Author’s Notes: This is the final paper in the series. Decades later, and we still have the same issues. I think I’ve figured out how to handle the citations in a slightly different way… maybe.
For some time now, I have heard a lot about outcome-based education. From the media, I have heard of what a wonderful theory it is. It will allow everyone to move at their own pace in each and every subject. Those gifted in science and math could move rapidly to fulfill their science and math goals while a person with a well-rounded vocabulary and the ability to communicate could fly through the English and literature goals. From my father, a secondary educator since the 60s, I have heard how detrimental outcome-based education will be. He feels that the bright people will finish before they are socially and emotionally mature while the trouble-makers and unmotivated students are left behind to cause problems. (Little could we have foreseen the turn this took into exams and numbers and measurements. Well, given the IRS and other government agencies, maybe we should have…) I just did not realize how much outcome-based education was the future direction of educational communities until our seminar session.
In our session, we were asked to discuss the problems we as individuals see in the current educational system. The problems we saw were a lack of funding for technical courses (um… nothing new under the sun… some places still recycle cans to get funds for science courses); the battle between public and private schools (let’s include charter and virtual schools too); the recognition and management of diversity in academic ability; the white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant slant of a large majority of the curricula and the lack of exposure to diverse cultures; how success is to be defined; and the mediocrity of those pursuing a career in education. Then, we were asked to reflect on how outcome-based education, as we see it from our readings (Wow! I am amazed at the lack of diversity in the sources we were to use.) and our own experiences, could overcome these obstacles.
The first problem discussed is the lack of funding in the poverty-stricken rural and inner city schools to support the technology necessary to prepare children to become functioning adults in an information-age society. Currently, schools are based on the standard raised by proponents of education during the Industrial Revolution, a time when information was scarce [C, 43]–the teacher lectures, the students read, and the teacher prepares and administers an exam to the students based on the important material [C, 43]. (Isn’t that what’s being done now with Common Core?) In the information age, this standard is unacceptable. Students must be able to find information rapidly. They must then comprehend and evaluate the information they find in order to communicate this information with other students. Outcome-based education, as one if its outcomes, would require students to adequately navigate the global information systems available through personal computers (and laptops) and to understand the information found as demonstrated through communication of the information with fellow class members. (My kids have had classes designed this way. Yet, every standardized test is based on the old model of hard copy work.)
The second problem is that of the clash between public and private schools. The reasons parents tend to choose private education is at the present varied. For many, it is the opportunity to study in an environment in which children from similar backgrounds could study together without fear of intolerance; an example of this would the private religious institutions like parochial schools for Catholics, Friend’s schools for Quakers, Hebrew school for Hassidic Jews, and non-denominational Protestant schools for those of varying Protestant backgrounds. Another example would be private schools set up for the education of the gifted and talented. Supporters of public education fear that private education is undermining public education. (They still do.) Outcome-based education would supposedly eliminate the need for private schools because all students would be required to achieve the same goals and could do so at their own pace in a public school. The problem I see with this is that many parents feel that an education reinforced with religious education is far more valuable than anything else. (Still true.) These parents would be willing to fight tooth and claw to maintain their rights as parents to choose where and how their children are educated. (Wow, that was dark. Please know I support these parents.)
The next problem is the recognition and management of diversity. Currently there are students who move through the educational system with mediocre grades who are untouched and unmoved by their educations and who do not care. The challenge that would be given to these students in an outcome-based school would be to get motivated enough to finish goals within a reasonable amount of time; the way to interest these students would be an information tool like the “internet.” (Yes, this paper was written that long ago and far away.) An “internet”-like system would allow the student to find information on the things that interest him or her; then, through becoming educated on (engaged in?) these topics, the student would begin to develop an interest in the study of other subjects leading to the achievement of the remaining goals. The other end of the spectrum would be those students who dearly love to educate themselves in math or science or any other field but simply do not have the ability to master even the simplest of tasks within the field. Although I am sure that special allowances would be made for these students when a proven disability was present, I would question the psychological soundness of making such allowances. (Wow! I was quite cold-hearted. That sounds more elitist than I can stomach.) Were I in a situation where I knew I graduated only because of a special dispensation, I would often seriously question my ability to perform my job even if my job did not involve the skills I was unable to perform. (Who was I kidding? I say thank goodness and move right along. This is like melodrama queen. And, now, the concern would be ensuring more that the kids who can’t have just as viable employment opportunities as the kids who can.) I would also often question my own self-worth and might possibly develop low self-esteem. (Nope. Melodrama. Almost struck it from the re-keying. Who I am is not what I do.)
