Kit Fay, a Corporate Consultant and Educator, offered this perspective to Education Transformations. We thought it was relevant, and we got permission to share it. We’d love to hear your perspective – do you agree, disagree, or how did this strike you?
I develop courses for corporations, to fill the educational system gap, to help the companies select candidates (technical – technicians, machinists, etc.) for hiring and promotion. Guess in what area? Soft skills: Speaking up at meetings; Following instructions; Working with other people on a team; [and so on].
Over the past three years I’ve taught corporate sponsored training, Junior Achievement, and, as adjunct staff employee, technical courses, at a number of local elementary, high school, and post secondary schools. Teachers in secondary schools tell me they are burnt out, frustrated, etc. They are told they CAN’T fail anyone, not even the student who never does the work, etc. They tell me they spend so much time on admin, they are pressed to keep continuity of soft skill activities. Their hands are tied, they can’t bring in outside help. They love the guest taught classes, which focus a lot on soft skills with interactive exercises, etc. But they can’t just bring in the resources. Their academic schedule is preset and predetermined, with many days set aside for overhead tasks.
The teachers I’ve worked with don’t have any authority to approve an outside resource. Usually they can do so only after their higher funding authority (depending on district structure, school principal, or board) has approved/delegated the funding for the ‘project’. And the time allocated from aforementioned schedule set by higher authority. To my observation, priority of said higher authority is on meeting reporting deadlines. Doing more activities beyond what already meets these deadlines is low on their list. Plus, the funding for outside activities comes from a ‘different bucket’ of money – overhead vs. program dollars, etc.
In Title I schools I’ve observed, the picture is particularly bleak regarding both subject matter learning, and soft skills. These schools do an outstanding job of giving the students a safe place to be, and what may be their only meal of the day. Because parental support is particularly low, educational goals are secondary to other considerations. I’ve been in classes as the adjunct, where the primary teacher allowed the students to throw things, etc. Because the child wasn’t receiving guidance at home, it becomes almost impossible in some cases for the teachers to have any impact.
In the post secondary level, we instructors are constantly pressured to keep ‘butts in the seat,’ for revenue. If we fail someone, it’s a big big deal and must be ‘justified.’ Mamas of these 21-year-olds complain their baby has too much homework, etc.!!!! Deans are reviewed on how many people they graduate, how many ‘butts in the seat’ they can bring in for revenue. Of course they pressure instructors to shovel through the students. As I’ve observed, and corporate customers tell me, academia is so out of touch with industry…
As a result, students are awarded degrees that don’t attest to anything. Not surprising, one local post secondary school I taught at actually has a PHD department head that, judging by his emails, can’t write an understandable interoffice memo in his native English. Apparently, ‘commitment to learning’ doesn’t apply to actually learning the skills of the degree.
Then companies hire these people who have ‘a degree’ and find out they have no understanding of teaming, volunteering to speak in a meeting, what is a meeting with coworkers, they can’t read, won’t follow instructions, wait to be told to do everything… I’m flabbergasted at the abject pervasive fake facade of our educational system.
To my observation, it’s all about meeting numbers to qualify for federal funding. I feel for anyone who teaches full time in any school.
What do you think? Comment below please.