The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have unquestionably been highly successful in bolstering governments’ commitment to poverty reduction, achieving basic education and health, promoting gender equality and environmental sustainability, and bridging the gaps in human development. In spite of these progresses, globalized education is still a requisite and the primary tool in achieving the Post-2015 Global Development Agenda – the continuation of effort to achieve prosperity, equity, freedom, dignity, peace and respect in a world of cultural and linguistic diversity after 2015.

The complexity of today’s globalized world has made development challenges interlinked. Peace cannot be achieved and prosperity cannot be sustained without finding unified, common and general solutions and without all nations contributing unanimously and with a sense of shared responsibility. The Millennium Development Goals which will be succeeded by the Post-2015 Development Agenda at the end of 2015 (United Nation’s 70th Anniversary) has framed sustainable development as a universal project. The post-2015 development agenda includes issues that are of common concern to all and pose challenges at national levels. Moreover, they define objectives to be achieved at the global level.

Before we delve deeper into the role of globalized education in achieving the post-2015 agenda, it will be apposite to have a proper understanding of the concepts that underpin the subject. Suffice it to say that education is both essential and indispensable for sustainable development. Globalized education fuels sustainable development as nations seek to transform their visions for the world into reality.

“Globalization,” as observed by Chang, “is the integration of national economies, culture, social life, technology, education and politics. It is the movement of people, ideas and technology from place to place.” Globalization affects all facets of life universally, scientifically, and technologically. Its effects are felt in world’s culture, economy, environmental, social and human disciplines. In its broadest sense, globalization refers to intensification of worldwide social relations which link distant localities in such a way that local happenings are shaped by events occurring many miles away and vice versa.

Education has been recognized as a fundamental human right for more than half a century now. It is the endless process of bringing up people to know themselves, their environment, and how they can use their abilities and talents to contribute in the development of their society. Education improves the mind of the student for ethical conduct, good governance, liberty, life and rebirth of the society the student finds himself. Education, as an agent of change, empowers its recipient to be creative. It is a form of learning in which the knowledge, skills, and habits of a group of people are transferred from one generation to the next through teaching, training and research. Any experience that has a formative effect on the way one thinks, feels, or acts may be considered educational.

Converse to the traditional way of teaching and learning, globalized education means adopting a universal, scientific, technological and a more holistic approach to education with the aim of preparing and equipping our young ones appropriately for sustainable development, and creating a peaceful and better world for this generation and posterity. Globalized education allows every child to acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values to shape a sustainable future. It is, however, not culturally, religiously or geographically myopic. It is not racial or given to prejudice. In globalized education, schools do not function in isolation; they integrate with the world outside and expose students to different people and cultures, giving them the opportunity to appreciate cultural differences and what the planet offers, while respecting the need to preserve their culture and the natural and human resources that abound.

The Post-2015 Development Agenda refers to a process led by the United Nations (UN) that aims to help define the future development framework that will succeed the Millennium Development Goals. The recent UN development agenda is centered on the Millennium Development Goals that were officially established following the Millennium summit of the UN in 2000.

At this point, we can now advance our knowledge on the role of a sound and universal education in achieving this post-2015 development agenda which is expected to tackle and find suitable solutions to many issues.

As the world stands at an historical juncture, it calls for a truly transformational and universal education system that integrates the three dimensions of sustainability (economic, social and environmental) in all activities, addresses inequalities in all areas, respect and advance human rights, fosters love and peace, and that is based on credible, equitable and sustainable system and safe environment for learning.
There are, of course, many different ways in which globalized education can be beneficial and advance the future sustainable development goals. Sound, universal and quality education is not only a top priority but also a cross-cutting matter which is indicated and reflected under three other pivotal goals related to health, economic growth and climate change.

A good global education is the step – the first step in ensuring that these development goals are achieved. Education marked by excellence and a conducive and habitable environment are two hallmarks of our world today. What we are taught, what we learn and how we treat our environment are connected to so many other possibilities in achieving a peaceful society where poverty has no place.

Global education has a felt influence on environmental sustainability. Successful implementation and actual use of new, affordable technologies for sanitation in Africa came with education. Another evident example of how globalized education is helping to achieve environmental sustainability is from a reported Eco-school in the United Arab Emirates which was awarded Green Flag, a symbol of excellence in environmental performance. The students put forward important environmental friendly approaches and messages within and beyond their school community. This innovative thinking to make good use of available natural resources, neither exploiting nor abusing them, came about as a result of a sound learning process that changed their behavior and gave room for them to adopt sustainable lifestyles.