Yet another problem is the emphasis on traditional writers like Shakespeare and Hawthorne. (I think I want to vomit now.) With an increased immigrant population from the Far East (Asia might be better from a writer’s perspective) and the continued search for equality among the African-American community [A, 40], there is an increased need for a multicultural education to allow for unity in the midst of division. Those hanging onto tradition have done so out of fear that the traditional literature would be ignored (as well as a gut reaction against the likes of Twilight); however, they fail to see the reality of the diversity that exists in many classrooms and on many campuses. [A, 40] Mainstream multiculturalists have no desire to eliminate totally the traditional writers (yeah… that was then); they just want to expose students to writers like Alan Paton and Alice Walker. Outcome-based education would allow for this under a goal requiring greater cultural awareness. (As long as it’s in addition to, not in place of…)
The next problem is how will success be defined and by whom. Currently success is defined on a system of ranking by points achieved on exams given by teachers and scores achieved on standardized tests. (It still is, even with Common Core. It’s just that no one wants to admit the emperor’s naked.) The definition, however, does not allow those who do not do well under pressure or those who learn by methods other than reading and writing to achieve. (It still doesn’t. No one seems to want to address these kids.) Under outcome-based education, a hands-on, active approach to assessment of what a student has learned could be used in conjunction with standard means administered under a more examinee-friendly atmosphere. (Yeah, still a pipe dream…) Students will also be considered successful if they complete the goals set by the state. The problem in state-determined goals is that not everyone will be able to achieve these goals for whatever reason. Also, the only compensation for those who complete the goals seems to be simply completion of the goals; and although the students not completing the goals should not be held back from holding meaningful jobs and getting on with their lives, there seems to be no way to dissuade those who are not completing the goals from that choice. (Yes, yes, that whole last sentence should be struck. It is the most naïve, ivory tower thinking in the universe. In the real world, there will be employment and financial consequences.)
The final problem with the education system is the mediocrity of those choosing to pursue a career in education. (Before I have too many arrows in my back, please note that I qualified the statements that follow with the friendly, cover your @55, sleezy words writers use to get them out of trouble.) Some choose teaching simply because they cannot do anything else; this can be stated another way, “Those who can’t, teach.” In order to assist students in fulfilling the goals of a global, information-age, outcome-based education, the teachers themselves will need to be better educated. (A degree does not mean better educated; that said, I’m not knocking advanced degrees.) This can be accomplished through the development of “rigorous national standards.” [D, 8] (Oh, so young. We’re from the government and we’re here to help. *Cringe*) Every teacher will have to be qualified, despite teaching in rural or inner city districts [D, 9], to help children develop skills to think critically and to construct new ideas out of their thinking [D, 9]. In compensation for a thorough knowledge of their subject material [D, 9], of the bases of effective education techniques [D, 9], and of the ethical applications of the techniques [D, 9], teacher’s salaries will be increased to a level commensurate to (with?) the education they have received. [D, 9] Those becoming teaching will have to be the best and the brightest of both genders and all races [D, 9] (probably should revise this to reflect the latest EOE statement, but I won’t) so that parents will be pleased when their children choose education as a profession. [D, 9]
I can see very much that outcome-based education is becoming a necessity in today’s world. I feel however that it will be a long time before outcome-based education is fully implemented, and an even longer time before all the bugs are out of the system. (Bidding for until hell freezes over? Anyone? Anyone?) I sincerely hope that God grants those working on the project infinite wisdom and foresight because there is a great potential for making a further mess of the educational system which would result in the handicapping of a whole generation of citizens and eventual leaders. (Melodrama, anyone?) Then America would truly face the worst decline she has ever know, a decline from which there might be no return.
The evaluator of my paper stated that it would be interesting to hear my father’s response. I wish I would have followed through…
A: Banks, James A. “The Culture Wars: Race and Education.” Phi Kappa Phi Journal. Fall 1993: 39-41.
B: Jarchow, Elaine. “A Global Perspective: The Choice American Educators Must Make.” Phi Kappa Phi Journal. Fall 1993: 23-25.
C: Mecklenberger, James A. “To Start a Dialogue: The Next Generation of America’s Schools.
Phi Kappa Phi Journal. Fall 1993: 42-45.
D: Wise, Arthure E. “A Vision of the Future: Of Teachers, Teaching, and Teacher Education.” Phi Kappa Phi Journal. Fall 1993: 8-10.