According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Vocational Educational Reform in America, Part 1

Vocational national educational reform in America must occur in our local school districts to allow for more equal competition on the global stage of performance beginning with the replacement of our traditional system of mass learning and then orientating schools towards occupational curriculas, local internships, self-paced programs, and earlier graduation programs beginning in the 2nd to the 4th year of high school study. It must give the desperate assistance required to the poorest and least empowered of our nation while at the same time recover our languishing middle classes slipping into the waysides of our society and becoming a mere labor force rather than an entrepreneurial workforce that is aggressive and business-minded.

It must be flexible enough to allow for the greatest expansion and the greatest opportunity for that youthful segment of our society that is most desirous of innovation and success, most impacted by our decisions, and most willing to hope great hopes of aspiration. Anything less than this is to watch our schools slide into oblivion, and our societies with it, as our educational system drains its peoples and its students of national effectiveness and God-given rights to become a trained, literate, impassioned, responsive work force and a highly functioning, interconnected, inter-dependent society of the 21st Century.

I believe we need a new type of national school system. One that will reduce the current high school and college educational programs from 4 to 3 to 2 years, and that is orientated around an occupational curricula that allows for core expansion and crossover studies. One that would allow for shortened learning cycles so that those students requiring immediate employment may find those opportunities within a school's job/career training center which may meet their more immediate personal and family needs. That schools would make available to young people a variety of occupational apprenticeships so that they may become sufficiently qualified to compete for jobs with the confidence that comes from effective training and study. It is critical that the public school system orientate itself towards an occupational curricula and remove the general academic curricula now in place. To intentionally present an earlier level of skill sets that a young person both desires and needs. To abandon its current standards of No Child Left Behind and MEAP Testing with the more practical standards of training and apprenticeship that could sit alongside that of the more academic traditional form of study.

And with the successful placement of a young person into the work force a community will soon discover improving returns both fiscally and relationally. Not only is the job market satisfied but so too will be a district's need for finances and resources. A larger tax base is being nurtured and with that comes monies to operate our schools. As it is now, the costs of educational training well into the college years and beyond is placing the nation's student population further and further from effective employment. Public education has become too expensive and the vast majority of students within our public schools and colleges are overwhelming our resources with higher tuition fees, newer taxes, and dwindling employment returns.

Statedly, America’s costs of education have become too high and its process of education has become too lengthy for the value that our nation needs at this critical time to compete against the larger, more skilled work forces being produced in countries like India and China. By restructuring academic degree programs (as well as related costs) America can produce a more efficiently trained workforce for lesser jobs not requiring the traditional path of high school and college training currently underway. Too, it will free up educational resources to concentrate upon more intensive training required by other skill sets that an individual may wish to pursue requiring longer graduation times. Not everyone requires competent knowledge in algebra 3 or organic chemistry, but this is not to say that this education should not be offered. Yet in the world of pragmatic metrics and Internet resources the job market is requiring more and more specific skill sets and less and less broad-based general educational knowledge that our traditional schools have been in the business of providing.

It is not too honest to say that the public education system, primarily the middle school and high school systems, have become outmoded and impractical. And while our community colleges have offered the highest response to occupational training I would fault major universities with creating unnecessary and time-consuming core curriculum's for their 4-year degree programs. Especially in the area of post-high school remedial education in the freshman and sophomore years as they re-teach basic reading, writing, maths and sciences earlier received in a student's teen years. For some perhaps this is necessary but for many it delays graduation and ages our nation's dwindling workforce.

Not only does this system withhold America’s youth from acquiring an earlier apprenticeship but it presents a degree-competency turn-around that is imprudent. Beyond the industrial revolution’s requirements for “reading, writing and arithmetic” has now come the outcry for a more specific knowledge and skill subsets that is not readily available for job outsourcing. Today’s current four year high school programs and “college prep” curriculas are not producing the needs that our global societies are requesting. Jobs are being lost to global manufacturing and whole cities are displacing their brain trust and work forces in employment relocation efforts across America. As a nation we have lost our entrepreneurial edge in industry and it is being reflected all too well within our non-entrepreneurial educational systems.

