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Education’s many opportunities

The most endearing quality of education is its practicality in a pragmatic environment – that is to say, whatever we deem to be “education” must, of necessity, provide a relevant and immediately applicable purpose.

While we ask those studying in a technical curriculum to be focused upon the immediacy of their technology, we do not absolve them of the responsibilities of clear thinking and expression in both written and verbal form.

Likewise, we ask education as a process to be available in the most expedient extant vehicle.

Hence, use of the old chalkboard, or the slide-show, has given way to the smart board” and the “power point” presentations.

These are byproducts of the invasion of television on the educational opportunities for our youngsters.

The thrust of education, then, must be its relevance in a culture that is commensurate with the technology of that culture, the needs of the society which has harbored that culture, and the practical needs of the students to function in that society.

In a column in this space some time back I posited the notion that the greatest obligation of education is its accessibility and its availability.

I wrote then, “The practicality of education is self-evident, whether it be in the form of a classical liberal arts survey or in the form of preparation for a specific trade or skill.

The end result anticipated is a free-thinking, responsible, contributing citizen who can deal with the nuances of a free society, a free economy, and an open form of government.”

That column further offered, “Just as important as its intent, nevertheless, are the means by which we have implemented and effected educational endeavors.

The first consideration in this regard has always been our access to education – our ability to get what we need for effective learning, whether it is physical proximity to the learning source or the specific mode of delivery.”

More to the point, I continued, “In this context, accessibility equates to availability and flexibility.

Education is obviously available if it is there when we need it in terms which are not complex and in venues which are pragmatically present.

Flexibility refers to the means or the modes by which the information is transferred in the learning process.

In short, availability means ‘being there’ and flexibility means ‘adequate delivery.'”

My point here is that through the good efforts of Dr. Isaac Espy, our new Demopolis High School principal, a very valuable “accessibility” for education has arrived in the Demopolis Area via a program for high school students to gain college credit while still in high school.

I am certain that you have heard the drumbeat of enthusiasm for this program, which is called “Dual Enrollment” and has been trumpeted by Dr. Espy, supported by Dr. Wesley Hill, our Superintendent, and has been approved by our Board of Education. The overall program was structured by the State Legislature a number of years back and offers high school students a great opportunity to gain as much as a year or even two years of college credit before they graduate from high school.

The two traditional approaches to this opportunity have been popular throughout the State and fall into one of two categories: 1) direct “dual” enrollment in which the student takes a course and is simultaneously granted credit in both college and high school curricula for successful completion of that course; and 2) the “accelerated” program, in which high school students can enroll and earn college credit which counts only as college credit.

However, our program in Demopolis is a true hybrid, which was born of the efforts of Dr. Espy and his administrative staff in conjunction with the Alabama Southern administration.

In this entirely new and innovative program, Demopolis High School students who have completed their sophomore year, hold a “B” average, and have passed the State High School Graduation Examination will be able to take courses from a battery of electives.

They will receive college credit as well as high school elective credit which will count toward their graduation requirements.

The program will launch in the Fall Semester of 2006 and students will be able to choose from a wide variety of courses, including ethics, macroeconomics, microcomputer applications, American national government, public speaking, and psychology to cite a few.

The overall impact reflects on the premise that for education to have a significant influence on the society it serves, it must be accessible and available.

This hybrid dual enrollment program does just that.

It is here and it is now!

The benefits have far-reaching effects.

College-bound students will get a jump on college coursework and will, at the very minimum, earn enough credits to complete a full year of college before they graduate from high school.

Those more ambitious students can complete up to two years of college before they leave for the four-year college of their choice.

AND if they choose a college from the Alabama State System, their credits from Alabama Southern will all transfer.

Parents will hail this program since it is far less expensive than those four-year institutions.

The average savings is reflected in the fact that attendance at Alabama Southern costs only 59% of what it costs to attend one of the four year institutions in Alabama.

I know that if I can save 41% on anything I am going to take advantage of it.

When Alabama Southern came to Demopolis it was with the intent of bringing an educational opportunity which was both accessible and available.

The new Dual Enrollment Program is evidence that Alabama Southern has brought another opportunity in education for the Demopolis area which is both practical and effective.

-Dr. Arthur G. Ogden is the Demopolis Campus Director of Alabama Southern Community College.

All his degrees are in philosophy.

He can be reached at aogden@ascc.edu.