Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Personalizing Education

As I say about school these days, all roads lead to college--"force fed", in the parlance of this article:
Rob Friedman “learned very little” in high school — except in “small engines” and “auto shop” classes, he writes in Education and the Art of Minibike Maintenance in the Wall Street Journal.

Many of his vocational classmates quit high school, he writes. They were being “force-fed” college-prep courses.

His parents — a doctor and a teacher — pushed him to earn a college degree. Friedman enrolled in junior college, but dropped out to run his car-repair business.

He promises to go back to school when business slowed down, but it never did.

Half our students want an academic education leading to a university degree, Friedman writes. But his auto-shop classmates — and many others — do not.
It's what I cautioned against at the Kids First Roundtable a few weeks ago.

We have to get away from the relatively new ideas that a) everyone must go to college or be a failure, and b) public education should be overwhelmingly academic.

Last week we had some time at the end of one of my classes, so rather than just let the kids socialize I somehow ended up on the topic of credit.  Students were paying rapt attention, and asking important questions, as we talked about loans, credit, credit cards, credit scores, and the like--and every one of these students is college-bound.  You see, we don't have a "consumer finance" course at school, and one certainly wouldn't fit into the Common Core curriculum California has adopted.  Do they even know how to maintain a checkbook register?

The high school I attended had wood shop, metal shop, auto shop, electronics, and construction.  We also had drafting, typing, shorthand, art, music, drama, and who knows what else.  The school at which I teach has some excellent visual and performing arts classes--but only one shop teacher.  There are no other true electives.

And that needs to change.


pseudotsuga said...

Yes indeed, but I can't see how it will change. There's not enough political capital in admitting that not everybody is college material.

Auntie Ann said...

We had a required Econ course back in the 80's, but it wasn't much about personal finance.

Our 7th grader just did a simplified tax form for his math class. I showed him my W-2 and talked about all of the withholding, what it all goes to, why you want minimum withholding, how much else is pulled out of your check for other things that you can't get refunded, plus state income, sales, and property taxes. Though the scenario he got from his teacher (2-income household with 2 kids and about $70,000), ended up not paying much income tax, I pointed out that income tax was less than half of the household's complete tax picture.

Most of that discussion was something we did at home, and was not a part of the curriculum.

One of the best financial literacy activities our 7th grader has done is play the card game Magic The Gathering (avidly). The cards intrinsically are only worth about 10 cents, but what you can buy or sell one for is a very different thing. He now understands that when you sell to the shop, they will give you less than if you trade with someone else--and that the shop has to pay its employees, keep the lights on, maintain inventory, and make a profit. He understands that when new cards are released, old cards might either go up or down in value--and that in large part it is a kind of gambling. He understands that he can look up a suggested price online, but it all depends on finding someone willing to buy it from you at a price you are willing to sell. He knows about depreciation and how the slightest damage can effect a card's value. All from a silly card game.

momof4 said...

Thomas Sowell has an excellent econ book for ordinary people: Basic Economics. It would be great for a semester in MS-HS (depending on the reading/math level of the kids).