The question as to how we as a nation efficiently train young people for the necessary tasks at hand is an old question. Is it enough to sufficiently train a culture, a community, a society to effectively maintain itself, or is it more necessary to over-train a society to meet the challenges of new frontiers, new technologies, new resources? Quick, efficient educational paths can adapt to the former pursuit but how does a society still retain its ability to broadly educate and meet all the future demands it may place on itself necessarily? That is an ancient question city-states have struggled with. Because our schools do not allow occupational apprenticeships within its curricula it retards the former question at the expense of the latter's need to broadly train competent, motivated, talented individuals. It is bankrupting our educational system on many levels from support to personnel to facility/asset resources. But by acquiescing, and providing trained apprenticeships more directly into the workforce it will create a more effective community of workers who can support their school system through infrastructural supports like expanded resources (both fiscal and human), experientially and pragmatically. This would then prevent a community's network-of-neighborhoods from urban blight and regional job displacement as high schools meet the demand for specific job training and placement that capital consumerism necessarily demands.

Thus, it is important to streamline our educational system to better reflect its regional needs while balancing its global needs to compete and succeed in less understood and under-commercialized projects. To train for the frontiers of knowledge import while not neglecting to support the current markets being effectively applied. Not everyone can or should be involved in the frontiers of market creation, but it is important to keep a community fiscally solvent enough so that it can determine its own destiny through work placement and market support.

To this I would begin an educational list that would summarize these initiatives:

1 Create high school (and college) degree programs of 2, 3, and 4 years, as pertaining to the subject area of expertise required while removing any graduation requirement barriers thusly.

1b Allow for a mixture of curricular degree programs of choice (cross-over majors) as well as a mixture of curricular and academic programs should future college training be sought.

2 Remove all state core requirements and infuse "elective majors" beginning in 7th, 8th, and 9th grades with concentrations in:
  • Engineering and Technology
  • Medical Sciences and Services
  • Business and Finance
  • Specific Trades School (Design, Construction, Aircraft Maintenance, etc)
  • The Arts and Humanities (Music, Theatre, Dance)

3 Provide earlier apprenticeship programs in middle school and high school and remove unnecessary core competency requirements.

3b Expect to place youth into the workforce more rapidly while recognizing that not all students have the same interests, talents or abilities. And that some may require more training than others regarding their elective choices and talents.

4 Elevate middle school requirements to incorporate the basic academic curricula of the early high school years (place 9th/10th grade basics into the 6th through 8th grades).

5 Reduce college term lengths from 4 to 3 to 2 years by removing unnecessary/repetitive class and remedial educational requirements that major universities currently undertake in the freshman and sophomore years.

6 Provide for more pervasive online instruction but not so as to displace the traditional teacher role with simply “teacher-mentors”. Personal instruction is still invaluable to the overall success of any student's mentoring process.

7 Do not neglect to give early instruction and appreciation for differing cultures and faiths that successful global communications will require in business and networking.

8 Privatize public schools for better community management and development (as versus the slower, less effective, less nimble, state and federal educational systems now in place).

9 Virtualize school boundaries with a pay-in system for non-district students through Internet resourcing.

Concluding Observations

The public education of the 1930's that offered assembly-line models of mass learning is effectively broken and must re-engage its consumer base. A nationalized education system retards effective entrepreneurial market development, is slower to respond, and more costly to retain than a regionally-driven educational model.

America must be able to compete in the 21st Century and cannot with its outmoded, ineffective and obsolete public school educational system. Teens need viable job choices by 16 and 17 years of age and it is in the best economic interests of the US to graduate their kids within occupational program studies.

By not capitalizing on differentiating a study program's majors until a kid's sophomore or junior college term we are creating enormous costs on our school systems and on our society at-large. Nor can we compete against India and China’s educational mills with their larger population resources. We must train earlier and more efficiently than ever before and cannot be satisfied in placing our students into the workforce at 22-25 years of age. We have to lower that age group beginning with 16-17 years of age and more effectively train those who decide to remain within it.

In the most sublime sense, it is time and money that we compete most against. Not against other nations or their economies. For it is time that equates to opportunity and money that equates to the seizure of those opportunities. To demand that the national student population be equally competent with one another is to drive down all our students to the most basic, minimal level of education. And to restrict early graduation is to prevent the help and assistance that a younger apprenticeship work force could lend to their supporting community.

One could go on and on with this type of reasoning but it is enough to say that our public schools must radically reform and essentially disappear as ineffective and outmoded operations. The time is now for clear, decisive, chaotic reform to begin.

RE Slater
February 17, 2011

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