Thursday, March 12, 2015

The role of higher education in the 21st Century

As our legislature comes to a close today, I am contemplating my role as an educator as well as an observer of family policy.  Specifically, how does higher education play a role in families and our society?

Higher education used to be only reserved for those who had the means to spend time in thinking about possibilities, theories, governments, and societies.  We learned about culture, history, and all sorts of endeavors that were NOT designed to get us job skills.  Having a bachelor's degree meant that we were problem solvers, big picture thinkers, and had more value than just the skills to do the job.  Government was invested in supporting these kinds of thinkers, so states provided more resources to their institutions of higher education.

Now, government expects that the faculty should be getting money to come into the university through research grants and other business investments.  Less and less state government money is coming to the Universities.  This means that as professors we need to focus more on applied research that can be some reward to the businesses who choose to help support our efforts.  What happens to educating those who are preparing for the future?  Students are taking on HUGE loans hoping that their investment in themselves will pay off in the long run, but they have less and less access to research faculty and research faculty pass their teaching responsibilities on to adjunct faculty or graduate students.

Now that distance education is becoming more and more available to everyone, what does that do to the value of an education?  Some have worried that our students' focus on technology and what technology can do for education leaves graduates without "soft skills."  This means that our graduates may be leaving the university with a Bachelor's degree and the inability to work with others, recognize what it takes to read people, and pick up on their behavioral cues and all other skills that are necessary in business.

I leave these thoughts with more questions than answers.  What is the role of distance education in a University setting?  I teach online classes enrolled with traditional and non-traditional students alike. Why do traditional students take my classes?  Because they don't have to be anywhere for class? They can do class at midnight in their jammies leaving daytime for their jobs. Are students sacrificing school to pay for nice cars, trucks, clothes? Non-traditional students are typically not close to a University setting and are generally older.  They are often supporting a family and parenting children in addition to getting a college degree. Full time parents, full time school, and full time jobs?  What has to be sacrificed with those kinds of demands?

Should universities still consider themselves as a developmental support institution?  Are they still preparing our youth to be leaders in our communities and societies?  Or, are we at the cusp of a major shift in thinking about higher education.  Should we look at community colleges as college prep? Post-high school education? What is the role of vocational education? Are Universities taking on that role of being a vocational institution rather than an institution of higher learning?

It seems to me that we need to make an effort to re-evaluate the role of our higher education system and focus on the goals that the student wants and that our country needs. Do we really need EVERYONE to have a B.S. degree?  Is the University a setting where we prepare for jobs and that's all?  How do we do that?

Saturday, February 28, 2015

the Role of Family in Family Policy Issues

I just had an interesting class discussion with my Family and Social Policy Students. We are discussing the role of women in the workplace and how that has created stress in our families.  Andrew Cherlin (2012) writes that this shift from women being at home to women being at work has been one of the MAJOR shifts in our society and has had a HUGE impact on the well-being of our families.

I asked my students as future social services workers, what can be done to support the families if this is the case?  I was honestly surprised when their first recommendation was COMMUNICATION!  It wasn't one of the many options that I had considered...better work policies, government programs, early childhood education, etc. Their first thought was to support families by strengthening the relationships between the parents.  WOW!  Kind of an eye opener.

Politicizing the Victim

I have been thinking a lot lately how academic culture has been focusing on the victimization of so many different groups.  Women are victims because they have been oppressed.  Men are victims because they have been placed on the back burner by the women's movement, Black families are victims because of racism, poor families are victims because of the 1%.  Where are those who manage to NOT be a victim?  Are there any non-victims in the world?  Could that be the 1%?  But they are victims also because are they not Black, or Male, or Female?

Why do we need to have so many victims in our society? Do we need victims so that we can feel good about ourselves?  I think I just have lots of questions here, because it's so non-sensical.  Are we developing victims so we can figure out ways to control others through the government policy? Is that why academics are trying to hard to create hate for the 1%?  So we can use our hate to make them feel bad about being successful so they'll give their wealth away? I know that many people work hard to get wealthy so they can give to others, but why not create a system so all can get wealthy?

