Monthly Archives: July 2020

A Bondage of Education

From a very early age I can remember my parents, teachers, and friends discussing this idea of education. What it is, what it should be, what it could be, but more importantly how I would use it to “further” my life. I had this notion that education was going to school, memorizing what the teacher said, applying it to a test, and repeating the routine for the next twelve years. The term “career ready” is not only what gave me the desire to have straight A’s in high school, but what brought me to a university. I came with hope to finally break away from the restraint that I believed was only a result of what a high school education could do to an individual’s mind, but quickly came to realize that a “liberal education” from college was not that different. Liberal education was designed to free individuals from the bonds that society placed upon them, but present-day education is what holds those bonds together.

I will never forget the first time I failed a test. It was in fifth with one of my favorite teachers. I remember receiving the test back with a zero on the front and instantly covering the test up so no one could not see the sign of failure. The teacher must have seen my shock because I was told to stay after class. She explained to me how I had made a 100 but I did not “take the test right” which is what resulted in the zero. From then on, I developed what college students call “test anxiety.” I worked to follow directions, to be structured, and to never ask a question that could possibly be wrong. I made straight A’s, participated in school organizations, was president of my class, and lived to fill the resume that would be sent to potential colleges. I did what students are expected to do. When I came to college I was excited because I could finally learn outside the perimeters of standardized tests. What I did not expect was to hear phrases from professors such as, “don’t worry this will not be on the test,” or having to spend thirty minutes of class listening to students ask how many questions will be on the exam. Teachers from my high school always told us, “college will not be like this, so enjoy it while you can,” but it was all the same. Listen, take notes, memorize, take test, repeat.

I began to realize that maybe this was what education was intended to be. A system that engrains students with the idea that to conform and restrain one’s mind to standardization is what makes us “successful.” David Brooks discusses how college students are “goal-orientated… a means for self-improvement, resume-building, and enrichment. College is just one step on the continual stairway of advancement and they are always aware that they must get to the next step.” Students go through elementary, junior high, high school, and now even universities not to “free our minds” or truly educating ourselves, but to climb the ladder of social order. One can relate education to Plato’s cave allegory, “they are in it from childhood with their legs and necks in bonds so that they are fixed, seeing only in front of them unable because of the bond to turn their heads.” This system of education that parents, professors, politicians, employers, and even students talk so highly about is not about producing the world’s next great minds, it is about producing the world’s next source of capital. Society has taken a liberal education and twisted it to where it will fit students into its workplace.

Everyone says that your first semester of college is the hardest. You move away from home, meet new people, and are thrown into a whole new environment. I knew it would be tough, but never thought I would be the student that curled onto her dorm room rug and cried over a seventy-eight on a couple of tests. I had made back-to-back “failing grades” in my mind and had the mindset that I could never recover. What could I accomplish without a 4.0 GPA and four years on the Deans List? To make matters worse, I received a zero for a homework assignment. Believing that there must have been something wrong, I made my way to my TAs office hours where he proceeded to tell me that I did great on the assignment but had to give me a zero based on a small technicality. That is when I had the realization that a modern-day college education has nothing to do with a liberal education. From then on, every test I would take and grade that followed would no longer determine how I would go about learning. I decided that in order to receive a true liberal education I had to throw away every concept of what I thought education was. In Plato’s book I was reminded that “education is not what the professions of certain men assert it to be” and when I decided to make my way out of ‘the cave’ of education I was thankful for the realization that I had broken the bonds that society tried so hard to place tightly around me. Leo Strauss said that a “liberal education supplies us with experience in things beautiful,” and that is when an individual is truly free.

I sometimes think about where I would be if I had the mindset that I do now about education when I received that zero if fifth grade. Would I have waved it in the air as a badge of pride representing how I refused to conform to the institution instead of hiding it from my friends in shame or would I had done it all the same? A true liberal education is what enables individuals to achieve, admire, and model greatness. So, when I hear a professor repeat the phrase “don’t worry, this won’t be on the test,” a part of me wonders if even they have given up on helping break the bonds placed upon us.

The Education System in America

The role that the educational system should play in the live of people is to educate them to be conscious, critically thinking individuals who do not passively accept knowledge but question the knowledge that is being taught to them. Education should be taught to give students the skills and intelligence they need to understand the world and how the world works in order to survive in it. However, the American educational system has been known to produce students whom are woefully ignorant about the world and different cultures. One of the reasons is because the educational system in its current state does not leave much room for critical thinking but trains individuals to be docile, worker bees in a global economy that keeps the status quo wealthy and “others” barely making it. The problem becomes evident if we look at the varied curriculums and subjects that are being taught. There is a lack of emphasis on academic learning, and the only thing that matters is high stakes testing. The schools in this country have become swamped with fuzzy curriculums that assume that through constant testing, students will be prepared for life in a new global society . . . whatever that is.