The problem of unemployment does not wholly emanate from the government. Part of it rests on the individual. Why do we go to school? To learn, yes! But far from this narrow-minded purpose is the need to acquire knowledge, a skill, and a know-how that can be applied to earn a living and live a sustainable lifestyle which has positive impact on the society. Though all educated persons are not rich, but each possesses a knowledge that can get him a job, or which he can use to create one. Hence, sound and excellent education with globalization as the driving wheel is a fundamental solution to poverty.

Moreover, there have been significant contributions of globalized education on the health sector. However, time and space will not permit us to have a detailed look at the impacts. Permit me to cite a report which states that “education of large numbers of community-based health workers reduced deaths from malaria by 66 percent in Zambia in six years.” With the right education in health technologies, medicine and other medically inclined fields and sciences, life expectancy will improve evenly and no country will be left behind.

Realizing the Post-2015 Development Agenda requires all hands to be on deck. The government alone cannot carry it. A fresh global partnership is to be forged. A new spirit of mutual accountability and cooperation must underpin the Post-2015 agenda so as to ensure uniform distribution of high quality educational materials to the poorest and least developed countries of the world. As we all know, access to computers and the internet and good conducive environment have become basic needs for education in our modern societies. This new alliance to finance and provide education to reach every child, even the ones in the streets, should be strictly based on a common understanding of our shared humanity, based on mutual respect and benefit. It should put people at the center including those affected by poverty and exclusion, women, youth, the aged, disabled persons, and indigenous people. Civil society organizations, local and national governments, multilateral institutions, the scientific and academic community, non-governmental organizations, businesses, and private philanthropy should come together and ensure that no one is left behind in getting globalized education for sustainable development. We must endeavor to see to it that every child, every individual, color or race notwithstanding gets the opportunity to receive a cost effective, high quality education, starting from prekindergarten to elementary and secondary, to special education, to technical and higher education and beyond. A popular Nigerian proverb says, “The upbringing of a child is not the sole responsibility of an individual but a communal responsibility.” Therefore, let us all answer the call and take up the rewarding task of ensuring a quality and universal education for all.

Without mincing words, we can aver that globalized education can help achieving the Post-2015 development goals. For our assertion to stand and remain factual we must consider the interrelations that exist between education and development as they share a symbiotic relationship. Governments, institutions, organizations and individuals must recognize the full potential of education as a requisite and catalyst for sustainable development, and act as such.

Conclusively, globalized education is a multi-dimensional process that ultimately transforms our people, our economy, and our dear planet. Truly, globalized education empowers people, transforms lives, and shapes the system that drives the progress of sustainability. It is the foundation and the only means for achieving peace in our societies. It fosters economic growth thereby reducing poverty. It is growth and life, and a means to achieving the Post-2015 sustainable development agenda.

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Education and the Complete Individual

Education is something that many have said much about. Most of these are complex or vague. Consider the Greek philosopher Aristotle’s saying that education is ‘an ornament in prosperity’ and ‘a refuge in adversity’. There have been a great many attempts to explain this description, but none have quite succeeded in satisfying my curiosity. Alternatively, this is what the English essayist Joseph Addison has to say on education: What sculpture is to a block of marble, education is to a human soul. This too, has a great many explanations and elaborations. But does it really tell us what education is? Does it tell us why we need education? Not really, since the concept of the soul is, till date, a shadowy area. So how can we begin to comprehend what everyone claims is essential to life nowadays? To put it simply, education is a process of training our mind so that we can apply it in a field of our choice: which is why we have education not as a single seamless entity, but as a whole made up of various divisions: music education, scientific and technological education, art education, even teacher education!

Education can be considered similar to picking and eating a fruit. Picking a particular fruit on the tree is akin to choosing a field to get an education of. When we bite into it, we get our first taste of the subject. As we chew on the bitten portion, we begin to understand its various aspects – the tastes, textures, intricacies and complexities of it – and when we are ready to move on to the next portion, we swallow what we have assimilated so far so that it can be used for further application. The tree we get the fruit from is the entire body of past thinkers’ teachings and the voice that tells us which fruit to pick is the interpreter of that knowledge: the teacher.

Throughout the lifelong course of education (no, it’s not like school or college which ends after a fixed period of time), we get to know about things that always were, still are and always will be around us, waiting to be recognized and acknowledged. Light plays a central role in education – both literally and metaphorically – for visual inputs are the best learnt and without light – of the sun or electrical – we would be missing out on a whole world of knowledge. In fact, this is where phrases like ‘light of knowledge’, ‘throw light on the matter’, ‘kept in the dark’ and so on came from.

