Most parents do not start their children’s primary education with goals in mind, with personal objectives. But, when general public education began to develop, there were objectives underlying its foundation. Many would suggest that Horace Mann was the founder of the modern public American education system. This statement by no means implies that he was the founder of all educational programs that existed during his primacy, and surely he did not contribute to institutions that preceded him. His focus was upon educating the greater public. Additionally, his strategies served the rapidly developing American Industrial Revolution. The Mann philosophies were implemented to a large degree for the purpose of assuring that our young citizens of European descent were sufficiently educated to both engage in necessary menial tasks, care for the equipment, and to manage the new manufacturing infrastructure developing across our young America.
The Mann-concept based educational system was sufficient to buoy our economy for the primary benefit of the Anglo population and provided a significant edge to this group in conjunction with Jim Crow laws that legislated separate and scarcely ever equal systems for people of all other colors. Additionally, because World Wars I, II, and subsequent major wars in Asia also decimated competitive industrial and knowledge assets, as well as trained labor forces in Europe and Asia through the mid-1970’s, America thrived. However, since then, America has suffered losses in superiority in manufacturing processes, technology, education delivery. Additionally, we never elected to develop a rich common culture by which to bond citizens. As such, the United States economic machine has surrendered much of its superiority to others internationally.
With nationalism scarcely an hors-d’oeuvre on their menu, in favor of profit, a host of large American companies have elected to take their manufacturing facilities to foreign countries for the benefit of lower employee wage costs, easier access to production materials, less critical environmental regulations, and lower tax burdens. Not only does this take money out of our country, but many thousands of jobs are lost to international populations annually. Sometimes companies simply contract for services to be performed abroad that could employ and feed thousands of Americans very handsomely. And, to add insult to injury, many American corporations that cannot transfer their work or facilities abroad lobby for and take advantage of legislation that allows foreign nationals to acquire jobs within the continental U.S. (e.g., H1B, and J1 visas). Don’t be fooled by employer outcries suggesting that the jobs cannot be otherwise filled with available citizens. The employers often pay foreign employee counterparts the legal minimum rate, even asking Americans to train them before the Americans are released from their positions.
What this means regarding education is that there is a growing disconnect between employers, and the U.S. educational system (from primary through advanced degrees), with a lesser assurance of the value of any diploma, certificate or degree in the marketplace. A self-serving, liberal arts education narcissist might suggest “We do not educate students to perform tasks. We leave that type of training to trade schools”. Colleges and universities, with their increasing ranges of majors and rising costs, are graduating only fifty percent of those who they admit, and most schools no longer align their curricular objectives with specific needs of the business sector. They no longer promote delivery of market-valuable degrees, rather sell the “opportunity” for students to develop themselves in robust, information based, experience rich environments. So, increasing numbers of students, if graduating from college at all, manage to do so with tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars of school loan debt, diverse experiences, but no job prospects or offers only in the customer service and sales sectors. The jobs attained are often of no relation to that which they studied.
Remember when Aunt Mary would pinch you on your little cheek and ask, “What do want to be when you grow up?” Everyone laughed as you answered in a manner that reflected your very limited exposure to the fact that people “did anything that matters” other than spending time with you. As seemingly unimportant as those scenarios may have appeared, we should be earnestly asking those questions of our children regularly, from an early age. We should provide them with as broad a range of productive options as we can identify in our research. We should enhance their 3R’s (reading, writing and arithmetic) skills as far as we are able (with assistance) as foundations as they also learn to code, play instruments, to compare, contrast, interpret, problem solve, learn to design and handle tools and machines, interact effectively with others, and demand more of the world around them as they grow. We should show them there are demonstrable numbers of cultures and species that share the planet, with diverse world surfaces, deep waters, vast skies, and uncharted space to consider. There are colors, sounds, aromas, textures, flavors, thoughts, and planes of existence beyond our senses. We should emphasize that we vigorously apply ourselves and learn today, tomorrow and the next day so that one day they will be able to select preferred options, not the detritus roles left by others, secondary systems and markets, leftovers for the inadequately prepared. With such perspectives and targets as these, our children will seek a higher level of achievement and experience education with personal objectives.