CRAS Stands by Virginia Foxx’s Sentiments of Weight of Words in the Education space.

Moved by the Op-Ed that Virginia Foxx (R, North Carolina’s Fifth Congressional District) wrote for The Wall Street Journal, I would love to take the opportunity to lend support to her point of view and help substantiate “how often misused words generate misleading thoughts.” Please take a moment to read it for yourself:

I know how it feels to be the only woman in a room of powerful men. I also know how it feels to be tuned out because of how I look or where I’m from. For these reasons I’m sympathetic to those who are passionate about changing culture for the better by promoting “inclusive” language. But the focus on inclusivity hasn’t extended to the way we talk about education.

Education has always been the key to opportunity in America, rightly called “the great equalizer.” But the sociologist Herbert Spencer once noted “how often misused words generate misleading thoughts.” By placing descriptors like “vocational” and “technical” in front of the word “education,” we generate misleading thoughts about the types of people who enroll in such programs.

Those who earn what people usually call vocational and technical degrees have long been viewed as inferior to those who graduate with a series of letters after their names. If you went to school to learn a trade, you must be lesser, because someone long ago decided that college should be called “higher” education. Considering the state of colleges and universities today, the word “higher” may be the most misleading of them all.

The way we speak about education is inherently classist. When a student of lesser means attends a traditional four-year school, we say she “overcame her circumstances.” When a student from a wealthy background chooses a trade school, we say he didn’t “live up to expectations.” We are all but telling people that the trade jobs this country needs are dirty, and that skills-based education is for people without means or, much worse, without potential. We have perpetuated the idea that baccalaureate degrees and desk jobs are for middle-class and affluent people; community college and technical pursuits are for the poor.

I ended up with a series of abbreviations after my name because I wanted to teach. One of the few lessons that stuck with me from all the courses I took on the way to earning my Ed.D. came during a classroom discussion that sparked my passion for changing the way we talk about education. I’ll never forget how the professor responded to a student who used the word “training.” Training, the professor admonished, was for animals. Humans receive an education.

We can’t keep speaking of people as if they are animals. Whether an individual acquires a skill credential, a bachelor’s degree, a postgraduate degree or anything in between, it’s all education. We need to think about the words we use and why we use them if we are to break the stigma around all forms of education. If we don’t, we will never overcome the abiding sense of inequality and unfairness that so many Americans feel.

Individual potential transcends all demographics. It’s time that we speak honestly about the educational paths we set for Americans—and the paths they should be commended for choosing for themselves.

Ms. Foxx, a Republican, represents North Carolina’s Fifth Congressional District.

As Ms. Foxx stated, there are many words commonly used in “higher education.” I’d like to focus on EDUCATE vs. EDIFY. Taken from Merriam-Webster:

English Language Learners Definition of edify
: to teach (someone) in a way that improves the mind or character

English Language Learners Definition of educate
: to teach (someone) especially in a school, college, or university
: to give (someone) information about something: to train (someone) to do something

Please allow me a moment to describe these words, based on my experience in “higher education.”

I wear many hats in my life, as many of us do: Father, Friend, Employee, Musician, Audio Engineer, Artist, Writer, and Director of Admissions at The Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences (CRAS). Of all of those hats, I believe that my responsibility in life is to help change the lives of others in the most positive way possible, by imparting new knowledge in such a fashion that the newly “learned” information can be taken beyond my experience by the student, and that the newly “learned” information can enhance their lives in unimaginable ways.

The Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences is a “trade and technical” school. We are a “skills based” educational facility that is nationally accredited, affords Federal Aid to those that are eligible, and that requires a 280-hour internship as a graduation requirement. Those few words, however, could not possibly encompass what CRAS has been for thousands of students for the last 30+ years. Here’s a little insight as to what CRAS is:

CRAS specializes in Professional Audio Engineering. While most consider a route towards this type of specialty by way of “music production,” CRAS focuses on the entire width of the Audio Industry: Music Production, Live Sound Reinforcement, Post Production, Video Game Audio, and Broadcast Audio. Our students undergo a 36 week “in-house” experience, and, near the end of their time with CRAS, develop a life-plan with their Internship Coordinator to help guide them to the city of their choice to start their careers in the production facility of their choice.