One of my friends who is a successful Black woman indicated that she doesn't need anyone to make her a victim, she just wants people and government to get out of her way!  Rather than creating victims, why not focus on those policies that get in the way of people's success?

For example, our constitution focuses on freedom of speech, the rights to life, LIBERTY, and the pursuit of happiness.  The US Constitution is widely considered one of the most brilliant and inspired documents of our time.  Do we accept that or not?

Our Supreme Court ensures that the laws fit with the constitution.  When the Mormon Church comes out and asks for laws that protect their right to religious freedom, what has happened to the constitution?  Who has the right to appeal to an organization to CHANGE their views because your lifestyle doesn't fit with their views?  If an organization chooses to behave in a way that we don't like, DON'T JOIN THAT ORGANIZATION!  Why are we required to pass new laws?

However, does the law control the job market? YES!  The right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness does require that our workplace is a place where people can go and build a living for themselves and the private family (taking care of others, providing for the future, etc.).  Thus, the government does have a responsibility to ensure that the workplace is a safe environment for everyone (all people regardless of sexual orientation, sex, gender, religious associations, race or ethnicity). Do business have a choice of who they serve?  ABSOLUTELY!  It's to their detriment to exclude people because of their own personal prejudices.  Does government need to be in control of who businesses serve?  I guess that is the question of the day.

If we look at how government may get in the way of people's success, I think that we all need to consider our social responsibilities to the people of this country. If your business uses hazardous chemicals that pollute the environment, then you have a social responsibility to NOT create a hazardous climate for others.  There should be penalties there. Why not frame our laws in a way that focuses on whether or not you are  being socially responsible so that others are not harmed by what you do?

Does this create a victim society?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Education in the US

We just had a discussion in my school age and adolescence class about education in the US.  We watched a TED talk by Sir Robinson who described how the US and the "No Child Left Behind" policy leaves lots of children behind.   He also compared our education system to Finland and noted that we seemed to be focused on the core education principle and all children are the same.  We certainly do seem to be wedded to the manufacturing model.

I have often wondered about this problem we have. Why do we insist on moving children through school based on age graded classrooms?  In all my studies of human development and how children learn, children don't follow a mold, nor do they follow a standard pattern! How do we expect that our children will learn if we are measuring them against STANDARD measures?

Why not try something new?  I keep wondering why we don't move back to classrooms that are not based on ages, but rather based on family relationships, or neighborhoods? Or, just random assignment so that the older children can help the younger children during class. It doesn't matter if you're not reading according to other kids your age, as long as you are learning to read?

Could we stand the idea of NOT using standardized measures?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Political Ideology!!!

It's been a couple of years since I posted last.  However, I am NOT supposed to be opinionated, but I struggle with this sometimes.  I have come to the conclusion that I should post anyway, try to hide my opinion and then let the discussion begin!  I hope that I can disguise my political ideology--mostly because I don't really hold to one ideology...I think we need to allow ourselves more intellectual freedom than aligning ourselves to one party or another.  Once you do, you seem to be locked in and challenged on your beliefs:  "You are not a real ___________" (just fill in the black with...Republican, Democrat, Socialist, Tea Partier, whatever!)

Can anyone answer that question?  Why align with a party?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Role of Social Services

We have recently been talking about our role as social service workers.  Where do you think we should step in when a family isn't doing well; or, what would be the best way to work toward healthy families?

Monday, November 5, 2012


Election day is tomorrow. I know we will all be glad when we are not assaulted by misinformation about the issues, the candidates, and the policies!  One of the things I have been interested in are serious changes to our government. It will be interesting to see who gets voted in and/or voted out.

Many Utahn's think that Orrin Hatch has been in the Senate too long; however, he barely manages to stay in the race and keep his job in the senate. This year, the issue isn't what Senator Hatch will vote for, but rather whether or not Conservatives maintain their percentage in Congress. If they do, their agenda gets to take priority; if not, then their agenda goes south and the liberal agenda takes priority.

Have you ever voted for an agenda? Or, do you vote for the person? What kinds of changes happen to government if we were to have a one party dominating all of the government?  For example, if there is a Republican in the White House and a Republican majority in the Congress? Does it help to have opposite sides represent us?