Wednesday, October 27, 2004


That wouldn't be hard

The spiralling cost of a degree in Canada is perhaps the most pressing issue in our country's educational system. Thousands of young professionals are struggling under the burden of student debt incurred while completing their program.... And yet, seven years of work experience has proven to me that the most valuable aspects of my post-secondary education were gained outside the classroom.

For example, in 2002, I interviewed for a position as the communications manager for a small corporate training company in Vancouver. The employer was looking for someone who could produce a major kick-off event with little or no outside assistance. If my psychology degree had been the only product of my university career, I would never have even been considered for the position. But during my time on campus, I assisted in producing six years of orientation and special-event programs for thousands of students and parents. Not only did this experience give me a significant edge in landing that first position, but it also allowed me to deliver a program that became the most profitable revenue stream in the company's portfolio.

As a guest speaker and consultant working with Canadian universities and colleges, I routinely utilize communication, marketing and program development skills that were first developed through extra-curricular activities on campus.... The first, and perhaps best, of these opportunities lies in the freshmen orientation program. As a new student, I found it to be the fastest way for me to gather key information about the people and programs vital to my academic success.

But from a professional-development standpoint, the most important decision I ever made was to become an orientation leader. The sheer number and diversity of activities required to produce a successful program of that scale demanded that I develop a wide range of competencies. These invaluable skills would never have emerged in my academic course work. For instance, delivering dozens of presentations to more than 20,000 students honed my public-speaking abilities. Writing newsletters and promotional materials increased my communication and marketing skills. And working with new and existing volunteers developed leadership, training and team-working skills that have been critical to my success in the years after graduation.

Taking part in a co-op employment program was another very rewarding opportunity. Not only were the positions I found more challenging than my previous summer jobs, they also gave me an opportunity to gain practical experience of great benefit to future employers, even before I graduated. For example, through the co-op program, I was employed as the media and public relations co-ordinator for an innovative federal government project. That taught me how to work effectively with the local and national media -- a very useful skill that added significant value to my professional portfolio.

A third opportunity for students to add value to their degree is available through the campus chapters of major professional associations. For a fraction of the standard membership fee, students can gain access to these associations' educational and networking opportunities. The mentorship connections with experienced professionals can enhance their understanding of the professional world and facilitate their advancement within it. I am living proof students can offset the rising cost of education by taking advantage of professional development opportunities on campus.

More here


For more than two generations, this state's public schools have systematically robbed Latino and African-American children of equal educational opportunity ---- pushing them through school via "social promotions" that advanced them in grade without a commensurate advancement in learning. The arrival of Superintendent Alan Bersin in San Diego helped change that. He showed that a back-to-basics approach that refused to sell minority children short could succeed in raising not only their academic achievement, but their educational expectations.

With the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation providing millions of dollars in funding for Bersin's reform efforts, the SDUSD program has become a model for how to refocus schools' attention from high-achieving, middle-class white students to an approach that refuses to sell any student short.

Bersin's leadership is already providing dividends here in North County. It's difficult to imagine the Oceanside Unified School District's own back-to-basics approach having been taken were it not for the existing SDUSD example. Today, of course, nearly every district in our area has some sort of similar program to ensure that every child, no matter his or her socioeconomic background, leaves school with a real education.

And yet Zimmerman and school board ally John de Beck have continued to fight Bersin's reforms, claiming to defend the interests of minority children while opposing every proposal that would benefit these very students. Instead, in concert with the teachers union (which has continually endorsed and supported both Zimmerman and de Beck), this board minority has cast literacy programs as a "remedial stalag."

Why? Because the teachers who support them prefer to teach the college-prep and advanced placement courses that the high-achievers take. And who wouldn't rather teach kids who are self-motivated, for whom learning comes naturally?

But that's not why our public schools exist. And so if the immediate, short-term effect of Bersin's reforms is to de-emphasize college prep courses at schools like La Jolla High, taking a longer view forces us to recognize that revamping our schools to ensure true equal opportunity for all students requires a large, agenda-setting district like SDUSD to take the lead.

More here


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

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