In the previous column, we looked at the rapid growth of knowledge and the growing challenge of staying current in a knowledge hyper-expansion. The five “Ws,” or who, what when, why and where were not even mentioned, except collectively in the title. I believe exploring these areas is essential to the continued existence of humanity, individually, collectively and societally. So let’s get started.
WHO needs education and training considering the individual, or is it whom should we educate or train? The simple answer is everyone. Yet enveloping all humans in the process does not exist today nor has it in the past. In the era of Socrates, how many people received formalized education.
The question is strongly related to the goals of a given society. If, as in the United States, all people are born equal, everyone is owed education and training, but to what level is debatable. From the “120 Years of American Education: A Statistical Portrait,” at https://nces.ed.gov, in 1900 only 55 percent of whites and 32 percent of blacks aged 5 to 19 years old were enrolled in school. By 1991, enrollment has risen to 95 percent of everyone. In 91 years the perception of all needing some level of education (high school) had become reality. In 1940, only five percent of the US population has a college degree. By 2015, the number had risen to 30.6 percent. Is this really needed? It is really more complicated than yes or no.
Another aspect of who is who foots the bill. Education and training obviously has a price tag and in the United States society picks up the tab through high school unless the student or the parents or guardian prefers to pay. Society pays through taxes with at least one exception. Often businesses provide training to qualify the new employee for doing the job. As an example, all of the military services have basic training for new recruits.
WHAT education and training is needed and who should provide it? Notice the “what” question includes a “who.” From a societal perspective the society should provide what is needed for the individual to become a contributing member of society. Defining “contributing” is a major challenge worthy of much debate but, in my estimation, it means law abiding people capable of supporting themselves and their dependents through the first two and one half of Maslow’s Hierarchy. The individual must have the minimum essential skills to participate as a citizen, communicate with others, continue to learn, and to perform compensatable tasks (work). To me this includes reading, writing, and arithmetic but to what level needs further definition. It must also include an understanding of society and how he or she will function within it and why it is the way it is.
WHEN this education and training should take place is a straight forward question, or is it? In the United States you acquire the right to vote and become a “full” citizen at the age of 18. But you cannot buy an alcoholic beverage until you are 21. When I was 18, the voting age was 21, but I could buy a beer in New York. So are you really a complete citizen at 18, or does the government (society) still owe you more education and training?
Society is evolving and becoming much more complex. Note the growth of college graduates from 1940 to2015 cited above. Is this really needed, will the percentage continue to grow, and, if so, when should the individual really receive the education and training.
WHY should be an easy factor to analyze and estimate. As the world becomes more complex and the knowledge domain grows, more insight and skills are needed to survive, advance, and make a living. Employers use education and training as an indicator of whom to hire, knowing that the new hire will need to be trained in the employer’s business. In an overly simple example, would a hospital hire a liberal arts major to be a heart surgeon? Obviously not. But if the employer needs people to manage functions unique to the business, a postsecondary educational achievement provides an indicator of trainability.
Finally there is WHERE. Where does the education and training take place? Obviously, after being hired, the employer does some of it, usually. As mentioned above, if someone enlists in the military, there is a training period. But if someone attends a service academy, some of the education involves generalized military training. Where becomes a balance of learning institutions and employers. The learning institutions become a foundation, sometimes with the inclusion of technical detail, while the employer provides job specific knowledge and training. The issue becomes one of cost and HOW much the individual must pay to become qualified. And the HOW is related directly to the efficiency of the systems as well a society in general.
WHERE includes the options of classroom, home schooling, public/private institutions, distance learning, self-learning, certifications, licensing, and on and on. All of these methods generate costs. How are they paid?