Tag Archives: America

What is Higher Education? A Degree or Something Else

In public discourse, “higher education” is a term that differs from traditional schooling such as elementary, secondary, K-12 education. In America, higher education is often believed to be above and beyond traditional schooling into the academic domain of colleges and universities. Similar terms such as adult & continuing education, vocational training, and lifelong learning are often mentioned among educators, but most people don’t bother to define their differences. In the UK, other terms such as tertiary, permanent, further, and recurrent education add to its complexity.

The trouble in these discussions has less to do with the multiple terms of higher education, and more with the public sentiment. In other words, the way that multiple societies view higher education reveal some deep-seated opinions about the purposes of education and learning.  Opinions bounded by distinctions between required schooling versus optional education.

This leads to the question of whether the sole purpose of higher education is to acquire a college degree? A degree supposedly considered not required nor essential, but only an advancement or enhancement to a high-school diploma and required equivalents.  Also this degree is a form of credential that not only gets you a job, but also provides more opportunities to better careers.

However, current times challenge this typical mindset.  Examples show that a degree does not always transfer to getting a job, and additional credentials are no longer optional, but are seen as paramount to maintaining a career.

Lagging behind the times is the misrepresentation of the term higher education.  Given current circumstances, higher education is an outdated word alluding to a time when more education was an option of leisure. “Higher” still suggests a “lower,” just as “required schooling” implies “optional learning,” which colleges and universities used to originally represent.

In the next phase of this public discourse, education is no longer higher and learning is no longer optional.  Such a discussion invites a new mindset willing to remove linkages of trading credentials for better employment.  Instead, there is an acceptance that education and learning is a lifelong public pursuit where talents are discovered, ideas are supported, and vocations are created.


No Adult Left Overlooked: Reforming Continuing Learning Too

Given the current debate for education reform such as fixing No Child Left Behind; promoting Race to the Top; and encouraging a  ’21st Century curricula’ , there still is a gap, a remaining empty space, incompletely filled by creating jobs or training  skills.

It relates to adults who must continue to learn regardless of high-school diploma or college degree. It involves educating for life and supporting continual learning for all people.

Some parts missing in the discussion:  

1) Lifelong learning accounts (similar to 401K, but for continuing education);

 2) More employer or independent contractor tuition reimbursement programs;

3) Paid educational leave, especially for near retirees to pursue formal education;

 4) Tuition reduction options and student loan forgiveness for recent college alumni;

5) Further allowing lifetime experiences to transfer as credit and acceptance within colleges and professions. 

The belief that ‘children are our future‘ is very true, but it is equally true that the future will depend upon how, and what, our adults’  learn today.

‘Waiting for Superman’ Creates a Secret Hero

After watching this compelling work about the nation-wide damage to American elementary and highschool education, it leaves me bewildered. I’m taken back by how America continues to allow failing schools, bad teachers, and disadvantaged students—On second thought, I’m not surprised.

The documentary looks into the lives of at least four kids at different stages of their academic marathon. Unlike a marathon based on skill and talent, these kids hope to be selected to better schools based on a lottery, a game of chance where the probability of acceptance is too narrow to draw-out a starting line.

The highlight is that instead of “waiting for superman,” a few have taken the initiative to save the educational system one-child-at-a-time. An example is Geoffrey Canada (his name not the country) and the lifelong teaching improvements from his school in Harlem, New York.  These mere-mortals are featured as signs of hope in this real-life tragedy.

Actually, in this episode, “Superman” is the government; or any wish that America, with its equality-promise, would save us from our educational calamities:

Guess what?  No-one came. All are not saved.

If there’s a superhero, then there must be a villain.  Clearly the film picks one:  Teachers unions. 

Teachers unions, with their out-dated policies and bureaucracy, make for an easy target with overwhelming facts against them.  These unions are also politically organized. I suspect some push-back for ‘playing the bad guy’ without given a script—yet again, I’m not surprised.

As in any story, there’s a cliff-hanger conclusion:  What will happen next that could really make a difference to our schools?

