area, Louis Pasteur was not allowed to boil water; anesthetics were regarded unnecessary, if not sinful; the scientific community firmly held to the belief that the atom (the term means indivisible) is irreducible; Mendel’s efforts were delayed by resistance 35 years; Waterston’s molecular theory of gases lay in obscurity 45 years after the respected Royal Society rejected it with the comment, “The paper is nothing but nonsense,” more than 2,000 years ago Aristarchus told Grecians that the earth is not the center of the universe. Amid innumerable other instances – the price of progress – Kepler and Copernicus’ similar notions were regarded unscientific by the scientific community of the time.
On the other hand, in the more economically profitable technological arena, serious questions are being asked about whether science isn’t leaping before it looks.
Dr. Barry Commoner, plant biologist at Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, and chairman of the American Association for the Advancement of Science Committee on Science in the Promotion of Human Welfare, noted recently:
“Synthetic detergents were committed to full-scale economic exploitation before it was discovered that an important fault – resistance to bacterial degradation in sewage systems (resulting in water pollution) – would eventually require that they be withdrawn from the market.”
Commoner adds that “The hazards of pesticides in animal life were not fully known until pesticides were massively disseminated in the biosphere; the medical risk to man has hardly been evaluated. Nuclear tests responsible for the massive distribution of radioactive debris were constructed for about 10 years before the biological effect of its most hazardous component were recognized.”
Today, humanists emphasize it is important that man doesn’t drown in specialized data and lose his perspective. Others argue that specialization provides more reliable data than that provided by the philosopher.
Although there are obvious dangers to loose philosophizing and to specialization, and the schools may cater to both by “meeting the needs,” it must be admitted that the individual who can’t smelt copper on the basis of his own knowledge hasn’t passed the stone age, and that, “cooperatively,” man possesses a civilization.
Survival Demands ‘Human’ Thinking
But in justifying the need for increased emphasis on “individuality” and thinking, a condition frequently motivated in school, economist Robert Theobald notes, “We have not yet been willing to recognize that we live today in the truly lazy society – a society where we allow technological trends to make our decisions for us because we have no mechanisms to allow us to control them.
“We have not yet been willing to recognize that man’s power is now so great that the minimum requirement for survival of the human race is individual responsibility.”
Professor Bellman states, “We must accept the fact that the days of mass employment generated by mass industry are over. I also feel that automation will reach far up the scale of middle class activity, e.g., banks, industries, government, and will create extensive unemployment in these areas. Both the lower and middle economic classes will be seriously affected.”
Adding a more optimistic note, however, Bellman states, “There is, only one area which completely resists automation, the area of personal services. Certainly doctors, nurse, teachers and lawyers will be required for any future society.
Plenty of Jobs Needed for People
“Similarly, we will also need butchers, bakers, candlestick makers and secretaries. We can expect a resurgence of the small shopkeeper as people begin to insist once again on better services and the real luxuries of life.
“In addition, as medical care improves and is extended, we will need people specifically trained to take care of the old; as more leisure time is available, there will be more need for amusements, cultural and educational activities: as we get more civilized, better care will be given to the mentally ill, the criminally ill, retarded children, crippled children.
“I maintain that if we look around us and see how desperately so many people need personal care, we will never again worry about whether people can be gainfully and profitably employed.
“We have all of the means available for training people in the necessary areas, for using them and paying them. It is merely a question of bringing the issues clearly before the American people and allowing them to make a choice of what kind of life they really want for themselves,” he concludes.
Adult Education Offers Means
Adult education centers are providing the means for training today on a wide scale: estimates are that from 30 to 50 million adults throughout the nation may avail themselves of such training and education this spring.
“The history of civilization is a race between education and catastrophe,” asserted the noted historian Wells.
Yet it is perhaps the clear complexity of our era that has obscured from many the existence and the importance of such a race.
True, the average American has heard of the Space Race, a “search for truth” that, had it not been for Sputnik, would probably be limited today in the United States to an occasional satellite orbiting around the earth. But comparatively few, when considering the dangers of ignorance, have paid heed to a race for general knowledge and to a race for mass education.
For despite notable advances, despite the real and imagined gains of mass education, despite the fact that there soon may be as many adults attending school as children, the average American reportedly still spends more money on funerals than on taxes for education.
Despite emphasis on “changing times,” Heraclitus’ statement – “We step and do not step into the same river twice” – has survived for several thousand years. Some misconceptions and outdated fears have survived even longer.
Our mythology books report that thousands of years ago, at the time of the thirteenth month, a king was selected from the crowd to satisfy the whims of the queen and then to be offered for human sacrifice – partly for the Gods, but mostly to get him out of the queen’s way.
Then, perhaps, it was justifiable to fear 13. But today it is a sad comedy. Science – a leading force in civilization – has built as its stepchild a modern, spiraling culture replete with cities which refused to name 13th streets and hotels which refuse to acknowledge the 13th floor. Superstition is officially condoned in Los Angeles County, for example, where streets numbered 13 are amusingly, if not alarmingly, scarce.
