And it may be that we’ve got to also, in some cases, rethink how we get students interested in learning. IBM is engaged in a really interesting experience in New York where they’re essentially setting up schools — similar to the concept I was talking about with community colleges — where they’re saying to kids pretty early on — I think as early as 8th grade — we’re going to design a program — IBM worked with the New York public schools to design a program — and this is not for the kids who are in the top 1 percent, this is for ordinary public school kids. You follow this program, you work hard, IBM will hire you at the end of this process. And it suddenly gives kids an incentive. They say, oh, the reason I’m studying math and science is there’s a practical outcome here. I will have a job. And there are practical applications to what I’m doing in the classroom.

And that’s true at high-end jobs, but it’s also true — we want to do more to train skilled workers even if they don’t have a four-year degree. It may be that the more the concept of apprenticeship and the concept of a rigorous vocational approach is incorporated in the high schools so the kids can actually see a direct connection to what they’re learning and a potential career, they’re less likely to drop out and we’re going to see more success.

So one last point I’ll make about this is George Bush actually was sincere I think in trying to improve the education system across the country through something called No Child Left Behind, that said we’re going to impose standards, there’s going to be accountability; if schools don’t meet those standards we’re going to label them as failures and they’re going to have to make significant changes. The intent was good. It wasn’t designed as well as it could have been. In some cases, states actually lowered their own standards to make sure that they weren’t labeled as failures. There wasn’t enough assistance given to these schools to meet the ambitious goals that had been set.

So what we’ve said is, look, we’ll provide states some waivers to get out from under No Child Left Behind if you can provide us with a plan to make sure that children are going to be college and career ready. And we’ll give you more flexibility but we’re still going to hold you accountable and we will provide you the tools and best practices that allow you to succeed.

So, last point I’ll make on this — there is also a cultural component to this, though. We, as a country, have to recognize that all of us are going to have to up our game and we, as parents, have to instill in our kids a sense of educational excellence. We’ve got to turn off the TV set. I know it’s dangerous to say in Silicon Valley, but put away the video games sometimes, and all the electronics, unless it’s school-related. And we’ve just got to get our kids more motivated and internalizing that sense of the importance of learning.

And if we don’t do that, we’re going to continue to slip behind, even if some of these school reform approaches that we’re taking are successful.

MR. WEINGER: Thank you, Theresa.

Our next question comes from LinkedIn member Robert Holly (phonetic) who is joining us from Charlotte, North Carolina. After a promising career in financial services, Robert was, unfortunately, recently laid off. Robert, what is your question?

Q Good morning, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning.

Q As Jeff mentioned, I have a 22-year, very successful career in IT management, but I find myself displaced. And not only that, I look at the statistics of unemployment — 16.7 percent for African Americans. My question would be — and not just for the African Americans, but also for other groups that are also suffering — what would you be your statement of encouragement for those who are looking for work today?

THE PRESIDENT: What I would say is just, given your track record, given your history, seeing you stand here before this group, you’re going to be successful. You’ve got a leg up on a lot of folks. You’ve got skills, you’ve got experience, you’ve got a track record of success. Right now your challenge is not you, it’s the economy as a whole. And by the way, this is not just an American challenge; this is happening worldwide.

I hope everybody understands our biggest problem right now, part of the reason that this year, where at the beginning of the year, economists had estimated, and financial analysts had estimated that the economy was going to be growing at about 3.5 percent, and that has not happened, in part has to do with what happened in the Middle East and the Arab Spring, which disrupted energy prices and caused consumers to have to pull back because gas was getting so high; what’s happening in Europe, which they have not fully healed from the crisis back in 2007 and never fully dealt with all the challenges their banking system faced. It’s now being compounded by what’s happening in Greece. So they’re going through a financial crisis that is scaring the world. And they’re trying to take responsible actions, but those actions haven’t been quite as quick as they need to be.

So the point is, is that economies all around the world are not growing as fast as they need to. And since the world is really interconnected, that affects us as well. The encouraging thing for you is that when the economy gets back on track in the ways that it should, you are going to be prepared to be successful. The challenge is making sure that you hang in between now and then.

That’s why things like unemployment insurance, for example, are important. And part of our jobs act is to maintain unemployment insurance. It’s not a end all, be all, but it helps folks meet their basic challenges. And by the way, it also means that they’re spending that money and they’re re-circulating that into the economy so it’s good for businesses generally.

Some of the emergency measures that we’ve been taking and we’ve proposed to take help to bridge the gap to where the economy is more fully healed. And historically, after financial crises, recessions are deeper and they last longer than after the usual business cycle recessions.

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About The Author

John Guilfoil is the editor-in-chief of Blast: Boston's Online Magazine and the Blast Magazine Network. He can be reached at [email protected]. Tweet @johnguilfoil.

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