You might be thinking, how can we narrow the infinite field of knowledge to select what we will need or want to know? This is where the part on ‘training the mind’ comes in. The mind, as psychology tells us, is the centre of cognitive faculties which enables consciousness, thinking, perception and judgement. It is the kitchen for the information we acquire, where we can season and prepare the bits and pieces of data into comprehensive knowledge. Like any good kitchen, the mind has infinite capabilities (which is often the reason for confusion among us youth when it comes to deciding on a particular field to ‘specialize in’ for higher education) and therefore needs to be trained in order to make this choice clearer as every good chef needs to know what to or not to use for a dish. Unfortunately, the world we live in does not allow us to experiment with our capabilities without being ostracized or reduced to penury. Thus the need for specialization. And thus the need for education.

Another obvious question would be: how can we get education? It’s easier to use metaphors and analogies when describing something like this, but a parallel in the real world is sometimes hard to provide. One answer could be a school, college or university. There are also other means to formally get education. Such as home-schooling, distance learning etc. All of these provide us with a forum to exchange knowledge – where we can gain as well as give. This is a guided and restricted form of education, especially in the Indian scenario. It is difficult to find a good school where we can tailor our education according to our needs and interests. Often, we fail to avail of the opportunity even if it is within our reach. Peer pressure, our parents’ and elders’ wants, whims and wishes and societal trends all play a role in influencing us. And this very often has an adverse effect with the student being unable to cope with the contradictory inputs and buckling under the combined pressure. An educational system where students can fulfil their desires and not bow to transient trends is necessary for proper development and realization of one’s full potential. An example of how this can help could be the famous English poet John Keats. Trained to become a doctor, Keats renounced his apothecary’s license to follow his desire, eventually creating a path for himself that no one else has quite been able to match.

Education is not just a pathway to money, as is often considered nowadays. The fact that it provides a doorway to affluence is secondary. Education is first and foremost, I believe, a source of joy and pleasure that is also a means of enhancing our capabilities. It is a landing that provides us with infinite doorways to choose to continue into, each leading to a different yet interconnected walk of life (after all, how can we forget that science and philosophy, despite being ‘at odds with one another’ go back beyond human comprehension?).

The needs of the human in order to lead a productive and satisfactory life have long been debated. Yet one point stands clear in this debate: along with the basic necessities of food, clothing and shelter, education is extremely necessary, especially in today’s material world. After all, without education, one cannot gain employment and without employment, one cannot fulfil his/her basic needs and is considered a failure by modern society.

The knowledge we gain through our guided education is definitely useful for life in the sense that they will be required to succeed in gaining and maintaining employment, a must to be accepted in society. Not having a job is enough to have you labelled lazy, a failure, even weird or odd. And any employer will require you to have a thorough knowledge of your field, which is easily available for the taking through education.

Education provides us with an endless canvas. How much of it we put into use is up to us. New fields seem to emerge everyday – parapsychology, particle physics, noetics, to name a few. Although relatively ‘unknown’ or ‘obscure’, these have as much importance as the others we know of. The flood of engineers and accountants that India is facing seems to know no end. Easy money is apparently all people seems to think of. They are becoming flat characters in the play of life: although given names like ‘security of future’, lust for a fat wallet seems to be the only motivation.

On the other hand, there are billions of people around the world who want to get an education but are unable to due to poverty, geographical isolation, familial conditions or ignorance. Like the Lady Law, education is blind to the faults or favours of those who take a sip from its pool. The people who are not able to get to its banks because they are dragged back by the brambles of shortcomings – economic, social or cultural – have to endure a life full of superstition, fear, hopelessness, helplessness, poverty and exclusion. The literate but uneducated are considered equal to the illiterate as their life pretty much goes to waste (not everyone is the Old English poet C├Ždmon, after all). We must, however, keep in mind that this ‘education’ is totally career-oriented – a trait that has emerged in the past decades.

