For over two hundred years, the American education system has been based on the right of all its citizens to an education. Through this guiding principle, America has led the world to expanded educational opportunities for women, oppressed minorities, and populations generally. As the world has come to embrace the American philosophy, America is abandoning this core belief and dividing education into the wealthy, who can afford education and the rest of the country that will not afford it.
For several decades, American education was in retreat in the technical areas of science and engineering. To address these deficiencies, technical schools in secondary education and for-profit colleges came into existence. They encouraged students not inclined to pursue additional education to enter technical fields and pursue higher education. Students that would not become engaged in the process of learning were suddenly involved. Students who could not make passing grades were suddenly making the A’s and B’s in vocational-technical courses and for-profit technical institutions.
Today, these two areas of education constitute a growing number of successful students actively involved in higher education. Vocational schools and for-profit colleges are designed to encourage students to become involved in technical careers. They are often structured without much of the liberal arts training that accompanies traditional degrees. There’s been a longstanding disagreement about whether students should be funneled into specific and very narrow technical educational streams or whether all students should be forced to obtain a more generalized education designed to move them toward undergraduate degrees and eventually to graduate degrees.
Although this disagreement has ragged for several generations, the effect of vocational training and for-profit technical institutions cannot be denied. They have successfully moved a large segment of the population into technical careers very successfully. However, in recent months the department of education has begun to take issue with the success of the schools because they cannot guarantee that their graduates will be able to meet income guidelines created to show the success of American education of dollars that are being spent for these programs. Vocational schools and secondary education are being cut across the nation in response to the economic downturn our society is currently facing and this department of education’s policy. Rather than address the more complex issue of melding traditional and technical areas of education into a single educational system, federal funding to provide vocational training and technical education is being slashed by the Federal government.
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At a time when the administration and the business community l recognize the need for a stronger commitment to technical education throughout the country, we are reducing the ability of students to obtain the education loans necessary to pay for their education because we have a fundamental disagreement as to whether there should be more general education in English, literature and the arts, and less a single-minded focus on a narrow technical field. This seems to be an argument without merit since both have the single purpose of educating the American public to be competitive in tomorrow’s marketplace. This is occurring at the same time that a recent study has demonstrated that the effect of a college education benefits all students whether it is in their field, general education, or in a narrow technical area. Rather than building on that premise to encourage students across the country to pursue higher education, our focus has turned to the ability of students to repay the loans to banks as the single determining factor as to whether the education was useful. The standard being put forward by the department of education does just that.
It focuses on seeing that students can make enough money to repay the loans rather than focusing on why education costs are rising so dramatically. Their focus is on making sure that students repay banks. With businesses making arguments that they need to import more foreign workers to meet the growing technical demand of the high tech industry, we’re forcing American students out of the educational system as we argue their ability to pay back a bank is the single determining factor as to the quality of their education. This would not be so absurd if it were not for another movement that is taking place in grade schools around the country today.
For people who have money, there is a growing need for private preschools that are for-profit in nature to prepare their children for the prestigious schools that select only a handful of American students each year. This for-profit model for primary and secondary schools is becoming as popular in the United States as abroad in countries such as Europe and Asia. Parents of wealth are quick to hand over as much as $40,000 a year to have their children placed in preparatory schools that will prepare them for prestigious colleges. Currently, several private investors are putting up as much as $200,000,000 to fund these types of for-profit institutions. It is a growth industry that will find a burgeoning marketplace within this country and abroad as the division between haves and have-nots in education continues to broaden.
These parents have little faith in the public education system in this country. They are putting their money and their children in the hands of for-profit institutions that they believe will make them better able to compete in the highly technical world of tomorrow. As Madison Avenue at the American banking system finds a new profitable market, they will exploit it as fully and as completely as they have the traditional American education system, to the detriment of the larger society. Education in this country is becoming a tool of banks and the wealthy and not what was envisioned by the founding fathers or the many men and women who helped create this country over many generations. It is no longer serving the public need and only looks to the needs of the wealthy and the financial institutions whose profit motive is the single driving force for their existence.
While the rest of the world is adopting the American model of an educational system that is the envy of the world, we are abandoning that system to move toward one that cannot serve the nation or the society. If we continue down this road, our nation will be forever looking to the educational systems of other countries to provide the technical expertise and the innovative thinking that will move the world and society forward. In one breath, the department of education for our nation is telling us that for-profit institutions do not work. We must be regarded with suspicion graduates at any college level from these institutions. At the same time, this same model is being instituted at grade schools and in elementary schools across the nation because there is a growing need for a better education system to meet the standards of tomorrow. However, this growing need excludes much of American Society. If we follow this path, it will only the wealthy will receive an education in this country.