I recently had a conversation with a co-worker and we were discussing how African-Americans were treated forty years ago and I was amazed by her naivety about the subject, considering the fact that she was a college graduate and an African-American. From the moment I entered college, I was eager to explore the history of African and African-American history from a view point that did not make them seem sub-human and college affords students that opportunity. I could not help but wonder what type of history and sociological classes she had taken; from her conversation, none. But the sad truth is that when most people make the decision to attend college, it is for the purpose of reaping economic rewards, not for expanding one’s consciousness.

In order for the educational system in this country to produce students who are not clueless about its history and the world surrounding them, it should be restructured in several ways. Parental involvement should be mandatory, just as school attendance for students is mandatory for graduation. Lack of parent involvement is an enormous contributing factor to the current failing educational system. Parents need to instill in their children just how detrimental a lack of education is to their future. Teachers are wonderful people who can take students from the top of Mount Olympus to the cold and desolation of Antarctica but they are there to teach, not parent. Many teachers spend a great deal of their class time disciplining children and playing babysitter, two things that are not a part of their job duties. Teachers need involvement from parents in order for the educational system to work and education begins at home.

Funding for the educational system should also be restructured. Public schools are traditionally funded by property taxes which results in a very unequal distribution of educational opportunity. Communities that are wealthy have more funding for their local schools than those who do not. This situation directly affects the quality of education that children in urban and poor rural areas receive. The No Child Left Behind Act will only make it worse because of the required testing and public reporting of results. When parents are buying a new house, they want to live in a school district that has strong test scores. This drives up the property values in those areas, meaning that only affluent families can afford to live in the top performing school districts. This means more property taxes to those areas, while the lower performing schools lose their funding if they do not meet federal standards. There should be a fair tax system for education that is not based on property taxes of homeowners. Government funding, for the most part, is distributed to the various schools by state and local governments and there is huge disparities in this funding based on race. According the text American Education by Joel Spring, there is a gap of more than $1,000 per student nation wide based on race, with large states like New York, Illinois, and Pennsylvania, who lead the nation in their unwillingness to fairly fund education (Spring, pg. 77). Children should not suffer because of their economic background or ethnicity and public education should make no distinction between rich and poor, or black and white. Every child attending a public school should be granted an equal education. Equal funding would grant teachers the proper resources to better educate students. School choice and the privatization of the public school system would not be a factor because under my plan, the educational system in America would be fully and equally funded by the federal government and closely monitored. With the influx of money pouring into the educational system from the government, schools would change dramatically for the better because that is the biggest issue in most public schools: lack of money.

The educational system’s curriculum would be changed in order to fit in with the nation’s melting pot of different cultures and ethnicities. From elementary to high school, students are bombarded with facts and figures about wealthy, white men as if women and other minorities do not exist or contribute anything worthy to the history of America. No wonder so many students blank out historical facts: they do not care these fact because they cannot relate to the actors in the story. Student should be required to take courses that have will give them a more in depth understanding of the world surrounding them, courses that will discuss the history of marginalized and oppressed individuals in this country and around the world. They should be required to read books that make them think, not just process information for the next test. If more students understood the values and cultures of people unlike themselves, it would not be easy or maybe even possible for the government to lie and use propaganda techniques to lull the masses into believing everything was okay and its leaders competent. High stakes testing would be eliminated because most of the tests are designed by people who do not have a clue about the demographics, ethnicities or economic backgrounds of the students who are to be tested and these tests are biased against minorities and the poor. If students are to be tested, extra tutoring would be available to students, at no cost to the parents.

Having competent teachers, board members, and administrators are also a vital part of restructuring the educational system. Having qualified administrators and board members who know and enforce standards and guidelines is important. What are the qualifications for an administrator? Are there required qualifications? These are the questions that need answers. Just because someone has obtained a degree does not make this person the best for the job. Board members should not be chosen because they golf with the mayor; all board members should have a Master’s degree in Education or have an extensive social justice background. As for teachers, the educational system should make sure that the best teachers are chosen for the positions and evaluations should be given frequently. This would give parents and the educational system a chance to find out what is wrong and what is needed to correct the problems. Public education needs teachers and board members that actually care about the children and their education, not individuals who want the perks of working for school system: summers and holidays off, steady raises and a fat compensation package. American children are suffering due to the inadequacies of the individuals involved with the educational system.

