Making Online Education Attractive

All over the world, the numbers of people in school at the different levels takes pyramidal shape. There are huge numbers at the elementary, but as they progress, the numbers decrease, leaving just a few in higher education. In the United States, some 65 million students were expected to enroll from K to K12 in the fall of 2015. In the same period, it was expected that 20.2 million would be attending Colleges and Universities. It is estimated that 25% of fresh high school students in the U.S.A are not able to graduate. For fresh students who enter colleges or universities 1 out of 3 are likely not make it to second year. This dropout out rate hinders national development, because many people do not receive the full training they need to be functional in society. National development would be hugely fostered, if more adults receive education, in order that they become functional in society.

I am not saying that all adults who were not fully educated are not playing important roles in society. There are very prominent individuals in society who dropped out of school at some level. Bill Gate, Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah Winfrey, for example, at some point dropped out of school. Though this list is not exhaustive, the number of people who dropped out of school or decided not to gain higher education and yet became successful are relatively few. For the majority who dropped out or discontinued education, and could not become successful in their careers, it was because they lacked the knowledge they needed to develop their potential. If you check the history of those who in spite of dropping out or discontinuing schooling have become successful, you would find that appeared to have found their life’s purpose and so pursued those goals and, more importantly, they received some kind of education later.

Education as we all know is a life-long activity. At any point in time, whether you dropped out of school or got honors at your graduation, you would need education. The school dropout who has found himself a vocation or gained employment needs education so he/she can be more productive, the dropout who has realized the need to school but has ‘grown past school going age’ and desires to school obviously needs education, managers as well as employees need further education in order to keep pace with today’s rapidly changing world and gain increased wages and status respectively. Somehow, the traditional education dependent society we have created for ourselves and considers the ‘best’, limits our quest for continuing education. For many people, formal education ended the day they dropped out or graduated from High School, College or University, even though, technology makes it possible for us to sit in our houses and still get quality education.

When technology – computers and internet connectivity – replaced physical classrooms and made it possible to study by distance in real time, it appeared the issue of continuous education for everyone, including the dropout and the working class have been solved. It appeared, and still does, that now the teacher need not leave his students, apply for study-leave or leave of absence to pursue further education. It appeared the fifty-year-old woman who dropped out of school several years ago could now school from home and it appeared the father could learn what his daughter is learning at College using the same device he uses to call her. That is what it appeared. Those who dropped out of school due to issues of finance and have not since had a breakthrough would not benefit, and those who have the money would not want to put their money into a certificate employers and academicians alike would frown upon. So little appear to have changed for these two groups of people, though online Colleges and Universities abound.

Two prime issues are to blame. First, online education is too expensive for the target group of learners and second, there is the perception that online Colleges and Universities do not provide holistic education like the traditional Colleges and Universities. As indicated by Ed Vosganian – founder and CEO of College Funding 123, the cost of on-campus University for undergraduate is estimated at 42,000 dollars while for the same group it cost around 21,000 dollars for online universities. By comparison we would say that it cost far less to study via online. But we need not lose sight of those who mostly enroll in online University. It is those in the middle and lower classes who opt for online universities. They include; the employee who has sacrificed pleasure for higher qualification in return for better wages, the unemployed who wants to gain employable skills, the dropout who wants to get back to school in the hope that there will be a brighter future, and the people living in the remote part of the world, especially in the developing world, who don’t even have the money to pay fees and so would have to learn and work simultaneously. To these 21,000 dollars is money so huge, it is very difficult to raise. There are people of the higher income class who enroll in online universities, but online learning is not popular among these due to low prestige and the myths associated with online education. The online institutions will tell you, they would not put anything on your certificate to show that you received a non-traditional education. This kind of advert speaks of how society values online education. Online education is considered a cheap way of getting ‘watered down’ education. Online Colleges and Universities were until recently considered diploma mills. This perception still exists, though empirical evidence tells us there is no disparity in quality of students from traditional Colleges and Universities on one hand and online Colleges and Universities on the other. The online Universities and Colleges are doing their best to make online learning prestigious and bring down study cost, but they cannot do it alone. With government intervention online learning can become prestigious and lower and middle class friendly.

Government should provide a national framework for online education, subsidize accreditation, and grant scholarships and student loans for students in online Colleges and Universities. A national framework to guide the operations of all online colleges and universities should be instituted by the state, through the Department of Education or the relevant government agency. This framework, which would be descriptive and not prescriptive in nature would describe, for example, the minimum courses to be taken at a given level, and the general mode of operation of online universities and colleges without prescribing specific courses or mode of operation. Accreditation is not just laborious for online Colleges and Universities; it is also expensive. This cost is passed to students, souring up program fees. If the government decides to absorb half the cost of accreditation, though there is no guarantee the program fees will be halved, the program fee would be reduced somehow. Lastly, most of the students who opt for online colleges and universities do not receive scholarships and student loans from the state. Those who receive something do not get huge scholarships and student loans like their counterparts in traditional Colleges and Universities. Government should make scholarships and students loans available to students of online Colleges and Universities just as it does for students in traditional Colleges and Universities.

