Reason #9

We have to bluntly and seriously address the issue of education.  Forgive me but I’ve been reading academic research this morning and getting angry.  The system of education here is rotten from the bottom to the top.  At the top you have academics more concerned with research volume – to the point where nearly 10% of Organizational Psychology Research is focused on statistical methods and another substantial chunk is based on testing parameters – rather than determining and providing the kind of information that current market conditions demand.  In other words, academics get tenure based on research volume and the focus then is on creating that volume.  Phrases like “teaching interferes with research time” and “well, you may have to start at a teaching-focused school but you don’t want to stay there” are common.  Higher Education wants money but they don’t want anyone dictating how they use that money and they’re not necessarily concerned with whether that money generates any kind of return on investment in the form of useful knowledge for practitioners or capable, competent alumni of the institution.    As long as they graduate the university looks good so who cares if they know anything?

This mindset diffuses itself through the rest of our society.  If we are producing college graduates that are not really productive in terms of logical, creative thinking skills and subsequently not capable of adding value to their profession, we perpetuate the cycle of teachers who can’t teach and students who don’t learn either because they don’t know how or because they cannot see the knowledge presented as useful.  We stifle creativity, problem-solving, inquisitiveness and intelligence.  The result is further erosion of our competitive advantage.

We have got to change this cycle.  The emphasis in higher education must shift to a mix of theoretical research – developing new theories – and applied research.  We have to create knowledge that can be used in practical settings to advance our industries.  Research must be more market driven in order to strengthen our economy and our country as a whole.  Contrary to the opinion of a majority of academics, the people providing the funding should have a voice in how it’s spent and teaching is at least as important as research if not more so.  Research should be used to improve teaching quality and subsequently the quality of output – graduates and their capabilities in the work place.

Subsequently, the standards at lower levels of education must also change.  We must provide teachers that can teach in order to improve our odds of getting students that can learn.  Then we put more of the responisbility for learning on the student and the parents.  I understand the whole concept of avoiding responsibility but to place all the onus for learning on the teacher is completely unfair.  In order for little Johnny to learn, Johnny has to want to learn.  Knowledge transfer is a two-way street.  We need to accept that it is okay for kids to fail and teach kids that failure is undesirable. We must teach them that if they fail, it is their fault and they must take responsibility for improvement so they do not repeat the failure.   Competition is not evil and high standards are a good thing at every level of education or we will never regain our competitive advantage.  We also need to put our teachers and administrators in a position where collaboration with parents (willing collaboration by parents) is integral to success.  Parents should not be able to shift full blame to the teacher for their childrens’ performance or lack thereof.  Students who choose to create disciplinary problems will be denied educational opportunity because of their behavior.  Kids won’t leave schools because of bullies.  Bullies will be removed from schools and their subsequent options will not be as desirable.  Parents will be held accountable for their childrens’ behavior until their children reach teh age of majority.  No excuses.  That is what being a parent entails.  If little Johnny’s a bully – it is your fault Mom and Dad.  Trust me on this.  I have never seen it be otherwise.

Our public education system must be redesigned to be superior to each and every other education option.

Failure to view education in terms of its impact on our ability to compete and succeed in the global marketplace is a mistake.  It is imperative that immediate action be taken to reinvent the public school system from pre-K to PhD. to design a system that encourages learning, critical thinking and creates teachers that can teach (leaders that can and do lead!) in every field.  Then we can take the next step and create students who can and do learn and take that learning to the next level which is further research that is applicable in the marketplace and serves to provide, enhance and sustain our global competitive advantage.  The more we diminish the value of competition in the educational setting – where we all spend the majority of our formative years – the more likely it is that we will not regain that competitive urge as adults.  Knowledge builds on knowledge and our foundations are currently crumbling.

Is it too late?  I don’t think so but we must take swift and decisive action.  We must end No Child Left Untested and we must develop national standards for learning at all grade levels including strong math, science and foreign language requirements beginning at the earliest grade levels..   National standards, accreditation and licensure for Pre-K – 12th grade teachers designed to ensure parity in quality of teachers nationwide must be developed and implemented.  There must be a stronger connection at the post-secondary level between teaching quality and funding.  At the very least, academics must recognize the value of research that truly furthers knowledge in the practical setting rather than the theoretical.  We have enough statistical models and testing parameters.  Tell us how to be more effective leaders.  Give us new technology.  Give us some substantial, quantifiable return on our research investment.

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~ by sharplisa on November 9, 2008.

2 Responses to “Reason #9”

  1. Bullseye, especially on the lower-level education. I don’t know if you can teach self-motivation, but this sense that every kid is entitled to good grades and a trophy without ever earning it is undermining the whole system, and I saw it taking over more and more as I finished high school. Ridiculous.

    Are you saying that professors shouldn’t have to continue to publish research to keep their positions? Or just that we need professors who need to focus more on the teaching aspect?

  2. ~stands and applauds~

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