Education


Ecology and Education and Social Issues25 Apr 2017 12:08 pm

 

The data supporting the fact that air pollution negatively impacts one’s health and in many cases shortens one’s life span are profuse. Car exhaust in particular has been identified as a major factor in many realms from asthma, to heart disease to cancer.

Cutting emissions could prevent nearly 300,000 US air pollution deaths

It is generally accepted that the health of children in particular is negatively impacted by air pollution and once again car exhaust. A child’s smaller lungs and developing immune system make them more susceptible than an adult to the harmful effects to fumes.

I live in a smaller city in which the populace is generally very concerned about health issues such as diet, exercise and pollution. Parents are very active and vocal regarding advocating for their children to make sure that the community is respectful and proactive regarding taking measures which help insure child safety and health.

Yet, it is perplexing to me how many of these same individuals spend each day during the school year in long lines of cars preparing to drop their child off and pick them up from school. Despite having ample school bus service, they choose to create traffic jams twice a day in which hundreds of idle cars wait often with their engines running in front if the school. Even the rare parent who does turn off their car, has to keep turning it on and off to keep the flow of traffic moving as they follow the long queue.

 

Health effects from car exhaust exposure can last a lifetime

In most situations in our community and many others in the US the cars pass and stall in front of the children’s play area and/or windows to the classroom. While the exhaust from a school bus is also a health issue, there are relatively few of them, and they do not have to stand in line for extended times to park.

Parent’s who choose to drive and pick up their children from school are not only endangering their children’s lives and health, but are also putting the lives of other children in danger through their needing to breathe the same air and learn in the same classrooms as the polluting parents. The smoke from the driving parents cars is second hand smoke which is negatively impacting the health and academic functioning of the children whose parents are taking the healthier option of taking the school bus.

http://www.takepart.com/article/2015/03/04/air-pollution-traffic-slow-learning-schoolchildren

Studies indicate that car fumes have a negative impact on many aspects of our children’s health both physical and mental. The denser the concentration of gas fumes and related particulates the more likely the negative impact on a students short and long term physical health, academic functioning and mental health.

http://www.takepart.com/article/2016/06/09/car-exhaust-affecting-children-mental-health

One definitely could make the argument that the negative impacts of most school yard pollution is rather small, or that one cannot prove that any one child was harmed by school yard pollution. One could also propose that most pollution caused by drop off and pick up traffic is likely diffused fairly quickly and, therefore, not a significant factor. But, why would any caring parent want to play the odds or minimize a potential harm on their child’s health and academic functioning.

This is not to say that there are not individual situations and extenuating purposes that validate and even necessitate a parent from driving their kid to school, but only to point out the dangers when many parents choose to cart their children to school when other options are available.

Riding a school bus does present it’s own set of challenges and problems, most of which can be resolved in a positive way for the social and academic development of your child. Yet, their really is no positive side to the endangerment of your child and all his schoolmates by increasing car traffic both in terms of pollution and potential physical harm inherent in the presence of so many cars near so many impulsive and energetic children.

Caring for the environment and being a responsible loving parent should go hand in hand.

Education and Government21 Dec 2009 09:39 am

In the previous post I discussed how statistics show that American’s are not as educated as we are led to believe. In the US less than 70% of students who enter elementary school end up with a high school diploma. In this post we will try to see how a practical, logical analysis of the role of education in modern society contradicts what we are being told regarding its importance and benefits.

American’s are being told that today’s competitive marketplace demands that citizens who want to “get ahead in the world” need at minimum a college degree and most likely an advanced degree. We are bombarded with the message that American workers are the most skilled in the world and the fast pace of American commerce and technological advancement demand higher education.

Let’s take a s look at how honest this sentiment and appraisal of the role and benefit of education is for the general public. First we’ll look at the economic and practical benefits of advanced degrees for the professional career traditional college track and then will look at the economic and practical benefits of higher education for the vocational trade workers.

The problem with the advanced degree equals financial wealth and security promise is that it contradicts both historical economic trends and the laws of supply and demand so dear to our system of capitalism. Our society shows no signs of wanting or becoming a society able to financially support a highly educated populace.

During the last two economic downturns the term over qualified was used to explain the reason why many highly credentialed potential workers were unemployed or having to accept low paying jobs outside of their field. Though this problem is less talked about it is more prevalent than ever.  The structure and composition of our work force shows no indication or ability to become a professional career dominated  system.

We currently do not have millions or even tens of thousands of jobs sitting fallow waiting for advanced degree applicants to fill those positions. Likewise we are not waiting for more Phd’s and masters level graduates to hit the work force before we create such positions. The reality of the situation is advanced degree graduates are finding it increasingly difficult  to find jobs fitting their educational status at all, let alone in their field of interest.

