Executive Summary
The Early 1990's
Current Recovery
What Lies Ahead?
Proposed Solutions
Findings from Interviews
Concluding Thoughts
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Page 8 of 11

A Concluding Thought

In all this array of reports and interviews, one intriguing idea emerged, more from the interviews than the reports, although the pieces are present in the reports as well. The idea is that the 1960 Master Plan needs to be rethought along very different lines for the next decade and beyond. The new direction should focus less on the three public segments, and their distinguishing features and roles, and more on a regional (geographic) basis, while including K-12 education as a full partner. We have seen that all the reports express concern about linkages, collaborations, and other formal and informal relationships between colleges and their surrounding public schools; why not formalize this set of relationships by thinking comprehensively about the educational needs of Californians, from pre-kindergarten through graduate school? (Already, informal collaborations of UC, CSU, community colleges, and middle and high schools are operating in Sacramento, Santa Cruz, and San Diego.) It is not clear how much the absence of such linkages contributed to the problems K-12 faces today, but surely the lack of explicit linkages did not help. California and the nation need more people who are capable of thinking about educational policy and practice across the spectrum of grades and levels-for it is, after all, ultimately one system. The artificial separation after grade 12 is increasingly seen as just that, artificial. As policies move in the direction of encouraging near-universal attendance beyond high school in some form of postsecondary education (and as lifelong learning becomes a reality rather than just a phrase), the financial, bureaucratic and policy divisions separating K-12 from higher education make less and less sense. A new Master Plan focusing on all formal education could lead the way for the rest of the states, much as the original Master Plan did so for an earlier generation.

The regional concept also makes increasing sense, as more students-especially adults-find themselves constrained to consider those campuses and opportunities within commuting distance. For such students, it may matter less whether the education is offered by a UC or a CSU campus, but simply that it be offered, in a time and place that can be worked into increasingly complex lives. The difficulty with the three systems as they currently exist is that they tend to function as independent silos, with limited connections among themselves. This is true even after nearly four decades of functioning under the Master Plan. Considering California as composed of geographically defined regions and then examining the educational offerings in each region may provide a better means of serving the population than continuing to stress the three segments approach. This is not to argue that the distinctive functions of each segment should merge or be confused, but rather that a UC campus in a particular place might take on attributes distinctive to that place rather than be trapped into a uniform model of what a research university should be.

These ideas (regional focus, inclusion of K-12) for a new Master Plan are clearly present in incipient form in the reports, and they are themes that emerged steadily, if half-formed, in many of my interviews. Were the next governor to endorse explorations in this vein, one suspects that enormous energies might be released, energies that tend to remain locked-up by an uncritical acceptance of the current Master Plan. The nation seems fated to follow the lead of California in many areas, including education, and a newly conceived Master Plan along these lines would be worthy of emulation.

-The author, David W. Breneman, is university professor and dean at the Curry School of Education, University of Virginia.


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