Wednesday, September 06, 2017

The Biggest Problem in Education

The first line of one of Joanne's posts today really set me off.  It's one of my pet peeves:
“All throughout high school, they made it sound like going to college was our only option,” says Derrick Roberson, a 17-year-old high school graduate in southern California. Vocational classes were seen as second-class.
As an educator I'm bothered by the view that every high school student should be planning for college.  For those that can't or don't want to go, we in education send this message:  If you don't go to college, one of the very first big decisions you'll make as an adult is a mistake.   And of course it is, right?  All of us teachers went to college and we turned out just fine, so college is the best and only way for you to turn out just fine, too.

When did high school become 100% academic?  Heck, my district is planning to increase graduation requirements in math so that students will have to pass 3 years of math to graduate.  On what planet does that make sense?

It makes sense if you have the mind set that everyone should go to college--or, if you're smart enough to realize that not everyone can or should go to college, you have the mind set that everyone could go to college if they wanted to.  We even have a phrase for this:  "college and career readiness".  As if those two are the same thing.

My letter carrier fulfills an important role in our society--but he doesn't need any college for that.  My UPS driver also fulfills an important role, but he/she doesn't need college, either.  The grocery store checkers don't need college.  The guy who installs stereos in cars at Best Buy doesn't need college.  Most people don't need college at all, and lead valuable, important, decent lives in America.

Don't intentionally misinterpret my words and say that I believe that people should stay where they are and not "move ahead" (if that's what college does) in life.  That's not what I'm saying at all.  I'm saying that it's silly to think that everyone wants or needs college, especially right out of high school.  Some people will "grow into" college over the years, they're just not ready at 18.  Some won't ever need it.

Everyone talks about "trade schools" but I'll bet if you asked high schoolers what a "trade school" is, a very large percentage can't tell you what one is.  They probably even see commercials on tv for some (truck driving school, medical/dental/vet assistant schools, computer schools, HVAC schools) but couldn't identify any by name, and wouldn't even recognize that those schools are, in fact, trade schools.  We give lip service to trade schools because they're not "real" college.

Derrick Roberson, quoted above, is calling us out on our "classist" views.  How many in education will listen to him?


Steve USMA '85 said...

None. Well, I guess you did but I find your views to be in a small minority.

Luke said...

I don't necessarily with a "three years of math" requirement, especially if "life math" is offered, and everyone takes at least one year of algebra.

Darren said...

The problem is that this is a zero-sum game, and if you require everyone to take one more math class (and, in our case, one more science class) then electives--which aren't all fluff--take a hit.

A way around this, then, is to water down the requirements and allow this or that class to count as a math class or a science class. In other words, to make a mistake and to attempt to fix it with another mistake.

Ellen K said...

I think we've made a huge mistake eliminating vocational programs. We need people who know how to work with their hands. We need mechanics, machinists, carpenters and all kinds of technicians.We need locksmiths. We need plumbers. I paid more this year to my car's mechanic than to my doctor. I do think all students should have the option to take a college bound track. But I also believe a track that emphasized how to pay taxes and bills, how to find an apartment and read a lease and other such essential skills would be great too. Our school requires four years of math and science, three of English and two of world languages and history and one semester each of government and economics. One 'art' elective which can be any Fine Arts course is also thrown in. I'm not complaining-I get all the GT kids in my AP Art History course and it's awesome. But for the students who need to work, wasting time and money in a college is ridiculous. It exists because school evaluations are based on kids heading to college stats. The thing nobody addresses is that a degree doesn't insure outcomes. My son has a degree in history and works in a parts department for Volvo. My daughter has a degree in dance and is a personal banker. My son without a degree sells bikes. We really need to stop being snobs and demanding degrees for every single job.