Sunday, June 27, 2010

Future of U.S. Education Looks Bleak

If you have any interest in K-12 education, then I recommend this three-part series based on the book, Education and the Crisis of Public Values, to be published by Peter Lang Publishing Group. Although I am not enrolled in an education graduate program, I have been following the trends closely. Education was an area I studied in my undergraduate days. It is hard to believe that teaching was once a respected profession, but it is slowly eroding as external influences determine how and what children should learn. Sometimes, I wonder what will happen to the future of education in the United States. Right now, it looks very bleak.
Underlying these transformations are a number of forces eager to privatize schools, substitute vocational training for education and reduce teaching and learning to reductive modes of testing and evaluation. - In Defense of Public School Teachers in a Time of Crisis

  • Dumbing Down Teachers: Attacking Colleges of Education in the Name of Reform (Part I)

  • Teachers Without Jobs and Education Without Hope: Beyond Bailouts and the Fetish of the Measurement Trap (Part 2)

  • Chartering Disaster: Why Duncan's Corporate-Based Schools Can't Deliver an Education That Matters (Part 3)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Forbes: Worst Master's Degrees List

Last month, Forbes ranked the best and worst master's degrees. The magazine considered job growth and mid-career earnings. It received a lot of attention and backlash due to incorrect facts and figures (for instance, Payscale data is very misleading). It also just happens that my favorite fields (social work, library science, and education) were listed among the worst category.

Here are my thoughts: Although I am very disappointed with the list, I do not take it seriously. I have no regrets in my choice of fields. I am learning analytical and leadership skills in my graduate program. Not everyone can become a scientist or physician assistant. Payscale figures are also not credible because it doesn't take into account a person's practice area. Social work and library science are very diverse fields; the practice area can lead to different salary levels. The list is also discriminatory because women disproportionately attain most of the "worst degrees."

The bottom line is focus on what interests you, excel in the subject, and your career will take off from there. Don't listen to dubious rankings that adopt arbitrary data. I love this comment because it reveals why society needs librarians:
Forbes should have asked someone with a Master's degree in Library & Information Science about the difference between nurses and PAs. This is what happens when information professionals are devalued in our society.

[UPDATE] In 2012, Forbes revisited this list with their ranking of best and worst master's degrees for jobs. It removed social work from the list (woo-hoo!), but library and information science still remains on the list for worst master's degrees.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Obama's Next Task: Reading and Childhood Obesity

First Lady Michelle Obama launched the "Let's Move, Let's Read" program to encourage children to exercise, eat healthy, and read during the summer vacation. It is part of her national campaign against childhood obesity and reading loss. She wants children to read at least five books during the months they are not in school.

However, there are several flaws to her plan because it does not address funding for public libraries in high-poverty areas which are disproportionately urban and rural. Most school children will rent books from their local libraries, yet state governments nationwide continue to cut funding towards public libraries. During this economic recession, more people are flocking to public libraries than ever for educational, employment, and recreational purposes. The first lady should advocate for public libraries if she wants her campaign to be successful.

Be A Social Worker!

I found this website,, where prospective students can learn more about the profession. It includes topics such as code of ethics, professional standards, and education and licensing requirements. The site also lists ten areas you can use your social work degree: seniors and aging; children and families; health and wellness; mental health; private practice; education and research; advocacy and legislation; corporations and nonprofit organizations; military and veterans; and community organizing. (my favorite areas are emphasized in bold text)

I took the quiz, What Type of Social Worker Will You Be?, and my top score was management and administration followed by education and research. If you are a macro social worker looking for nonprofit leadership positions, a Kansas social work professor posted a list of excellent links.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Social Work and Dual Degree Programs

The Social Work Today newsletter released this article in its September/October 2009 issue. After completing my first year in a dual-degree program, I should discuss this popular topic: Should you pursue a dual-degree in social work and another discipline?

The article does an excellent job laying out the facts, arguments, and research. It also lists samples of institutions that provide dual-degree programs in social work and another discipline.
...having only a social work degree is not enough to obtain a fulfilling job. Faced with an increasingly competitive job market tightened further by the economic recession, many social workers are looking for ways to differentiate themselves from the rest of the pack to secure the positions they want. And, for some social work students, the way to stand out in the crowd is by completing a dual degree program. These programs allow students to pursue an MSW and a degree in another discipline in parallel, making it possible for students to earn the degrees in less time than it would take to earn them separately.

Dual degrees aren’t new in social work, but they are attracting more attention from universities and students adapting to the profession’s increasingly interdisciplinary nature.

Nevertheless, there are drawbacks. I caution people to only pursue dual-degrees if you are passionate about both fields. In other words, pursue the dual-degree only if it is absolutely necessary for your future career goals. It is a major endeavor mentally and financially (It can take an additional year to finish, and you won't graduate with your incoming cohort). There can also be a sense of isolation if there are only few people who share your academic interests (I discovered my other interests -- library and information science -- makes me very unique among my peers).
Despite the benefits of a dual degree, the programs are not for everyone. In fact, they often come with major obstacles that turn off some students. The primary obstacle is that the investment of time and money needed to complete a dual degree program—though less than that needed to earn two degrees separately—is significantly larger than that needed to get an MSW alone.

The good news is that dual-degree students, on average, receive higher earnings and have more access to management positions after graduation. The bottom line is that one should do careful, thorough research before they apply to multiple disciplines. Figure out where your interests intersect and decide whether another degree makes sense. Otherwise, just stick with the MSW degree.
However, a 2008 study (Miller, Hopkins, & Greif) suggests that a dual degree can speed the advancement of a social worker’s career. Forty-two percent of the 72 dual degree graduates who participated in the study reported that they were hired into management positions for their first job after graduation. The authors also found that the mean salaries of the dual degree graduates ($60,000) were higher than the National Association of Social Workers’ published mean for all social workers ($47,200).

[UPDATE 09/2012]: I will complete a dual-master's degree in higher education and social work at the University of Michigan in 2013.