Badges? In a homeland security education future, your kids might actually want some stinkin’ badges.
This week’s post is an excuse to share a video a friend showed me a few days ago. (Thanks RNG.) But since this is a homeland security blog, I want to first make the connection between the video and homeland security.
Last week I had the chance to talk with homeland security educators from around North America. I came away from the conversation thinking about three issues: jobs, curriculum, and the costs of education.
Jobs was the big issue. Depending on what counts as homeland security higher education, there are between 200 and 400 programs across the nation. Where are the graduates of these programs going to find jobs? That was the number one question being asked.
There were very not many answers. A few programs (one of which I will mention later) did not have a significant problem finding jobs for its graduates. But those programs were the exceptions.
The second issue was what to teach in a homeland security program. This issue is as old as homeland security. So that means not very old if you are in the “homeland security started after 9/11/01” camp. Or really old if you’re part of the “we’ve always done homeland security” tribe.
The curriculum answer is often arrived at through vigorous assertion, sometimes supported by focus groups (as if focus groups are representative of anything other than the interests in the room); sometimes by more systematic analysis: for instance here and here.
According to the people in the room, employers know what skills they want from the people they hire: critical thinking, the ability to collaborate, the ability to communicate effectively. Knowledge about specific homeland security skills — whatever they might be — was not emphasized, at least not in the conversations I heard.
I don’t know how much critical thinking employers actually want in the public sector, or the private sector for that a matter. But I don’t know the data either way on this topic.
I am reminded, however, how organizations can conduct a nationwide search to try to get the very best person available. Once that person his hired, he or she has to then fit in with the rest of the people. Maybe not all the time. But enough.
“It’s path dependency,” a smart friend explained to me today.
In my opinion, there is no consensus on what should be included in homeland security curriculum. I think we are still in 100 flower territory.
Before too long the 100 flowers may fragment into 1000 flowers. And that could be a good thing for homeland security education and for homeland security. That leads to a third issue: money.
The third issue that came up was the cost of education. The “total outstanding student loan debt in the United States now stands at above $1 trillion dollars.”
I find it interesting the student loan figure runs parallel to Mueller and Stewart’s finding that “the increase in expenditures on domestic homeland security over the decade exceeds $1 trillion.”
No doubt just a coincidence.
But I don’t know anyone who knows what a trillion dollar really means. So I suppose the best one can say is a lot of money was spent on homeland security during it’s first decade. And students owe a lot of money for going to college.
What the nation received for the trillion dollars in homeland security spending remains an open question. Apparently it’s even harder to figure out what college students got for the trillion dollars they borrowed.
One person I heard speak is working at a new edge of homeland security education. It’s an edge where badges (sometimes called certificates) are more valued than degrees.
His program (the name is not important for the point I’m making) is not concerned about granting degrees. Instead, his organization trains/educates (discussing the distinction would add several hundred more words to the post) people to be intelligence analysts. The students in that program graduate with demonstrated competence in a skill certain employers want. They don’t end up with a degree. But they do get hired.
Badges/certificates are not especially new. Computer professionals and emergency managers, among others, have been collecting badges for decades. But the looming rupture of the student loan bubble portends an opportunity for the “Badges not Degrees” movement.
If the badges trend grows, what might the future of homeland security education look like?
That’s a very long way to get to what I actually wanted to write about.
Here’s a link to a ten minute video introducing a quasi-science fiction concept called EPIC 2020. (There’s a longer video on the page, but the first one gets the main idea across.)
If you’re interested in where education, curriculum and assessment might be going, the ten minute video is worth your time.
Maybe some of the concepts are fanciful (e.g., Apple buys Amazon, and Google buys the Khan Academy). Other ideas, like the student loan bubble, are a disturbing reality. Still other parts of the trend are happing now (a Stanford professor taught one course to 160,000 students from all over the world; that’s more students than most faculty teach in a lifetime).
The badges approach is not without downsides. But the current approaches to homeland security education — to higher education in general — also has its problems.
(Caution: very long sentence with unconventional spacing coming up. )What could it mean for homeland security education if we moved toward a future where a degree in homeland security (or in any of the dozens of disciplines and professions related to it) did not matter as much as a badge that certifies a potential employee demonstrated competence in one of the higher level skills homeland security employers want: collaboration, being comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty, measurement, mash ups, social networking, resilience… who knows what else? —————————————–
I don’t know how many people are entering homeland security higher education programs this fall.
But I’m guessing the jobs the best of those students will be competing for when they graduate haven’t been invented yet.
That is an interesting curriculum design problem.