CRAS students gain knowledge base by solely taking “focused” classes, four hours a day, 5 day a week. Truly, it is very much like drinking water out of a firehose. CRAS focuses only on Professional Audio Engineering. There are no mathematics courses, although there is plenty of “applied math” that our students tend to do well with, in that the “math” is based on their interests. There are no humanities or social studies courses, as CRAS professes to our students how to go about “life-ing” in our industry. Yes, “life-ing,” not “living.”

CRAS’ curriculum is taught by passionate award-winning working professionals in the field. As CRAS is a “selective enrollment” institution, we are careful to enroll only those that are “cut from our cloth,” whose goals align with ours, and have the prudence to accomplish their goals of “life-ing” in the world of Audio Engineering. We pride ourselves in the “Conservatory” part of our title, as we believe that a “conservatory” is a place of preservation for a given art form. Our art form is Audio Engineering.

Like most don’t appreciate the ability of a welder, mechanic, concrete worker, electrician, plumber, few rationalize their everyday needs for “sound.” Every concert, every song, every movie, every podcast, every hotel convention, every cruise ship, every video game, every sporting event, every television show… there’s sound. And for every sound that we hear, CRAS has given the ability to thousands of students to be able to get those sounds into the consumer’s ears. That’s what CRAS does. Excellently.

You’ll notice that up to this point, I have strategically chosen to not use the words “educate” and “education.” According to me, there is a poignant reason as to why I chose to not use those words. In my 25 years with CRAS, we do not EDUCATE… CRAS EDIFIES.

There is a delicate difference between those two words. While it is true that both words are used to describe the imparting of knowledge, EDUCATING, at best, allows the student to gain new knowledge. To EDIFY, however, is to impart new knowledge in such a fashion that ability and confidence are instilled in the student, which allows them to enter the industry in positive life-changing ways. To EDUCATE is to “give” new information. To EDIFY is to prove how the new knowledge will carry the student to the next positive advancement of their life.

To agree with Virgina Foxx, CRAS does not “train” our students. We, in fact, nurture the passions of our students, edify each of them, life-plan them, and propel them into the “working” side of Professional Audio, that may consist of being a Recording Engineer working with musical artists, becoming an A-1 Broadcast Engineering thrusting the sound of NASCAR through your home audio system, working for toy companies creating sounds for next year’s hottest Christmas presents, designing the sonic space of your next luxury SUV, being responsible for the sound implementation of that movie that you can just watch over and over again. Truly, CRAS students are “industry prepared” with “certifications” in 36 weeks, without having to take on a mountain of debt, like the tradition “university” experience.

While I agree that an education is paramount in today’s world, I have seen the fruits our labors and have truly understood that not all are “university” candidates. The word “university” was intended to be an “educational institution” that should leave the student “worldly,” with a newfound knowledge base of linguistics, mathematics, politics, and humanities, alongside their “profession” choice, allowing them to have conversational skills at a gala, while wearing top hats and spinning parasols. The world has changed, and so has the academic needs of the incoming student.

I can attest to the fact that “skills based” schooling has positively benefitted the lives of thousands of CRAS graduates. Their lives were enhanced by their edification from CRAS, not their “training,” in that our art form constantly evolves with technology but is still deeply rooted in the history of the trade. That kind of preparation is not something one can be “trained” for. The “quickly assess all probabilities of the equipment/environment and make sound from science” is not a “train-able” thing. Honestly, it’s not even a “thing” that an “education” can provide. It’s the kind of “thing” that only a “skills based” edification can provide. We, at CRAS, stand by Ms. Foxx’s sentiments, and pride ourselves deeply in being able to make available the kind of “learning” facility that allows our students to work in their passions, in less than a year’s time.

While I agree that this is long-winded, it really is about the “weight of words,” and the discoloration of the truth of those words. Educate is different than edify. Training is not either.