Alternative Education: The Forgotten Frontier (by Miri Jarrett)

Becoming More Informed: A Proposal

Growing up my parents always used to tell me getting a formal education was the only way I can get a good job that would make my future secure. A large part of this was because they didn’t have a traditional education upbringing and they didn’t want their children to experience the same struggles they had. While my mother received her High School diploma and went off to the University of Oregon, she never completed her college experience and ended up dropping outMiriPic when she was 19. My father started his high school career in Germany while my grandfather was stationed there and they moved back to the states halfway through his senior year. Because of this drastic change my father decided to drop out and receive his GED instead of his diploma. To him, finishing high school to receive his diploma seemed like a waste of time and he wanted to get on with his life. All throughout my life they constantly were telling my sisters and I to get good grades, finish high school, and to get into a good college. To them, anything less wasn’t good enough because they didn’t want us to endure the struggles they faced in their own experiences.

Alternative education as a whole is important to me because I don’t believe receiving your GED is just as bad as dropping out of school completely or that not finishing college means you won’t have the same opportunities as you would with a college degree. After researching different alternative education programs and interviewing people who did receive their GED, it made me realize the horrible stereotypes that surround these choices is what hinders people in believing these choices are what holds them back. In order to help improve education as a whole in our society, we need to accept the alternative schooling options, like the GED program, are academically equal to having your High School Diploma.

In an interview I conducted with my father I asked him “Do you think having your GED hindered you in anyway? If so, can you tell me an experience it did?” His response was “There were times where I ran into roadblocks, usually when it involved a job in an educational environment or one that required skills I knew I had but they wanted to see the diploma that went with it”. This is an example I remember him using when he would talk to my sisters and I about how important receiving a diploma was. He never wanted us to experience the hardship he did when he set out into the working field. The problem with today’s educational society is we have forgotten why the GED program was established to begin with. While doing my research I knew I needed to find out where the GED began and why. It is important to know about the beginnings because it didn’t always have a negative aura surrounding it.

During World War II this program was established to help our veterans to finish school when they got back from the war. It was created to be equal to the High School Diploma since many of our veterans joined the war before they finished their formal schooling. In 1947 this test became available to civilians when “New York became the first state to allow civilian high school dropouts to use the GED credential in place of a high school diploma” (Ryder and Hagedorn). Once civilians had the opportunity to take the GED test “Participation in the GED testing program increased rapidly, from 61,000 people taking the test in 1960 to 293,000 in 1969” (Ryder and Hagedorn). This could be because baby boomers from World War II were at the 18-22 age restriction age the GED program had put in place. However, over the years the GED program developed the negative stereotype that students who take this program are lazy, delinquents, or are taking the easy way out. There was an age limit put in place to make sure the dropout rate in public high schools didn’t increase. If we can get back to remembering the reason why this program was established, education as a whole can drastically improve.

My Father wasn’t the only one who felt the hardships he faced when people found out he had a GED. In a research study conducted by William Kist, he interviewed several college students who also had their GED. One student in an interview stated “I noticed that people don’t look down on you, but they feel like you are not smart enough” (Kist). While the GED program was first started to be equal to the High School Diploma, many students who choose to receive their GED don’t feel equal because of the stereotype that surrounds it. In order to help these students feel empowered we need to bring back the equality because the two certificates. One way we can do that is having freshman orientation programs designed towards students who have their GED. This will be a great gateway for them to figure out the best way they can learn within a classroom setting again. It would also be a great way to show these students they aren’t alone. In the same interview Kist conducted, another student felt the biggest challenge they faced was “learning to work with different people where you are thrown into a big group situation and having to deal with people you might not necessarily agree with” (Kisk). Due to the nature of the GED program you aren’t learning in a classroom setting anymore. In a study conducted by Karen Blue she stated “Although many studies show college readiness is also an issue for traditional high school graduates, by comparison, college readiness continues to be more problematic for the GED recipients even though a GED is supposed to be equivalent to a high school diploma”. By providing these students with a gateway to get back into this style of learning, it will go a long way to making them feel a part of something and not isolated.

Not only does this negative stereotype follow students in the Educational world, but also in the professional world. On job applications today there is a section under school that asks if you have your High School Diploma or your GED. In an interview I conducted with my own Employer I asked, “If you had the choice to hire someone who marked Yes I have a diploma or someone who marked Yes I have a GED, who would you hire if all their other qualifications where the same? Why?” His reply was “I would be more inclined to hire the applicant who received their High School diploma. Even though both candidates have the same qualifications to me, having a High School diploma means they are more reliable”. Even though both documents are defined as equal, many employers still think someone with their GED isn’t as good as a candidate as someone with their High School diploma. By removing that simple question on a job application the applicant who said they had their GED might have received the job. It would also give this candidate a chance to prove their skills then be, for a lack of a better term, discriminated because of how they received their education.