In response, I’m not surprised about the facts and figures, friends and foes, in our educational system, because they support a status quo.   How else could we see the same damaging arguments, but different groups with different aims come up with different responses? 

The conclusion is no cliffhanger at all: Adults and job security are getting in the way of real education. 

As any comic book, I’m left with a moral message (somewhat opposite than what the feature intended): 

I see  the secret and potential ‘real superheroes’ are the parents and communities.  They are the ‘kryptonite’ to the educational system including all teachers and institutions: good, bad, or from another planet. 

In other words, if parents became lifelong educators, mentors, and guides, then the community would not seek out good teachers, but create environments where education is another standard of living, like money, food, and a good movie.  Parents add to childrens’ learning by teaching them, being living examples or what to do and what mistakes to avoid. 

In this new direction: Hope turns into responsibility and results. It takes education out of the hands of teachers into the arms of a national family that includes all.  Thus the new heroes are not only a few supermen and women or dynamic duos; but a mighty multitude, a courageous crowd that continually teaches and learns.

Missing the Goal of Football (Soccer)


World Cup Logo

© 2010 FIFA Official Logo

The World Cup is here. If you don’t know, it happens every 4 years.

Around the world, it’s a “Big_Deal!”  It’s like a global SuperBowl to all nations except most Americans.  This year for the first time, the international tournamant is held in an African nation (South Africa).  Which got me wondering about American culture and influence. How come we don’t feel the hype through the usual means of media clips, commercials, sound bites, and carved bits of news?

You know, there is a common joke about how a person who speaks two or three languages are called bi/multi-lingual; but a person who speaks only one language is called ‘an American.’  It’s funny to tears.  Not only do many Americans speak only one language, things we do are separated from the world culture.  For example, Americans measure in miles, feet, and weight, while the rest of the world’s metric system uses meters and grams. 

A clear disregard comes from the American jacking of the name “football.”  Football is America’s passion with touchdowns, helmets and shoulder pads, fantasy football, and the holy grail: The SuperBowl.  Don’t confuse me, I love the sport too, but I ask:  Should football’s popularity come at the expense of downplaying another? (by the way, how we get the name ‘soccer’ anyway). 

When I watch ‘the world’s football,’  I’ll admit, I have no ideas about the rules, the running, walking, falling, headshots, look-no-hands techniques, but I feel the elation of a GOOOAAALLL scored, and its international importance, which every American must appreciate—Go FIFA; Go WorldCup!

Looking for a Universal Learning Language

edtechroundup Idea Image

When seriously thinking about Lifelong learning and continuing education, it becomes not an idea just for America, Canada or even Australia, but for the entire world.  But if educators are to consider a global perspective, what is the common language or practice we share? (Especially when we have different cultures, lifestyles, social classes, economics, and all the rest)

What can a professor in Kenya learn from a teacher in America; how can an instructor in Seoul gain anything useful from a trainer in Montreal?

This common language in my view is the very practice of learning and education itself: the activities, lessons, and methods teachers use in education.  We must start to analyze lectures, group discussions, role plays, and demonstrations just like surgical tools in medicine.  All educators as professionals should know in what ways to use a learning method and what level of skill or competence is necessary to perform it. 

This may seem like an easy task, but through my entire experience as a student and an evolving educator, I have yet to see a comprehensive ,well-detailed synopsis of teaching activities and methods with very clear purposes.  Instead what we have seen are professional assessments of teachers’ philosophies, beliefs, and values assuming that once understood, instructors can shape these activities and methods how they see fit….Really?

For example, just because I may know that I subscribe to an educational philosophy, or being a learner-centered teacher with the students’ interest in mind; this does not address my actions. For when I teach, I am no more knowledgeable about what steps to take to ensure my educational philosophy and intentions, or whether they are being met thorough my teaching performance.

Therefore, this blog is to announce my intention to research these activities of learning. Not just as a means of American education, but as a key to establishing a universal language of teaching learning and improving the learning profession.  I know that the major accomplishments of mathematics with its universal symbols will never be challenged, it would be nice to find a way for educators to speak to each other across the world.