The ramifications of these interventions would definitely be awesome. Providing a national framework for online education would take away the false negative perception people have about online learning. Many think online learning is easy and also the number of credits taken are far less than those taken in traditional learning settings. This thinking exists because there are some poorly designed online courses in which certificate are awarded after just a couple of assignments have been submitted. Such practices can be stopped, when a national framework is developed and operationalized. A national framework will give credibility to online learning, because a national standard for online would have to be adhered to and so no online college or university can just sell certificate. Subsidizing Accreditation will yield three results. The most obvious is that, it would reduce program fees because amount to pass to the students would be less. Subsidizing accreditation fees would encourage online Colleges and Universities to seek accreditation from accrediting bodies recognize by the Department of Education or the appropriate state agency. Even though accreditation is not compulsory in some parts of the world, like the united states, some occupation that require state licensing would not accept degree from non-accredited Colleges and University. Prospective online learners are, usually, worried about whether the can easily work with their certificates. Government intervention would remove this worry and remove the negative perception people have about online education as well. Government interventions in the form of scholarship and loans would ease the financial burden and make it possible for those who hitherto would not be able to school to do so. In sum, government intervention would go a long way to produce an enlightened society by permitting many people to receive higher education.

There are many people wanting to get higher education through online Colleges and Universities so they gain knowledge and skills, or enhance their knowledge and skills but cannot do because of either the cost or the uncertainty of the acceptability of the certificate. Government intervention in the form of national framework for online universities and colleges, subsidizing accreditation cost and providing scholarships and student loans would open the door for those who want to study from home. Government intervention can give the assurance that online learning is as good as traditional college or university learning, and that their certificate would be accepted jobs that require state licensing. It would ease the pressure on facilities in traditional Colleges and Universities, produce the well-educated citizenry needed for national development and convert the current pyramidal shape into a ‘near’ cylinder.

Fatal System Errors in the US Education System

7 Reasons the U.S. Education System Is Failing!

Recently, today actually, I saw a post of a video on Facebook that detailed simple questions posed to university students regarding BASIC social and historic facts, events and the people who govern our country. The results were astounding to say the least! Abject failure and an inability to name or identify ANY of the people, places and events. Let me repeat… NONE.

The formal education system in the U.S. was designed to meet the demands of the industrial revolution by providing basic education to the masses. Pretty simple right? So why is it that we fail to recognize or refuse to acknowledge that the demands are different today? There has not been a calculable redefinition or evolution of the educational system since. This is scary as it will define the failure of our country step-by-step and bit-by-bit until we are reduced to a social collection of ignorance.

Let’s examine the cause and solutions.

1. Closed for Business!

Schools find their existence tied to community standards and financial restraints based on the community support… or lack of. The result is that schools are closing at an alarming rate across the country. The decision to close a school rarely reflects the needs of a community or, more importantly, the needs of the students!

There seems to be less concern for the needs of the communities children’s education than the economic demands of the location of the school or the resources available. Where is the federal government when this happens? Well, they are partially to blame. The government rhetoric details the need for affordable, quality education while they demand that school systems adhere to specific federal mandates that tie the school administration’s hands to comply with political wants. So much for federal support.

2. Two-Gallons of milk in a one-gallon jug!

So, how many kids can you cram into a classroom and still teach effectively? That depends on whether you are looking to teach the children or be a daycare service. I know, pretty harsh but look at the function of schools today. They take your children and house them and feed them for about 6-7 hours a day. Mostly providing them with basic discipline and food that they rarely get a t home! Oh yes, admin it. Teachers are required to discipline your children in a crowded atmosphere where safety is no longer guaranteed and education takes a back seat to providing basic needs that parents are unwilling to, uneducated to or unable to provide. Wait, what about education? Well, there is so little time for that that caring for them takes priority over teaching them.

Secondarily, because of the constraints of federally-mandated guidelines, the children are taught in a cookie-cutter style standard of personality-limiting, creative-minimizing and individually-restrictive processes to get them to their adulthood. Basic education with basic performance that aligns children to basic standards that align with everyone else’s basic needs. Sad because it is done in crowded classrooms where teachers are forced to “teach” more children than one person could attend to. How effective is that?

3. If You Do What You’ve Always Done… You’ll Get What You’ve Always Gotten!

How can we expect our children to excel when their parents are minimally educated. One must understand that this cycle of poor education will produce more poorly educated children who will produce more poorly-educated children and so on and so on. Parents are so busy struggling to make a living today because of a poor economy or a lack of opportunity that there is little time to attend to their children’s education at home let alone at school. Involvement is also critical especially when the parents are minimally educated because they lack the foresight and experience to guide a young person to the right path. The result is a continually-repeated system that fails students and undermines this country’s future. It matters not whether you are poor and struggling to make a living that doesn’t allow for time to teach your kids at home OR whether your well off and struggle to maintain a career that doesn’t allow for time to attend to your kids at home. Either way, the education suffers.

4. Once Stated Always Abated!

I was once told that I was stupid. I was told that I could never learn because I lacked the basic ability to understand or comprehend anything that a normal person was expected to know. Can you imagine? Well, today I am in pursuit of a doctorate in education. Highly educated holding several degrees and formally recognized for my teaching abilities and performance as an educator. So there, take that!

