JITE v39n2 - From the Editor - Finding Common Ground

Volume 39, Number 2
Winter 2002


Finding Common Ground

The tragic events of September 11, 2001 caused repercussions that continue to be felt deeply in the United States and beyond our borders. Long before the attacks that shattered our sense of national security, however, there were numerous indicators of a changing global landscape. International treaties and trade agreements, globalization of manufacturing and services, a rising world population, increased evidence of environmental degradation on a global scale, and other factors have made clear that overt terrorism is only one of the issues with which we must concern ourselves. Quite likely, it is not the most significant, either-not in concrete terms; in terms of how we live our lives on a day-to-day basis.

In the cacophony of world events and news coverage that attends them, it's easy to lose sight of just how much all humans have in common. Although language, clothing styles, cooking techniques, religious beliefs, and so on may differ, in the end we share the same desires for the safety, health, and well-being of ourselves and our children. We can either choose to acknowledge and build upon these commonalities, or we can focus on the superficial differences that serve to divide.

Multiculturalism, diversity, social justice, equality: these are much more than words we use to indicate an awareness of world events. They represent ideals that we must first of all believe in if we hope to build a lasting peace. We must believe that we are made stronger as a human race by understanding and accepting belief systems and cultures that are different from our own. We must believe that gender, racial, and economic equality lead to more robust world communities that ultimately benefit us all. Once committed to these ideals, the hard work of trying to achieve them begins.

Educators play a critical role in expanding students' awareness of their place within the larger community, and in helping students acquire the skills to operate effectively within the world community. Enhanced awareness leads to better understanding, and better understanding leads to a greater willingness to work together. Through education, we may be able to build a world where together we address critical problems like hunger, the need for meaningful employment, the health of the environment, and assuring access to basic medical services, rather than on who can build the most effective weapons of mass destruction.

In This Issue

This issue came about more by coincidence than by design, resulting from the submission of several manuscripts that dealt with education research in countries outside of the United States. Readers will quickly note that the subjects raised in these studies parallel many of the same issues we have experienced in this country, including gender equity and vocational education funding.

Hassan Ndahi examines the attitudes of parents in Nigeria toward their daughters' participation in Industrial and Technical Education programs. In that country, as in the United States, participation by young women in technical fields continues to lag behind that of men. Ndahi's data show that, although parental attitudes about the appropriateness of female participation in male-dominated fields have changed, more effort will be required to alter the persistent under-representation of women in these fields. Greater commitment to diversity on the part of the national government is seen by parents in this study as a primary means of achieving this goal.

Research reported by Isaac Kithyo and Stephen Petrina supports the notion that focused efforts on the part of governmental and non-governmental agencies will be required to break the gender inequities found in technical education programs. These authors note that career counselors, the group perhaps most able to influence career choices for school-age men and women, are typically overworked, uninformed, or both, rendering them unable to provide the kind of guidance needed to break through persistent gender norms. Access to programs will only be accomplished by overcoming both real and perceived barriers, and these authors provide some suggestions for how this might be done.

Moses Ngware and Fredrick Muyia Nafukho have conducted a descriptive study of technical education in Kenya in an attempt to quantitatively address challenges regarding the effectiveness of technical training programs. These authors suggest that calculations of the internal and external efficiency of technical programs are necessary for program improvement. They also suggest that investment in staff, materials, and equipment in technical training programs may have as much to do with satisfactory employment outcomes for graduates as does the structure of the training program itself. In other words, to accurately determine the return on our investment in technical training programs, we must look at the adequacy of inputs as well as the adequacy of outputs of these programs.

Ramlee Mustapha and James Greenan have examined the perspectives of both vocational educators and employers in Malaysia to determine each group's satisfaction with the structure and effectiveness of vocational education in that country. Their findings suggest that employers in Malaysia tend to be less pleased than educators with the capabilities of vocational graduates, particularly with regard to general workplace skills like motivation, problem-solving capability, and communication skills. Both groups, however, favor increased and continuing funding for vocational education, as well as greater involvement of private industry in the restructuring of public vocational education. We can see a similar debate being waged in the United States, as vocational education faces continuing challenges to its funding structure and, indeed, its very existence. Changes in the workplace in both countries mean that corresponding changes are required in job preparatory programs.

Janet Burns and Karen Schaefer have contributed a poignant article that describes the ways teachers serve as mediators between their students and the world outside their schools. A journaling assignment for a university course taken by provisionally certified vocational teachers highlights the response of teachers and students to the events of September 11, 2001. This article illustrates the power of reflective journals as teaching, learning, and communication tools.

This issue closes with a short article acknowledging the work of the award-winning authors from Volume 38 of the Journal. Congratulations to these authors.

Tracy Gilmore