The Problem With College and Career Readiness Education

Preparing our children to be successful in college and once they step out into the workplace is certainly an educational goal worth striving for, but should college and career readiness by the ultimate goal of the traditional education system?

I am proof that focusing on college and career readiness can actually work. I graduated with high honors from both college and graduate school. I have a job and time to blog and come up with other fun ideas and projects. I have good communication skills, interpersonal skills, work with people and take on leadership roles.

However, when I think back and reflect about my years in primary and secondary school, I know there is so much information that is missing. For me, those first years of school seem to be a blur. I know I did receive some information, I know I was there at school, in a room with a teacher and other 20 or 30 students, I know I had the books and I also know, I was a very distracted girl, I know I did not like all they taught and felt no inspiration to learn. Nevertheless, I did the work, I got passing grades, and moved up from one grace to the next until I was "ready".

Yes, many students reach a level of "college and career readiness". But what does that really mean? Even more worrisome, could that be the only goal that is worth it?

New schools and new teaching and learning models have been sprung up for years in different countries around the world. In the US these "avant-garde" schools are implementing many different approaches to teaching and learning. These schools are mostly private schools or public charter schools. Unfortunately, many of the students that need these schools the most, as they provide greater literacy reinforcement and a new source of inspiration to learn beyond the expected bottom line, are missing out.

What happens when we forgo true mastery of skills, abilities and understanding for the quick and ready-made? When we don't allow the teaching and learning process enough flexibility and resources to provide individual attention to students and support to teachers? What happens when the aim of traditional schools continuous to be the mass production of "workers", giving just enough time, tools and strategies to grasp the very basic concepts and understanding to move on? The answer is simple and worrisome, where the original goal was to produce "useful and moral citizens" the reality is that we are producing nothing more than mediocre children.

Of course many students in traditional educational systems succeed. But shouldn't the aim be the success of ALL?

And what about this insistence on "college and career" as the next obvious steps, or rather THE steps to take after graduating from high school?

I did follow the very traditional path of college, marriage and career. As I look back and forward into the evolution of our human civilization, that traditional path is still very much ingrained in the way western culture has structured itself. Within society, many of us think we are doing what we want to do with our lives, but in reality, immersed in the traditional education systems, we have been programmed for years. Of course, at the time schools as we know them formally began, its main purpose was to develop rational and discipline citizens, men and women willing and able to follow society's rules and limitations that make everyday life possible. The school became a civilizing institution.

But, when the standards teachers work with emphasize "college and career readiness" we are telling young students that these are the only acceptable options on the table for their future. I believe, that in a never ending quest to produce children that get into college and find jobs, schools have created massive mediocrity.

College: before our modern times, going to a higher institution of learning was not designed for everyone. Nowadays we have more than enough physical evidence that people that don't go to college can still be greatly successful. This success doesn't happen by accident, but by action and self-disciple. If students grow up and get educated in creative and innovative environments, who can tell how many useful technologies they may be able to come up with or what new ideas they may develop that change the way we live our lives in the coming future. At one time in our human history colleges may have been great places to share ideas and learn about a variety of topics not available to everybody else. Now, that is not necessarily true anymore. People around the world connect and share ideas by the second. The internet is all about information, connectivity and learning that takes place instantly. Many free courses are available online, all the books you could imagine to download and the forums for discussion of new ideas.

Career: this word doesn't mean a Job, not anymore. Now a career may be thought of as the path one entrepreneur takes along a line of innovative ideas, products and services. Now a career is not a life spent working for a company, performing exactly the skill, it says in your resume, you acquired in your college degree. The workplace has changed, and the role of a professional within it has also change. Social skills are needed in the workplace, yes, ability to follow rules and procedures, to work in teams, to manage time... but more and more offices and companies are revamping their organizational structure and what they expect employees to do. It's no longer a follow the leader, static environment. It is an ever changing and challenging place, where cultural awareness and diversity is the new norm, where each individual is expected to take on a leadership role, where working standing up is ergonomic and we are even having "walking" meetings.

Innovative educational models have come and go, the stronger ones have endured. But to get access to those, most parents still need to pay. While the public education systems of some states have taken positive steps forward, other are lingering behind, within the security of the states' educational standards and the CCS. Don't get me wrong, having a set of standards is useful in many ways. But the limiting expectation of college and career readiness may be doing more harm than good.

