The Business of Education in America

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 education opportunity 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 be able to 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 a 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, and are often structured without much of the liberal arts training that accompany traditional degrees. There’s been a longstanding disagreement as to whether students should be funneled into specific and very narrow technical educational streams, or weather 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 policy of the department of education. Rather than address the more complex issue of how we can meld 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.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 trying to educate the American public to be competitive in the marketplace of tomorrow. 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 their efforts 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 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 of 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 United States as it is 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, a number of 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 market place with in 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 find 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 technological expertise, and the innovative thinking that will move the world and the society forward. In one breath the department of education for our nation is telling us that for profit institutions do not work and we must regarded with suspicion graduates at any college level from these institutions, while 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.

Sex Education and No Child Left Behind

Since The Sex Ed Chronicles is fiction based around sex education politics in the past, I was compelled to look at how No Child Left Behind affects sex education in the present.The most obvious impact is that there is less time to teach sex education; emphasis on language arts and mathematics skills and tests has taken class time from all other subjects. I imagine there is less time for sex education taught in public schools in 2007, just as there is less time for recess. We need more of both in our schools.When I researched sex education policy for The Sex Ed Chronicles, I read transcripts from state board of education hearings from 1980, the year that mandatory sex education, politically known as Family Life Education, passed in New Jersey, my home state. Those transcripts explained an overlap between sex education and health/physical education, home economics, biology and social studies. With less time available to teach these subjects, there is also a possibility that the units related to sex education get the short shrift. There is also a good chance that there is less oversight over sex education; politicians have a natural tendency to ignore policies that they cannot afford to enforce.I cannot say that the legislative architects of No Child Left Behind saw a connection between their motives and cutting back on sex education. I have seen no evidence in the press and I was not around when the policies passed Congress. However, in states with abstinence-only or abstinence-until-marriage sex education policies, the public schools could technically out-source sex education to outside organizations, such as True Love Waits, or anti-choice groups–and comply with state education laws.Outsourcing sex education in abstinence-only or abstinence-until-marriage states is not impossible for me to believe; community and faith-based groups receive more federal funds to promote abstinence-until-marriage than state governments by a ratio of approximately three to one. The school boards can hire outsiders to deliver their message and be compliant, without hiring certified sex educators, and they spend the money they would allocate for sex education towards something else.This gives age-appropriate, medically accurate, sex education the short shrift. State governments, like New Jersey’s, that have adopted a more comprehensive approach to sex education, a more balanced approach (abstinence and contraception, for example), have been given the short shrift by the Bush Administration.In New Jersey, Governor Jon Corzine refused to accept federal money for abstinence-until-marriage programs last November. Community and faith-based groups in New Jersey can still apply for federal funds through a different budget line to teach their message. Garden State residents, legislators, sex educators, parents and students, however, must pay more to get the sex education they want; they must fund the programs, pay the educators, and confront the competing words of the messengers who have been aided by our president.That is sticking it up the buttocks, or whatever medically accurate name you prefer to call a backside. Not to mention the confusion it causes for parents who want their children to learn sex education in school.While I would bet that conservatives would love to see all sex education confined to the outside instructors or home schooling, that is unrealistic. It denies parents and children the information they really need to know.