Will We Be Smart Enough?

Will We Be Smart Enough?: A Cognitive Analysis of the Coming Workforce

Earl Hunt
Copyright Date: 1995
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 344
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7758/9781610443005
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  • Book Info
    Will We Be Smart Enough?
    Book Description:

    The American workforce and the American workplace are rapidly changing-in ways that make them increasingly incompatible. Advances in automation and telecommunications have eliminated many jobs based on routine tasks and muscle power and fueled the demand for employees who can understand and apply new technologies. But, as Earl Hunt convincingly demonstrates inWill We Be Smart Enough?, such "smart" employees will be in dangerously short supply unless fundamental changes are made to our educational and vocational systems.

    Will We Be Smart Enough?combines cognitive theory, demographic projections, and psychometric research to measure the capabilities of tomorrow's workforce against the needs of tomorrow's workplace. Characterized by sophisticated machinery, instant global communication, and continuous reorganization, the workplace will call for people to fuse multiple responsibilities, adapt quickly to new trends, and take a creative approach to problem solving. Will Americans be able to meet the difficult and unprecedented challenges brought about by these innovations? Hunt examines data from demographic sources and a broad array of intelligence tests, whose fairness and validity he judiciously assesses. He shows that the U.S. labor force will be increasingly populated by older workers, who frequently lack the cognitive flexibility required by rapid change, and by racial and ethnic minorities, who have so far not fully benefitted from the nation's schools to develop the cognitive skills necessary in a technologically advanced workplace.

    At the heart ofWill We Be Smart Enough?lies the premise that this forecast can be altered, and that cognitive skills can be widely and successfully taught. Hunt applies psychological principles of learning and cognitive science to a variety of experimental teaching programs, and shows how the information revolution, which has created such rapid change in the workplace, can also be used to transform the educational process and nurture the skills that the workplace of the future will require. WillWe Be Smart Enough?answers naysayers who pronounce so many people "cognitively disadvantaged" by suggesting that new forms of education can provide workers with enhanced skills and productive employment in the twenty-first century.

    "Hunt's book provides succinct, lucid presentations of our best scientific understandings of thinking, intelligence, job performance, and how to measure them. Only by comprehending and applying these understandings to develop sound educational and instructional strategies can we create a capable workforce for the digital age." -John T. Bruer, President, James S. McDonnell Foundation<

    "Earl Hunt applies keys insights from cognitive psychology and from the psychology of measurement to issues of workers and the workplace. His book constitutes a valuable contribution to, and synthesis of, an important area of study. "-Howard Gardner, Harvard Project Zero

    Will We Be Smart Enough?andThe Bell CurveControversy

    What about [The Bell Curveby Herrnstein and Murray] causedThe New York Timesto refer to it as the most controversial book of 1994, and to Murray as the most dangerous conservative in America? The answer is that they took an extreme position on a number of controversial issues [regarding intelligence and genetics]....My conclusion is that we have to do something to increase the amount of cognitive skills in the coming workforce and that, in many cases, we know what to do. Herrnstein and Murray claim that nothing can be done. I disagree....When it comes to improving the cognitive skills of the workforce, this is an area where everyone, whites and blacks, Latinos and Anglos, government programs and private enterprise, has got to get their act together. We do not know the perfect way to proceed. We do know how do some things that will help. Let us make the effort (and spend the money) to do them. -from the Afterword

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-300-5
    Subjects: Psychology, Business, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
    Earl Hunt
  4. 1 Thinking and the Workforce
    (pp. 1-41)

    This is a book about whether or not Americans are smart enough to make it in the twenty-first century. I would not write the book unless I was concerned. I am, and I am certainly not alone. The day I began writing it, in March 1991, a newscast reported a presidential commission’s worry that the United States was losing leadership in the technologies that will dominate the twenty-first century. The news report reminded me of another commission that was worrying about the skills in the workplace of the future. That evening my university sponsored a talk by Ira Magaziner, who...

  5. 2 The Psychological Measurement of Workforce Productivity
    (pp. 42-84)

    From an economic viewpoint, human labor is like any other commodity. It is a resource required by an industrial process to create a product. The value of the labor is determined by the value that the labor adds to the product. In the wood products industry a standing tree is worth a certain amount. The same tree, delivered to the sawmill, is worth more; the boards from the tree are worth still more, and a house made from the boards is worth even more. The skills of the logger, sawyer, and carpenter are required to make the improvements. These skills...

  6. 3 Psychometric Scores and Workplace Performance
    (pp. 85-107)

    Do tests exist that would be useful predictors of workplace performance? To what extent does intelligence, as we measure it, have an impact on workforce performance? This chapter summarizes relevant data about three major scholastic and industrial testing programs—the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), and the General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB)—that have been developed as predictors of performance in three important workplaces. The chapter also examines two tests that are avowedly intelligence tests. These tests were developed for research purposes and as devices to aid in counseling individuals. They are the Wechsler...

  7. 4 A Psychometric View of the Future Workforce
    (pp. 108-151)

    This chapter combines two different fields, psychometrics and demographics. It is an examination of how current demographic trends and social policies may alter the distribution of cognitive skills across the workforce in the next 10 to 15 years.

    A workforce changes in three ways. People entering the workforce bring with them the cognitive skills established by their schools, family, and neighborhood. People leaving the workforce take their cognitive skills with them. Sometimes these skills have to be replaced; at other times the skills were already growing obsolescent. Finally, workers who stay on the job grow older each year. As they...

  8. 5 The Cognitive Psychology View of Thinking
    (pp. 152-197)

    The evidence presented in the previous four chapters showed that the workforce of the early twenty-first century will be more experienced and socially stable than today’s, but it will contain relatively fewer people with high levels of problem-solving and “learning to learn” skills. This is a matter for serious concern, since virtually every forecast of technology stresses the dynamic character of the coming workplace. In 1994 President Clinton stated that American workers must be prepared to change careers several times over their working lives. In the same spirit, in 1993 the Washington State legislature passed a law that mandated that...

  9. 6 Cognitive Demands of the Coming Workplace
    (pp. 198-247)

    Having gained some idea of how psychologists think the mind works, let us now take a look at how the mind is going to be used in the coming workplace. This chapter is a forecast of the cognitive demands that the early twenty-first century workplace is going to present to its workers.

    There is an important difference between this sort of forecast and the sorts of psychometric and demographic forecasts presented in Chapter 4. Psychometricians and demographers use a common language, applied mathematics. Therefore, in Chapter 4, I was able to use straightforward mathematical methods to combine psychometric and demographic...

  10. 7 Anticipating the Future
    (pp. 248-287)

    The many forecasters of the economy seem to agree that the future workplace will need people who are capable of reasoning about what they and their machines are doing, and who are ready to meet new challenges as the nature of work changes. The social organization of work is likely to change from the present predominance of large, tightly controlled organizations toward an emphasis on small plants, ad hoc work groups, and networks of specialized suppliers of tailor-made products. Many of the social organizations of the workplace will be short-lived, changing from task to task. This means that workers will...

  11. Afterword: The Bell Curve Controversy
    (pp. 288-296)

    Any book on contemporary events may be out-of-date by the time that it is printed. While this book was in press Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray (1994) publishedThe Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life.,which dealt with a number of the questions that have been raised here. Herrnstein and Murray reviewed many of the same articles I have cited; they have also reported an analysis of data from a longitudinal study of the experience of people who entered the workforce in the 1970s. My first reaction was to update some of my references and let things...

  12. References
    (pp. 297-310)
  13. Index
    (pp. 311-332)