If a child is to be challenged then the child has to recognize their worth and value as an individual. EVERY child is talented and gifted in something and should be recognized for it immediately and consistently. Oh yes, failure happens but that is part of the lesson as well. Individualized learning platforms and initiatives are crucial to the support and future of educational success. The talented and gifted programs require that a child be recognized and advanced because of their special gift instead of the initiative being available to ALL students. I believe that EVERY child has the opportunity to reveal their gift if given the opportunity to allow it to reveal itself. Why limit other children’s opportunity to excel because someone didn’t recognize their talents? Beyond me.

This lack of diversity in basic education is driven by personal prejudices and the nuances of social conformity and economic availability in a school district. Shameful that every student doesn’t have the same opportunity to be recognized for their inevitable contribution to society.

5. There’s a Step to the Prep!

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Education Department, 80% of all high school students graduate and student graduation rates are at an all-time high. This sounds great doesn’t it? Well, no it doesn’t because about 80% of high school seniors cannot pass basic proficiency exams or read at a basic level. The fundamental and core foundation for a successful future lies in their ability to read and comprehend and it is failing miserably. Because of a politically-correct mindset and an unwillingness to admit that we are failing we are passing kids without prejudice. What is the dynamic here? Money, acknowledgment, standards, social constraint?

With fewer than 40% of graduating students able to perform basic reading and math skills, what will their future look like? Poor at best because they are set up for failure and aren’t educated enough to know it. They are not prepared for any part of life let alone future education without the basic skills to learn. It seems a path to socialism.

6. Teacher to Preacher!

With the lack of people who are willing to sacrifice their future for low-paying academic careers there is little to choose from in the way of well-educated teachers. Enter teachers. As student education becomes more technology-supported so must teacher innovation education. A once-proud career, teachers are opting for more industrial careers using their basic educational achievements because it pays more and is less restricting. A lack of qualified teachers translates to a lack of quality education from under qualified teachers. The cultural shift in classrooms demands an academic shift in recognizing and utilizing qualified teachers who must meet higher-level standards before being allowed to teach.

Alas, distance learning take the personalization from the process, individualism from the practice and allows for lesser-educated teachers to perform office-like academics instead of teaching-like practices. Poorly educated teachers who are not held to the highest standards will produce poorly-educated students who will perpetuate the same. Pay teachers better and demand more from them and we will produce quality educated people. There is something askew when ball players make millions and teachers make nothing! Time to rethink this one.

7. Girls Will Be Girls and Boys Will Be Boys!

Or will they? There is a huge nationwide divide in the gender makeup of the student population today in schools. The STEM program is experiencing a narrowing range of student diversity as of recent examinations of student diversity in education. Formerly male student dominated academics and careers are changing to a more female dominated academic showing. Women are now able to perform as well or better than their male counterparts in science, technology engineering and math… previously neglected and they have always had the ability but unrecognized or acknowledged.

A globally competitive market demands equal and qualified individuals to perform and defend the right of opportunity regardless of gender, race, creed or social standing. As we develop our more-diverse communities, so should we develop our academically-driven future with better-educated people… no matter what!

Quality Education Vs Accreditation

Education:

“The act or process of educating or being educated; the knowledge or skill obtained or developed by a learning process!”

Inquiries into furthering my educational aspirations were made to various colleges within my immediate environmental area. Several of the schools contacted required placement exams that I did not challenge, as I am adept and very capable of dealing with college examinations. The thing that got to me was the disparaging remarks from some college recruiters regarding their standards for education as opposed to another college. One of the schools that I’ve attended is a two-year degree school while the other is as well. They hold real estate in the same zip code and competed for students in the same local. They both educated local students as well as out of state and students from other countries and nations.

One school considered itself superior to the other by reason of accreditation. The school that was described as inferior did not have middle states accreditation. The school was described as below standard by the other. The so-called superior school is lead and operated by a non-HBCU affiliation while the other happened to be lead and operated by an African American staff. The self-described superior school has made plans, designs, and did bid for the take-over of the African American school. Albeit, the self-described superior school admits that it does not and will not accept credentials from the so-called inferior school. I have attended both of these institutions and received very good instruction from its teachers as well. While the lessons learned were an invaluable source of information, the education that I received from personal academic research (self-taught) has enhanced my knowledge base. Money was not a factor in my personal research, study, and/or practicum. I would add, the knowledge and information that was derived from the HBCU School proved to be equally rewarding as the other if not better!

Personally, I would say that I received more educational value at the HBCU (Historical Black Colleges and Universities) as opposed to the other collegiate institution. Albeit, they both required money.

When students visit college campuses they are encouraged to become a student at that particular school. The tour guides’ show all of the amenities and accolades that are offered in order to get you enrolled…and to gain your tuition monies. But what about the quality of education offered by the particular schools? The majority of the colleges will often quote their accreditation as compared to another school of choice. What has accreditation to do with a good and valuable quality education? Money! And the ability to make money! Education does not and should not require money!

In 1899 Dr. Matthew Anderson, an outstanding community leader, and his wife Caroline Still Anderson founded Berean Manual and Industrial School. Dr. Anderson was a pivotal influence in the religious, business, and educational history of Philadelphia. Dr. Anderson also founded the Berean Presbyterian Church and the Berean Savings Fund Society.

Caroline Still is the daughter of the great William Still, a Philadelphia Abolitionist and member of the Underground Railroad.

