of More to Come
Offshoring and Teachers
Published: July 5, 2010
by Laura Joy Perales
Blinder explores many different jobs, those which are and are not in danger of offshoring, not in those that require more or fewer skills; however, he also asserts, over and over again, that offshoring in the form of this third Industrial Revolution will not cause widespread unemployment, based on premise that the previous two did not. Industrial Revolutions are natural, and he says we shouldn’t try to stop it. It’s here, and it’s real, but what does it mean for teachers? Well, just like people did with the first two revolutions, we are going to have to make some adjustments.
Blinder says that most personal services cannot be “transmitted through a wire” which makes them in less danger of being offshored. My immediate reaction was: educators must be safe then, as it is very much a personal service which requires face-to-face contact, not unlike childcare. It was when I hit a “however” that I knew there was a catch, but I’ll get into that in a moment. For the most part, right now, teacher job stability in K-12 education is safe. Blinder claims, “Electronic delivery will probably never replace personal contact in K-12 education, which is where the vast majority of the educational jobs are.” Okay, I stop, take a sigh of relief, and savor the fact that I’m tenured by my district. I am in that “vast majority”.
Now, this doesn’t surprise me at all. Children learn through all senses. Most of the decisions children make about what is right and wrong, moral or immoral, valuable or worthless are by watching the grown-ups in their lives. Many of our students are not getting the kind of moral education at home that they were fifty years ago, so a lot of that falls to the teachers. We’re not just giving them content knowledge, but we’re modeling life behaviors for them every day. We’re here, we’re real, and they can hear and see and touch us. If I tried to teach Shakespeare to a student who had never yet encountered it, I would want him right in front of me while I ask which of the kids in the class is drummer, and then have him tap out the beat, and all of a sudden iambic pentameter makes perfect sense. That type of in-the-moment, class-involved discovery cannot be achieved in a video series that does not stop and allow a student to ask a question before it continues.
That’s where the “however” comes into play. Blinder claims that the dividing line between what are considered personal and impersonal services is going to move as time goes on, and this has largely to do with technology. It’s the higher-education jobs that are in more danger here. Blinder assesses this situation by saying, “As college tuition grows evermore expensive, cheap electronic delivery will start looking more and more sensible, if not imperative.” Immediately, I realized that I had already supported that change by choosing to do my graduate studies online. I wanted a solid program, but I wanted it with as little debt association as possible. After searching for several months, I found several programs online which were much cheaper than Belmont, Vanderbilt, and Trevecca while they are only ten minutes away from me. I finally settled on Wilkes because I felt I was not compromising.
The Instruction Media program course descriptions actually got me excited. Tennessee’s a ways away from Wilkes University, but I’ve learned how to learn on my back porch drinking coffee or Diet Coke with my laptop, notes, and books spread out around me, without an instructor leading me through. I don’t have to get dressed or go anywhere. My laptop is a mobile classroom now. Granted, Wilkes is located in the US, but if you could find the same online program cheaper off-seas, would it make a difference? Would there be a degradation in quality? Not necessarily. Luke could live in India and still be instructing this course, in the same way, using the same tools and resources we’re using now. Perhaps that also leads us to consider that advantages of teaching online more now than ever before. Instructors like Luke aren’t restricted by geographical lines. They can work from anywhere! It is the creative, flexible, adaptable educators who will be safe, not because their jobs can’t be offshored, but because they can be! If we want to compete in a global world, offshoring works both ways.
If the dividing line moves, as Blinder claims it will, then higher education jobs will be in great danger. In this unstable economy, more and more individuals will be looking to pursue higher education in the cheapest way possible if at all. Institutions like Yale and Harvard are considered affluent universities, and ten years ago a degree from those institutions might have meant greater ease in finding jobs. In ten years, I don’t think that will be the case. It won’t be the degree that matters, but the knowledge and skills associated with it. College tuition has risen too quickly in comparison to the increasing price of goods. There are already those who consider college a luxury for those who can afford it.
Just because K-12 education jobs aren’t likely to be offshored does not mean that they will be left unaffected by the transitioning economy. There are costs for all of us. We are likely going to see larger class sizes. I’m already seeing it. A year ago, our max student load in Tennessee was 150, and now it’s 180. Can you imagine what it will be in 2015? Quality education is expensive. We want to bridge the technology gap, so our schools buy smart boards, projectors, mobile labs, Elmos, clickers, and so much more. If we’re spending all our money there, it’s logical that cuts will be made in other areas. In Ian Goldin’s video, “Navigating Our Global Future”, he says that there’s unlikely to be a penchant or retirement age in 2030. What does that mean for our current educators? Whenever I question leaving teaching to run my web and video production company, my mother reminds me, “Just wait until you get your thirty years in”. I’ve only got five! In 25 years, there may be nothing waiting for me. What about benefits? There’s the other mantra my mother drills into me, “You have the best health insurance with teaching!” Will that remain? As it is, our co-pays went from $15 to $30 this year, generic prescriptions from $0 to $5, and non-generics from $15 to $50. Is that just a taste of more to come?
I hope that Blinder is right and that my high school English job is secure, but what if he’s wrong? Ultimately, what it comes down to for me is resilience. We need to understand what is happening, why it is happening, and how it affects us individually. We need to adapt and be willing to make changes. We need to look before we leap. We may need to consider other options. Online teaching has always appealed to me, but it’s looking really good right now.
Blinder, A. (2006, March/April). Offshoring: the next industrial revolution. Foreign Affairs, Retrieved
Goldin, I. (Presenter). (2009). Navigating our global future. [Web]. Retrieved from
Author: Laura Joy Perales
Published: July 5, 2010 in Perception
Volume 1: Issue 3