Let us now consider another angle. So far we talked of the relevance of education in the tangible corporeal world. But, being human beings, the intangible yet equally expansive world of our feelings is equally important. Education plays a major role in helping us find our niche here as well. We humans are inherently social. Even ‘loners’ have at least one person in their confidence. In fact, the more solitary one is, the stronger the bond is with those that person does interact with regularly. Even those who have large friend circles have an inner circle of those who they trust. So, where do these friends come from? Most of our friends and acquaintances come from school, college and our workplace and education is the line connecting these dots to one another. We go to school and college to get an education, as do those who become our friends. We talk about things that we have learnt somewhere down the line: academically, through music, film, news bulletins, books, etc. These, too, are an important part of our education. Academia alone is not enough to make us a complete person. It is definitely important, but our character and personality depends on our education as well. As we grow up, we learn new things and experience various feelings and emotions. Events and situations, too, play a part in education. Growing up, we have quarrelled with our parents. These sometimes go downhill over time and ruin the parent-child relationship. Alternatively, it can also teach us to give people space and motivate us into trying to understand before blindly contradicting. Regardless of that outcome, it teaches us what not to do when we take up the mantle of parenthood. Whether we put it to use is, of course, a completely different question altogether.

Besides academic information, schools also impart social education. They teach us, sometimes by pointing out our mistakes, what we should or shouldn’t do in a particular situation. For instance, we learn to stand up and greet a teacher when he/she enters our classroom. We also learn to respect our higher-ups and when to follow instructions without question. This gives us an idea of the norms of society.

Education teaches us control. It tells us what is acceptable behaviour in a certain environment and what isn’t. Experience, which is yet another form of education, often also teaches us when to exercise caution and when to be spontaneous. For example, at an informal gathering like a house party, it is acceptable – even expected – to wear casual clothes. Also, we can be freer in expressing ourselves: we can talk over one another, raise our voices etc. In an office party or a similar formal gathering, on the other hand, a certain code of conduct is expected to be followed. A professional front – in both mannerism and appearance – has to be maintained. Formal attire is required and an unruly or unkempt appearance must be avoided. We also learn these things through books, entertainment, word of mouth etc. Education and its imparting is therefore an intimate and implicit part of our social life as well.

Education is a major source of mental contentment. There is a simple, innocent pleasure in gaining knowledge. As sentient living beings, we humans are inherently curious. And fulfilling that curiosity paves the way for further questions to be answered, for the thirst for knowledge to become a quest for more. Also, considering the level of competition nowadays, any and every little snippet of information in addition to what our peers know gives us an edge in the rat race of modern life. And success because of that little edge gives us a great deal of satisfaction, joy and pride: the boost to our self-esteem that is essential to our well-being, mental and, thereby, physical.

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Energy Education and the Consumer

Household Energy Consumption and Successful Energy Education

Behavior Choices

Two homes constructed the same year, sitting on the same city block, with similar households, can have vastly different energy costs. The furnace can be the same and the water heaters carbon copies, but one household can effectively control their homes energy costs and the other household produces an energy bill, shamefully, out of control.

This is about insulation levels and how well the ducts are sealed, but it is even more about household behavior, energy education, and putting your best, energy-saving, foot forward. This is about parents passing down environmental concerns and expectations to their children and then to grandchildren. It’s about people that lived through the great depression and know the benefit of reducing waste and living with less because that was the only choice.

One thing I’ve wondered, is it easier for a rural farmer, who picks tomatoes and corn out of his own garden, to be energy wise and interested in controlling energy consumption, or is it easier for the Central Park native that buys food from an asphalt fruit stand to understand the importance of conservation? Do you need to know how many tits a cow has before you can be frugal with a gallon of milk?

Which household is more apt to have had the benefit of ongoing parental household energy education? Is it the farmer, as a result of being close to nature and the environment, likely to be the energy saver and need less energy education? On the other hand, perhaps the person that lives in the high rise is more aware of energy consumption and the amount of power it takes to keep a big city running.

Energy educators and power companies have a big job as they work to provide energy education to all kinds of households. Since every household has the potential for both saving energy and reducing energy waste, the energy education challenge is to design a program that can be successful for all households. The gentleman farmer that lives by the creek in the green valley can benefit from energy education and the bank teller in the duplex by central park can also.

If people are aware of energy-saving tools and behaviors, they can, within limits, control their energy consumption and curb energy waste. Consumer education then becomes one of the most cost-effective conservation measures available. Educators work to bring consumer education to the people in four essential areas. The subjects remain pretty much the same, but the approach may vary according to house location, income status, and resident expectations.

energy Education

Energy ED and Behavioral Decisions:

Behavioral decisions is the Energy Educators biggest challenge when providing household energy education. It is the biggest challenge – yet the area with the most potential. People are simply set-in-their-ways and making behavioral changes is a slow and difficult task. How do you get a person to take a shorter shower with a low-flow shower head when they are accustom to relaxing for hours under the hot flow of water with enough water pressure to make a noticeable divot in the skin? The person feels slighted and abused. After all, just how much energy does it take to run a darn shower for an extra twenty minutes anyway?

