This second paper will address mostly the academic community and also the government. Although my audience sounds very general, my paper encompasses how we, the academic community, can incite the beginnings of the economic changes through a change in the learning process of college education. Simultaneously, while the government understands its critical role in educational reform, it has yet to revolutionize the educational process in college reform. The government, college administration, professors, and students must implement the change in our college education system so that future generations will be prepared for any further economic instability.
Ask any immigrant the cliché question: “Why did you immigrate to the United States?” The immigrant would reply, “Because of the job opportunities for me, and a good education for my children.” Unfortunately, both the job market and the education system in the United States are not as formidable as they once were. Factors that made the United States prosperous—education and job opportunities—are now the causes that hold us back and will continue to do so until we start with the basic steps in education. The education system is perhaps just as much at fault as our highly competitive job market, if not more at fault. According to the New York Times article “Cut Waste or Invest? Try Both” by David Leonhardt, “High school became universal in the United States in the early twentieth century…which goes a long way toward explaining our economy’s twentieth century success.” Later in the century, our country held the most post-secondary degrees and prospered because of the educated population. Now, however, we have lost that title. To regain that position, President Barack Obama proposed the American Graduation Initiative in 2009 to set the goal of having the most post-secondary degrees by 2020 (“College Completion”). Nevertheless, if we truly expect the economy to continue to evolve, we must also be able to change our way of thinking and our way of educating. My paper argues that reformed education will further our economic growth if we clearly identify the setbacks and that we, the academic community, in addition to the government can do this by connecting our education more with our civic duties and future careers.
While many point out the flaws of the education system in the United States, others might not fully realize the root of these flaws. As a college freshman, I already know that it is certainly not enough to earn a college degree in order to acquire a job; work experience and more developed career skills than those of the previous college graduates are also necessary. The expectations are overwhelming, and college funds are conversely underwhelming. Perhaps, the scariest thing about education is not that it does not guarantee one a job, but the perception that no education or no excellence means failure. Like the competitive job market streamlined for productivity rather than job growth, education has been streamlined for success—a mere stepping stone for one’s career—rather than the method of relating both knowledge and values, the values that have allowed our country to once prosper. Is this perception based on our ideals of meritocracy? Perhaps our perception of these matters idolizes monetary success as our ultimate goal. It is difficult to diverge from the perception that success only equals monetary success when monetary success was and still is one of the reasons that makes the United States great. “Both the federal government and the states spend money on higher education in terribly wasteful ways. They don’t offer incentives for success, and they demand little accountability from colleges. Colleges that do a masterful job of graduating students receive no reward…” (Leonhardt). While some colleges are perceived as stepping-stones, other colleges fail to provide a continual path for its graduates. With the economic downturn and slow recovery, students cannot help but become disheartened with increasing college tuition fees and less chance of a guaranteed, secure job—no reward—after graduation.
Simultaneously, there are even more flaws in our perception of education such as the following: “Oversimplification of civic engagement, idealization of the expert, fragmentation of knowledge, emphasis on technical mastery, and neutrality” (Coleman). Today’s education system has separated civic duty completely from the classroom when, in the past, the classroom connected the civic duty with the student. Volunteering and civic duties were not always the items that enhanced a student’s resume. In addition, society relies too heavily upon the experts. “The problem is there is no such thing as a viable democracy made up of experts, zealots, politicians, and spectators” (Coleman). While society looks to the administration in the university system as experts, some forget that the college education is able to empower the individual to also be an expert. At the same time, breaking down interrelated subjects into pieces causes students to question the real connections and also take for granted the subject matter. Knowledge is interdisciplinary and interrelated, and so is education. Additionally, we emphasize “innovation” while we focus on higher test scores and only specialized—isolated—thinking. “High-stakes, standardized testing is a contemporary manifestation of the legacy of scientific management in education in the USA” (Au 505). Although this ideology is popular today, its roots originate from early twentieth century beliefs on labor by Frederick Taylor, who believed humans were machines themselves as part of Scientific Management (“Frederick Taylor & Scientific Management”). It is critical in understanding that innovation is not last century’s way of reasoning; innovation is the new way of thinking as a divergence from the old construct.
Reforming the education system is a complex subject; diverging from the ideals of the former education system is just as difficult. In his talk “Bring on the Learning Revolution!” Sir Ken Robinson states, “We don’t need an ‘evolution,’ but a ‘revolution.’ This has to be transformed into something else.” Robinson suggests that we customize learning instead of conform it for every student. In today’s economy, we come to realize that hard work is not enough and that an environment conducive to learning and innovating must also foster this hard work. In addition, we need to connect the subject matter again and comprehend that collaboration enables innovation. “The intersections between the academy and the new economy are diverse, but one of the most prevalent trends specific to these intersections is university-industry collaborations, reflected in a robust set of literature” (“The New Economy and the Entrepreneurial Academy”).
Increasing funding is not enough; rather, allocating the funds from the Obama Administration’s American Graduation Initiative is just as vital. The Initiative amounts to $12 billion dollars for ten years so that 5 million Americans will earn degrees (Billitteri 996). There is hope for the education system since Obama is looking to increase funding for colleges. Distributing the funds already appears to be difficult with the national budget and part of the funds making their way to affluent, private colleges (Leonhardt). Therefore, the government should fund higher education in places where the public education is sure to expand and thrive, not just the private universities. Leonhardt in The New York Times article also writes, “A dollar that’s well spent on education today will more than pay for itself tomorrow, through faster economic growth. For that reason, a tougher approach to college funding is actually a form of deficit reduction as well.”
Frederick Douglass, a former U.S. slave, once said, “To educate a man is to make him unfit to be a slave.” College education enables the individual to obtain some of the necessary skills and views to earn a living, while also challenging the individual’s values. To educate a man, I must add, challenges him to generate his own thoughts and income, given his knowledge and creativity. Changing our education system and, more importantly, our perception of it are a collaborative effort made by college administration, college professors, college students, and the government that will engage current and future college students to adapt to a changing culture. Connecting the subjects will allow the future labor force to collaborate for higher learning and technological innovation that was always in great demand. Ultimately, changing the curriculum and streamlining where the government funds go will improve both the education system and also the economic growth.