The Fracture of American Education

A "fracture" is defined as the separation of an object into two or more parts because of being under stress. Today, the American education system is under extreme stress, as it is attacked from the right for being too expensive, from the left as not holding teachers accountable, and from the business community, as not providing the graduate students industry needs. This stress is splitting education into two groups of students and educators; haves and have nots.

After World War Two, the United States recognized the need to educate all its citizens. The technological advances of the war made it clear that the future would require massive numbers of well- educated and technologically sophisticated workers. Finding such as these were also supported by reports from the American Society of Engineering Education which was appointed in May 1952 to study this problem and produced the groundbreaking report, "Summary of the Report on Evaluation of Engineering Education" known as the Grinter report. The age of atomic energy would require larger numbers of trained employees in engineering sciences.

The result of reports such as this was the opening of university doors to increasing number of Americans. The United States in nineteen fifties and sixties became the shining beacon of educational success to the world. Yet, today as the country enters the 21st century and a new era of technological advancement, we begin to see those doors closing. In the name of fiscal responsibility, conservative administrations around the country are balancing budgets by drastically reducing, or in many cases eliminating areas of education and technology. This year, the state of Florida will take $1.75 billion from its educational budget for grades K through 12, and additional significant amounts from its colleges. In states all across the country educational systems are under extreme stress, not to do more with less, but to do something with nothing.

At a time when the country desperately needs well trained and well educated workers, we are removing the very institutions that can provide them. In the years that I have been involved in education in this country, never have I seen such drastic cuts. This stress is creating two particular classes a people within our society, those who have the funds to seek education, and those are being denied access to education because of these cuts. Even as these administrations begin to reduce funding four educational systems throughout the country, the president of United States begins to list all the virtues and needs of having a better educated society to remain competitive in this technological world. These two forces are moving in opposite directions to each other and creating the very stresses that will break our system into two competing camps of haves and have-nots.

The poor, minorities, disenfranchised, will be forever locked out of the system because of economics', and declining opportunity as schools reduce instructors and become more selective in the types of students that they take in an effort to meet the requirements imposed by governments in these tight fiscal times. Already in states such as Michigan there is discussion underway to close half of the public school systems of the state in order to meet fiscal stability. With moves such as these it will not be long before we have seen the establishment of a permanent underclass that will be forever denied education. But this is not the only stress on the educational systems in this country. Teachers find themselves under attack by the very government that is extolling the needs for more educated populace.

In contrast to conservative interest, the Federal Department Education has begun to create its own stress on the educational system as it changes the requirements for instructors and for educational institutions that hire those instructors. In 2011 there'll be rule changes governing a significant sector of the educational systems in this country called "gainful employment". These regulations will require institutions to ensure that students graduating from their programs reach a certain level of heat up within the first two years after graduation, or risk losing their Federal funding to result of this is the institutions will eliminate many programs that have been having difficulty placing students into full-time positions in the numbers the department of education requires.

This also means that these same institutions have begun to shift away from hiring the most capable of teachers, to a posture of hiring the most educated instructors. In the last year I have often battled with institutions of this type concerning education for security professionals. Often, the most qualified person to teach a course in criminal justice will be a police officer. But, these individuals will often lack the upper level degrees institutions now seek to meet the guidelines of the department of education. This increase in the educational requirements is felt to be a theoretical way of guaranteeing that the programs will have the best educated person for the instructors, so the students will be better prepared.

This of course means that instructors that are police officers with years of experience in the field and highly qualified will be excluded from these positions because they lack upper level degrees, such as the master's degree and the Ph.D... This process will create any delete structure for college professors that, we upgrade the radical training, but lacked practical application, and experience. Strangely, one of the forces most active in creating this particular stress on the educational system is that portion of society which benefits the most, the private sector.

As the cost of educating professionals and employees in this country has risen, private industry has begun to look to foreign countries for qualified professionals to satisfy their job needs. A process of outsourcing has become a statement of fact for American business. As a result, the number of students applying for technological education in United States is on the decline, while competition for education in engineering and technology in countries such as China and India is on the increase. A prime example of this is the nation of Japan, which was once considered the technological rival of United States.

Today Japan's growing society is having trouble finding qualified employees to do the technological jobs that countries industries need. In the last half decade, Japan has been forced to import engineers, technicians, and scientist from India and China because it cannot graduate enough to meet the needs of its country. We're already beginning to see the development of a similar pattern in this country.