As valuable as is it to prepare children with the skills they will need to be useful and productive once they get out of school, it is also valuable to make the time they spend in school one of self-discovery, reflection, creativity and problem solving outside the box. Because, if children don't see themselves represented in other individual or self-made boxes outside the box of "college" and the box of "career", they will default to mediocrity. Supporting and building of the confidence of children is what opens up the path they will choose to travel no just toward college and career, but through life.

Let's prepare our children to be ready to face life's challenges and opportunities. Let's refrain from forcing "college" and "career" as the only two options and the only to reason that school is worth their time for. School, as a time and place, is so much more than that.

Let's continue the conversation! Leave me all your comments below or send me a tweet @southcentraledu
Gabriela Gotay

Saint Patrick's Day and Ireland the Land of Learners

So, if we take the learning nation of Ireland, what are we really like here? We are a country stockpiled with sociable chatterboxes and have a huge number of successful athletics when you think about the size of this land. We make an impact wherever we go and we are also very generous philanthropically for the size of Ireland. We as a race contribute hugely to global charities, peace keeping forces and volunteer work. We are hugely proud of anything remotely Irish.

So, in simple terms that makes us auditory and kinesthetic learners that need huge amounts of encouragement and praise. We really care about what everyone else thinks of us. So like most other parts of the world we are a largely extrovert society. We need to work with others in social settings and we are very social beings.

The hugely interesting fact about auditory learners is that they do not need to just listen, they need to talk as well. We all know how much we Irish love to speak. The idea of us starting school at five and learning to be quiet in a classroom situation is just outright ridiculous. We must admit that we work our way through so much in Ireland by gossiping. The information overload taxi driver, the restroom queue gossip or the local store conversation. It makes us better able to cope with the legendary Irish rainy weather if nothing else.

One of the real difficulties with being an auditory learner (besides just being in trouble in class for talking all of the time) is the rambling way we work, there is no structure. This is the most common difficulty that many of our students have, especially all the super talkative kinesthetic boys who are brilliant on the sports field but feel like trash at everything else in school. They simply have no idea how to structure an answer or to focus their thoughts onto the page at hand.

Sure, for the Irish it is perfectly alright and acceptable to write exactly the way you talk too. The best way to work with auditory kinesthetic learners is through role play. This is sociable group work that allows us to talk out scenarios. We get to put ourselves in the situation and we all do great in this part of oral school examinations. We are a country filled with bucket loads of generationally provided and divided political views. It is important for us to get to talk about these at length on a regular basis.

Students almost fall off of their chairs with shock when I ask them what they think or have a personal opinion on, but it is so much easier to write about what you feel especially when this is what matters to you when you are kinesthetic. Normally boys just get to run this out of their systems on the sports field rather than working through it in english or history class.

It is equally vital to allow us Irish to talk about everything that matters to us in our own unique way. The Irish have a great gift of the gab, the wit that has a name for every object, landmark and sculpture. We talk about creativity and innovation, this is a wonderful example of innovation with words. We can express any situation as a joke. We have always been gifted story tellers and can spin any yarn.

We are also hugely competitive, hence our many sporting heroes, the mark we leave whatever we set our minds to. Competition is such a great way to inject energy into any learning environment too.

There is a pride deeply engrained in the Irish and as a result we can never cope with being made a fool of in public. We may try to joke our way out of any situation but it hurts deeply. Everyone we have ever spoken to in this country has a school story where they lost face and they have never forgotten it. This is why we have to focus on the learners always, the real people we are helping to grow and develop. Everyone is different but we all fall into patterns of behavior that can be accommodated. You can't just take an education model from one country to another and expect it to work, especially since the models are always developed for the teachers and governments not the students. There are very simple patterns and learning styles but you have to look for them and you have to use each nations strengths and values to achieve what is important for them, even the Irish.

Marie O'Riordan, Opportunity Miner, Legacy Planeteer & International Honorary Award Winning Philanthropist. Working with Dr. Naoise O'Reilly Ph.D., Expression Developist. We are The Forever Method.

Do You Train for Your Profession?

A formal education is a great place to gather information. To ensure we memorize that information, we are given homework and class assignments. Then the instructor administers tests to see how much information we retained. If you pass those tests, many believe they have earned the title of being the best at their craft. What those people fail to realize is that they only know information. To be the best, takes training and practice. In most cases, that requires a specific focus on initiatives to develop mastery of skills and competencies.

