The Graduate Manifesto of George Cassutto
A Course Correction
What was my purpose for obtaining a second degree? I hold a bachelor's in History from Maryville College and a Master's in Contemporary Government from Hood College. I had to decide whether or not I wanted to pursue a master's degree in curriculum and instruction, or if I was more interested in completing he Master's program and looking at the doctoral degree later in my career. I pondered about the topic I would research for my doctoral dissertation. The Internet is a tool of communication and education. Could it be used to bridge the gap between cultures, reduce prejudice, and improve tolerance and acceptance for students engaged in Social Studies education? Could the Internet enhance the teaching of topics such as the Holocaust, the Israeli-Arab conflict, and the Civil Rights Movement? These topics make up the rationale for why I teach Social Studies. If I could understand how the Internet could be used in a way that would make the delivery of these concepts more effective, then the Virtual High School program could help me in this endeavor. Reaching students who otherwise might not have access to this perspective on history and political science could be made possible through innovative use of the Internet in the classroom or through on-line courses that non-traditional students might access.
|Reaching students who otherwise might not have access to this perspective on history and political science could be made possible through innovative use of the Internet in the classroom or through on-line courses that non-traditional students might access.|
During the winter of 2003, an announcement was issued by the national Holocaust museum of Israel, called Yad Vashem. This institution was calling for presentations on teaching and learning on the Holocaust in a way that would insure that future generations would know the story of the Holocaust. My cousin in the Netherlands urged me to present to the institution in the conference. I responded that I could not afford the plane trip and expenses for a week in Israel. In turn, he responded that he would fund the entire trip, all $3,000. I agreed to submit a proposal to present on the topic (this link is a PowerPoint presentation) "Using the Internet to Teach the Holocaust." The proposal was accepted, and I did present on this topic to a small group at Yad Vashem. The entire experience of touring Israel's most holy sights, of engaging in a dialogue with scholars on the topic of the Holocaust and Israel's place in the modern world, and in reflecting on what I had experienced, was a life-altering, "mountaintop" experience. I had hoped to integrate what I had learned on the trip into my doctoral thesis as the basis for research on prejudice reduction by way of the Internet in education. I was able to post a number of reflections and a photo album of the summer, 2004 experience.
|During the early months of 2004, the Doctoral Committee of the Graduate School of Education at George Mason University looked at the candidates for the doctoral degree attending the Virtual High School Program. They reviewed my goals statement and heard my perspectives in the interviews. Then I received word that I was not accepted into the doctoral program. It was a hard thing to hear. Maybe I seemed too motivated by the higher salary the degree would bring. Maybe I did not present a broad enough vision of which the Graduate School could be proud. My aspiration of developing technological methods for teaching young people about cultural acceptance and social understanding would have to find expression within my own classroom and the projects I could develop for my students.|
Either way, I took a careful personal inventory of why I wanted the degree. I saw that my priorities were still with my family and with my classroom, rather than in time and effort it would take to execute the high level of research needed to accomplish the doctoral program. I knew I could reach the master's level, and that all that I would learn in the two years it would take to attain that degree would make me a better teacher. I would have the opportunity to contribute to an innovative and revolutionary method of teaching and learning, and I would be able to build professional relationships that I could count on as I progressed through my teaching career. But I was not ready to make the time and financial investment in becoming a doctoral candidate. While the correction in my academic course of study initially felt like a failure, I knew it was the right thing to do. So I made the commitment to do the best I could in the development of modules for the Virtual High School over the next two years.
a Student Again