Mr. William Still (a self-educated man), one of seventeen children, was born in Burlington County in 1821. His father escaped slavery from Maryland to New Jersey and later was followed by his wife and children. William Still left New Jersey for Philadelphia in 1844. Three years later he was appointed secretary of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society.

“When Brother William Still was 23, he left the family farm in New Jersey for Philadelphia, to seek his fortune. He arrived, friendless with only five dollars in his possession. Mr. Still taught himself to read and write. In fact, so well, that in three years he was able to gain and hold the position of secretary in the Pennsylvania Abolition Society. Brother Still provided the all-white society with his views on how to aid fugitive slaves. After all, he had been one himself. He was such an asset to the group, that he was elected chairman in 1851. Still held the position for the next ten years. He also became chairman of the Vigilance Committee in 1852. Still was the first black man to join the society and was able to provide first-hand experience of what it was like to be a slave.”

“Mr. Still established a profitable coal business in Philadelphia. His house was used as one of the stations on the Underground Railroad. Brother Still interviewed escaped fugitives and kept careful records of each so that their family and friends might locate them. According to his records, Still helped 649 slaves receive their freedom. The number is compounded with the number of slaves saved by Sister Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad.”

“William Still, a self-educated man, began his campaign to end racial discrimination on Philadelphia streetcars. He wrote an account of this campaign in Struggle for the Civil Rights of the Coloured People of Philadelphia in the City Railway Cars (1867). He followed this with The Underground Railroad (1872) and Voting and Laboring (1874).”

“William Still, a self-educated man, established an orphanage for the children of African-American soldiers and sailors. Other charitable work included the founding of a Mission Sabbath School and working with the Young Men’s Christian Association. William Still died in Philadelphia on 14th July, 1902.”

The Concise History of Berean Institute:

“In 1904 Berean Institute of Philadelphia Pennsylvania qualified for state aid and received a grant of $10,000. Over the years, state aid has enabled the school to expand its services and diversify its programs of study. Funds from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania now provide a significant portion of the total operating budget. Berean Institute embarked on a program of expansion under the dynamic leadership of the late Dr. William H. Gray, Jr., who utilized the support of many influential citizens of Pennsylvania including the former Governor Milton J. Shapp. Dr. Gray served as Chairman of the Berean Board of Trustees. Under Dr. Gray’s leadership Berean Manual and Industrial School began operating as Berean Institute. He also had Berean Institute’s current building constructed in 1973.”

“Mrs. Lucille P. Blondin, who served the school for forty-five years, became Berean Institute’s first President. Mrs. Blondin retired in June 1993. Dr. Norman K. Spencer was appointed to serve as the second President and Chief Executive Officer. Under Dr. Spencer’s leadership, contracted programs funded by the City and Commonwealth agencies as well as community outreach projects have been added. Hon. John Braxton, former Judge, Court of Common Pleas heads a list of distinguished Board of Trustees members.”

“Berean Institute enrolled students in full and part-time programs. Most of the students are residents of the Commonwealth and live in Philadelphia. Other students have come from Central and South America, China, India, Puerto Rico, Tonga, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Tanzania, the Dominican Republic, England, Cambodia, Viet Nam and states along the eastern seaboard of the United States.”

“A number of students come to learn a marketable skill and their Berean training fulfills their current educational aspirations. Many others regard the school as a stepping-stone to further education. Berean has many graduates who have gone on to earn four-year college degrees and others who have completed graduate studies at some of the area’s outstanding institutions of higher learning.”

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Department of Education granted Berean Institute approval to award the Associate in Specialized Technology Degree on September 15, 1976, and the Associate in Specialized Business Degree on December 27, 1976.

Again, education is:

“The act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life; the act or process of imparting or acquiring particular knowledge or skills, as for a profession; a degree, level, or kind of schooling: a university education; .the result produced by instruction, training, or study: to show one’s education; the science or art of teaching; pedagogics.”

A definition of education: ‘The act or process of educating or being educated; the knowledge or skill obtained or developed by a learning process; a program of instruction of a specified kind or level: driver education; a college education; the field of study that is concerned with the pedagogy of teaching and learning; an instructive or enlightening experience:

Dictionary.com Unabridged

Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2009

So why does another school rate it’s accreditation over and above that of another? Money! Many colleges and universities rate its’ educational values based on the amount of money in its’ coffers as well as the amount of money that they can amass! Another tool to increase superiority in the education business is to attain and maintain accreditation and as many acquisitions as possible.

Several opinions suggest education achieved through these venues is designed to prepare people/students for the job market as opposed to being prepared for life skills. The skills required to carry ones posterity and their descendants that follow into prosperous futures.

Is it fair to assess the stature of a collegiate institution above any other based on the amount of money that is needed to be spent or the amount of education that is achieved? Ivy league institutions turn out many students who are not prepared for the challenges of life…but many of them are rich and have spent thousands of dollars to attend those schools as well as graduating from them. On the other hand, many poor people that are lucky enough to qualify for grants, loans, scholarships, etc., are better prepared to face the challenges set before them (so it seems).

