This morning I was reading an interesting article by Dr. Patricia Gándara, Professor of Education at the University of California, entitled Strengthening the Academic Pipeline Leading to Careers in Math, Science, and Technology for Latino Students. Her paper examines the achievement gap of Hispanics within the education “pipeline” and offers solutions to address these problems. What strikes me about this and other articles like this is why we think of education as a pipeline? I realize its metaphorical value is widespread, if not the standard, and it’s a good conceptual framework to organize research on anything involving some kind of trajectory.
As most homeowners know, pipes leak! And understandably, articles about strengthening or increasing Hispanic educational success focus on fixing the leaks where Hispanics spill out of the pipeline. In other words, patch the leak. Unfortunately, what you eventually have is a patched up pipeline that ultimately leaks again somewhere else. Slap on another patch. And so on. I think you get my point.
I would rather look at this process or flow in terms of circuitry. I’m not an electrical engineer but I assume circuits have some kind of permeability that allows the flow of material (data) to other areas. Circuits also allow flexibility by using experimentation and continuous development of their capacity. Another aspect of circuits is the relationship between it and its surrounding environment. Unlike a pipeline that is a closed, circuits are open, continually monitoring their environment, recalibrating, taking different paths as inputs and outputs change.
Given the rich technologically-driven environment in which we live, should we not update our thinking to include a more appropriate framework? Particularly as it relates to getting Hispanics from college and into the workforce?