Sunday, July 16, 2017

What's It All About – Part Deux

To follow up on my last blog article “What's It All About,” I ran into this interesting video on Facebook about the education system in Finland. The U.S., the wealthiest, most powerful country in the world is being eroded from within. I believe a significant reason for this is our deteriorating educational system.

Allow me to preface my remarks by stating that 50 years ago (I just attended the 50th class reunion of my graduation from Montclair State College - now University), I earned a B.A. degree in education with my specialty being Industrial Arts. I also was awarded teacher certification, accepted in virtually every state in the U.S., for Kindergarten through 12th grade.

I was, myself, a product of the public education system. I skipped kindergarten, but completed grades 1 – 12 in the Clifton, New Jersey public school system. Even as a wet behind the ears, know it all, 22 year old graduate of the teaching curriculum of the (at that time) crown jewel of the New Jersey state colleges, all specializing in teacher education at that time, I saw real issues I knew were going to continue to deteriorate in the New Jersey (and U.S.) educational system. In my opinion, I was not wrong in my projections.

I have several friends I graduated college with who went on to careers in teaching (and some into administration). For the most part, as practitioners in the education system, they back up my beliefs. Of course, like many occupations and professions in our country, there is probably a majority who entered the workforce with only two primary objectives. First, to have a secure career that provided a living wage with only a nominal amount of effort. Second, to earn a pension for retirement. Beyond that, little else was important to those individuals and they learned to tolerate a system and “go with the flow” even if they didn't agree with it. It was the old “don't rock the boat” idea.

It would be unfair to say everyone in the “system” was like those I just described. There was also a sizable teaching population who wanted to do more for their charges, the future adults they were educating and training to take over the country in the future. Unfortunately, many of them were “forced” out of the profession because they were rocking the boat and making it harder for the other population content to tolerate the system until they reached retirement age. There were also those who became disillusioned and bailed out and found new occupational pursuits. And, still another percentage hung in, doing their best to change the system for the better, in their opinion, and tolerating the resistance they had to deal with.

The bottom line is, our educational system is now somewhere in the rankings of number 30 to 36 in the world. This from the most powerful, wealthiest population in the world. We have effectively learned how to nail our feet to the floor and shoot ourselves in our own feet.

Do not misunderstand what I'm saying. I am not saying we are breeding unintelligent future generations. I'm saying we're impeding future generations by miss-educating, under educating and/or not appropriately educating them. Studies have shown by age seven the average child's creativity begins to diminish and continues through life until retirement age. That's not because they lack creativity. It's because they are being taught they must color inside the lines, use appropriate colors for specific things and don't try to stretch the envelope or expand the boundaries.

Fortunately, a small percentage of the population fight the system or even play the system to reach a point where they can express their creativity and intelligence on their own terms. These are the individuals who start businesses, improve on or create new technologies, etc. It's documented that many corporations seek out intelligent, creative individuals and operate their own education systems to prepare and unleash this latent talent, creativity and intelligence because new hires are not able to function at an entry level.

Even going back 50 years ago, I took an elective course in my junior year, I believe, where we visited a variety of industries as part of a field studies course. Remember, I was an Industrial Arts major. It was more than one corporation, where, when we arrived (students with one or two professors), they separated the professors and took them off for coffee. Then the recruiters gathered all of us students in a conference room and presented us with “the opportunity.” The opportunity was to drop out of college THEN and go to work for them. They would train us and help us utilize our creativity and intelligence. They would also pay for the balance of our college education that we'd complete on a part-time basis while being professionally employed.

So, what is my point? My point is that in order to understand the potential of personal freedom, happiness and peace from a fulfilling life, individuals need to be free intellectually. They need to know how to unleash their creative genius and intelligence in the ways most compatible with their own world views and ideas of life for themselves on their own terms. The educational system needs to open doors and expand minds and opportunities, not attempt to force everyone into a funnel and squeeze them out the other end as a homogenized group of, nothing short of, automatons.

Interestingly, the Fins, in this video, seem to have come up with a very different formula than the U.S. system that has them either on top or near the top of the educational rankings in the world. And, if you listen closely, you'll hear it mentioned that they thank the U.S. for the success of the Finnish educational system because they are using methods developed by the U.S., but not being utilized by the U.S. educational system. Click on the link and watch this slightly less than ten minute video. Let me know what you think.

Let me make a note here. I am NOT a fan of Michael Moore. However, I do believe, in this clip, he has uncovered something that's certainly worthy of our consideration.

We've heard the term “dumbing down of America.” We've also begun to see the censorship and downright banning of freedom of speech in our educational institutions. There is controversy over whether we're actually preparing young adults to be productive members of society or politically correct “snowflakes,” one of the new terms being bandied about. Are young people prepared after as many as four years or more of advanced education to face the world as productive adults?

More and more of them seem to be returning home and allowing their parents to continue providing roofs over their heads and “safe havens” from the terrible reality of living productively in society. I look back at where I was and what I had already accomplished before attaining the age of 30. Today, these kids are still living off their parents to one degree or another. And, have the college and university institutions become a new “industry” creating debt laden drones who can't afford to live independently?

I don't profess to be wise enough to know all the answers. What I am wise, intelligent, educated and experienced enough to observe is a society that has become overrun by “political correctness” gone amuck and the slide of society into a self-destructive path. Will it happen during my watch (and yours), most likely not. However, I'm not particularly comfortable with the idea that this may be the legacy we're establishing for the future sometime after we're gone. Should we care, since we won't be around? I guess that's a moral and ethical question we each have to ask ourselves.

Until next time, live free and be happy. EH  


Richard Rosen said...

Having the right purpose for education is first needed before methods to reach it can be thought out. That purpose is the development of a noble and well-balanced personality. It is achieved by mental and moral training. All else is scaffolding.

Ed Helvey - Location Independent Traveler said...

Interesting point, Richard. Based on your thought, it's my opinion that for the most part the U.S. system is missing the boat on both the mental and moral parts. And, considering the direction advanced education has been moving, I think the noble and well-balanced personality concepts aren't even in the ballpark anymore. But, then again, I'm just comparing my public education and my college education from over 50 years ago. Perhaps, those of us from back then are from a different place in the time/space continuum and are obsolete and antiquated in having such high minded ideals.