PROF GIORDANO: The ‘feelings economy’ to engulf US workforce as universities fail students, business owners

Emotions have supplanted academic standards and intellectual inquiry at colleges throughout the country.

Nicholas Giordano is a professor of Political Science, the host of The P.A.S. Report Podcast, and a fellow at Campus Reform’s Higher Education Fellowship. With 2 decades of teaching experience and over a decade of experience in the emergency management/homeland security arena, Professor Giordano is regularly called on to speak about issues related to government, politics, and international relations.

A recent article asserts that advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI) will transform job markets to make having emotions a more desirable skill than critical thinking and problem-solving. Central to this theory is that AI’s capabilities will replace the need for analytical skills and human intelligence in a ‘thinking’ economy, and so, people must adapt, placing a greater emphasis on emotions in the emerging ‘feelings’ economy.

But we can’t blame every absurd social and professional development on AI. While there is little doubt that the AI revolution will have an impact on the labor market, the push for a feeling economy is more precisely the result of the type of graduates higher education produces.

As a professor, I have witnessed the consequences of prioritizing ‘feelings’ over ‘thinking.’ Emotions have supplanted academic standards and intellectual inquiry at colleges throughout the country. The results have been catastrophic – a generation filled with people who have a sense of entitlement despite the fact they lack genuine knowledge, interpersonal skills, and a strong work ethic.

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Do we really have to wonder why employers may look toward automation and AI to fill the void of a ‘thinking’ economy?

America’s failed education system has routinely lowered standards from kindergarten through college. Just 37% of 12th graders are academically prepared for college, which is evident by the 54% of college students who have to take at least one remedial course for material they should have already learned.

Not only have standards collapsed, but merit and hard work are actively discouraged. Public schools have dismantled honors and gifted programs nationwide. Now, Ivy League colleges like Cornell and the University of Pennsylvania have decided to stop publishing the Dean’s List – a recognition of those students who worked hard to achieve academic excellence – to reduce “stress and competition.”

This pattern has led to a cultural shift amongst younger millennials and Gen Z’ers who have an inflated sense of ego where they falsely believe that they are entitled to success without genuine effort. As higher education institutions fail to produce capable individuals, AI-driven advancements will address the gaps in workforce demands.

Many in the Gen Z cohort believe that as long as they have the ‘right’ feelings, they deserve opportunities regardless of their contributions or capabilities. Consequently, they struggle in entry-level jobs that do not coddle them. In a recent survey, 63% of small business owners said that recent college graduates have “unrealistic expectations.” 62% said that graduates have a difficult time adjusting to the hours of work required for the job, and 50% stated that they “have wrong expectations about the difficulty of work to be performed.”

Seventy-four percent of managers and business leaders reported that they find Gen-Z more difficult to work with. As Akpan Ukeme, head of human resources at SGK Global Shipping Services put it, “They think they’re better than you, smarter than you, more capable than you, and they will tell you to your face.” In another survey, 93% of Gen Z’ers admit they have not shown up to job interviews, and 87% missed their first day of work.

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While we hear talk about a shift to a ‘feelings’ economy, the truth is that “intuition, creativity, emotion, and strong interpersonal skills” have always been highly valued and that is the problem with many younger millennials and Gen Z’ers. This is a generation that has limited human interactions, went through a failed education system, and has been raised by screens. They have difficulty maintaining eye contact, holding a conversation, and talking on the phone.

Essentially, the proponents of a ‘feelings’ economy argue that future employment will consist more of “emotional relationship building.” However, that has always been true in the United States, whether you are a business owner, an auto mechanic, a teacher, or just about any other profession.

Interpersonal skills are essential to success, but so are critical thinking and a strong foundation of knowledge. We cannot continue to maintain a dumbed-down education system, and it is why we must prioritize competency, merit, and strong interpersonal skills. We must restore rigorous academic standards, instill the value of hard work, and produce functional individuals. While AI will impact the labor market, it is incapable of a balanced approach that human beings possess where intellect, emotion, and creativity drive innovation and productivity.