Home > Education, Learning, Society > The Core Problem with Education Reform

The Core Problem with Education Reform

October 5, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Today President Obama announced an initiative to increase the graduation rate of American community colleges. The move, according to the White House, is to increase the network of education to expand training for American workers. Such a move connects directly with the Administration’s work to spur economic growth and create a system of sustained growth in the future. While I wholeheartedly agree with this move, I offer a caution to leaders to think that the quality of education is measured in quantitative means.

A system that evaluates itself based on output is inherently corrupt. The factory that produces the most widgets is simply active, not productive. We tend to lose sight of the importance of quality when faced with data suggesting high work rates. It is a fault that seems to connect directly with the Protestant Work Ethic and the work of Fredrick Winslow Taylor. Sadly it seems the American psyche still has Mr. Taylor’s clicking stopwatch in our brains.

A better system uses a qualitative method of evaluation. We need to assess the true depth of understanding that our college graduates possess. Even so, our graduates are merely prepared at the time of graduation. As the years progress and the factors of the world change they will find themselves helplessly unprepared if education suddenly ceases. A true evaluation of education assesses students on the basis of qualitative means.

A far more significant danger of increasing the graduation levels is the “watering-down” of the college degree. If everyone can earn a degree it instantly loses its value. We have seen this occur with the High School degree already. As more students are able to earn a college degree, the procedure of standing out or of gaining advanced levels of knowledge will require more time and more money investment in education.

A more realistic perspective is to realize the need for vocational studies. Not everyone needs a college degree and the best function for our government is to recognize a broad diversity within the network of education that provides a variety of skills. We risk eliminating the value of the college degree if we conclude that attaining such a degree is an effective assessment of educational value and personal worth.

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