In the sixties, seventies, eighties and nineties, United States attracted far more students to universities here for advanced training than any other country in the world. In the last several years that process has begun to reverse. Students no longer see the United States as the mecca for education that it once was. As this process accelerates it will be easier to find cheaper professional labor in foreign countries for lesser salaries. As Jacob Kirkegaard wrote in his book, "The Accelerating Decline in America's High-Skilled Workforce: Implications for Immigration Policy,"

".... American skill levels have stagnated and struggled to make the global top 10. As baby boomers retire, the United States risks losing these skills altogether. In response, the United States should address high-skilled immigration in its broader foreign economic policies in an attempt to remain a global leader in the face of accelerating global economic "

Burnout and Educators

As globalization and technology continue to change the way in which businesses function, the need for highly skilled workers possessing the ability to synthesize, analyze and communicate will be the litmus test separating successful from unsuccessful economies. Where does the US fall in light of this? Can the US produce sufficient highly skilled workers to meet the demands of an ever evolving society? If the 2010 results of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is any indication then the US was found wanting.

The test results showed US students lagging behind many of their peers from other countries in core subject areas. This realization has once more invigorated the consistent intermittent debate surrounding quality education in US schools. In the aftermath of the report, the brainstorming sessions that follows will once more seek to unearth the impediments to the creation of a better education system. What will be discovered? An examination of prior measures unveiled to address the shortfalls of quality education to date, seems to focus consistently on educators as a causative element.

The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) (2002), as well as research which hints that a high quality teacher is the single most important factor that influences students academic performance give credence to the prior statement. These avenues which seek to focus on ways to increase academic achievement seem to hint that educators are the most critical element impacting the ability of students to perform academically. This conclusion has led to extreme pressures on educators to increase academic performances. These pressures while not new, for as Popham stated they existed prior to NCLB (2004) will increase in magnitude as the world continues to change. Can this continuous insistent pressure result in adverse effects for educators? What are the implications for the teaching and learning environment and invariably society?

Relentless pressure to perform in environments that are highly volatile is often conducive to burnout. This burnout is a nemesis to the creation of an education system that is capable of producing students equipped to deal with 21st century workplace challenges; skills which are critical to any country hoping to maintain or achieve a competitive advantage. Drucker makes this point when he coined the term "knowledge workers' and highlighted their importance for the success of 21st century businesses. This paper examines the principles of rest and highlights the value of rest to educators operating in contemporary educational environments.

The paper pinpoints the challenges facing contemporary American education system which may inhibit rest and brings clarity to the dangers of burnout - a condition created by lack of rest. Leaders in education as well as stakeholders are provided with clear guidelines which may be used to prevent burnout and promote rest. The paper ends with a plea for education leaders to adhere to the necessity to rest in order to construct learning environments capable of creating students with the analytical, synthesizing and communication skills that are critical to ensuring the demands of contemporary and future organizations.

The day started with an Individualized Education Plan for one of my students. Once the meeting was finished I analyzed the results from the summative assessment for forty students from the previous day. I realized that fifteen of my students did not grasp some of the key concepts from the lesson and so I commenced planning intervention strategies. Two strategies had to be different to accommodate two of my students who needed modified assignments. This activity took almost fifty minutes and so I had just enough time to adjust my lesson plans for the day. It was now five minutes before the start of class and as I checked my calendar I realized that I had a meeting at the end of the day with teachers from my department. I made a note to myself, just before I leave for the meeting I must remember to call the parents of three of my students as they were not completing homework and had started acting up in class. As I jotted the note, I glanced at the other meetings and forms that needed attention by the end of the week. As the bell rang one teacher passed my door and as I smiled politely and asked "how are you;" she looked at me and stated "I am overwhelmed, there seems to be so much to do and with all these meetings I am quite frankly exhausted."

Rest -the principle
"After God created Heaven and earth on the seventh day He rested (Genesis 2:2)." According to Botterweck, Ringgren & Fabry, this day, often recognized as the Sabbath stems from the word Sabat, symbolizing cessation from work (2004). Genesis 2 therefore set the precedence for mankind to take a break from work. As one journeys further into scriptures Hosea 10:12 "...fallow your ground..." when examined through Robbins Social Approach to understanding text represented a call for mankind to desist from their activity. While the verse may have held cultural implications for the Jews as they were farmers, the ramifications for mankind in contemporary society are no different. The principle demands that mankind be removed from the confines of work; that time be taken away from the everyday tasks.