The “culture of poverty” theory that has been used by several politicians to explain differences in learning between different ethnicities would be exposed as a blatant attempt by the status quo to “blame” individuals for their poverty if the educational system was restructured to meet the needs of all students, not just the wealthy. Huge educational gaps between poor students and wealthy students do not occur because the poorer students have adapted to their poverty-stricken existence but because they do not have resources needed to succeed in school. If students have to deal with textbooks that are outdated, lack of toiletries, and computers from the late 1980s, their opportunity to advance academically is dismal and their chances of dropping out of school likely.

In a just and an equal society, the educational system I have discussed would have already been implemented decades ago but it has not and more than likely will not. In a hierarchical society such as in America, there will always be someone on the low end of the totem pole and the best way to do that is through the mis-education of its most vulnerable: the children. The neglect of the educational system in the US threatens the economic well being of the entire nation. Unless the inequalities in education is diminished and its system totally restructured, the wealthy gap between the rich and the poor will continue to widen and the US will be infamous for being the nation of the undereducated. Spring, Joel. American Education. (2006). New York: McGraw-Hill

Analyzing Issues of Overidentification in Special Education

Overidentification in special education has two potential meanings. First, it can mean that there are too many students being identified as needing special education in a school or district. Estimates of students in need of special education services have ranged from 3% to 8% of total students. Central office staff typically attempt to stay within the 10% range however, it sometimes reaches highs of 13% or more. Second, it may mean that a certain group of students is over represented in the special education population in comparison to their make up in the general population of students. Ideally, the proportion of the subgroup of students in the special education population should be identical to that of the general population.

Overidentification of students in need of special education services results in a number of negative outcomes for the students, the school district, and to a larger extent society. Students identified as needing special education services often don’t receive the same rigorous curriculum as those not receiving services. Therefore, they are not as prepared for the demands of the next grade level as unidentified students. They frequently have lowered expectations placed upon them, may be socially stigmatized, may display greater behavioral problems requiring disciplinary action, and are more likely to not complete school or they complete school with less skills than other students.

Overidentified students place an unnecessary burden on already limited school resources and take away existing resources from those students who are really in need of them. Staff time is taken up in extra preparation for their daily needs, to go to extra meetings, and to complete evaluations. If discipline becomes an issue, then administrator time gets taken away from other duties.

In regard to potential impacts on society, overidentification’s reduced demands, watered-down curriculum, and potential social stigmatization leaves students unprepared to continue with their education or lacking the skills necessary to take a productive role in the workplace and support themselves. When these students are unable to become productive members of society after school then their educational institution has failed them.

Some of the reasons for overidentification include:

  • Poverty and income inequality
  • Inequity in schools funding
  • Inability to access early interventions
  • Lack of training in regard to appropriate referrals to and placements in special education
  • Lack of understanding of diverse populations

Research has found that students from impoverished backgrounds are more likely to be unprepared for the rigors of education and lack the background knowledge and experiences of their more affluent peers. The Head Start Program was developed in 1965 to meet this need, and to provide comprehensive services to low income families during the preschool years. However, while gains have been made, a gap still exists, and many families are unable to access these services for a variety of reasons.

Schools are not always funded appropriately with many schools requiring students to bring in their own work materials, lack resources for paraprofessional support, or lack the funds to have full day kindergarten or hire enough teachers to have smaller classes. When schools are funded appropriately, the district often determines where and when the money is spent, which may not always be on the biggest needs or those that will make the biggest difference in the long-term.

Unfortunately, some schools don’t always make appropriate referrals or placement decisions. Sometimes they wait too long before making a referral and sometimes they make one too soon. The advent of Response to Intervention (RTI) may help in this area as schools should have data about how students respond to interventions before making a referral.

Lack of understanding about different cultures and the way children learn may also lead to students being over identified, especially for behavior concerns. Not every child is able to sit in a chair for six hours a day learning. There are many ways to learn and students need to be exposed to as many of them as possible before being identified with a disability.

Parents and educators need to be aware that over identification of students for special educational services has short and long-term consequences. These consequences affect the student, the school, and, potentially, society. It is the school’s responsibility to keep an open mind, look at individual differences and all possibilities prior to identifying a student as in need of special education services.

