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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 9/25/10

Educational Reform: Liberal Arts the Missing Component

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Message Anthony J. Gerst
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It should be a foregone conclusion that today's scholastic system needs to be revamped. Ask teachers at a community college near you; students are admitted without the basics in grammar, let alone mathematical skills they should have obtained in high school. Sometimes they lack the knowledge they should have acquired in grade school. We must also address the dropout rate of inner cities while raising the standard of excellence in schools across the nation. We should also admit that not everybody deserves a shot at an advanced degree, that some people, due to their inabilities, should pursue vocational training instead. Universities should once again be more concerned with academic standards, not the student population, to compensate a bottom line. In my opinion, we put too much emphasis upon the sciences and math. These are, beyond a doubt, crucial to our society; however, we have abandoned the concept of training in the Liberal Arts. A time-honored training throughout humanity to create individuals of civic attributes that possess critical thinking, going back to ancient Greece. So let us put forth a radical revamped scenario, a system that extends our primary education in this nation by two years.

Instead of five eight-hour days, go to five ten-hour days, creating a primary educational system encompassing grades K-14. Kindergarten and first grade would have reduced hours, preparing the students for a ten-hour day by second grade. Use day five for physical education, health and life studies, also include a community volunteer program and extra curricular activities. Day five would be used to tutor struggling students, as only students with a C average or above could participate in extra curricular activities. These activities could go a long way in helping to address youth obesity. By requiring volunteer work we would enhance civic-mindedness and hopefully knit societies closer together.

Instead of having a long summer break, why not cut this back to six weeks, two, of which would be at the end of December. Maintain two weeks at the beginning of July and two one-week intervals mixed in throughout the year, somewhere around mid-spring and early-fall. Various holidays throughout the year could still be scheduled. The objective here is to maintain knowledge by not allowing long intervals between school-years.

Create a grade K-10 academic standard based upon our current K-12. Then grades 11-14 would focus upon Liberal Arts training. Remember it wasn't that long ago that a Liberal Arts education was required before attaining any advanced degree. On day five these students could be utilized as tutors and coaches for the students in grades K-10, also as leaders in community activism. The curriculum during these years may be split to 75%-25% or 60/40 between liberal arts advanced math and science. This system would instill within students going on to universities a well-rounded education, endowing them with the lost art of critical thinking. At the same time we would already require current math and science standards by grade 10; therefore, grades 11-14 could focus upon more specific doctrines of math and science.

Overall, I see this as an opportunity to raise community involvement and academic excellence in America. This plan would better prepare students in the math and sciences for their collegiate life. At the same time it would instill civic responsibility and promote critical thinking, something that seems to be lacking in today's youth. How many years do we have to stand by and watch the educational system of our nation slip downhill? We can do better. We owe it to our nation, to our children and to our world, join the national discourse.


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Anthony J. Gerst, is an author/columnist and activist. He resides near the confluence of the Iowa and Mississippi Rivers. His favorite author, Mark Twain, was an editor for the Muscatine Journal near where he lives. Mr. Gerst has offered (more...)

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