The value of rest
The necessity for educators to rest is vital to the creation of effective teaching and learning environments. Outcalt (2005) believes that rest allows one to regain strength through the renewing of the mind. Rest is akin to the lubricant between two joints; it provides the conditions necessary for smooth operation without complications which may inhibit action. Rest is the indispensable ingredient that fosters motivation and drives creativity, without this ingredient motivation is stifled and the death of creativity fast-forwarded.

The value of rest and renewal to educators is critical to the creation of an effective and sustainable education system. As the world continues to evolve and the momentum of change accelerates, the pressure on educators to produce students who are academically proficient to manage the demands of the 21st century will continue to increase. This increased demand will force leaders and stakeholders to demand more from educators; a move which has the potential to drain educators physically, emotionally and spiritually as they work overtime to increase students' performance. Maslach and Leither (1997) convincingly made similar points when they stated that the speed and rate at which organizations are bombarded with changes may result in leaders and followers becoming physically and emotionally exhausted. In a bid to meet these demands the possibility that workers will lose rest is likely and unfortunate. Without rest creativity is stifled, motivation becomes a fantasy, competence is sacrificed and mediocrity flourishes. These outcomes erode creativity, innovation, collegial relations and productivity, the end result is that rest is sacrificed and inefficiency is given room to grow.

In a society where change is a constant and stability is a pipe dream the need to be constantly moving to be in sync with societal changes has the propensity to hinder rest. Managers and employees are often driven to work harder and longer to avoid mergers, downsizing, acquisitions and restructurings. The same holds true for educators; as standardized tests show many students not meeting the proficiency bar; as drop-out rates climbs; as more students exercise their first amendment right to explain how entertainers make big bucks with little education and therefore education is not important; and as law makers continue to increase the pressure on educators to produce better quality students, the necessity for rest often becomes blurred. For many educators when the pace and workload become too hectic depression, anxiety and stress are only a few outcomes. Muller made similar arguments when he stated that in today's world, with its unrelenting emphasis on achievement and efficiency it is possible to lose the essential rhythm of life and how best to create an equilibrium between work and rest (Muller, 2000).

In a world driven by competition, where only the best shapes an organizations competitive advantage, it is easy to overlook educators as people and not machines and it becomes easy to under-value the job they do. It is also very easy to target education systems as the place to make adjustments in order to address societal ills and its inability to produce only the best.

The onus placed on educators in the US to produce first class students in a constantly changing environment, creates an environment of high demands. These demands often unrealistic in nature (as education is by no means the sole responsibility of teachers) often result in stress and lethargy in the affected. Maslach and others (1997) succinctly made similar points when they stated that the burden placed on workers to increase productivity creates conditions that are conducive to burnout. Burnout takes away an individual's vigor, promotes lethargy, and reduces motivation and efficacy. Such end results negatively affects individuals ability to perform and thereby subtracts from any efforts to maintain or promote long term sustainable achievements.

The foundation of burnout

Burnout according to Maslach (1997) is a symbol of foremost failure of the organization to function normally, which is associated more to the state of mind of the organization rather than its followers. It may manifest itself in detachment, disinterest, hopelessness and de-motivation. According to Maslach (1997) these expressions are damaging to the individual on a personal as well as on a professional level. On a personal level, stress, health issues and anxiety are some of the end results. These personal afflictions spill over into the professional life and slowly drain the individual's ability to function at their fullest potential.

Burnout incapacitates the ability to think; to be innovative in coming up with new ideas; it limits creativity. It increases workers attrition which may show itself in increased absenteeism, distractions, loss of vigor. Follower's dedication diminishes and efficiency may ultimately suffer.

Eradicating Burnout
To prevent burnout Halgesen (2001) calls for both leaders and followers to create an environment of partnership where parties recognize the value of each other. Maslach, (1997) support this hypothesis when they call for organizations to ensure that they develop values clarification which they define as the expression of personal values and shared values resulting in the endorsed values by the organization (p. 133).

According to Maslach and Leiter building engagement with work is the solution to burnout. To this extent they noted some factors which if addressed will help to minimize or eliminate burnout.

• Sustainable workload: As 2011 budget debates begin, the need to cut budget for education is once more on the table. The teaching staff and support staff for many schools will once more be targeted. Leaders need to recognize that by removing well needed staff especially in failing schools, they are creating additional pressures on teachers. Evans (2001) posited that the continuous involvement of teachers in their work can lead to burnout; too much work has the ability to compound the situation. While teachers are afforded a long summer break, is it possible to shorten the summer break and distribute "rest days" evenly throughout the semester?