Many poor and working poor students seem to value the collegiate level education as if their life depended upon it, so they tend to work a bit harder to achieve the degree status. The document can be deemed worthless when the graduate cannot find the desired job for which he/she has studied. It is even worse when the graduated student finds that they are worse off than when they started college. They are now burdened with school loan debt plus the debts that they have had to meet before attending college. Working at McDonalds and the like, seem to be the only job that is attainable for many of them. The competition is fierce. These students are for the most part, grouped in with many applicants that are not college educated and many do not have high school diplomas as well! The knowledge attained is not considered or tested by many of these employers. Kiosk type pictures on a cash-register computer is what they have to work with. Is this not insulting to a student who has studied computer science, read and write computer programs and its languages, as well as other academics of study?

Why is it that many non-ivy league students find themselves out of work? Why is it that many of them find that they are the first to lose their employment positions compared to their ivy-league colleagues? Why is it that many inner-city college educated graduates find themselves less likely to be selected as team-leaders than their counter part ivy-leaguers? Many employers advertise their openings with statements that don’t require a college level education. They ask that candidates simply have a high school level education. College educated candidates apply to those openings and find themselves scrutinized out of the running, i.e., background checks, credit checks, criminal histories, schooling activities, etc. Why is it college educated candidates find that not only do they have to compete with ivy-leaguers, they have to compete with high school educated folks as well. What is the sense in enduring hours, years, and other sacrifices to attain the coveted two and/or four-year college level degree when you’re not going to qualify for the job anyway?

The notion of accreditation, money, and notable stature should not be the basis of choosing the collegiate route to education. Education should be based on ones ability to achieve, retain, and utilize education. The achievement of education begins in the home (as well as anyone who desires it). It begins with the Childs’ upbringing and the stressed importance placed by the parent and/or guardian. Should the child be highly scholastic in abilities that enable him/her to be described as intellectually talented above average, that student deserves free college education. While the rest of us who are collegiate material may well have to pay for our higher education. Mind you, my argument is based on the ability to access education without having to spend money…teachers need to earn a living, schools need to pay the costs of operating and maintaining buildings and staff. So the money has to come from somewhere. Albeit, the aforementioned disparages between different colleges should cease the practice of who’s a better institution of higher learning. Is it the responsibility of educated people to enlighten people who are not?

While many may not be aware, education is achievable without attending so-called accredited and/or less accredited schools, of higher learning…start with the libraries in your homes as well as the public facilities, news papers, magazines, shared information, and articles. Why is the education attained by others kept to a level of secrecy that one should have to pay for it?

Attained and acquired education is the responsibility of the educational pursuer…the burden is placed solely on the student not the educational pursued. I’m not advocating that one can become a doctor, architect, or a lawyer by simply reading text…there is a difference between education and training.

Education and Real Life Challenges

In contemporary times, almost as a cultural practice, education has been elevated to the level of an initiation rite into the modern world. With the aid of formal educational training, people acquire the skills of reading and writing. It is obvious that literacy, the ability to read and write, has become a requisite for coping with numerous challenges of modern times. As a strategy for ensuring that no child is denied the opportunity of acquiring formal education, not sending a child to school is a criminal offence in some parts of the world, especially in the West. In addition, some governments assist their citizens to acquire formal education by either subsidising the cost or making it available at no cost (at the basic level, at least).

It is impossible to fit into the modern times if one does not go to school. Consequently, education is a necessity, not a luxury. People’s attitude to education in contemporary time appears to suggest, in fidelity to Platonism, that it is better to be unborn than to be uneducated. The demand for education in different parts of the world is unarguably on daily increase. People make numerous sacrifices to acquire education. Parents are willing to give all they have in order to see their children through school. Some people travel to foreign countries in order to acquire quality educational training. Acquiring formal education has become one of the greatest priorities in life today.

However, despite the wide acceptance formal education has gained all over the world, one of the most significant questions about education that is often not asked is, “What is the relevance of education to practical life?’ In other words, to what extent is education helpful in addressing practical life challenges? This question needs to be asked because the expected impacts of education are absent is the life of many educated people. One of the factors that speak very eloquently on this is that education has continuously remained unable to improve the standard of living of numerous graduates.

It is imperative to remark that education is a means to an end, but not an end in itself. The implication of this is that education is a process that leads to the making of a product. The process is incomplete without the product. It is the product that gives value to the means. The quality of the process can be inferred from the quality of the product. As a means, education is incomplete without the end of the process. This end is the purpose it (education) is designed to serve (under ideal situation). Let us justify our claim that the expected impacts of education are absent is the life of many educated people by examining a very sensitive aspect of life of educated people, their finances.

How many educated people are truly financially successful? Most graduates struggle all through life to make ends meet, but to no avail. There are numerous people who graduated from tertiary institutions (even at the top of the class), but who are far below many people with lower educational training (academic intelligence and scholarly ability) than theirs in the ladder of financial success. Perhaps, financial struggles and crises are worse among educated people. Most educated people struggle all through their working years merely to make ends meet, but to no avail, and end as liabilities during their retirement.

The inability of education to assist graduates in managing real life challenges is rooted in the fact that most people are ignorant of the purpose of education. Why do we go to school? Why should people go to school? What is the purpose of education? What is the rationale of education? What are the objectives of education? Why should parents send their children to school? Education is one of the most abused or, rather, misunderstood human experiences. Unless the purpose of education is understood and clarified, the continuity of its abuse (by most people) will remain inevitable. Many people go to school for the wrong reasons. In addition, most parents send their children to school for the wrong reasons. Most people have erroneous conceptions about the objectives of education.

