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Education is no longer as simple as it once was. Now information explosion is pulling us from all sides and we are finding it difficult to differentiate between information and knowledge so we believe all what we hear and see. That sense of knowing with certainty has thus gone. Our children suffer more from this phenomenon because of their limited knowledge base.
The crux of the problem in education thus is how to bring that cohesive education back. The answer is not to blame it on technology or the information explosion because the educational system itself has gone through a number of changes which brought us to our present state of education where its quality is increasingly being questioned.
Historically, America started as a developing country, formed out of isolated and warring French, British and Spanish colonies as well as the indigenous population, emerging as a Nation only in 1776 still wobbling on its feet while the rest of the world had centuries’ old established cultures and ways of living.
While its birth was a difficult one, its subsequent weaning was also not that easy.
Its founding principles however were sound based on the pursuit of dignity for all. Yet these principles were not that easy to uphold. The question of slavery which President Lincoln officially outlawed lingered until the sixties and as far as equality is concerned it truly has not been achieved yet.
As a developing country with its agricultural economy, its first task was to educate its masses and to make them productive farmers and informed citizens. A number of colleges and universities were thus established by granting them government lands to become agricultural experimental stations and centers of learning and educating. These are the Land Grant Universities and Colleges.
In the beginning, these institutions lived up to their charters, faithfully delivering cohesive education interacting with the farmers augmenting their farming practices increasing their productivity.
The industrial era aided this relationship further as it brought in farming machinery to facilitate the work of the farmer. Agriculture, science and industry thus worked together aiding each other making American education, its people’s health and its economy the envy of the world.
Then something began to go wrong. The colleges and universities began to do research giving it a priority over teaching.
The main culprit of this shift was SCIENCE itself which gave us antibiotics, the insulin, and unlocked the structure and function of DNA. These discoveries strengthened the pharmaceutical and the health care industries which could have been fine but there emerged an unforeseen problem.
Discovery of DNA structure and function was seen to hold great economic potential that companies were formed overnight with unprecedented amounts of venture capital pouring in.
But being an unknown area, it needed more than venture capital. It needed trained manpower available only in the academia. The fear that some new engineered bug with heightened virulence may escape these labs necessitated that this work be done in special containment labs which were also either available in the academia or the academia, having the know-how could set these up rather readily via government and/or private grants.
This would have been a workable arrangement both for the academia and the businesses but for a glitch when President Ronald Reagan placed all work done with the public funds in the pubic domain making its results freely available to everyone. This was not acceptable to the academia as it took the academia out of the financial benefits it hoped to reap. But since both the academia and the businesses needed each other, they worked out some mutually beneficial arrangements with the result that the academia had to augment research to safeguard its own interests and also deliver on the agreed upon arrangements.
But the research needs time. Fortunately, it was timely to find that time by shifting to technology, opting for e-learning and audio visual aids. When even these were not enough, they started eliminating courses specially their lab part and also moving some of the courses to the Community Colleges thus fragmenting knowledge even further with no one to watch over.
Two of the courses so eliminated were Microbiology and Home Economics which led to the decline of hygiene, making infectious diseases persist, also affecting the safety of our food supply and the cohesiveness of knowledge that the public needed to be self reliant.
The solution is to bring back integrated knowledge and true hands-on science. That is what we are doing. We are also revitalizing our teachers making them versatile so they could teach cohesively. This is the vital part of our mission.
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