• Feelings of choice and control: Policy makers need to ensure that any policy created to promote academic achievement should give educators the impression that their voice counts and that they have control over aspects of the teaching and learning environment that counts.

• Recognition and reward: High quality education is a definitive factor that favors countries with a competitive advantage. This quality education if often accessed through educators, yet education is arguably one of the lowest paying professions. What can be done to change this?

• Fairness, respect and justice: As the debates continue to find the qualities to define quality teachers, the impetus to align pay with performance may be a
tempting morsel. This morsel should be discarded on two accounts. The first is that research against extrinsic motivation hints at the negative effects of this manner of getting results. Secondly, in an era when Learning communities are expected to be sharing medium where teachers utilize best practice from these sessions; how many teachers will be willing to share their best practices?

While the necessity to increase student's performance continue to reign as a topic worthy of discussion, budget cuts in areas of education seems to put the debate to rest. This has resulted in fewer educators, with heavier workloads and longer hours. This new trend goes against the demands of an era where students with analytical, synthesizing and communication skills are necessary to fulfill its demands. These decisions have the propensity to undervalue educators and may result in burnout; a condition which fosters inefficiency and mediocrity- traits which are not conducive to the creation of effective teaching and learning environments. To avoid this pit fall, leaders must be willing to examine techniques to prevent burnout, if any serious attempts are to be made to produce students with the skills necessary to function in 21st century environments.

How to Protect Yourself From a Tornado

Tornadoes are destructive and deadly! I have purposely put myself in the path of these types of severe weather events for many years now. I chase tornadoes, study them for the sake of science and spot them to report them to the public in an attempt to help save lives. I have seen the terror they can bring and witnessed firsthand accounts of how furious and dangerous they really are. A lot of people don't understand how deadly a tornado can be until they experience them up close and personal. However, there are key survival tactics when being threatened by an approaching tornado.

Basements and Cellars

If you have a basement or storm cellar near, you need to be inside of them. A tornado will "blow" everything in its path away as it moves into an area. The tornado does not "suck" things up so you should be safe in a basement or storm cellar rather than being above ground in the damage path of a tornado. There are suggestions of what part of the basement you should be in, these suggestions are myths. Be in any part of the basement that you wish just be the in basement during the storm and you will likely be just fine.


If you are in a vehicle and you see a tornado getting close to you, there are several options you can do. You can attempt to drive away from it if you can tell what direction it is going and you are far enough away that you can safety get away. You can also drive your vehicle into a low lying area or ditch and get down in the floor board. The vehicle will provide more protection but there is also a chance it can get thrown around in the storm. One of the better methods is to lay down in a ditch or low lying area and cover your head with your hands.

At work or school

If you are at work or school and a tornado is coming, you should follow the advice of those in charge of your safety. If there is no advice given, then go to a hallway or restroom that has no windows and it on the interior portion of the building. You should get down to the ground and cover your head to protect it from flying glass and debris.

After the storm!

After the tornado has passed, you need to move around with caution. There is likely going to be down power lines and electrical systems that are still live and can electrocute you to death. There may be natural gas around that could explode at any moment. There may be trapped people in the debris that needs help of emergency responders. Never drive around to spot damage after a tornado because you are only getting in the way of emergency responders that are trying to get to people in need of emergency assistance. Be safe out there, folks!

Crustaceans of the World

Crustaceans form a very large group of arthropods that are usually treated as a sub-phylum and have about 67,000 species worldwide. They range in size from the Stygotantulus stocki at.1mm or.004 in. to the Japanese spider crab with an impressive leg span of up to twelve and a half feet or 3.8 meters. Like all arthropods, crustaceans wear their skeleton on the outside of their bodies. These outside skeletons are known as exoskeletons. Due to having an exoskeleton, crustaceans like all arthropods, must shed their exoskeleton periodically in order to grow. This process is called moulting. After moulting, they are in a very vulnerable state until their new soft exoskeleton hardens.

Crustaceans live mostly in the water but some are terrestrial such as woodlice, fish lice and tongue worms. Some, like barnacles or sessiles live in the water but as the tide rolls out find themselves in the open air attached to rocks, pilings, hulls of ships or boats and even on whales. Some of the familiar crustaceans that live in the water include crabs, lobsters, crayfish, shrimp and krill; all of which are tasty treats to seafood lovers with the exception of krill, which is a favorite delicacy of Humpback whales.