It is imperative to remark that this problem is rooted in the fact that the major incentive for going to school in the earliest days of its inception in different parts of the world was that it was a ticket to prosperity. This was possible then because employment opportunities abound for educated people then. But things have changed, and very significantly. In most parts of the world today, there is high level of unemployment among educated people. Thus, education does not guarantee financial success anymore. In fact, education has become a major cause of poverty, considering the fact that it has no provision for instilling the knowledge of wealth creation principles in students.

It is high time the purpose of education is reconsidered. The idea of going to school in order to acquire certificate should be denounced, if the training will improve the life of educated people. The idea of going to school in order to prepare for gainful employment should also be denounced because there are limited employment opportunities for unlimited graduates. If school prepares graduates for employment, but there are limited employment opportunities for unlimited graduates, it means that school prepares students for unemployment. This is why the conception that school merely prepares students for gainful employment is unacceptable.

The ideal purpose of education is to facilitate an integral development of the human person – the intellectual, moral, physical, social, spiritual, psychical and psychological dimensions of man. Going to school should facilitate the optimum development of all the aspects of the human person. An ideal educational system should not isolate any aspect of man in the training process, nor consider some aspects more important than others. Anything short of this is an aberration, and is unacceptable.

Every educational process should be able to assist students to develop their latent potential. Any educational process that does not fulfill this objective is useless. When the mind is developed, it is able to identify and solve problems for humanity and, consequently, be compensated with reward. Money is merely the reward for solving problems. Any graduate who cannot solve problems in the society lacks the capacity for wealth creation. This is a fact most graduates are ignorant of.

Education will assist graduates to become happy and fulfilled in life if it is structured to facilitate the optimum development of their minds. If this is done, education will equip graduates with the requisite skills to survive the economic battles and challenges of real life. It is very painful to remark that education has remained unable to serve practical purpose because most of the things the school system teach students are things they do not need to survive in the real life. In other words, most students spend years in school learning things that will not be useful to them when school days are over. The crux of this deficiency in the educational system is that the people who are most concerned in the educational sector are ignorant of its existence.

One of the key objectives of education is empowerment. If the educational system is restructured to achieve this purpose, graduates will become assets, but not liabilities, no matter the circumstances. Such an educational process will assist students to create jobs if they are unable to get jobs when they become graduates. As earlier remarked, education is a process, and every process is incomplete without a product. The quality of a product is the most reliable standard for ascertaining the quality of the process that produced it. There is urgent need to restructure the educational system to ensure that that the training it instills in students adequately empowers them to effectively confront life challenges, especially when school days are over.

Despite the fact that the consequences of the deficiencies of the educational system in its present form accounts for the ugly experiences of most graduates in the real life, the government has continuously demonstrated increasing incompetence in addressing this challenge. Consequently, it has become obvious that graduates who conscientiously desire a bright, refreshing and happy life must acquire Supplementary Education on their own before their school training will have the desired effect in their life. It also implies that students should also go beyond what they are taught in the class if they are sincerely passionate about happy in the real world (I.e life after school).

A Brief History of Special Education

Perhaps the largest and most pervasive issue in special education, as well as my own journey in education, is special education’s relationship to general education. History has shown that this has never been an easy clear cut relationship between the two. There has been a lot of giving and taking or maybe I should say pulling and pushing when it comes to educational policy, and the educational practices and services of education and special education by the human educators who deliver those services on both sides of the isle, like me.

Over the last 20+ years I have been on both sides of education. I have seen and felt what it was like to be a regular main stream educator dealing with special education policy, special education students and their specialized teachers. I have also been on the special education side trying to get regular education teachers to work more effectively with my special education students through modifying their instruction and materials and having a little more patience and empathy.

Furthermore, I have been a mainstream regular education teacher who taught regular education inclusion classes trying to figure out how to best work with some new special education teacher in my class and his or her special education students as well. And, in contrast, I have been a special education inclusion teacher intruding on the territory of some regular education teachers with my special education students and the modifications I thought these teachers should implement. I can tell you first-hand that none of this give and take between special education and regular education has been easy. Nor do I see this pushing and pulling becoming easy anytime soon.

So, what is special education? And what makes it so special and yet so complex and controversial sometimes? Well, special education, as its name suggests, is a specialized branch of education. It claims its lineage to such people as Jean-Marc-Gaspard Itard (1775-1838), the physician who “tamed” the “wild boy of Aveyron,” and Anne Sullivan Macy (1866-1936), the teacher who “worked miracles” with Helen Keller.

Special educators teach students who have physical, cognitive, language, learning, sensory, and/or emotional abilities that deviate from those of the general population. Special educators provide instruction specifically tailored to meet individualized needs. These teachers basically make education more available and accessible to students who otherwise would have limited access to education due to whatever disability they are struggling with.

It’s not just the teachers though who play a role in the history of special education in this country. Physicians and clergy, including Itard- mentioned above, Edouard O. Seguin (1812-1880), Samuel Gridley Howe (1801-1876), and Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet (1787-1851), wanted to ameliorate the neglectful, often abusive treatment of individuals with disabilities. Sadly, education in this country was, more often than not, very neglectful and abusive when dealing with students that are different somehow.

