Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Dissertation: Education as a National Security Issue

Another potential dissertation topic is the intersection of education and training, and national security. If I wrote on this topic, I'd plan to structure my dissertation along the following lines.

High School: I'd like to examine how America educates its young people, in Kindergarten through graduation generally, but specifically examining the content and standards applied to high school education. Part of my intent would be to identify what skill sets are necessary for success in the civilian job market, and what skills are necessary for success in the enlisted ranks of the military.

College/University: My examination of college and university education would be similar to my discussion of high school, but with focus on military commissioning programs in lieu of the enlisted ranks. There are a number of issues surrounding modern university education that impact both the civilian job market, and the quality of the officers we commission into the military. I would examine some of these prominent issues, and propose improvements to bridge that gap.

Trade Schools and Apprenticeships: The push to send more and more students into four year degree programs has led to a decline in the number of students who follow high school with vocational training. This has led to a shortage in skilled laborers, which has a corresponding fact on both the economy and the defense sector. I intend to discuss how an increased emphasis on trade schools, apprenticeships, and other vocational training programs could enhance America's national security.

Beyond specific institutions and programs, I'd also like to examine the following programs as they relate to education and national security.

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics: One of the big acronyms in discussions of education is "STEM": science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. I've found that my interest in STEM - even the mathematics portion - has grown since I left school as I've identified projects on my own that have encouraged that interest. STEM education and encouraging students' interest in STEM is critical to America's continued security, so I'd like to do some research on that as well.

Language and Culture: The other major challenge America's schools face is improving their ability to instruct students in foreign languages and cultures. For the benefit of America's economy and its defense, language and cultural expertise is critical, and America is not currently producing enough high school or college graduates with the appropriate skills to meet these needs. I'd like to explore this and make some suggestions on how to fill this gap.

Educated Citizen Body and National Security: Finally, there's the question of whether or not America's schools produce competent voters - this being the ostensible justification for providing publicly funded education in the first place. Regardless of one's political leanings, things like voter turnout and polling suggest that most Americans neither follow politics very closely, nor do they understand how the government works, nor are they cognizant of topics outside their immediate experience like budgetary issues or foreign policy. Thus, a challenge exists: how do we adjust our system to get people engaged in the political process, and to get them to vote responsibly as well? I'd like to take a stab at it.

As I write this blog post, I realize that any one of these items could be an essay unto itself. If I select this as a dissertation, or possibly as a longer research project at some point later, I may very well approach it as a series of research projects on each individual item.

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