Earning A GED Diploma Qualifies You For College Education And Better Career Options

People who haven’t earned a high school diploma are often presented with limited opportunities. That is, they couldn’t get a better income-earning job, pass for a promotion or go to college. If you happen to be part of this statistics, you have an option to pull yourself out of the rut you are stuck in, and that is taking the GED test and acquiring a GED diploma.

While it’s true that a GED diploma isn’t as strong as a high school diploma, it’s better than having nothing at all. You may be a dropout who hasn’t and could not finish high school. Are you thinking about taking the GED test? That may be a good decision, especially as you mull over the benefits of passing the GED test. Here are 4 of them:

It presents an alternative to studying in a traditional school. In many cases, individuals find it difficult to finish highschool. Thus, they drop out and are not able to finish their secondary education. Not having a highschool diploma can have one stigmatized. He or she tends to be not accepted when applying for a decent job and cannot pursue further education, such as that in college. But you shouldn’t think that you’re hopeless if you’re in the same situation. You can make the decision to move on and make your life better by taking the GED test. Then can you obtain your GED diploma which is equivalent to a highschool diploma. With it, you can catch up and get ahead in life. The average age of GED test-takers is 26, according to a recent report of the GED Testing Service. Most of the people who take the GED test have been out of school for 10 years or so. These are the individuals who have strived to “complete” their high school education by taking the GED test.

You can avail of better employment opportunities. Employers often discourage high school drop outs from applying in their companies. They also want to make sure that their applicants possess reliable skills to contribute to their businesses. And so they require the latter to hold a high school diploma or an equivalent of it. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has indicated that a GED diploma can qualify you for a full-time employment than if you don’t have one. Unemployment rate for those without diplomas reach 12.7 percent while only 8.3 percent of those with diplomas are without jobs. A GED diploma may not be literally required to advance in a job, but the knowledge, skills learned and the hard work of a GED earner may qualify them for a promotion.

There are better opportunities to earn more. A GED diploma may not hold the same value as a high school diploma, but the U.S. Census signified that GED diploma holders earn $3,100 a month on the average- $700 higher than those who had some high school education and $1,000 more than workers who had elementary level of schooling. Getting the GED is an educational experience where you acquire more knowledge and learn hard work. You’ll likewise gain know-how pertaining to your skills. These could have you hired for a higher income job, or advance in the workplace by way of a promotion.

Advance in your education. “Barron’s GED: High School Equivalency Exam” has cited that a GED diploma is a major requirement when it comes to gaining admission to technical schools, colleges, as well as participating in career training programs. You may already be employed, but without a GED diploma, you aren’t likely to be able to avail of further trainings and certifications that are necessary for you to progress in your company.

Knowing these benefits of passing the GED can motivate you to take the test and get hold of your diploma. You can move on and get ahead in life even if you’re a high school dropout by making the choice to take that one crucial step. Your capability and aptitude signified by your GED diploma can help you change your life for the better.

Education Funding Options

As the cost of higher education continues to rise, many parents and young people struggle with how to cover the cost of college education. Costs of in state and private schools. What are your options when planning for education funding?

529 Plan- These types of plans allow you to contribute after tax dollars that grow tax free. Qualified withdrawals from the plan are not taxed when used for qualified education expenses. You can choose a savings plan that works similar to an IRA, which allows the student to attend a school of his/her choice. Or, you can choose a pre-paid plan that allows you to pre-pay part or all of the costs of an instate public college education.

Life Insurance – Some types of life insurance build cash value and also provide a death benefit. If funded properly, you can access the cash value at the time the child attends college. Keep in mind that accessing the cash value, could also affect the death benefit provided under the policy.

Student Loans- Student loans can be helpful but it is important to remember that students may have to divert funds in the future to repay loans. These are funds that could be used to be used to accomplish other financial goals. If borrowing becomes a necessity, parents could also take a home equity loan and deduct the loan interest at tax time.

Transferring Funds to Children- As of the 2017 tax year, parents and grandparents can gift up to $14,000 to each child without gift tax consequences.

Tax Credits- The American Opportunity Tax Credit and Lifetime Learning Credit are tax credits available to full time students. Household income guidelines do apply, so be sure to check the IRS website to see which option might work better for your family.

Education Savings Account- Parents, guardians, or other qualified individuals can contribute up to $2000 per year on behalf of eligible students under age 18. Withdrawals from the account are not taxable if used for qualified education expenses. All funds must be distributed within 30 days of the participant’s 30th birthday.

The cost of funding higher education can be daunting! It is important to consider many options when thinking about how to fund the cost. All of the above options are various mechanisms available to do so. It is also important to consider what types of grants might be available when selecting educational funding options.