There is even a rich literature in our nation that describes the treatment provided to individuals with disabilities in the 1800s and early 1900s. Sadly, in these stories, as well as in the real world, the segment of our population with disabilities were often confined in jails and almshouses without decent food, clothing, personal hygiene, and exercise.

For an example of this different treatment in our literature one needs to look no further than Tiny Tim in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (1843). In addition, many times people with disabilities were often portrayed as villains, such as in the book Captain Hook in J.M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan” in 1911.

The prevailing view of the authors of this time period was that one should submit to misfortunes, both as a form of obedience to God’s will, and because these seeming misfortunes are ultimately intended for one’s own good. Progress for our people with disabilities was hard to come by at this time with this way of thinking permeating our society, literature and thinking.

So, what was society to do about these people of misfortune? Well, during much of the nineteenth century, and early in the twentieth, professionals believed individuals with disabilities were best treated in residential facilities in rural environments. An out of sight out of mind kind of thing, if you will…

However, by the end of the nineteenth century the size of these institutions had increased so dramatically that the goal of rehabilitation for people with disabilities just wasn’t working. Institutions became instruments for permanent segregation.

I have some experience with these segregation policies of education. Some of it is good and some of it is not so good. You see, I have been a self-contained teacher on and off throughout the years in multiple environments in self-contained classrooms in public high schools, middle schools and elementary schools. I have also taught in multiple special education behavioral self-contained schools that totally separated these troubled students with disabilities in managing their behavior from their mainstream peers by putting them in completely different buildings that were sometimes even in different towns from their homes, friends and peers.

Over the years many special education professionals became critics of these institutions mentioned above that separated and segregated our children with disabilities from their peers. Irvine Howe was one of the first to advocate taking our youth out of these huge institutions and to place out residents into families. Unfortunately this practice became a logistical and pragmatic problem and it took a long time before it could become a viable alternative to institutionalization for our students with disabilities.

Now on the positive side, you might be interested in knowing however that in 1817 the first special education school in the United States, the American Asylum for the Education and Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb (now called the American School for the Deaf), was established in Hartford, Connecticut, by Gallaudet. That school is still there today and is one of the top schools in the country for students with auditory disabilities. A true success story!

However, as you can already imagine, the lasting success of the American School for the Deaf was the exception and not the rule during this time period. And to add to this, in the late nineteenth century, social Darwinism replaced environmentalism as the primary causal explanation for those individuals with disabilities who deviated from those of the general population.

Sadly, Darwinism opened the door to the eugenics movement of the early twentieth century. This then led to even further segregation and even sterilization of individuals with disabilities such as mental retardation. Sounds like something Hitler was doing in Germany also being done right here in our own country, to our own people, by our own people. Kind of scary and inhumane, wouldn’t you agree?

Today, this kind of treatment is obviously unacceptable. And in the early part of the 20th Century it was also unacceptable to some of the adults, especially the parents of these disabled children. Thus, concerned and angry parents formed advocacy groups to help bring the educational needs of children with disabilities into the public eye. The public had to see firsthand how wrong this this eugenics and sterilization movement was for our students that were different if it was ever going to be stopped.

Slowly, grassroots organizations made progress that even led to some states creating laws to protect their citizens with disabilities. For example, in 1930, in Peoria, Illinois, the first white cane ordinance gave individuals with blindness the right-of-way when crossing the street. This was a start, and other states did eventually follow suit. In time, this local grassroots’ movement and states’ movement led to enough pressure on our elected officials for something to be done on the national level for our people with disabilities.

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy created the President’s Panel on Mental Retardation. And in 1965, Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which provided funding for primary education, and is seen by advocacy groups as expanding access to public education for children with disabilities.

When one thinks about Kennedy’s and Johnson’s record on civil rights, then it probably isn’t such a surprise finding out that these two presidents also spearheaded this national movement for our people with disabilities.

This federal movement led to section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act. This guarantees civil rights for the disabled in the context of federally funded institutions or any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. All these years later as an educator, I personally deal with 504 cases every single day.

In 1975 Congress enacted Public Law 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA), which establishes a right to public education for all children regardless of disability. This was another good thing because prior to federal legislation, parents had to mostly educate their children at home or pay for expensive private education.

The movement kept growing. In the 1982 the case of the Board of Education of the Hendrick Hudson Central School District v. Rowley, the U.S. Supreme Court clarified the level of services to be afforded students with special needs. The Court ruled that special education services need only provide some “educational benefit” to students. Public schools were not required to maximize the educational progress of students with disabilities.

Today, this ruling may not seem like a victory, and as a matter of fact, this same question is once again circulating through our courts today in 2017. However, given the time period it was made in, it was a victory because it said special education students could not pass through our school system without learning anything. They had to learn something. If one knows and understands how the laws work in this country, then one knows the laws always progress through tiny little increments that add up to progress over time. This ruling was a victory for special education students because it added one more rung onto the crusade.

In the 1980s the Regular Education Initiative (REI) came into being. This was an attempt to return responsibility for the education of students with disabilities to neighborhood schools and regular classroom teachers. I am very familiar with Regular Education Initiative because I spent four years as an REI teacher in the late 1990s and early 2000s. At this time I was certified as both a special education teacher and a regular education teacher and was working in both capacities in a duel role as an REI teacher; because that’s what was required of the position.