Crustaceans have been around for millions of years and have evolved some unique body designs. The body of a crustacean is composed of three distinct body segments; the head or cephalon, the thorax, and the pleon or abdomen. Depending upon the species, the head and the thorax may be fused together to form a cephalothorax, which may be protected by a large carapace. It is common for each body segment to bear a pair of appendages.

These appendages make up unique tools for the animal to use in its environment. The head segment has a pair of antennae and a pair of mandibles. The thorax is where the legs grow, which may be used for walking or feeding. The abdomen bears pleopods or swimming legs and is often flanked by a fan-shaped tail.

The circulatory system of crustaceans is located in the main body cavity and is usually referred to as an open circulatory system. Blood is pumped through this system by a heart near the dorsum. The kidneys or a structure that works similar to kidneys are located near the antennae. Also close to the antennae in the form of ganglia lies the brain.

Crustaceans have three main ways to reproduce. Most species are made up of males and females and reproduce sexually. A small percentage are hermaphrodites, which means they have both male and female reproductive systems. In the crustacean's world, it is not unusual for a male to change into a female or a female to change into a male; this usually happens when there is a shortage or lack of a certain sex. Many crustaceans reproduce through parthenogenesis, by which viable eggs are produced by a female without fertilization.

Next time you dip that delicious piece of crab meat in garlic butter, take a moment to ponder that you are filling your belly with one of the oldest and numerous animals on Earth.

Christopher spends his time on freelance writing, writing for change, seminars and private sessions to help people manifest the life they want to live. For weekly tips and information about upcoming events, subscribe to his periodic email list.

Hydroponics and Beneficial Microorganisms

Hydroponics is a subtype of hydro-culture or growing plants in water with nutrient solutions. It is a soil-less way of planting.Hydroponics derived its name from the Greek word "hydro" or water and "ponos" meaning labor. William Frederick Gericke of the University of California at Berkeley was one of the first ones to cultivate plants on mineral nutrient solutions. Gericke coined the term hydroponics in 1937 (although he asserts that the term was suggested by W. A. Setchell, of the University of California).

Through these types of studies, it was discovered that plants could thrive not only in soil, but also in water, since water contains the essential nutrients and beneficial microorganisms that are also present in the soil.

Hydroponics turned out to be more advantageous than soil culture, because pests are easy to control in this type of system. In natural conditions, soil acts as a mineral nutrient reservoir but the soil itself is not essential to plant growth. When the mineral nutrients in the soil dissolve in water, plant roots are able to absorb them. When the required mineral nutrients are introduced into a plant's water supply artificially, soil is no longer required for the plant to thrive. Almost any terrestrial plant will grow with hydroponics.

Since the water environment of the plant can be controlled, nutrient solutions can be incorporated into the water depending on the nutrient needs of the plant. Many hydroponics growers also incorporate beneficial microorganism as supplements to nutrients in the water.

There is actually a full range of ways to benefit from beneficial microorganisms, which can be utilized in hydroponics. The secret is only to know when to apply and how much to apply. Here are some of the benefits.

Development of Seeds and Clones: Beneficial microorganisms are not just used on the hydroponics systems itself, but also for propagating seeds and also on developing the cuttings. This stage of crucial development in plant life and beneficial bacteria will help boost the growth and development of these plants and cuttings. During this time, the microbe incorporation should be three times the normal use.

Elimination of Pathogens in the System: Harmful microorganisms that cause diseases increase even in the hydroponic systems during root development. These harmful microorganisms, which are also called pathogens, result to plant diseases or plant death. There are certain types of beneficial microbes that kill these pathogens.

It is important to know what type of pathogen is attacking the system to know what type to incorporate in the hydroponics system. Moreover, these also strengthen plants defenses against harmful pathogens in a way like the immune system is boosted by supplements.

Boosts Nutrient Uptake of Hydroponics Plants: Most good microorganisms types boost the nutrient uptake of plants in the hydroponics system by keeping the roots healthy by strengthening roots and increasing root size, since it is the one responsible for absorption. When spraying leaves with foliar fertilizer, these microorganisms may also be incorporated in the solution to enable the stomata of the leaves to absorb better.

Makes the Environment Suitable for Plant Growth: Beneficial microorganisms control the environment such as correcting the atmospheric nitrogen and producing nitrogen for plants, since plants cannot produce their own. Some fungi types also help in assimilating phosphorous when incorporated in the hydroponics system.

Hydroponics is a new way in cultivating plants where the environment can be controlled to eliminate any usual problems experienced from soil gardening. The strategy is to provide an environment that plants can thrive on and this is through providing the correct amount of nutrients supplemented with incorporating beneficial microorganisms.