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February 19, 2012

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Mitch Weinzetl

Let’s admit it; both the secondary education and the higher education the educational systems are broken. They are broken in different ways, but they are definitely broken. By most standards, the secondary education system is not producing positive results on a consistent basis. Nobody seems to like or want “No Child Left Behind” (and I am not advocating for this) but at the same time, nobody wants to address the real dysfunction that is occurring at the secondary educational level. Secondary education relies on public funding, and as a result, the public should have some say in whether the education system should be allowed to continue operating in a status-quo fashion. Despite this, educators are quick to discourage any such interference from the public, suggesting that the public really does not understand the system. They are right – we do not.

From a business perspective, nearly every institution of higher education is in the red – all the time. If education was operated strictly as a business, and with no subsidy, most would have to close their doors. Yet, these same institutions continue to seek public funding to offset the costs of tuition and operations. Here’s a suggestion; cut costs, operate efficiently, and compete for tuition dollars in the same way that business competes for their earnings. Those in charge say that we (the public) do not understand. Again, they are right.

In both cases, the systems appear to be broken and in need of reform. It would seem however, that unless or until things get really bad, nobody within either of these systems will step up and take on a leadership role to drive the positive change that is needed. If things remain unchecked, it is likely that they will continue to deteriorate. Say “no” to “status-quo.” If these educational systems do not want external forces to dictate what they should do differently in order to remain viable, then they had better figure this out for themselves, and soon. If not, they may find that there is no subsidy, and they may find themselves in line for a new profession.

Mark

I'm not convinced our systems are 'broken.' They may not produce what any one of us may want, but that doesn't mean 'broken.' Simply means they don't produce what that individual may say they want.

A phrase that keeps popping back up for me: we reap what we sow, or our systems produce what they produce, and we've 'designed' them that way.

We have a system that, more or less, gets most students thru, and into jobs. Yes, there is a recession, but again, most (more than 50%) people have jobs. Most people graduate from high school, most people have a shot at getting some further education (community college, vocational training, university, adult ed, etc.)

We don't really want 'everyone' to 'succeed' in the same way. Not really -- someone has to plow the ground, sow the seeds, water, weed, harvest, transport to market, sort, display, ring up sales, bag, etc. -- those are farm field workers, teamsters, grocery clerks, cashiers, baggers, etc. We don't need them to get any specific kind of education, beyond 'vocational' training for the truck drivers. Every other one of those doesn't need any particular kind of education, and certainly not even a high school certificate.

And we certainly don't want to pay a 'living wage' to most of them, because that would make our food, etc. much more expensive. That's why we 'allow' plenty of low-cost workers without formal authorization (wet-backs) to fill our menial jobs - they help keep labor costs, and consumer prices, down.

Ditto for most of the personnel in our service economy - baristas, dishwashers, waitrons, receptionists, office workers, etc. Our economy has many, many people that don't need any particular kind of education, not even high school. And we get that mix, more or less, with the systems we've been using for quite a few decades.

Seems to serve the needs of most Americans most of the time - even during this recession. Yes, some don't get served as well, but this has always been true, and probably always will be (The poor will always be with us) - any community of large enough scale has a hierarchy of some sort, and to be Garrison's Lake Wobegon 'above average,' someone else, perforce, must be below average. We actually want it that way, and we get it.

Plenty of surveys establish that Americans generally want to be above average, not average -- in other words, we want some to be below average. And we have 'designed' systems that do just that.

Mitch Weinzetl

Mark -

In many respects, I agree with you. At the same time, when I speak of our elementary and secondary education systems being “broken,” what I am referring to is the quality of education students receive, and whether they can meet appropriate benchmarks. It is true to say that some will never reach the higher heights of earnings, but my point is that the education system should not be what stands in their way of this achievement.

As far as higher ed is concerned, I think it is a cashflow issue. By and large, I think students in higher ed get a good education - if they want it, but the financial structure of this system needs work.

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