The 1990s saw a big boost for our special education students. 1990 birthed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This was, and is, the cornerstone of the concept of a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) for all of our students. To ensure FAPE, the law mandated that each student receiving special education services must also receive an Individualized Education Program (IEP).

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 reached beyond just the public schools. And Title 3 of IDEA prohibited disability-based discrimination in any place of public accommodation. Full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, or accommodations in public places were expected. And of course public accommodations also included most places of education.

Also, in the 1990s the full inclusion movement gained a lot of momentum. This called for educating all students with disabilities in the regular classroom. I am also very familiar with this aspect of education as well, as I have also been an inclusion teacher from time to time over my career as an educator on both sides of the isle as a regular education teacher and a special education teacher.

Now on to President Bush and his educational reform with his No Child Left Behind law that replaced President Johnson’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The NCLB Act of 2001 stated that special education should continue to focus on producing results and along with this came a sharp increase in accountability for educators.

Now, this NCLB Act was good and bad. Of course we all want to see results for all of our students, and it’s just common sense that accountability helps this sort of thing happen. Where this kind of went crazy was that the NCLB demanded a host of new things, but did not provide the funds or support to achieve these new objectives.

Furthermore, teachers began feeling squeezed and threatened more and more by the new movement of big business and corporate education moving in and taking over education. People with no educational background now found themselves influencing education policy and gaining access to a lot of the educational funds.

This accountability craze stemmed by excessive standardized testing ran rapid and of course ran downstream from a host of well-connected elite Trump-like figures saying to their lower echelon educational counterparts, “You’re fired!” This environment of trying to stay off of the radar in order to keep one’s job, and beating our kids over the head with testing strategies, wasn’t good for our educators. It wasn’t good for our students. And it certainly wasn’t good for our more vulnerable special education students.

Some good did come from this era though. For example, the updated Individuals with Disabilities with Education Act of 2004 (IDEA) happened. This further required schools to provide individualized or special education for children with qualifying disabilities. Under the IDEA, states who accept public funds for education must provide special education to qualifying children with disabilities. Like I said earlier, the law is a long slow process of tiny little steps adding up to progress made over time.

Finally, in 2015 President Obama’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) replaced President Bush’s NCLB, which had replaced President Johnson’s ESEA. Under Obama’s new ESSA schools were now allowed to back off on some of the testing. Hopefully, the standardized testing craze has been put in check. However, only time will tell. ESSA also returned to more local control. You know, the kind of control our forefathers intended.

You see the U.S. Constitution grants no authority over education to the federal government. Education is not mentioned in the Constitution of the United States, and for good reason. The Founders wanted most aspects of life managed by those who were closest to them, either by state or local government or by families, businesses, and other elements of civil society. Basically, they saw no role for the federal government in education.

You see, the Founders feared the concentration of power. They believed that the best way to protect individual freedom and civil society was to limit and divide power. However, this works both ways, because the states often find themselves asking the feds for more educational money. And the feds will only give the states additional money if the states do what the feds want… Hmm… Checks and balances, as well as compromise can be a really tricky thing, huh?

So on goes the battle in education and all the back and forth pushing and pulling between the federal government and the states and local government, as well as special education and regular education. And to add to this struggle, recently Judge Moukawsher, a state judge from Connecticut, in a lawsuit filed against the state by the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, rocked the educational boat some more when in his ruling he included a message to lawmakers to reassess what level of services students with significant disabilities are entitled to.

His ruling and statements appear to say that he thinks we’re spending too much money on our special education students. And that for some of them, it just isn’t worth it because their disabilities are too severe. You can imagine how controversial this was and how much it angered some people.

The 2016 United States Presidential election resulted in something that few people saw coming. Real Estate mogul and reality star Donald Trump won the presidency and then appointed anti-public educator Betsy Devos to head up this country’s Department of Education. Her charge, given to her by Trump, is to drastically slash the Department of Education, and to push forward private charter schools over what they call a failing public educational system.

How this is going to affect our students, and especially our more vulnerable special education students, nobody knows for sure at this time. But, I can also tell you that there aren’t many people out there that feel comfortable with it right now. Only time will tell where this is all going to go and how it will affect our special education students…

So, as I said earlier, perhaps the largest, most pervasive issue in special education is its relationship to general education. Both my own travels and our nation’s journey through the vast realm of education over all of these years has been an interesting one and a tricky one plagued with controversy to say the least.

I can still remember when I first became a special education teacher back in the mid-1990s. A friend’s father, who was a school principal at the time, told me to get out of special education because it wasn’t going to last. Well, I’ve been in and out of special education for more than two decades now, and sometimes I don’t know if I’m a regular education teacher or a special education teacher, or both. And sometimes I think our country’s educational system might be feeling the same internal struggle that I am. But, regardless, all these years later, special education is still here.

In closing, although Itard failed to normalize Victor, the wild boy of Averyon, he did produce dramatic changes in Victor’s behavior through education. Today, modern special education practices can be traced to Itard. His work marks the beginning of widespread attempts to instruct students with disabilities. Fast forwarding to 2017, for what happens next in the future of education and special education in our country… Well, I guess that depends on all of us…