Sociology Mind
2013. Vol.3, No.4, 314-316
Published Online October 2013 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Underemployment/Unemployment and the Public Placebo of
Educational Failure
Steven Gerardi
New York City College of Technology, New York, USA
Email: SGerardi@Citytech.Cuny.Edu
Received June 17th, 2013; revised July 24th, 2013; accepted August 9th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Steven Gerardi. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attri-
bution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the
original work is properly cited.
Over the last several decades there has been a series of national economic/trade policies which has had a
negative impact on employment, the middle class, organized labor, upward mobility, and the American
Dream. This effort suggests that in order to compensate for economic/trade decisions which has led to a
tremendous loss of all forms of employment in the USA, the power elite (both economic and political)
have used the myth that the American Educational system has failed to educate, hence creating a skill gap
and unemployment/underemployment.
Keywords: Educational Failure Myth and the Skills Gap
According to the current social and political paradigms, the
major cause of the loss of millions of jobs in the USA has been
the failure of the American educational system to educate a
skilled workforce. Hence, often we are exposed to comments
made by Apple Corporation’s Mr. Tim Cook, who suggested
that the reason the company has moved its manufacturing
plants to China was not to access cheap labor, rather Apple’s
inability to employ a skilled workforce in the USA, specifically
Engineers (the company in 2012 has been charged with worker
abuse in the Foxconn plant. A January 2013 report indicated
that FoxxCom has used underage child labor and inappropriate
labeling it “Student internship” (Chew, 2012).
Pejorative statements such as Mr. Cook’s notwithstanding,
since 1970’s the USA has lost 80 million jobs of all types (high
tech and otherwise). Today an estimated 77% of all jobs lost
over the decades have gone to China. The current national talk-
ing points as it relate to the loss of full employment in the USA,
is the failure of the American educational system to educate a
skilled work force. However, recent data suggests that the
America's educational “failure” can only account for 30% of
the increase in inequality nationally (Noah, 2010). Thus based
upon these data, educational “failure” accounts for 24 million
jobs since the 1970’s, the other 56 million jobs that have gone
overseas is the product of political economic decisions. Hence,
in today’s charged political climate over job loss, the social and
political elite have turned to educational system as failing to
educate a skilled work force as a public placebo. Furthermore,
the same elite have added yet another dimension to the
school failure equation, the Community College. The
American Community College system (we are told) will
provide the necessary skills needed to bring back all forms
of jobs in the future. Although there is no doubt that a college
education in today’s market is a source of human capital and a
truly noble national goal to have 100% of the population with a
college degree, the reality is that even with the increased need
for higher order skill s in the “new” post-modern economy few er
than 70% of the high school graduates go on to college; today’s
body of research suggest the cause is “Cultural Reproduction of
Low Social economic Status (SES) Class Consciences”.
Consequently, as result of the above mention political eco-
nomic decisions, individuals from low SES backgrounds are
faced with two legitimate choices: 1) try their chances in a re-
duced employment market; or 2) enter the community college.
The most recent data suggests that for a given 100 high school
graduates 35 will go to college. Of this cohort, 65% will gener-
ally find their only collegiate option the community college.
Hence, of the 35 college-bound high school graduates (men-
tioned earlier), 20 will enroll in a community college. Here at
worst the majority wills stopout/dropout, and at best a small
minority can expect to earn an AA/AAS degree. There is good
evidence that Community College students’ inability to perform
well academically centers around social class. According to
Bourdieu and Passeron social class is an important indicator of
cultural capital for the school setting (Bourdieu & Passeron,
1977). Therefore, distinctive cultural knowledge is transmitted
by families of each social class. Children of the poor/working
class inherit substantially different cultural knowledge, skills,
norms, styles of dress and linguistic abilities than children of
those within the educated middle class (it is estimated that a
middle class child learns 25,000 more words than their low SES
contemporary). This concept is referred to as the “Cultural Re-
production of Class Consciences”. The net result statistically is
the former will not success in school, and the latter will earn a
college degree.
The net result statistically is the former will not success in school,
and the latter will earn a college degree. According to Burton R.
Clark’s (Clark, 1968) suggested that tacit goal of the community
college is that of “cooling out ”. Th e cooling out hypothesis which
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 315
suggests that students from low SES backgrounds are made to
understand that they have academic deficiencies, forcing them
to lower their educational aspirations by recognizing that they
are unrealistically high; thereby dropping out reproducing low
SES class conscience.
Reproduction of Class Conscience
Generally, it is common knowledge that both working class
and middle class parents want their children to succeed in s chool.