Since the early 60’s there has been a steady trend of a higher concentration of wealth going to a smaller and smaller percentage of people. This trend shows no signs of abating and in fact is gaining momentum. The prospects for wealth and job security for those of us acquiring an advanced educational degree is on the wane even if the percentage of people receiving advanced degrees were not to increase.

Advances in technology and informational technology will continue to erode the importance and need for a number of advanced degree professionals. I’ll just give two quick examples to support the point.

One is the number of medical procedures that will be best or only performed or executed by robotics and machines is only going to expand. The demands regarding accuracy and sensitivity for most recent and projected medical procedures far exceed the capabilities of human surgeons and medical practitioners.

Second, computers and information systems are far more capable of researching and organizing information. Researchers in all fields of the professional world including CPA’s and lawyers are becoming increasingly dependent on information technology to do the bulk of their work for them. The technology if not a direct threat to make their jobs totally obsolete at least will drastically decrease the number of professionals needed in each field.

A constant complaint I’ve heard these last 30 years from students functioning at all levels of educational competency is that education has nothing to do with the real world, that they will never use the majority of what they are being taught. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard a student ask, “why should I learn this?”, or “When am I ever going to use this when I’m working?”

In many ways students are correct in assuming that their jobs will never require their knowing how solve a quadratic equation, know the periodic table,  or be able to identify the structure of the judicial system of Maori Indians.  Likewise understanding the various forms of poetic meter, or the major river systems of South America will seldom get them a job or make them available for a job promotion.

Yet, what is gained through our general education system is more abstract and logic based. The information is not important in itself but it is helping a student develop important practical skills and abilities. Some of which include problem solving, logic, critical thinking, pattern recognition, empathy and understanding, perspective and analysis just to name a few.

Much of the benefits of a well rounded education has to do with providing students with tools, skills and abilities that will help them be successful in all levels of life. Not   just at the work place, but interpersonal relations, parenting, and dealing with the increasing complexity of life in the modern world.

This shows a general benefit of education, but does not directly negate the students concern that most of their education does not directly apply to the career of job they will spend the majority of their adult life doing.

This brings us to the core of the push for advanced degrees, and its accompanying rational that many do not succeed in today’s work world because they are undereducated and unsatisfactorily credentialed. The solution as always whether you’re a computer technician or a health care professional is that your job security and pay scale are dependent on advanced degrees.

Let’s take a look at one of the central messages of education proponents who state that the sophistication and complexity of the high tech world makes a college education imperative, and once you get a degree in technology your career path is secure.

No one can argue that technological disciplines of all kinds are in a perpetual state of rapid growth. Yet, this fact both supports the need for a degree and limits the benefits of a technology based education.

First of all, no general technological education of any type, will rarely prepare you for a specific job in the field of technology. The skills and specific processes needed for each job is changing so rapidly that any education you receive will be outdated in a very short time. Since so many jobs involve skills and knowledge that are so specific to that job alone, learning on the job is far more beneficial than learning in a general classroom.

Advances in automation, robotics, information technology, and artificial intelligence are occurring at a mind numbing speed. Many technologies are claiming a new generation level of advancement as quick as every few months. In such an environment how much staying power or relevance does a degree have?

Most advances in automation, robotics, information technology, and artificial intelligence reduce the need for human workers. These technologies often reduce the need for workers and a job force and therefore a degree in these fields will not necessarily improve job security or result in a lucrative career.

The fact of the matter is that more and more jobs are becoming unnecessary and unprofitable. Machines work for free and never need to sleep or have off time. The competitive nature of capitalism always goes towards maximizing profits and lowering overhead.  In the modern world of technology and information, human labor is seldom the means to maximizing profit.

Robots and machines do tasks, learn new processes and work at optimum levels far better than humans.

Professionals such as doctors and lawyers have been keeping up with advances in their field by reading journals and getting additional training for decades.  Now any technologically based worker must do the same. There is no degree which will end education, and most education has to occur on the job because of the specialty of information and skills indigenous solely to that task.

Yet, no amount of education is going to allow humans to perform many jobs at the quality of robots and automation. Robots will become increasingly superior to human workers in doing precision work, repetitive work demanding identical duplication, and the ability to quickly identify and solve problems.

Robots, likewise will be unparalleled in their ability to identify flaws and variances of quality in materials, their ability to monitor and fix other machines, and not get bored with tedious work or vigilance.

