Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Politics, Religion, and .....Education????

The old rule while in a social setting is to avoid the topic of politics, religion and sex. The first two were, are, and always will be gunpowder looking for the spark of someone who has had too much wine. The last one would seem inappropriate as well.

However, with the cultural revolution that this country has endured over the past forty or so years, it would seem not much is left in the ways of imagination when it comes to sexual content. So much so that the taboo has lost much of its virtue.

But nature abhors a vacuum right? What will fill the void and become the next topic that will kill the mood at a dinner party? My guess is education.

You don't really have to be at a high class social function to find this out. Play a round of golf. Go fishing or hunting. Meet some friends for lunch. All the while, bring up the topic of education at some point and you are guaranteed to solicit thoughts and feelings one way or another about it. It gets even better when there is a generational gap amongst those involved!

Everyone generally agrees that education is valuable and should be taken seriously. But this is where the road then tends to fork.  I am inclined to think, much like politics and religion, that people just don't know all the ins and outs of how the educational system works. It is because of this that people have the strongest opinions. If we all knew how things worked, then we can state everything as fact and move on to play corn hole in the back yard.

The evolving nature of education has provided just about every generation alive today with different educational experiences. From disciplinary measures, interscholastic athletics, to rigorous testing. Grandparents can't relate to their grandkids in these terms, and many parents are too busy trying to make sure their kid is doing the best they can, that they don't always take the time to reflect on their experiences as a student which could provide valuable insight and perspective for their child. When a child hears their successful parent talk about mistakes they made as kids, it can remove a lot of pressure we all felt as teenagers to be perfect.

One area that is always a stick of dynamite looking for a match, is the cost of public education. When the times were good (see economic progress) I heard many parents and community members express their view that teachers should be paid more. Those were definitely the "good ol days." Talk to people today and ask if teachers are paid enough. Those sentiments are gone with the wind. Read messageboards or online forums and an overwhelming majority will not only say that they are paid enough, but rather they are paid too much. Many comments are also made by taxpayers who don't want higher taxes to pay teachers. Fair argument to a point.

One last observation is that we don't really concern ourselves with other people's education as much as our own. Former college professor now author Ken Robinson, observed that when asked, people will talk days on end about their education. They are very interested in telling you what they know.

Education has become a divisive, economic and philosophic  issue in which debaters will argue passionately in ways which they will strive to demonstrate their academic prowess in the process.
Regardless how you feel about it, try bringing up education amongst friends or at a social gathering and see how long the conversation goes for. It is a ship sinking iceberg and needs to be regarded as taboo to talk about. And if someone does bring it up, the next three rounds should be on him, because your night is about to be ruined!

Monday, December 27, 2010

How should an education be viewed?

To start off, I will inform anyone who reads this that I am a teacher and so many of my thoughts are educationally based. Hopefully, however they will be broad enough to bring from many points of views from many fields.

My question is "what is the purpose of education?" If it is so one can get a good job, then hasn't the past two years of job losses and lack of employment for highly educated people thrown this idea out the window a little bit? An education serves as a vehicle to gainful employment only if there is a employment to be had, correct?

UNESCO has predicted that in the near future more people in the world will have a college degree than ever before. If everyone has a degree, it suddenly loses all its value. However, college has almost become compulsory, yet guarantees nothing in ways of job employment.
So then, what is the purpose of education?
Educational requirements at the beginning of the 1900's were to meet the needs of the industrial age of the time.  Does that mean that today's education is to meet the needs of our service industries since manufacturing and agriculture have lost their market share in this country? Are banking, economics and insurance the only options our graduates have to chose from? If so, why not just teach to the service industry, like generations before did with manufacturing? Why is so much school needed before you go get a job with a company who then spends the next six months training you to work for them? Is a college degree really necessary to sell insurance?
For me, my interpretation of the word education is broad. But I define it as gaining knowledge or information that enhances the living experience.  Getting an "education" doesn't always just mean going to school and getting a very expensive piece of paper. When you visit a different city or country, you might get an education on culture. When you volunteer at a soup kitchen you might get an education on perspective. When you are able to struggle through an experience you might get an education on perseverance and attitude.
What I see today is a country interested in having higher test scores than other countries. This serves no purpose, provides no future job training, and most certainly is not an education.

If you are comfortable enough, please share your thoughts on what an education means to you and how you formulated your thoughts.

Why I am here

Raise your hand if you have ever been working alone or driving alone, or just had some time to yourself when a thought that seemed coherent and perhaps even philosophical jumped into your brain as if it was purposely put there for you to think about. The more the thought stuck in your head, the more you explored it using any knowledge you had to formulate your conclusion. As you summarized your thought,  you are excited to share it with someone only to have them point out the holes in your logic and then go on to show you a completely different perspective on the same topic that never crossed your mind in the first place. You turn around to head back to what you were doing and you remind yourself, "this is why Harvard never called!"

I have come to embrace sharing thoughts with others and risk being off base or even wrong. When I say wrong, I am not talking about moral convictions as much as misunderstanding cause and effect of stated facts and opinions. In conversations with others who share different experiences in different fields, I have discovered for myself that most answers have more than one right answer.

From time to time when a thought catches my attention, I will post it here with the hopes of creating a "forum" where responders can provide their thoughts or experiences that will give a different answer to the same question. Readers are always encouraged to start a new thread as well if they like.

Just a few rules of posting:
-No threatening or foul language i.e. BE NICE. Form your critical thoughts carefully.
-Remember that this blog is for encouraging thoughts and perspectives, not necessarily looking for right and wrong answers.
-Humor is encouraged whenever and wherever it can be applied.