A common conception is that animals have a mysterious ability to find their way hundreds of miles to their master. The Pound, however, may support a not-so-common view that most animals can’t find their way around the block.
Bergen Evans notes that “The discoveries of the telescope, the spectroscope, and the interferometer are daily news, but the paper that carries them probably has an astrologer on its staff and would sooner omit the headlines than the horoscope.”
Few would regard themselves competent to run General Motors, yet the government, on a larger scope, has millions of ill-advised advisors. Most everyone has an opinion – in the great majority of instances, his parents – of whether he’s a Republican or Democrat. Yet safely the majority of voters can’t name the mayor in their own city. A recent random poll of Orange County, for example, indicated that only 6 out of 26 percent (residing more than five years each in the area) could name the mayor of their city.
Ignorance or incompetence is no crime. A successful brain surgeon is normally an incompetent airplane pilot ignorant of flying procedures. What is a crime, perhaps, is incompetence parading as competence at the cost of other people (i.e., should the surgeon attempt to pilot the plane). What is tragic and costly is the reliance upon ignorance, or too frequently, perhaps, a preference for it.
Soap Operas and ‘Fun’ TV
Despite an overall improvement in communications – although a book that sells 25,000 copies still becomes a “best seller” in a country of 200 million – a great percentage, perhaps the majority of Americans apparently prefer Sunday comics and the bulk of meaningless or “anti”-educational television – “musicals,” play game contests, soap operas, “cops and robbers” and other “fun” shooting and war programs – to philosophy, the arts, a good book or even – goodness knows, conversation.
Some claim that “ignorance is bliss,” although they rarely say for whom. A few argue that the more you know about life – art, history, music, how to make a living and how to get along with your family – the more you can enjoy life. One need not assume any guilt for lack of prior opportunity or education. One will, however, suffer the disadvantages.
On a pragmatic or “practical” basis, for example, an estimated 40 to 55 percent of the labor force within the Cerritos College District are “blue collar” workers or “operatives” (semi-skilled and unskilled) subject to possible (though not necessarily probable) job displacement by present means of automation. Yet only a comparatively insignificant number of these workers are among the thousands of adults planning to attend adult education courses this year, school officials report.
More than 40,000 persons in the Cerritos District have received less than an eighth grade education, and again a comparatively insignificant proportion of these persons are among “the droves” planning to attend night school or adult education programs this spring, authorities report.
50% in State Lack HS Diploma
While the need for a high school education is “taken for granted” today, almost 50 percent of the adults over 25 in California lack diplomas.
In the Cerritos District, the median number of school years attended, according to a report issued in the fall of 1965, is Artesia, 8.0; Bellflower, 11.3; Dairy Valley, 8.8, Downey, 12.2; La Mirada, 12.6, and Norwalk, 11.0 – yet only a proportionately small percentage of those lacking high school diplomas are expected to attend adult schools this year.
Throughout California, liberal arts students and adults lacking a high school diploma comprised less than one third of the 1.6 million adult students over 25 attending adult education courses last year.
Although a high school education may be acceptable today, a college education may be barely acceptable – as a start – tomorrow, as the speed of technological change already is forcing many college graduates to return for more schooling. Yet Norwalk and Artesia share a high drop-out rate from high school, and only about 50 percent of the Cerritos District’s high school graduates are estimated to continue onto college.
Some of these high school drops-outs and high school graduates return with others for more schooling, more highly motivated after first entering the work force and obtaining a better idea of their needs and interests.
Employment counselor Schlain notes that more than 50 percent of the unemployed in the Cerritos College District lack high school diplomas.
He adds that today, to find a meaningful job, “an individual will need vocational training at least beyond high school.”
Some authorities recommend the student enter the work force and determine his interests and potentialities before “blindly diving” into a specialty in the university that may soon become outdated or that may soon fail to hold his interest.
There has been progress, at an impressive pace, in the Cerritos District and throughout the nation. But not all adults, apparently not enough adults, have an appreciation of “education” in the modern world.
There are more than 42 millions television sets in use in the United States today, and the average television set is conservatively estimated to be turned on for about four hours per day. It would probably be a gross exaggeration to estimate that the average set is turned on to educational television for 20 minutes per day.
Clearly, those who fail to educate themselves today will be left behind, either to be replaced by the machine or to become idle automats themselves, stupefied by Mickey Mouse TV as they are directed by the decisions of others.
Years back a special adult education supplement written and developed By Ron Kenner — which included this article — won a special John Swett award, one of only a few awarded each year by the California Teachers Association. He has received other awards and local and national recognition for his writings on education and urban affairs, and one of his articles was a winner in an international essay contest headquartered in Australia.
“The adult [education] section is one of the best of its kind I have ever seen.”
Arthur Simpson, President,
“The adult education supplement… was another masterpiece by its editor… one of the teachers was amazed at how the editor had pulled together such an excellent account of their discussion.”
Chester Sutton, Director of Adult Education,
By Ron Kenner — A QUIET REVOLUTION: WHAT IT MEANS TO YOU www.RKedit.com