"Autobiographies of great nations are written in three manuscripts – a book of deeds, a book of words, and a book of art.
Of the three, I would choose the latter as truest testimony." - Sir Kenneth Smith, Great Civilisations

"I must write each day without fail, not so much for the success of the work, as in order not to get out of my routine." - Leo Tolstoy

I have never believed that one should wait until one is inspired because I think the pleasures of not writing are so
great that if you ever start indulging them you will never write again. - John Updike

"The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another; and his humblest hour
is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it." - J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

Friday, March 18, 2011

RE Slater - Proposal for Educational Reform, Part 2

In January or February of 2011 U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan expressed the very ideas I had been discussing with my school district over the last several years regarding the replacement of our academic college prep programs with occupational curricula degree programs that would vary from 2-3-4 years in length while allowing for early graduation and/or cross-over studies. These programs would be found in the major areas listed below, among others:
  • Sciences (Medical, Environmental, etc)
  • Engineering and Technology (including Architecture, etc)
  • Arts and Literature
  • Music and Drama
  • Social Sciences
  • Business
With the creation of these degree programs we would do so in cooperation with area businesses, industries and social agencies seeking to train their local human resources. As such, these occupational courses should be open-ended to allow a young person to rejoin his educational interests should he or she need to graduate early and work. They should also create a strong linkage to the local community college's educational core curricula supported within that district's area of operation.

Why provide early educational graduations? To alleviate schools from the burden of housing students who either can't be in school or don’t want to be in school thus saving already restricted tax monies now being re-allocated elsewhere; to give kids a way to become economically independent and responsible; to create a younger employment force that could add to a district's already strained tax base; thus creating more monies for school districts from a larger tax base; and finally, to reduce youth crime through early employment responsibility.

Too, major state universities have economically hurt America by restricting middle-class scholarships and forcing higher tuition rates (probably since the 1980s). These rates have become unsustainable by middle income families and have caused middle class youths to migrate to regional or community colleges seeking lower tuition costs  while leaving the very wealthy to attend America's landmark universities. As a result America's middle class is quickly disappearing and we are finding a more pronounced class stratification more than ever as the rich have become richer and the poor have become poorer. America's backbone has been broken and we see this with the loss of jobs, entrepreneurships, and successful ventures across middle America.

Further, state universities have expanded degree program requirements rather than concentrating them as they necessarily push remedial education onto every entering freshman who have come unprepared for college study. Undergraduates are now graduating between 22-26 years of age because of the several factors involving poor educational preparation, the increased costs of college and the lack of economically viable jobs for lesser trained individuals.

And so, instead of having our nation's youth effectively (or efficiently) competing on global levels in the world-at-large by the ages of 16-19, we as a nation have created a half-life for our nation’s kids now entering into the workforce after a third of their life has passed cradled within our nation's school systems. The sheer talent of energy and brainpower has been lost between those intervening 10 years of educational study and purposeful postponement of talented laborers confined by our educational systems. America must reform its educational regiments and it must be holistic, rigorous and complete for as it stands now we've boxed ourselves in by too many degrees, longer core studies and fewer workplace opportunities.

When China and India are graduating 300 engineers to every 1 of ours it doesn’t take many smarts to realize that we’re on the losing end of a global competition. And while we both under-train and over-qualify our kids we are losing out. And by pushing our future tax bases into their late-20's we’re restricting the flow of necessary funds that would come sooner with a younger, more productive youth force.

About the only good that can be said about America's current educational system is that their community college programs have stepped up to the consumer plate and are offering shorter-term degrees and apprenticeship solutions for early entry highschoolers, needy urban youths, and economically-minded families and youths unwilling to go further into debt for a nebulous university degree with no concrete job prospects and outrageous school loan repayment plans.

In summary, middle schools should be teaching first and second year high school basics; high schools should be implementing occupational degree programs; and universities should stop teaching high school courses and get on with a variety of shorter-term, highly concentrated degree programs that integrate with business and industrial apprenticeship programs resulting in more certain job placements after college graduation. As such, American business and industry would not need to add yet another year or three of specialized training to the entering college student’s agendas thus pushing our aging youth further from their productive years of contribution and resource building.

And this is how I would describe national educational deficiencies and degrading economic metrics for our nation's educational systems. In hindsight, it's amazing we’ve gotten this far by our outmoded 20th-century style of mass-producing literate students known as "public education!" It is time for radical change - one that makes sense for our kids and for our communities so that America can globally compete with a rising world seeking to integrate its literate societies with other viable, literate societies in a stealthy web of cooperation and competition.

by R.E. Slater, March 2011