To change energy wasting behavior, educators try to make a direct connection between the shower they love and the power bill they hate. People learn from their own experiences and their own power bill. Ideal learning opportunities occur when residents make a decision, perform a task or behavior, and do it with their wallet in one hand and their power bill in the other. The educator is often more successful at getting the behavior changed if it is connected directly to the power bill.

Therefore, to change energy behavior, the household needs to have power bill education and a complete understanding of the information that is available on almost all monthly statements. To connect real dollars and cents to behavior is the best way to change wasteful behavior.

Energy ED and Comfort Perceptions:

Basic Comforts

Whenever my daughter complains about a simple hardship, like having to walk home from school in 50 degree weather, I mention her ancestors and the Oregon Trail. If walking home in mild weather was a true hardship, we would still be living in Europe somewhere with everybody else.

A lot of people would like to throw the energy educator out the door the minute they mention 68 degrees and thermostat in the same sentence. Are we all getting ridiculously soft or are the comfort levels we have come to expect simply a dividend of having someone else live in a covered wagon for 4 months.

The energy educator needs to take a two fold approach here. One is to re-train the household into realizing that some comfort expectations are not really needed comforts and the second is to point out that the lack of comfort can have more to do with the lack of air sealing then the setting on the thermostat.

Once the household blames comfort problems on the lack of insulation and the holes in the heating ducts instead of the size of the furnace and the out-of-adjustment thermostat, the household can get back to saving energy in comfort.

Energy ED and Household Operation:

Chances are if you don’t know what the brake pedal does and where it is located, you shouldn’t be trying to drive the car. You can get in the car, stick your elbow out the window, start the car rolling down the road, but it’s all going to be wasted when you can’t get the car stopped. Remember, car insurance covers dents and missing bumpers, but home insurance doesn’t cover energy waste.

Energy education needs to provide training on where your homes brakes are located and how to use them. Only with an understanding of basic home energy systems, can the household use those systems in a more energy efficient manner.

The challenge of the energy educator is to provide the household with a basic understanding of how their homes energy systems work and how they work with each other. With the broad differences in homes spanning more than a hundred years, this is no easy task for the educator.

The educator is like the child with a huge, connect-the-dots puzzle in front of them. The educator completes the challenge by connecting all the energy system dots in a home until they make a complete picture that is understood by the household.

Maintenance

Energy ED and System Maintenance:

Now that the Energy Educator has provided information on the energy systems and how they work together, he or she needs to provide training on the benefit of maintaining those systems. A car that can get 50 miles per gallon will not be able to realize that great fuel mileage if the tires are flat.

With the coming cold weather, the Jones’s decided it was time to finally have insulation installed under the floor. Their feet have been cold long enough and warming their feet was contributing to huge increases in their power bill. Insulation was installed under the floor, but the foundation vents were not repaired which allowed critters to enjoy the newly insulated underfloor as well. As the critters rearranged the insulation, placing a lot of it in the dirt, most of the benefit of installing insulation was lost by not properly maintaining both the insulation and the vents.

One of the most important maintenance items is the heat pump. Households get lulled into a sense of having great energy efficiency once they have the benefit of a heat pump. The energy educators job is to provide information on the importance of having a Heating Contractor service the heat pump system once a year to get the most energy efficiency from the heat pump every year. Once you get a Prius, don’t maintain it it like a John Deere and drive it like a Mustang.

Not an easy job this thing called energy educator. The homes are all different and the household behaviors range from Covered Wagon to Queen Elizabeth. Energy Education remains the most cost effective measure available to both households and power providers for saving energy and increasing energy efficiency. How we live in our homes and how we react to our desired comfort level has a lot to do with the size of our power bill.

So, how much does it cost to stand in a hot shower for an extra twenty minutes? Well, that depends. Fresh water from the hillside spring and a solar water heater, stand there until the clouds come over or the sun sets. But if your taking a shower in the drought region of Texas, pumping the water through a filter and then twenty miles uphill to a forty story high rise, don’t take a shower at all, stick to a sponge bath.

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Special Education Reform?

