Newsom: California struggles to fight 'cheap genius'


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California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom harshly criticized the education system in California — and that of the United States in general — saying it was not preparing students for the high-tech jobs of the future.

Speaking at the 2014 State of the Valley Conference in Santa Clara, Calif., Newsome quoted a recent study that found the top 15-year-old students in mathematics in the United States were performing on average 2.5 years behind those of the same age in Shanghai, China.

“Average is over,” Newsom said. “You can’t continue to do what you’ve done and get what you got. It’s not as if we are collapsing. The world is rising. It’s the rise of the rest. It’s no more dealing with cheap labor, but cheap genius.”

Newsome took aim at the University of California at Berkley, typically regarded as one of the nation’s top universities, as failing to adapt with the times. Newsome compared the university to the executives of Kodak, who believed the company would continue to succeed even though technology was rapidly changing around them.

“Just like Kodak, right?” Newsom said. “‘We’re doing fine.’ Meanwhile, we are educating people who have no real skills that are relevant to the world they’re entered into, into this hyper-connected world.”

“Remember those days of high-wage, middle skills? That’s what bolstered up our middle class. Those days are over,” Newsom said. “You know that. I mean a college degree is like a high school degree now. Big damn deal. It’s a must, but it’s just the beginning.”

What is really happening, Newsom said, large technology companies, such as Google, are ignoring things like college diplomas and instead looking for certifications in different competencies.

Newsom cited the San Francisco firm General Assembly, which offers certification classes in specific tech fields such as software engineering and Web design for jobs with Silicon Valley tech businesses.

He said companies like this are becoming more common in California as they provide the larger companies with the employment skills students are not learning in the college system.

“We’re not getting people trained in the skills they need,” he said. “There is complete disconnect between the business community and higher education.”

He continued: “I love the U.C. system. I want it to thrive. But we’re playing on the margins. We’ve got to be more efficient.”

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California, Education & STEM, Gavin Newsom, State & Local News, States