Following is a more literary form of the business proposal that I have presented to various chamber of commerce in the Los Angeles area. It is interesting to note that unlike academic theory or bureaucratic laced government-run institutions, that which works in the real world works virtually ignoring criticism or conjecture. Yes, Mr. Forbes, capitalism may not only save us but education as well. Here's to the innovative, problem solving, get 'er done spirit of the entrepreneur. Peace!
Over the past 17 years, the percentage of four-year college and university students who graduate has dipped more than 10 percentage points, despite increases in enrollment, according to the Council for Aid to Education and the National Governors Association. About 42 percent of students entering four-year colleges or universities graduate (Al Branch, CBS Business Network).
But there's more. And it gets worse.
Every 26 seconds another student drops out of public high school which translates to nearly one-third of all public high school students dropping out. It's so bad that Colon Powell and his wife are heading a national movement in an attempt to reverse the trend. But even of those two-thirds who graduate, the picture doesn't get any brighter. According to a 2007 survey, nearly 90% desired to attend and graduate college. Unfortunately, the majority never did. Even of the current 28% of the population with bachelor's degrees, within five to ten years 70% will no longer be working in a job related to their major.
So what's happening? Are our children, our future not getting the help, education, achievement they need or have been promised?
But the plot thickens. Even though learning appears to be happening, there is a disconnect somewhere in the system: "A sizable [number of remedial students entering college] are recent graduates who performed well in high school: A 2008 study by the nonprofit Strong American School found that nearly four out of five remedial students had a high school GPA of 3.0 or higher."
So why aren't they learning? Or is there such a large discrepancy between high school and college education that the issue is closing the gap (we have some of the best colleges and universities in the world yet some of the worst performing schools)? Or is it grade inflation or students being pushed through the system just so high schools, even community colleges, can obtain funding? Regarding grades, in college there is a similar problem to that which is occurring at the high school level. More and more is being written about students not learning, even those achieving good grades (As and Bs). So what's going on?
What is happening is complex but there are several major factors that stand out and must be taken into consideration; in doing so, we will take a look at not only the dropouts and failures but the alleged successes. And what we will discover is that we are looking in all the wrong places and asking all the wrong questions (or no questions at all) to ensure an increased chance at success. But first, let's look at a few more facts to add to our understanding of the overall issue.
Let's take a look at high school kids first. Why are so many dropping out? According to a report titled The Silent Epidemic by John Bridgeland (CEO of Civic Enterprise, a publicity group that lead a 2008 national dropout summit), 80% of students surveyed said they dropped out because of a need for "classes that are more interesting and provide opportunities for real-world leaning." Unfortunately, far too often children are taught out of context with little connection made between what's being learned in school to that of the real world. Achievers know that without specific understanding of outcomes, what they are or why they even exist, lack of motivation and focus arises negatively affecting achievement.
But there's more to the drop out picture. More and more households are being run by a single parent-because of divorce sometimes paying for two households-who needs help from their wage-earning children just to pay the bills. Then there's the minimum wage issue that places wages too high for some companies (especially small business that are in the majority) who can't afford it, so they cut jobs. This has been part of the reason students drop out of high school; they can't find a part-time job because there are fewer of them, so they get a full-time job to help mom or dad pay the bills.
But let's get to the deeper issue or, as I stated previously, the not asking of critical questions.
How can schools really know what the issues are at hand when they are not asking students, their customers, what they want? As previously stated, today's high school students have complaints (uninteresting classes, not applicable to real-world), and they may even be understood by teachers and administration, but little is being done to serve them. I know that some may feel that "adults know best" and teenagers are not mature enough to know what they need, but most adults will confess, if they think about it, this is hardly the case. And students know that today a college degree does not guarantee a job or career success. It may improve one's chances but there are no guarantees.
So what are some of the core issues?
One is that schools are third-party government run institutions that don't cater to the needs of the individual like customers or consumers in the real-world economy or the private sector. How many surveys are sent out to high school- or college grads to see if what they are receiving or have received is what they need? Often it is the opinions of a limited few on boards and accrediting agencies-- at the college level--that are informing the many what they need. Because of this, schools and colleges are out of touch with what is really needed. Education (schools and colleges) is missing so much real-world knowledge, skills, and attitudes, which I estimate to be about 80%. Consider that in today's job market those just entering the workforce will have upwards of three to four career changes over their working lifetime; what should be taught is not just knowledge but critical skills and attitudes on how to think and self-teach, for once college is over-after a brief sixteen years of education-then what? Go back to school every five to seven years or so for another degree? But instead we dictate to our students what we think they will need whether they need it or not. And it's not just about careers, but to be more active and engaged parents, citizens, to live a longer, more productive life; life-long learning and new-skill building should be taught, along with a good understanding of success principles, relationship skills, capitalism, democracy, and government, and much more.
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