Sunday, February 04, 2007

Beyond K-12: “Education” that Falls Between the Cracks

Historians of education like Lawrence Cremin, along with other foundations scholars, have stressed for decades that a great deal of “education” happens outside standard k-12 classrooms. Education of many different kinds, especially for impoverished youth, takes place in a range of community-based settings outside families, including churches, youth groups, boys and girls clubs, child-care centers, foster-care placements, group homes, correctional institutions and more. Yet schools of education focus nearly all their attention on schools and on positions in schools that require professional licensure.

There are real opportunities in these non-traditional settings for schools of education to become involved. Two areas seem especially promising.
  • Youth Work: Youth workers engage with families and children in a range of different settings, including group homes, foster-care placements, community-based organizations, correctional institutions, and a range of other settings. While some of these workers pursue degrees in social work, in my experience few are prepared for the specific jobs they are required to do.

  • Child Care: Child care workers care for children in a wide range of settings. The national child care association has begun to require that these workers take courses for college credit and there is an increasing demand for college degrees. There is also a new national certification for child care administrators that requires 18 college credits.
Many people out are interested in or already working in these areas that would be attracted to a degree program that would focus on educational issues outside traditional k-12 classrooms. And these areas would benefit from people who had received academic preparation specifically to prepare them for these non-traditional education positions.

Our department is currently expanding our offerings in both of these areas. We are working with the Youth Work Certificate program offered out of our university’s School of Continuing Education, since their courses are cross-listed with our department. And our department has always offered classes in child care, although this focus has been much reduced in recent years. Because of new college credit requirements for child care workers, we will be offering a number of new courses in the next few years. Interestingly, the base enrollment is coming from the University’s child care center, since they need these courses to meet the new requirements. But this will provide a base for us to draw in new interested students from around the city.

I believe these offerings will attract an even wider group of students who work in a diverse range of community-service organizations like homeless shelters, women’s shelters, health centers, neighborhood organizations, and other areas. While we already have many students with jobs like these, by including these new specific focuses in our marketing, I believe we will attract even more.

As I have argued before, these “educational” arenas that tend to fall through the cracks of other schools and departments offer possibilities for foundations departments around the nation. In many cases, our departments offer a unique focus on the social and community contexts in which these workers operate, while encouraging students to critique the oppressive aspects of the institutions that many youth find themselves confined to.  

1 comment:

Ruth Joy said...

I think, too, that as preservice teachers are required to participate in service learning and to reflect on their experiences, they may find themselves drawn to education outside the K-12 classroom setting. They are being exposed to situations that they have not been aware of before.