The promises of wealth and job security being heralded by the media is true for a few industries. These industries include banking and education.

The watering down of public education has made a high school diploma almost no better than being a drop out, and therefore, made a college diploma almost mandatory to get any job above minimum wage.  This means that our free public education is worthless and forces those with economic ambition to have to pay for the education they need to make a well paying job even a possibility.

College and private educations have become these expensive and necessary toll booths giving a potential worker hope for a decent future on the road of life. Those who are yet employed or underemployed often have to borrow money to pay for their education.

Over the last few decades it has been the educational and lending institutions and not students which have benefitted most by the perceived need for higher education. The costs of higher education have skyrocket as well as the net worth of colleges and universities during this time period. Likewise the percentage of students graduating with significant amounts of debt has exploded.

The only real obstacle to expanding wealth for lending and private and higher education institutions has been bad investing. Isn’t it ironic that the standard advertising tag line for most higher educational institutions is something along the lines of “investing in your future”. It probably would be more accurate to say “investing in our future”.

As is the case in many aspects of our society, deception and sales techniques dominate the messages we receive. Honesty and integrity, like human labor, are not the best means of maximizing one’s profit potential. Therefore, in a profit based system of economic competition honesty and integrity will have little value.

In general deception sells more than truth. So what do you expect from a society whose primary goal is economic expansion through the maximizing of profit?

Now remembering that my friend might be a real education.

Jim Guido

Education13 Dec 2009 12:18 pm

Last week I was talking to a clinician friend of mine who is the director of a local alternative school. During the conversation I mentioned how high our local drop out rate was. She felt I was exaggerating and doubted my numbers. So, we googled it and saw that my numbers were correct.

Most statistics out there are in agreement. In the US less than two thirds of its children get a high school diploma. This means that over three in ten kids in the US do not graduate high school. Think about that a minute. Three of ten kids in your, or who were in your child’s kindergarten class will/did not get a diploma.

The media generally reports the yearly drop out rate which has stayed between 4 and 6 percent. So, the average person is led to believe that only 5 or 6% of students drop out and conclude that 90% or so of students graduate.

Yet, the reality is that 5% are dropping out per year. The accumulative result of which is that somewhere between 30 and 40% of students will be lost before high school graduation.
Below is the significant numbers posted by the Alliance for Excellent Education for the State of North Carolina.

Graduation Gaps and Inequities
Graduates
Graduates 63%

There are significant graduation gaps among student subgroups. To help close these harmful achievment gaps and raise graduation rates for all students, graduation rates must be disaggregated for both reporting and accountability purposes.
North Carolina’s Graduation Gap

All Students 63%
Asian          74%
White        70%
Hispanic   50%
African American   45%
Native American     44%

Estimated 4-year Graduation Rate
*Figures calculated prior to rounding. All graduation rates are for the school year 2005–06. For access to sources and notes please visit http://www.all4ed.org/publication_materi…. © July 2009 by the Alliance for Excellent Education

If you go to the web site below you will see an interesting national map of graduation rates for all states.

 http://www.higheredinfo.org/dbrowser/ind…

When you read the history of the public school system and the writing’s of many of its founders you find that public education was designed to be more often about indoctrination into the political/economic world of US society than about maximizing the intellectual possibilities and skill base of each citizen.

Many early social psychologists sympathized with governmental architects concerns that a truly democratic system could breed social instability. Public education was seen as a means to mold public opinion and create civic pride in the status quo while making future voters more dependent on the state.

In the early years the American public education system was able to attract and cultivate the best minds while fostering a strong sense of patriotism and national pride. These were the heady years of industrialization, empire building and invention.

Yet, the more successful the US became at becoming the reigning superpower the less the need for finding the best minds amongst the rabble. Instead they could reserve the quality aspect of American education system for the privileged few. This allowed the main focus of US public schools to become indoctrination and public control and less on unfolding the intellectual capabilities of the majority of children.

I have witnessed first hand the dilution of the American education system. The slow ingress of increasing chaos of the classrooms and the lowering of standards of academic performance.

In the late seventies and early eighties I worked in special education class rooms for both day programs and residential treatment facilities. Many of these kids came to us illiterate and with below average IQ’s. Despite these hurdles our children flourished in our school. We averaged 9 months of academic growth for every 3 to 4 months of class time.

A sizable portion of the students I worked with during that same time were average to above average students who came to us because of emotional psychological issues and not due to poor academic performance.

In the late nineties I returned to public schools for awhile and have spent the bulk of this decade back in special ed. dominated classrooms.

Though I have taught all subjects, math is my forte. I can assert with no doubt the skill level of kids I worked with in special ed. in the 70’s is higher than the average student in today’s standard level classroom.

