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Jeb Bush at Amherst College: Encourage a culture of lifelong learning

  • Jeb Bush speaks Tuesday in Johnson Chapel at Amherst College. contributed photo



For The Recorder
Wednesday, February 01, 2017

AMHERST — Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who once told Donald Trump on a debate stage that “you’re not going to be able to insult your way to the presidency,” did not mention the newly minted president by name once during remarks at Amherst College Tuesday night.

He used his time in front of a packed Johnson Chapel arguing for consensus building during an era of fast-moving technological change when institutions seem unresponsive and ineffectual.

“We’re on the verge of the greatest technological wave that has ever hit the world,” Bush said. He said higher education, K-12 education and workforce training had worked in the past.

“Those things worked 50 years ago,” Bush said. “Can we honestly say they’re working today? That’s the question of our time. On the one hand you have this massive disruption of technology. On the other hand, the institutions that we’ve relied on aren’t working to the extent that they should.

“In fact, it is kind of scary,” he continued.

Citing a study from Ball State University, Bush said nearly nine in 10 jobs that have disappeared have been lost to automation and innovation in the United States.

“That’s the reality,” he said. “Not a blip about this in the general election campaign. … These innovations are extraordinary and create incredible opportunities for young people, that have the power of knowledge that can ride this wave of technology. But think about the people that don’t have those skills, and what the net result of that will be.”

Citing the Bureau of Labor Statistics, he said 5.9 million U.S. jobs remain unfilled, with around 4 million requiring skilled labor.

“So what should we do?” he asked.

“First and foremost, a strategy of high, sustained economic growth should be something of great consensus,” Bush said. “We would be able to take advantage of the technological boom rather than have it overwhelm us.”

He said the tax code has become “the most convoluted tax code in the world.” On regulatory reform, “Why should we debate about the scope and complexity of regulations? Shouldn’t we debate about the outcomes? There are things in life where you get a better result for less money.”

He said energy reform is also key.

“Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling has created an explosion of natural gas that is cheap and abundant, that has replaced coal, and the United States is the only developed country that has had significant declines in carbon emissions,” Bush said. “Look it up.”

Bush said the United States’ immigration policies are “designed around family reunification.”

He also argued for greater civic education: “We should have a respect for our history.”

His last point was that the United States should encourage “a culture of lifelong learning, starting at the earliest levels.”

He urged a “customized” learning experience, “where children learn in their own path and their own way, where teachers manage the learning system in the classroom, but we gain growth every year — and that there’s no tolerance for passing kids along just because of their life circumstances.”

He said the world is moving at “warp speed.” While it’s an exciting time to be alive, he said, more and more people are being left behind.

“I hope you recognize that this country’s extraordinary nature still exists, but it requires leadership to transform us,” he said. “And I’m counting on you.”