By CAMILLE GIGLIO, Legislative Analyst
May 11, 2010 - San Francisco, CA - PipeLineNews.org - Today's public school student is failing to receive a good, solid, academic education. Charter schools and home schooling have increased commensurately. Many students have left public school to attend the more expensive private schools; others bored with education, have just dropped out.
Is the formerly cherished California educational system cheating the students as parents and critics complain or is it right on target according to the educators and think tanks?
Well, it's a little of both.
California education underwent a major sea change beginning in 1960 with passage of the first Master Plan for Education also referred to as the Donahoe Education Act. Clark Kerr, later to become Chancellor of Cal Berkeley, takes credit as does former legislator, Santa Clara University graduate, Jesuit trained, John Vasconcellos, for creating and furthering this Master Plan.
Kerr addresses his goals with a more intellectual approach, couching his ideas in lofty, aesthetic terms. Vasconcellos uses the patois of the hippy era, blaming mainly parents, and church for a failure to prepare and nurture their children for the hard realities and the pleasures of life.
A report on Vasconcellos' plans for our children is contained in an article written by Jeff Fishel, Department of Government School of public Affairs, America University, Washington, D.C. entitled "Leadership for Social Change and the Promise of Humanistic Psychology."
The original Master Plan was that period's California Dream Act, long on ideals, short on ways to attain those ideals and lacking in funds. The main premise, however, was that schools must become accountable for the children that [it was asserted] parents and society were failing.
What was missing in this plan was a pathway to attaining those goals. The legislators and educators knew that The Donahoe Act was only a beginning. Over the years legislation has been submitted that has tweaked and amended this act until the CA Education Code is now several hundred pages long and containing 101,060 numbered sections.
In 1993 Clark Kerr addressed the California Postsecondary Education Commission created by the 1960 Act. The title of his talk was, "Who will take responsibility for the future of California Higher Education?"
This time Kerr urged creation of a new Master Plan referred to as a Resource Master Plan for Education. This time it was concern over the children and grandchildren of the sexual revolution baby boomers. But in reality it focused on how were they going to fill up the colleges and universities.
During every session, dozens of education related bills are submitted to the legislature. Some of these bills are developed by legislators. The majority of them however are created by special interests such as unions, community and non-profit organizations, business community and think tanks. This has created partnerships between education and business and community interests, all, now called "stakeholders." Everybody has been invited to jump in and contribute to the preparation of the student for his/her chosen place in the life of the global community. All, that is, except the parents.
Education has become the new market place for competition and experimentation in who or what will be able to fulfill the goals of these acts. The prize for the competitors is the prestige of being chosen, as well as financial gain and guaranteed employment.
Well, if it doesn't work there is always lifelong learning or re-training for the latest new skills needed in the market place.
The conversation about the future of education usually quickly turns to the realization that not all students will succeed in college. Not all students are academically minded. Most will graduate high school and go into trades or office work. The educators and legislators say on the other hand, "Oh, no, all students have the right to a college education. We must help them attain that. They must at least get two years of community college."
On top of that students have to be healthy, physically fit, mentally sound and willing to acknowledge their responsibility to their community, prepared to fulfill the employment needs of that community. All this of course, provided by the chosen special interest groups. You've heard the old phrase - our children are our future? Did you ever think it meant a planned future prepared by the school system - not you - and that your job is to be a partner with the school and enforce the school's plan inside the home?
California recently lost its bid for Race To The Top federal education legislation, but is trying again. The money to be realized would provide the fuel to set the whole humanistic education program well on its way. Also the Education Master Plan is due for re-authorizing later this year.
The irony here is that California considers itself to have been the leader in creating these new goals for education.
Visit the online California Postsecondary Education site and click on a section entitled Accountability; March 22, 2010. Look for their Legislative Update with contains information on 50 education bills that they are tracking.
Also look for their report called STEP - School to Employment Pathways System.
All these education bills are filled with mandates to firmly establish partnerships with Workforce Development legislation mandates, health clinic services and corresponding nutrition and gardening programs, humanistic character education programs, after school programs, targeted work preparation programs led by unions offering job shadowing in union shops and community organizations, beginning in junior high school. Eighth graders are being urged to determine their career paths and being assisted in that by promotional programs from community groups.
Academics such as history and English composition and languages is being re-focused to be merely support for the chosen career path. One must know how to read the manual or research the computer for one's chosen field of endeavor or prepare reports to one's supervisor. One must also understand that though their future employment might well be within "their community," that community may be global.
Also, the classroom and its instructor will change. It's called distance learning or individualized learning and it means learning via computer. Your student may be sitting in a room full of students but each may be getting a different version of an education through the computer from a classroom half way across the country.
Most of the current crop of bills are sitting in suspense files in the Senate and Assembly Appropriations Committees awaiting the fate of the next budget fights. These bills come with high demands for new taxes in the form of bonds for which there need be only a majority vote in either the legislature or the ballot box.
Beware of politicians calling for education reform and more jobs, because they may very well be planning something far different than what you might be imagining.
©2010 Camille Giglio. All rights reserved.