The computational and reading skills of a child being promoted to the fourth grade now is inferior to the skills of the kids who were promoted in the 70’s. Pretty much the same can be said for each grade level.

The basic skills of our children are eroding as are the expectations. This can not be an accident or be explained away by changes in our society. For ever reason I can find that society makes learning more difficult, I can find five or six that could make learning easier and more productive.

The watered down American public education system now takes sixteen years to accomplish what it used to in twelve. The skills demanded of a student to get their high school diploma in today’s public school system is roughly equivalent to about a freshman level of the 1980’s.

The GED tests which students can now use as a high school education equivalency test is not even at the eighth grade level that I was familiar with in the late 70’s.

We are being told the truth by our educational system and government when they say that our child’s high school diploma does not open them up to the same jobs and opportunities that a high school diploma did for us when we graduated. They go on to say that today’s college diploma carries the same impact as yesterday’s high school diploma. It now takes a post graduate degree to avail yourself to the opportunities that were previously available to a college graduate. These are all true statements. In fact, they are understatements.

Today’s college graduate is probably available for less than a high school graduate of the 70’s. And even a post graduate degree does not assure you that you will get a job and pay of a standard similar to a basic college degree  in decades past.

Yet, what is deceptive about these statements is the reason why they are true. We are told that today’s workers need more skills and intellectual ability and knowledge than previous generations.

We are led to believe that the fast pace of technological progress and the increasing speed and complexity of the work place is demanding similar growth in our educational knowledge and performance.

Yet, for the most part this is just all out fictitious propaganda.

In my next post I’ll explore the fallacies of the above view and the possible reasons we are being asked to believe in the false hood of the need and benefits of a post graduate degree. I will also shed some light on the likely goals of the architects of the modern public education system, at least according to their actions.

Jim Guido

Education and Philosophy08 Sep 2009 08:07 pm

At each moment in our lives we are making decisions, choosing options, or performing actions which add to our knowledge and skill base. Often times we are doing a repetitive task or reviewing material we have long committed to memory but even in many of these situations we are deepening a skill or internalizing a bit of information.

When we choose to learn something new or expand the quantity of things we know we can look at that as horizontal growth and when we learn something more in depth or master a skill we can refer that as vertical knowledge or experience. A person who excels in horizontal growth is often referred to as well rounded or a jack of all trades, while our society tends to recognize and reward the obsessive vertical growth person for their mastery and heightened performance. These are the masters of knowledge in a specific discipline such as physics or medicine. These are the virtuoso pianists, Olympic athletes and skilled surgeons whose mastery and perfection earn our respect and admiration. Although more rare, sometimes a horizontal knowledge person amazes us with their encyclopedic knowledge such as a college professor or game show whiz.

Yet there is no person who is strictly a vertical or horizontal learner. Even the most dedicated and obsessive musician or athlete spends some time away from perfecting and deepening their treasured skill. The world class gymnast and concert cellist have other activities and skills that they engage in. Likewise even the most wide ranged thinker sometimes lingers on a fascinating morsel of knowledge deepening their familiarity with the subject.

All of us lie somewhere on the continuum between complete vertical and total horizontal knowledge. We all have activities and areas of interest that we have deeper and more cursory knowledge of or mastery over. One mode of knowledge and experience is not inherently better than the other.

This fact should help us all be more content and appreciative of ourselves. We can all find someone who is more dedicated or obsessive about a skill we’ve developed. If you happen to be a person who loves to bowl or play golf you will likely find someone who has a better average than you, if you like basketball and spend hours on your shooting you still will meet someone who has a higher free throw percentage than you.

At each moment we should be choosing what will give us more joy or add more meaning to our lives. There is so much to know, feel, perceive and experience. Our exact mix of horizontal and vertical experience is what makes each of us a unique and fascinating human being.

Society has a tendency to act as if all of life is a contest and each event has one winner and a lot of losers. Yet, the truth of the matter is life is rendered more rich and beautiful by each of our contributions of vertical and horizontal experience and knowledge. Each skill mastered or deepened and any addition to the sheer quantity of what is known, felt, experienced ior perceived makes all of human life more amazing.

Our preferred balance of vertical and horizontal experience changes from activity to activity. Someone who cooks like a chef may dance like a child, yet at each moment we are free to choose to move on or stay awhile. While we should not feel bad about the choices we make, we should also be tolerant of the choices of others. A person who is dedicated to one activity is not necessarily missing life or unhappy. No one way promises joy, each person must find the mix which works for them.

Jim Guido