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Financing, Liberal Arts, and Equity

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American scholars and laymen alike agree that American schools need improvement. Not only does the current failure of U.S. schools limits their life and career choices, but it also puts the economic prosperity and the country’s security at risk, as reported by Joel Klein, the ex-chancellor of New York’s City school system, and Condoleeza Rice, the former Secretary of State (Associated Press, 2012). In the situation when too many schools do not succeed in adequately preparing their students, America risks losing its human capital. This is especially evident in such spheres as defense, aerospace, and science. Besides, there is a shortage of foreign-language speakers in the agencies of the U.S. intelligence and the State Department. To make the matters worse, three quarters of young Americans are either physically unfit to serve in the U.S. military forces, or cannot be admitted because of their criminal record and educational deficiency.

Statistically, one of four Americans fails to graduate from high school. Those who do often fail to do well in science, English, and mathematics when they are asked to complete the aptitude test necessary for being admitted to the military. Specifically, 30 per cent of high school graduates fail to pass the test. On a large scale, average Americans are found to be rather deficient in knowledge and global awareness, which prevents them from understanding what America’s allies and adversaries are. Overall, Americans’ unpreparedness “threatens to divide Americans and undermines the country’s cohesion, confidence, and ability to serve as a global leader”, as stated in the report prepared by Rice and Klein. (Associated Press, 2012).

In this situation, the problem of careful reforms in the finance and governing system of U.S. schools seems one of the urgent issues. Besides, the question of the role of liberal arts education needs to be resolved, in particular, how much focus the state should give to liberal arts within both secondary and post-secondary education. In addition, changes should be brought to the curriculum with emphasis on multicultural approach to education and learning. Importantly, the school system needs to devise methods of response to challenges that result from hosting a diverse body of students.

As a professional educator, the best possible way to govern and finance American schools is to apply a combination of approaches. Indeed, this position will prevent disagreements between different stakeholders who have different visions of reforming the system. It will benefit the overall school system, notwithstanding the fact that the stakeholders of the process view school performance in the United States through different lenses, hold different beliefs and values, and draw different conclusions from the available empirical evidence that evaluates the effectiveness of particular reforms (Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences, 1999, p.163).

The complex approach needs to be based on responses to the existing problem in a few crucial dimensions. From available research, it becomes clear that four major paths need to be considered if the country is to launch a large-scale improvement, in particular, in the spheres of governance and finance. First of all, the governance and funding should embrace the aspirations of the international path followers. The policymakers and educators should get preoccupied with quality control of teachers. This will lead to making teaching the profession of the higher status and generally more selective. Besides, this approach encompasses the equalization of funding to a greater extent.

Secondly, the approach of the “reform outside in” should be pursued. The latter involves replacement of the traditional system by new foundations and new structures. According to Jal Mehta, the researcher from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, “Rather than trying yet again to reform a broken system, we would simply replace the system, piece by piece, with new entrants who can start from scratch as they design what they hope will be better ways to do the work” (Mehta, 2011).

Thirdly, the marriage of social reform and school should be considered. It is basically about engagement of teachers along with inter-agency collaborators in helping school student deal with problems which are found beyond schools. One of the best examples of the perspective character of this approach, according to Mehta, is the interest of educators in the Harlem Children’s Zone (Mehta, 2011).

Finally, the approach supported by the followers of the technological reinvention trend should be considered. The latter is based on the idea that education, as well as the whole world, is moving towards the society where whatever was important in the past becomes really obsolete and unnecessary. The role of the sophisticated technology is central in these “unbundled schools” and “blended learning”.

While suggested approaches seem to be essentially different, they appeal to people with different views and seem relevant to the current system of public governance, where all of us have a say in what happens to schools. Of course, it would be impossible to embrace every aspect within each approach, but efforts should be made to adopt the best ideas.

As for the liberal arts education in secondary and post-secondary education, its role is undoubtedly important. Of course, in the world full of stress and competition for job opportunities, students often want to study those subjects that will help them land decent jobs. This means that they are more likely to opt for purely technical training. At the same time, in the modern world, a real global village, knowledge workers dominate. For them, communication capacity and team playing skills are imperative. In this and other respects, the humanities come as practical and relevant (Pleshakova, 2009). Liberal education both within secondary and post-secondary system enables students to develop skills crucial for being successful in pursuing their career goals. Specifically, they will improve their critical thinking skills, learn to synthesize ideas in their mind, learn to how get ideas across to other team members, and learn how to write different things, for example, funding proposals, etc (Pleshakova, 2009). Liberal arts education should be given the same focus as sciences at school and should be promoted within the agenda of the post-secondary education.

Finally, changes should be brought to the curriculum to respond to the needs of the diverse groups of students in a classroom. One of the efforts should be to rewrite the U.S. history textbooks so that they objectively focus on the input into the U.S. history of minority groups, e.g. African Americans, people of Hispanic origin, women, etc. Besides, critical inclusion should be promoted, which means that students’ voices within one classroom should be considered on education experience. It means that they should be given opportunity to provide views on all subjects studied at school (Gorski, n.d.).

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