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November 01, 2010

Comments

Sherri Harvey

Dear Jerry of California:

I am writing to you as a Professor of English in the CSU system. I am wondering, Jerry of California, if you think the lecture-based classroom is enough to prepare students for the rigors of a current workforce that demands so much more than it did 40, 30 or even 20 years ago? Do you think professors with tenure who have been granted legal stagnancy think that teaching students to use Google Docs or teaching students to blog is necessary to prepare them for employment upon graduation? I have heard colleagues say that they do not need to teach anything other than their subject in the classroom because students already have enough exposure to the internet, and I ask you, do you agree with this?
Unravel the whole scheme of what? How can you make a general claim like this without really acknowledging that the 19 C educational system with classified patterns and structured information delivered by methods of lecture by defunct methodologies that often do not help students see real world application is acceptable? And when you say “reforms invented by business people and politicians with logical ideas and self-evident truths”, isn’t this what an educational system that pays administrators more than teachers, that allows cuts to be made to places like writing centers while putting up new buildings, and raising the cost of tuition to do so somehow does NOT involve making POLITICAL DECISIONS by businessmen? What do you consider administrators--? Education has become a business, if you haven’t noticed. What used to be granted to every student in California is now granted to maybe ½ of the people it used to serve: because education is a business. And that business is on the verge of bankruptcy because it is not producing students who can compete in a 21st C workforce.

How has that workforce changed? The answers are endless. Yes, part of the blame falls on society. But the question we should be asking is: what can we as educators do to help our students do more than survive, but actually thrive, in a competitive workforce that demands so much more than it did 10 years ago?
I couldn’t agree more with Gladwell that the social aspects of our personality determine our success, but neither can I deny the fact that the culture that we, as educators, are expected to prepare our students for is one that demands new and different skills that our forefathers who (were mostly white men by the way) designed our current educational system. Do you really think the lecture method still works when our youth today have such different challenges? Different social realities like shortened attention spans, demands for multi-tasking, texting and emailing replacing face-to-face communication, multi-cultural world views all change the way every single one of us think. We can’t really ignore the fact that society is changing the demands placed upon our youth after graduation, yet we still have a whole set of educational standards still catering to the needs of a 19 C society. So I don’t expect teens to “save our economy” but I do, as an educator, believe in helping teens, and young adults, connect the dots that a college education provides them while employing methods like creative thinking, symbolism, logic that have the ability to break through the apathy of our current youth.

When you say “Calm down, sir. [in response to Bob Compton] The American K12 education system is terrible at imparting knowledge to young adults but it’s been terrible at doing this for at least one hundred years.” And that, somehow, makes education’s shortcomings acceptable? The problem lies with the fact that in the past 10 years, our culture is changing so rapidly that our current system is not preparing students for the demands of a 21st Century workforce. The objectives of education really haven’t changed at all despite the fact that society has, and will continue to do so. You claim that K-12 has been terrible for the past 100 years—do you think that a society with changing needs will be met by this system that fails children not only in k-12 but beyond into college? How could that be so?

Sherri of California (San Jose)

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