In order to change the educational system, we first need to change the way we define education. This could be the first step to many to help students understand normal, traditional education isn’t for everyone. That it is ok to ask and look for other alternatives if these alternatives will help them learn. As a society we can help these students by showing them these alternatives are accepted as well. We can do this by having programs put in place to help the transition for students with their GEDs when they attend college. We can also do this by removing a simple question from job applications. In order to help improve education as a whole in our society, we need to accept the alternative schooling options, like the GED program, are academically equal to having your High School Diploma. To quote Nelson Mandela “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.

Works Cited

Blue, Karen Leigh. “Academic Trajectories Of Community College Students: A Comparative

Study Of GED Recipients and Traditional High School Graduates.” (2015). 8 March. 2017.

Jarrett, Robert. “Community Based Learning Interview.” E-mail interview. 4 Feb. 2017.

Questions regarding his educational experience and how his views changed when he had children in school.

Kisk, William. “Non-Academic Challenges Faced By GED Scholars: A Report Of The GED Scholars

Initiative.” Adult Learning 14.3 (2003): 11-13. Academic Search Premier. Web. 18 Feb. 2017.

Ryder, Andrew J., and Linda Serra Hagedorn. “GED And Other Noncredit Courses: The Other

Side Of The Community College.” New Directions For Institutional Research 2012.153 (2012): 21-31. Academic Search Premier. Web. 18 Feb. 2017.

Woodbury, Gerry. “Community Based Learning Interview.” Personal interview. 1 Mar. 2017.

Questions regarding his views on education and how it can affect the application process.

A Short Annotated Bibliography

Kisk, William. “Non-Academic Challenges Faced By GED Scholars: A Report Of The GED Scholars

Initiative.” Adult Learning 14.3 (2003): 11-13. Academic Search Premier. Web. 18 Feb. 2017

This article focuses on a study William Kist conducted on the challenges many students face when they have their GED and are starting college. He interviews a couple different students to get their experiences and to tie into his thesis. His thesis is as a whole we need to do a better job at supporting these students when they get back into a traditional school setting. This was a key source for my work on my theme because my thesis was very similar. Many people don’t realize the GED program was created to be an alternate equal way for students to finish school as opposed to receiving their diploma. I used this source a lot throughout this course since it had a lot of key information I could use to support my claim.

Ryder, Andrew J., and Linda Serra Hagedorn. “GED And Other Noncredit Courses: The Other Side Of The

Community College.” New Directions For Institutional Research 2012.153 (2012): 21-31. Academic Search Premier. Web. 18 Feb. 2017.

This article focuses on the involvement of Community colleges in the GED process. It also gives an overview of the GED program and how it came about. This was also a key part of my research because it gave me the story of why this program was started in the first place. This helped support my thesis as well since it was originally started to be equal to the high school diploma and somewhere along the line this was forgotten in our educational society.

Blue, Karen Leigh. “Academic Trajectories Of Community College Students: A Comparative Study Of GED

Recipients And Traditional High School Graduates.” (2015). 8 March. 2017.

This study focuses on how educational credentials affect a student’s trajectory within college. This helped with my work because it gave points that supported my own thesis. One major component I used was how we don’t have ways to support alternative educational graduates within college. The transition back to traditional schooling is a lot harder for these students since they aren’t used to this kind of setting.

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One comment

  1. Ellie

    Hey Miri,
    Your paper turned out great, I really enjoyed reading it. I can relate to this topic on a couple of levels. First my Mother was similar when it came to pressuring my siblings and I not to make the same mistakes as her. She dropped out of high school when she was young, and did not return to finish her education until she was forty. She encouraged us to complete school and go to college early, because it is easier than when you’re older she said. When I was going into my junior year I decided to drop out. I was skipping school a lot, only showing up to my art classes and getting in trouble occasionally. At the time, it did not seem like the place where I should be. Shortly after dropping out, my mom said that it was absolutely necessary to get my GED. So I went through a short program through the community college and got my GED. Through my experience, having a GED has not hindered me much, if at all. It was so little of an issue that I would not have to tell anyone unless I chose to. Although I think this could also have to do with the fact that I was working in the service industry (bars, restaurants) and so a GED or a diploma was never a question. You mention in your essay that your father struggled with finding work because employers would assume the someone with a GED is more reliable. I do think there is something to be said there. Attending college is on a larger level, but I do think that concept applies as well. Most of us who receive degrees will not be working in the fields that we study in school. Although it is important in America to have a degree to get gainful employment. It shows that you can commit to something, and complete a goal. Those are things that employers are looking for. I think there are many avenues to attain education, and it is a very person decision for all of us. Thanks for sharing your experience, I enjoyed the read.

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