I remember 20 plus years ago when I was getting my graduate degree in Special Education and a buddy of mine getting his degree in elementary education told me that his father, a school principal, said that I probably shouldn’t waste my time getting a masters in Special Education. He said that Special Education would be eventually fading out of public education. I was almost done with my masters at this point so I figured I would have to take my chances with it, besides what other choice did I have anyways at that point?

I got a Special Education job and taught for about 10 year. There were a lot of ups and downs over those 10 years, and eventually I decided that I wanted a change so I got certified and switched over to high school history. At this point in my career I remembered what my friend had said a decade ago and wondered if I was ahead of the curve on schools no longer needing special education teachers, even though it was 10 years later. I wondered if my job was now safe in my new-found home in the history department.

Well, I loved teaching history, but life has its own funny ways that aren’t aligned to us and what we want, so after a decade of teaching history I personally got a first class education on budget cuts and my job was eliminated. Thankfully, I landed on my feet back in Special Education, believe it or not.

It had been more than two decades since my old graduate school buddy told me that the need for special education teachers was disappearing. During the previous two decades my friend had gone from graduate school to elementary school teacher to assistant principal to principal, just like his father had done. I had gone from graduate school to special education teacher to history teacher to back to special education teacher, like nobody else that I know had done. And believe it or not there was still a bunch of special education jobs available when I landed there for a second time. As a matter of fact, there was actually plenty of jobs there because there is a shortage of special education teachers in 49 out of our 50 states. Imagine that… Two decades after I was told that Special Education was going away, and I find that they still can’t seem to get enough special education teachers.

Fast-forward a few more years to today and there is a new and interesting twist affecting Special Education called full inclusion. Now inclusion isn’t a new thing to our schools. As a matter of fact inclusion has a long interesting history in our schools.

Six decades ago there was the Supreme Court Case of Brown v. Board of Education. In 1954 the new law of the land became integrated schools for all races. Four decades ago the ground-breaking law of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) began to take effect and help ensure that more than six million students with disabilities have the right to a free and appropriate education, which means they too get to be included in with the general education population.

To help this happen schools create a Planning and Placement Team (PPT) that meet and discuss a student’s Individual Education Program (IEP) and then place the student in the appropriate educational setting based on the student’s needs and the law. The placement also needs to be the least restrictive environment (LRE). I can still remember my college professor describing the least restrictive environment in a short story that one would not bring a machine gun to take care of a fly. Rather, one would just bring a fly-swatter to take care of a fly. In other words, if a kid’s disability can be dealt with in the neighborhood school, then the kid doesn’t have to be sent across town or even to another town’s special school.

Today, many schools are trying to improve on this inclusion model and least restrictive environment by going from a partial to a full-inclusion model. Schools in the Los Angeles School District have moved a vast majority of their students out of their special education centers within the last three years and into neighborhood schools where they are fully integrated into elective classes like physical education, gardening and cooking. They are also integrated into regular main stream academic classes as well, but it’s usually not to the same degree as electives.

Michigan schools say that want to break down the walls between general education and Special Education creating a system in which students will get more help when they need it, and that support doesn’t need to be in a separate special education classroom.

Some school districts in Portland, Oregon are a little further along than the Los Angeles schools that are just bringing special education students back from special schools and Michigan schools that are just beginning to try full integration of its students and eliminating most of the special education classrooms.

Being a little further along in the process Portland makes an interesting case study. Many of the parents who initially supported the idea of integrating special education students into regular education classrooms in Portland are now worried about how the Portland Public School System is doing it. Portland is aiming for full-inclusion by the year 2020. However, some of the teachers in Portland are saying, “Obviously the special education students are going to fail and they are going to act out because we are not meeting their needs… If there’s not the right support there, that’s not acceptable, not only for the child, but for the general education teacher as well.”

A Portland parent said, “I would rather have my child feel successful than for them to be ‘college-ready’.” She further states, “I want my children to be good, well-rounded human beings that make the world a better place. I don’t think they necessarily need to go to college to do that. I think that children are individuals, and when we stop treating them as individuals, there’s a problem.” Sadly, many parents and teachers have left the Portland School District, and many more are fantasizing about it because they feel the full-inclusion model isn’t working there how they pictured it would.

How much should schools integrate the special education students is the burning question of the hour. In my personal experience some integration is not only possible, but it’s a must. With some support many of the special education students can be in the regular education classrooms.