However, the social position of each class leads its members to
employ different means to this end. Working class parents de-
pend on the teacher and the school to educate their children. On
the other hand, the middle class parent tends to actively par-
ticipate in the supervision and monitoring of his/her child’s
school achievements. Furthermore, language comparisons of
working and low SES families and middle class families sug-
gest that there may be a differential between the language of the
home and the language of the schools. According to Basil
Bernstein’s (Bernstein, 1975) work on language, coding theory,
curriculum and the transmission of knowledge is an important
interpretation of class, family, school and the failure of Low
SES students. Bernstein’s concept of code is central to his
analysis of the transmission of knowledge. Code refers to a
“regulative principle which underlies various message sys-
tems, especially curriculum and pedagogy”. Curriculum, ac-
cording to Bernstein, is valid knowledge. Pedagogy acts as the
valid transmission of this knowledge and evaluation is the re-
alization of knowledge taught. Both the curriculum and the
transmission of knowledge for Bernstein are based in language.
According to Bernstein language interpretation determined by
class, and is a function of social differences. Furthermore, vari-
ous functions of language in a given social context have a pro-
found effect on children’s social learning. Bernstein establishes
a distinction between language usage of the working class or
“public language”, and the language use of the middle class
which he labels “formal language”. Furthermore, Public vs.
formal language results in the low SES student statistically
failing in school; and the middle class student succeeding in
The Public Placebo
As was mentioned earlier, statistically low SES individuals
will do poorly within the educational system. However, after
World War II there was full employment in the United States
which led many uneducated individuals into the middle class
mainly through on the job traini ng. Hist orically , these o ccu pa tio ns
have acted as an avenue into the middle class by providing
good paying wages, health benefits and vacations; with a net
positive increase in spin-off jobs. However, based upon n atio nal
economic decisions since the 1970’s which have benefited the
profits of the special interest groups (profits earned are the
highest in 5 decades with little job creation), the social/political
elite find themselves in an social environment which may be
malignant to their political careers. Hence, for the purpose of
this effort, the definition of the Public Placebo is a sham c on ce pt
to placate the American public to lessening the political
ramifications of decades of poor economic decisions. Thus, in
an effort to obfuscate the political pushback by the public, the
educational failure fallacy has been created as a public placebo.
This public placebo points the finger not only at the American
educational system as failing, but at the individual who failed to
gained an education (as we saw earlier, Mr. Tim Cook of Apple
suggested he could not find an engineer in the USA to file his
high tech employment needs and not access to cheap labor).
Furthermore, (according to Associated Press in an article pub-
lished on April 23, 2012) about 1.5 million, or 53.6 percent, of
bachelor’s degree-holders under the age of 25 last year were
underemployed or underemployed (the highest amount in 11
years). College graduates during the last year were more likely
to be employed as waiters, waitresses, bartenders and food-
service helpers than as engineers, physicists, chemists and ma the-
maticians combined. They were more likely employed in of-
fice-related jobs such as receptionist or payroll clerk than in all
computer occupations. Moreover, they are more likely to be
employed as cashiers, retail clerks and customer representatives
than engineers (Peralta, 2012).
The shocking fact is that young college graduates are heavily
represented in jobs that require a high school diploma or less.
Hence, the argument that the American educational system is
not providing a skilled workforce is simple a public placebo
which has acted as an obfuscation of the decades of national
economic and trade decisions favoring special interests, stunt-
ing the growth of the American people. Further compounding
the educational fallacy is the constant exposure to a contrived
need for unnecessary technology. Most parents now believe
that their children must learn all the apps, social networking,
I-phones, E-payments, computer assisted learning, teaching tech-
nology, mobile devices, and electric text books. The dialectic
twist in this contrived technical revolution is that the children
are learning to accept, and live with chronic unemployment. A
case in point is the social network Face book. Face book today
is worth billions of dollars, but has only created 1200 jobs
worldwide. By contrast, that same net worth in the USA auto
industry would create hundreds of thousands of high paying
auto industry position, and equal as many spin-off support posi-
tions (Gerardi, 2012).
The Social Context of Educational Systems:
Although statistically it is true that the United States ranks 9th
in Mathematical outcomes internationally (based upon the 2011
8th grade math exam outcomes), however, the statistical me-
thod used in the comparison of such different school systems
(USA vs. international systems) is structurally misleading, and
functionally inaccurate. A case in point is the data submitted by
the Singapore and South Korea’s educational systems.
Singapore was the top performing educational system for 8th
grade mathematical outcomes in 2011. So then what is behind
such an impressive achievement? Are the Singapore students
smarter than their American counter-parts? Are the Singapore
Educators more professional than their American counter-parts?
