Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Schools Need the Right to Say "No" - Part 2

This is part 2 in a series on education reform. Read part 1 here.

When I advocate a policy that allows schools to remove a student from its ranks if they are antagonistic to the process, I am always met with “where will they go?” from detractors. There are a litany of solutions, all of which are superior to the current system that treats our schools like prisons. The most obvious solution is to provide education that actually provides a skill set to a young student that allows them to make money in our economy. Our current instruction system, while excelling in many ways, does not provide an education of value to those who will not succeed in higher education. Even at a middle school, many students realize that the skill sets being taught are ones they will never excel in and thus, reject the process until they can be set free at the age of 18.

By creating a tiered education system like they have in Germany, the United States can reverse the perverse effects of forcing the liberal education model on all of its citizens. Hilmar Schneider, when discussing the low rate of unemployment within the German youth class compared to their counterparts throughout Europe, argues:
In Germany, more than half of each age-group graduate from dual training programs in which they simultaneously earn academic credentials along with gaining work experience, rather than attending classes alone like in many other countries. This style of training brings future job applicants in closer contact with the job market and generates more reliability when it comes to qualification standards. It also offers a long period in which employers can get to know young employees, offering managers a relatively reliable insight into trainees' skills and potential for development. That limits employers' risks when taking on young workers.”
Hilmar fails to make clear that this system results in a percentage of students receiving an education that prepares them for the rigors of the university system, and a significant portion that do not. This type of tiered, or “tracking” system as it is referred to in America, has its detractors. My mother, coming from a working class household that did not hold an important position in her community, was often directed to trade based education throughout her childhood. She feels this system did not give her the means of seeing beyond her immediate opportunities, and undermined her potential abilities to shine in more academic fields. I don’t have an easy answer to this problem, but I do think a system can be put in place that does not punish working class children by forcing them into trade-based education while funneling simpletons in the middle and upper class towards higher level liberal arts education due to money and influence.

In my classroom, I have a slew of students who are simply not given a real opportunity to succeed in a field that is applicable to their abilities and interests. Worst of all, we have created a climate in our education system that treats the jobs they wish to partake in as second-class and less worthy than those that require a college education. In a recent conversation with The New Centrist, he brought up an important point:
I read an interesting article in the “American Educator” that talked about the role of the educator in all of this. The author mentioned sitting in on a high-school class where the students were talking about the jobs they were interested in and the colleges/training they needed to complete. When a student mentioned they wanted to be a nurse, the educator responded “why not a doctor?” This, at a time when the need for nurses in the US is incredibly high. I understand the teacher’s question. It’s a way of asking “why limit yourself?” But that’s the problem. Why see the nurse as “less than” the doctor”? Nurses are highly-paid, receive excellent benefits, and the educational process takes a significantly shorter period of time than becoming a doctor. Perhaps getting school out of the way and getting into the workforce is a priority for this student?”
I assume that many of the people who read this blog and engage in debates regarding this topic are the type that have enjoyed higher education, and are likely the folks who participate in “education for education’s sake.” The evident reality is that not everyone does. There is no reason for an individual to feel guilt or failure for pursuing nursing and not an MD. The same goes for a student who wishes to be an electrician and not a historian. Worse yet, we have established an entire culture that requires that its citizens get a liberal arts education (often at an expense that hardly seems justified and is borrowed to achieve) to compete for jobs that do not require such instruction. We have only placed expensive, unnecessary barriers on our young people who just want an opportunity to make a living and live the life they desire.  


TNC said...

"I don’t have an easy answer to this problem, but I do think a system can be put in place that does not punish working class children by forcing them into trade-based education while funneling simpletons in the middle and upper class towards higher level liberal arts education due to money and influence."

As I may have mentioned in our previous conversation, this is one of the roles that city and community colleges (two-year schools) are supposed to fulfill. At one time, they did this fairly well. For example, in the community where I used to live, the two-year city college was a feeder for the four-year university. They also provide vocational training. A good friend of mine received his AA (two-year degree) in electrical engineering and is now making significantly more than me with my PhD. He also has no loan debt. City and community colleges are very unique compared to the higher ed. systems in other countries where you get tracked at a fairly early age.

Today, the two-year schools are underfunded, especially in Cali. The expected course load for teachers in these institutions is also quite heavy. At a top-tier school you might teach one class a semester. Maybe two if you are a newby. At a good school, you teach three per semester (my load now). I have also taught at small liberal arts colleges where the load was four and had an interview at a local city college. The course load there was five classes per semester and the wages were significantly lower. This means those that can avoid teaching at these places usually do. Don't get me wrong, I would actually like to teach in community college setting, I think giving back to the community is important, but I will not put that above the needs of my family.

Anonymous said...

Part 3?