A few years ago I even had a non-speaking paraplegic boy in a wheel chair who was on a breathing respirator sitting in my regular education social studies class. Every day his para professional and his nurse rolled him into and sat with him. He always smiled at the tales I told of Alexander the Great marching across 11,000 miles of territory and conquering much of the known world at that time. By the way, Alexander the Great also practiced his own model of inclusion by encouraging kindness to the conquered and encouraging his soldiers to marry the captured territory’s women in order to create a lasting peace.

Other important factors to consider in special education inclusion is the much needed socialization and the saving of money integration offers. Kids learn from other kids and money not spent on Special Education could be spent on general education, right? Hmm…

If you noticed, I said a little bit earlier that many special education students could be integrated, but I did not say all or even most should be integrated. There are just some students that are going to take away too much of the teacher’s time and attention from other students, such as, in the case of students with severe behavior problems. When we put severe behavior problems in regular education classes it’s just outright unfair to all of the other children in there. Similar cases could be made for other severe disabilities too that demand too much of the main stream teacher’s individual time and attention.

Hey, I’m not saying to never try out a kid with a severe disability in a general education setting. But what I am saying is that schools need to have a better system of monitoring these placements and be able to quickly remove students that aren’t working out, and are taking precious learning time away from other students. Furthermore, schools need to do this without shaming the teacher because the teacher complained that the student wasn’t a good fit and was disrupting the educational learning process of the other students. Leaving a kid in an inappropriate placement isn’t good for any of the parties involved. Period.

Over the last two decades I have worked with more special education students than I can remember as a special education teacher and a regular education teacher teaching inclusion classes. I have learned to become extremely flexible and patient and thus have had some of the toughest and most needy kids placed in my classes. I have worked miracles with these kids over the years and I know that I am not the only teacher out there doing this. There are many more out there just like me. But, what I worry about is that because teachers are so dedicated and pulling off daily miracles in the classroom, districts, community leaders, and politician may be pushing too hard for the full-inclusion model thinking that the teachers will just have to figure it out. Setting up teachers and students for failure is never a good idea.

Furthermore, I hope it’s just not the money that they are trying to save while pushing this full-inclusion model forward because what we should really be trying to save is our children. As Fredrick Douglas said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Regardless of how the financial educational pie is sliced, the bottom line is that the pie is just too small and our special education teachers and our special education students shouldn’t be made to pay for this.

In addition, I have been a teacher for too long to not be at least a little skeptical when I hear the bosses say that the reason they are pushing for the full-inclusion model is because socialization is so important. I know it’s important. But, I also know that too many people are hanging their hats on that socialization excuse rather than education our special needs students and providing them what they really need. I have seen special education students whose abilities only let them draw pictures sitting in honors classes. There is no real socialization taking place here. It just doesn’t make sense.

Well, finally coming full circle. It will be interesting to see where this full inclusion thing goes. The wise ones won’t let their special education teachers go, or get rid of their classrooms. And for the school districts that do, I imagine that it won’t take long before they realize the mistake they made and start hiring special education teachers back. To my friend and his now ex-principal father from all those years ago who thought special education was going away, well, we’re not there yet, and to tell you the truth, I don’t think we ever will be.

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Education and Real Life Challenges

In contemporary times, almost as a cultural practice, education has been elevated to the level of an initiation rite into the modern world. With the aid of formal educational training, people acquire the skills of reading and writing. It is obvious that literacy, the ability to read and write, has become a requisite for coping with numerous challenges of modern times. As a strategy for ensuring that no child is denied the opportunity of acquiring formal education, not sending a child to school is a criminal offence in some parts of the world, especially in the West. In addition, some governments assist their citizens to acquire formal education by either subsidising the cost or making it available at no cost (at the basic level, at least).

It is impossible to fit into the modern times if one does not go to school. Consequently, education is a necessity, not a luxury. People’s attitude to education in contemporary time appears to suggest, in fidelity to Platonism, that it is better to be unborn than to be uneducated. The demand for education in different parts of the world is unarguably on daily increase. People make numerous sacrifices to acquire education. Parents are willing to give all they have in order to see their children through school. Some people travel to foreign countries in order to acquire quality educational training. Acquiring formal education has become one of the greatest priorities in life today.

However, despite the wide acceptance formal education has gained all over the world, one of the most significant questions about education that is often not asked is, “What is the relevance of education to practical life?’ In other words, to what extent is education helpful in addressing practical life challenges? This question needs to be asked because the expected impacts of education are absent is the life of many educated people. One of the factors that speak very eloquently on this is that education has continuously remained unable to improve the standard of living of numerous graduates.