Is Singapore’s educational system a mass public education
system as their American counter-part? Is an academic educa-
tion in Singapore a right as it is in the American counter-part?
Is Singapore mon o-lingu istic countr y unlik e its Am erican Counter-
part (in New York City there is 110 language dialects spoken)?
Is Singapore ethnically and racially diverse as its American
counter-part? Is Singapore a Mechanical Collective Conscience
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
(Durkheim’s concept of a society which everyone has the same
values, norms and attitudes) or an Organic C ollective Conscience
as its American counter-part (Durkheim’s concept of a Collec-
tive Consciences with different values, norms and attitude)?
The short answer to this query is no. The fact is that Singa-
pore’s educational success is based in the results of the Primary
School Leaving Examination (PSLE) (this exam is taken by
students in the 6th grade). Students are placed in different edu-
cational tracks or ability grouping, the Special, and Express,
Normal Academic, and Normal Technical tracts; hence it is a
grade based sample. The difference between Special and Ex-
press is that Special students take Higher Mother Tongue’ (avail -
able for Chinese, Malay and Tamil only) instead of just Mother
Tongue. Thus there is a continuing manifest educational filter-
ing system based upon “ability grouping”, an old pedagogical
method abandoned decades ago in the United States. By con-
trast, the United States is a mass public free educational system
in which the education of its’ citizens’ is a right not a privilege.
Thus, the data submitted by Singapore (based on the results of
the PSLE) are a grade base d sample, this grade ba sed sample is
being compared to the American system. Furthermore, the
American Educational system entitles everyone a fair and equal
education, regardless of social, political, physical or learning
disabilities, thus is not a grade based population. Hence, it is
the position of this effort that a fair analysis of the top academic
intuitions in the America system would produce outstanding
academic outcomes
South Korea
Another educational obstacle found in the American system
(as we saw earlier) is the parent’s social background with a bias
toward not participating in their child’s education. In South
Korea for example, (the second top performing school system
in 8th grade mathematic for 2011) high school graduates who
do not gain admission to the top universities, spend year after
year in tutoring sessions (hagwons) to improve their scores on
university admissions exams. The basis for this fetish is the
South Korean parents’ culture which demands a strong edu-
cational work ethic of their children. There are many reports
that point to legions of grade school children sleeping in class
because they were up all night studying and doing homework.
Hence, the comparison of the top performing educational sys-
tems internationally (Singapore/South Korea) to the USA is
akin to comparing the Theory of Evolution to that of Intellec-
tual Design. Both theories attempt to explain life on earth,
however the latter has no scientific data to support its’ claims.
Likewise, comparing the USA with international educational
systems (which are not mass public systems) is structurally
misleading, again due to the fact that America’s educational
system simple does not have a manifest education filter (in fact
the current educational philosophy is “NO CHILD LEFT BE-
HIND”), and does not submit grade based samples. Mark Twin
was once quoted as saying “there are three types of lies”: lies,
damn lies and statistics”.
To sum up, this effort suggested that since the 1970’s there
has been: 1) millions of jobs gone overseas to accommodate the
profits of special interest groups; 2) this has lead to millions of
underemployed and/or unemp loyed workers destroying the Middle
class and the hope for middle class aspirations; 3) the community
college ability to provide the necessary skills to bring back mil-
lions of jobs is a fantasy: 4) a national goal of 100 percent of
Americans earning a college degree is based in utopian ideals;
and 5) American’s education system failure is simply a public
placebo in the creation of a smokescreen hiding decades of
economic decisions which have destroyed the American Dream.
In July 2012 Dr. Stephen Krashen Ph.D. Professor Emeritus of
Learning and Instruction at the University of Southern Califor-
nia spoke at a national conference held at Fordham University
conference in New York City saying “There’s nothing wrong
with our schools...there is no crisis,” is 100 percent manu-
factured...the whole thing is a hoax”. Indeed, this effort agrees
with Dr. Krashen’s “hoax” criticism. This effort further views
the “hoax” as a contrived response to decades of national eco-
nomic and trade policies which has failed the American people.
Moreover, the America’s educational system has been used as a
pawn, as a public placebo in the obfuscation of decades eco-
nomic and trade policies which have benefited the “special
interests” groups.
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Clark, B. (1968). The cooling out function of higher education. The
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Gerardi, S. (2012). Soci al change, mode of-production and the tendency
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Krashen, S. (2012). To improve schools, fight poverty. Lecture at Ford-
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