The Apollo Aliance and That Vision Thing

Residents of Kankakee County, Illinois are ready for the new clean energy economy. Inspired by the calls for more green jobs during the 2008 presidential campaign, a local group of business, education, and government leaders is working to make green-collar jobs a reality in their region. They recognize the potential for green-collar jobs to transform the local economy while also benefitting the country and the environment. They also see investment in wind energy as the wave of Kankakee’s clean energy future.

Vision Energy’s $1 Billion Wind Bet in Illinois, April 21, 2009, Mac Lynch, Apollo News Service

I am really trying not to be Mr. Education-Politics Party-Pooper. These are horrible times for education, with cuts at all levels in every state. Much of that is due to the economic slowdown, although no doubt the right will not let this crisis pass without chipping away at educational autonomy in one way or the other. The real loss will access; tuition is like a tax without regulation.

We are on the verge of a real boom in education, once the economy recovers and the Obama administration gets past the health care debate. (I will avoid the obvious Dickens reference.) The highway robbery of the student loan system will probably end, releasing all sorts of money for education. The worst of the “No Child Behind” debacle is probably over, even if its effects remain.

There’s a close link between the Obama administrations’ economic stimulus package, the greening of energy, and the community colleges, too. It’s hard to complain about that, either. The community college system is probably one of the most accessible educational systems ever created. More of that is always good. But here’s where I start feeling that sharp pinch of liberal limitation.

It’s great that they are putting windmills up in Kankakee (about 2 hours north of here) and it makes sense that the community colleges would work together to try to provide the training. But it bugs me that they feel they have to do this in such a narrowly vocational way. Where’s the vision? The community colleges do much more than just train workers.

We need people who know how to work on windmills, but we also need windmill workers who have the critical and intellectual skills needed to accelerate the ongoing expansion and refinement of democracy here in the U.S. I don’t mean to disparage community college teachers. I bet they will add the critical thinking elements wherever they can. But it should be a part of the rhetoric, too.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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