It is imperative to remark that education is a means to an end, but not an end in itself. The implication of this is that education is a process that leads to the making of a product. The process is incomplete without the product. It is the product that gives value to the means. The quality of the process can be inferred from the quality of the product. As a means, education is incomplete without the end of the process. This end is the purpose it (education) is designed to serve (under ideal situation). Let us justify our claim that the expected impacts of education are absent is the life of many educated people by examining a very sensitive aspect of life of educated people, their finances.

How many educated people are truly financially successful? Most graduates struggle all through life to make ends meet, but to no avail. There are numerous people who graduated from tertiary institutions (even at the top of the class), but who are far below many people with lower educational training (academic intelligence and scholarly ability) than theirs in the ladder of financial success. Perhaps, financial struggles and crises are worse among educated people. Most educated people struggle all through their working years merely to make ends meet, but to no avail, and end as liabilities during their retirement.

The inability of education to assist graduates in managing real life challenges is rooted in the fact that most people are ignorant of the purpose of education. Why do we go to school? Why should people go to school? What is the purpose of education? What is the rationale of education? What are the objectives of education? Why should parents send their children to school? Education is one of the most abused or, rather, misunderstood human experiences. Unless the purpose of education is understood and clarified, the continuity of its abuse (by most people) will remain inevitable. Many people go to school for the wrong reasons. In addition, most parents send their children to school for the wrong reasons. Most people have erroneous conceptions about the objectives of education.

It is imperative to remark that this problem is rooted in the fact that the major incentive for going to school in the earliest days of its inception in different parts of the world was that it was a ticket to prosperity. This was possible then because employment opportunities abound for educated people then. But things have changed, and very significantly. In most parts of the world today, there is high level of unemployment among educated people. Thus, education does not guarantee financial success anymore. In fact, education has become a major cause of poverty, considering the fact that it has no provision for instilling the knowledge of wealth creation principles in students.

It is high time the purpose of education is reconsidered. The idea of going to school in order to acquire certificate should be denounced, if the training will improve the life of educated people. The idea of going to school in order to prepare for gainful employment should also be denounced because there are limited employment opportunities for unlimited graduates. If school prepares graduates for employment, but there are limited employment opportunities for unlimited graduates, it means that school prepares students for unemployment. This is why the conception that school merely prepares students for gainful employment is unacceptable.

The ideal purpose of education is to facilitate an integral development of the human person – the intellectual, moral, physical, social, spiritual, psychical and psychological dimensions of man. Going to school should facilitate the optimum development of all the aspects of the human person. An ideal educational system should not isolate any aspect of man in the training process, nor consider some aspects more important than others. Anything short of this is an aberration, and is unacceptable.

Every educational process should be able to assist students to develop their latent potential. Any educational process that does not fulfill this objective is useless. When the mind is developed, it is able to identify and solve problems for humanity and, consequently, be compensated with reward. Money is merely the reward for solving problems. Any graduate who cannot solve problems in the society lacks the capacity for wealth creation. This is a fact most graduates are ignorant of.

Education will assist graduates to become happy and fulfilled in life if it is structured to facilitate the optimum development of their minds. If this is done, education will equip graduates with the requisite skills to survive the economic battles and challenges of real life. It is very painful to remark that education has remained unable to serve practical purpose because most of the things the school system teach students are things they do not need to survive in the real life. In other words, most students spend years in school learning things that will not be useful to them when school days are over. The crux of this deficiency in the educational system is that the people who are most concerned in the educational sector are ignorant of its existence.

One of the key objectives of education is empowerment. If the educational system is restructured to achieve this purpose, graduates will become assets, but not liabilities, no matter the circumstances. Such an educational process will assist students to create jobs if they are unable to get jobs when they become graduates. As earlier remarked, education is a process, and every process is incomplete without a product. The quality of a product is the most reliable standard for ascertaining the quality of the process that produced it. There is urgent need to restructure the educational system to ensure that that the training it instills in students adequately empowers them to effectively confront life challenges, especially when school days are over.

Despite the fact that the consequences of the deficiencies of the educational system in its present form accounts for the ugly experiences of most graduates in the real life, the government has continuously demonstrated increasing incompetence in addressing this challenge. Consequently, it has become obvious that graduates who conscientiously desire a bright, refreshing and happy life must acquire Supplementary Education on their own before their school training will have the desired effect in their life. It also implies that students should also go beyond what they are taught in the class if they are sincerely passionate about happy in the real world (i.e life after school).

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