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College reality

News Herald – Juliann Talkington

Juliann

In a few weeks tens of thousands of young Americans will leave home and begin the “college experience”. As they descend on campuses across the country, they will be greeted by impressive buildings, acclaimed alumni, elaborate social functions, and luxury hotel-like accommodations. In addition to getting used to their new “homes”, these newly minted adults will be asked to select majors that prepare them for post college employment.

Interestingly, the university structure and incentives may not always be aligned with what is best for students.

Universities are broken into departments. Each department is responsible for running a profitable business or demonstrating that there is enough demand for its offerings that it would be foolish for the university to close the department. Departments like engineering generally have large research budgets, so they are less concerned about student enrollment than departments like the humanities and social sciences that have fewer research dollars.

As might be expected, the departments with fewest research dollars generally work hardest to convince students to select majors within their purview. Until 15-20 years ago, this model worked well, because it was possible to obtain high quality employment with a wide variety of university degrees.

Technology has improved access to information so much that many jobs related to compiling, organizing, and disseminating information have already been or are being eliminated. Careers that have been hardest hit are law, social sciences, and the humanities.

Since there are fewer job opportunities for people with these degrees, many college graduates find it difficult to procure jobs that pay a premium over what was available to them before they attended college.

This shift creates a dilemma for the parents of a child who did not develop a proclivity for math in high school. Does the parent have the resources to send the child to college so he/she can graduate without debt and go on to a job that he/she most likely could have obtained without attending college? Is it better to consider a high paying trade like plumbing or electricity, rather than expending money on college? Or is it wiser to encourage the child to go to a community college and learn math, so he/she has the skills to obtain a college degree with higher earning potential?

It is a tough decision, but is something that should be discussed before a family blindly spends large sums of money on a college education that does little to improve a child’s long term earning potential.

Librarians: Information literacy is a must-have skill

E-School News – Laura Ascione Devaney

“Nearly half of librarians in a recent survey said their libraries do not advocate for information literacy as much as they should. The ProQuest survey of 217 librarians from higher education, K-12 schools and public libraries reveals that while 83 percent said information literacy has a large impact on college graduation rates, and though 97 percent of those surveyed said information literacy leads to success in the workforce, just 44 percent believe their libraries adequately support the skill. Only 21 percent of surveyed librarians said they believe their library patrons recognize information literacy’s effect on lifelong success, while 34 percent said their patrons do not recognize it and 33 percent were unsure.”(more)

Librarians: Students Need to Master Information Literacy to Succeed

Education World – Nicole Gorman

“In a ProQuest survey of librarians from university, community college, high school and public libraries, the group agreed that in order for students to successfully be prepared for the “real world,” they need to master information literacy skills. Unfortunately, that same group said while they sometimes help students master these skills, it’s not nearly as often or as thoroughly as they would like.”(more)

Understanding science an important gift

News Herald – Juliann Talkington

Juliann

We are the cusp of modifying, controlling, and creating life. Human to human brain sharing, artificial life forms, and robot swarms are all reality. Even though these technologies are in the early stages of development and are still too expensive and complicated for widespread use, it is not too early to start preparing for the eventual impact these discoveries will have on society.

Unlike earlier scientific advances, these breakthroughs come with a myriad of ethical issues. What kind of security is necessary to protect individuals from having information shared or removed from their brains? What are the safety issues and risks associated with releasing artificial life forms into the environment? Should man be playing God and creating life that does not exist in nature? What happens if robots work together without humans?

Unsettling, certainly. Terrifying, if our children are not able to keep their brains and bodies safe.

There is a delicate balance between the benefits of these new technologies and safety. Used in the right ways, these scientific advances could provide everyone with a much higher quality of life. Used in the wrong ways, these discoveries could lead to the destruction of humankind.

As a result, it is imperative that parents prepare their children to ask good questions and make wise decisions about the use of these new technologies.

First, parents must embrace change. Even though it was not imperative to understand science 30 years ago, it is now. This means science education needs to be a top priority for all children. Science, especially chemistry and physics, requires a strong math background, so kids need high math proficiency as well. Fortunately, there are many free online tools available to supplement what children learn at school including courses and materials available through the Kahn Academy, MIT, and Stanford.

Academic learning alone, however, is not enough. Everyone needs to be aware of the latest technical advances. Many articles about scientific discoveries are now written for a lay people, so it is possible for the general population to stay up to date on the latest innovations.

In addition to encouraging children to read about cutting edge scientific research, it is also important to talk about the potential positives and negatives of these new technologies. As with drugs and alcohol, discussion and awareness helps prepare kids to make wise decisions about how they will allow these technologies to interact with their bodies and lives.

Teach your children to THINK

News Herald – Juliann Talkington

Juliann

Efforts to control the minds of children are at an all-time high. Most kids spend a lot of time learning “what to think” and very little time learning “how to think”. As a result, parents need to take a proactive role to make sure their children are not manipulated.

Mind control has been an issue since the beginning of human existence. The difference today is a new communication medium, the Internet. At first it was a relatively unbiased source of information. As it has matured, governments and companies have learned to control it.

Now Internet searches are based on the preferences of the owners and employees of the search engine companies and paid advertisers. In addition, social media companies have started censoring dialog. Twitter and Facebook recently deleted accounts from people who were promoting ideas that were not popular with company management. While most people do not agree with the viewpoints presented in these accounts, it does not mean it is wise to remove these dissenting voices. If companies can cut these accounts, what prevents them from cutting other accounts when it is political expedient?

History is written by the winners and is often sanitized to support specific political agendas. As a result, school history is generally far from reality. The problem is compounded because standard textbooks are rarely complemented with materials that include opposing viewpoints.

In addition, journalists and writers have prejudices that are based on upbringing, education, and access to information which means most news stories have a significant slant.

In higher education, professors tend to promote similar perspectives, because the tenure and publication system discourages alternative thought. This uniformity of ideas is dangerous, because it can lead to myopia. Some people argue that theories having to do with manmade climate change, technical capabilities of ancient civilizations, and brain differences between genders have not been properly vetted because of this bias.

Fortunately, it is possible for parents to circumvent the mind control efforts. First kids need to learn discipline. Then they need to be taught how to research, respectfully question conventional thinking, and present alternative viewpoints. After that it is important for parents to make sure schools are using textbooks and supporting materials that cover subjects from a variety of perspectives.

Finally, it is imperative for families to discuss classroom topics at home. This way parents can expose their children to viewpoints they may not be hearing at school.