Thoughts on Education

written on December 11, 2012

I am starting this series of articles to write my perspective1 on the state of educating in the United States. It may apply elsewhere, but this is my home and what I am familiar with.

I am writing this as a student at Iowa State University. As a father of two elementary aged boys. As a person who wants to see my family have a positive impact in our town. I have a full time job writing software, for a company that has graciously helped me finish my college degree.

It is from this context, that I would like to start a journal about my experience and perspectives on educating2.

Education, in the sense I mean preparing the next generation to be productive citizens. Individuals who can contribute positively through their thinking and their service. Their education is scholastic and character-based. It should be experiential and rigorous; using both as needed.

I am going to start slow. I am hopeful my writing will improve; my voice will gain clarity; my moderate approach will remain. Writing is one of the tools I want to use to sharpen in my thinking.


I want to explore the responsibility we share in educating. The responsibility of the:

  • Family,
  • Friends,
  • Nation,
  • Mentors,
  • Master Craftsmen,
  • Public Schools,
  • Universities,
  • Neighborhoods,
  • …of you, and me, as individuals.

I am not interested in ranting about the failings of any of those systems. (Every system has its own weakness). If something is broken, let us identify it, stay engaged and work toward pragmatic solutions. I do not plan on getting stuck in the argument of standardized testing, or tuition costs, or home schooling versus public schooling. Those topics might come up – each of these are tools, ideas and techniques to be evaluated for usefulness in ours’, and the next generations’, engagement in Life.

Over the Edge

This morning I read an article (and delightful comments) that have finally pushed me over the fine-I’ll-post-this edge.

The article by Stanely Fish, Higher Education’s Future: Discuss! is from the New York Times Opinionator. Mr. Fish comments on a panel he attend, comprised of four college presidents. They discussed the challenges of collegiate education.

The tension of costs, student’s interests, the education system’s ideal, responsibility and entitlement are all represented in this article. I’ve tried to pluck out a few quotes to wet your whistle so you will go read it.

Rather than regarding students as consumers … we should regard them as yet-to-be-formed intellects who are often best served by saying no to their desires

“Whatever happened to the idyllic liberal arts model?” asked Scott. The answer was, first, that no one could afford it (no more specialized courses with two or three students, said Spar) and, second, that many students don’t seem to want it in an age when the value of courses and degrees is measured by the likelihood of future career earnings.

So the trick may be to give students strong guidance and less choice (surely an overrated value)

The conversation bore more than a passing resemblance to the one we’re always having about entitlements. The word itself tells you why the problem is largely intractable. So it is in education.

Right now there are around 100 comments, each one is worth remaining on the site and reading. Here is one little nugget:

Part of the problem is that college serves so many goals. It’s the key to job training and social mobility. It teaches the critical thinking skills crucial to citizenship. It initiates one into a social class and into a community. It’s a rite of passage. It’s a loyalty-buiding exercise. It’s educational. It’s inspirational. It’s difficult. It’s fun. Professors must separate the wheat from the chaff – while graduating everyone and keeping education accessible to all. With so many goals – many of them conflicting – it’s no wonder that college costs a lot and still doesn’t meet our expectations. What could? – Melynda Nuss (Austin, TX )

The metered tone, the desire for something better. Does this not also draw you into the discussion? Make you want to write and think about how to accomplish these things?

  1. I need to write to think clearly. But, my writings here might not always be clear or concise. They may be off, crazy, or jumbled. Hopefully I will stick with it and write something that sharpens my thinking, unifying it into some amalgam of cohesive thought.”

  2. I am using Educating because this is a present and on-going action, a continuous flow. I want to continue to learn through out my life, I want the same for my children. I will probably expand on this, in my second article. But for now, let’s just stick with “educating,” as the ongoing act participating in education.