While a formal education is important, it is not necessarily the path to master one's craft. Education provides information and information does not cause action. For example, many people have information on how to lose weight. Yet, they take no actions to lose it. If we stay with that example, losing weight requires practices. Each day one takes on practices that support the intention. Too often, people believe the intention is to lose weight. This belief obscures both information and practices. While it's true the information about dieting may appear to be about losing weight, the information itself cannot make it happen. If you go beyond the information of weight loss diets, you will see that it is about being healthy. One step further could lead you to being physically fit.

The outcome of heath and physical fitness cannot be realized through information. There must be a training regimen in place to support the realization of proper diet and/or exercise. And you practice on a daily basis. What does this have to do with formal education? Everything!

As with a diet, information from books will unlikely give one mastery over their profession. If it did, that could be a problem since 42% of college graduates never read another book after they graduate. Therefore, like a weight lose program, one must be clear about the intentions of their profession. If a person simply wants a to have a job, that intention will produce one outcome. If it is to master a profession, it will require training during and outside of work to support that outcome. And the training doesn't stop because you have the job of your desire.

How do you train to master your profession? Like dieting, if you are only reading books, there is a chance you will have only information. And it does not guarantee you will be the best.

Those who master their profession learn to invent it. When you look at people like Muhammad Ali, Michael Angelo, Albert Einstein and Michael Jordan, you see examples of people who mastered their craft. Even though their professions existed before they were born, they invented the future of their craft. They may have studied books, watched competitors and imagined new ways. They also carved out time to contemplate outcomes that had not been achieved by anyone as well as time to experiment with new training methods. Without the commitment to produce results beyond what they read in books, they would have been just as good as everyone else who read the same book.

As you can see, information is not the panacea to achieve mastery. It might help you gain insight into an area of life that may interest you. It is not sufficient to distinguish you in a crowd a many. If you haven't guessed, the training that makes you a master will have to be made up or invented by you. It is the outcomes you seek that will determine the kinds of training you choose. Good luck!

What do you think? I'm open to ideas. Or if you want to write me about a specific topic, connect through my blog Ted Santos

Disruptive Thinking for the US Educational System

The US educational system is run like a government entity. In reality, it resembles the services industry. In a business that provides services, there is a deliverable for the customer. In public schools, the customer is the student and teachers are the front line workers who provide the service. If schools adopted business practices, they would ask the customer: what would you like? In business, when clients do not believe they received what they paid for, they take their dollars elsewhere. As taxpayers, we pay for a service from the school districts. Therefore, we should ask: what is the deliverable for our children?

The deliverable is success, not retention of information. The teacher's number one job is to make students successful. In a business, teachers would be responsible for understanding what resources are needed to ensure they make customers happy. However, in today's schools, the politicians dictate what resources are needed to make students successful. In fact, politicians even tell school districts what subjects to teach and when certain subjects should no longer be taught. For example, in the state of Florida, English grammar is no longer taught after the fifth grade. Is the fifth grade sufficient time for a student to have command of their native language?

As you can imagine, as in business, the front line workers become frustrated when leadership does not listen to their requests for appropriate resources to service clients. In school districts throughout the nation, the frustration continues to escalate.

While teachers may temporarily have their hands tied because of government policies, there are a number of effective tactics that can be introduced to the classroom to ensure the success of their students/clients. Changing the approach of forcing students to memorize other people's ideas. Instead, help them bridge the gap between book knowledge and practical application. This will force them to think through problems and situations, instead of choosing multiple choice. One way to do that is to organize students in roundtable discussions. Create case studies from examples in books and have them apply what they learn to real time situations. More importantly, the teacher should only facilitate the discussions. Empower the students to take turns leading the conversations. It would be the teacher's job to prepare each student the day before for the lesson. If the students lead, they will have to read. And their peers will pay attention. This approach fosters innovation and leadership.

In addition, bring professionals to the classroom. They should not be motivational speakers. They should talk to the students about how to bridge the gap between what they learn in school and how that knowledge is utilized in the workforce. This helps students become better decision makers for career choices.

In well-run businesses, leadership creates the direction and the vision. From there, they get out of the way and allow employees to do their job. As conditions change and requests for different resources are made, leadership makes it available. To enhance success, leadership brings all stakeholders together to discuss how to increase the value proposition. In schools, that would mean teachers, students, parents, legislators, and suppliers of educational materials would come together and talk about how to make students more successful.

For those schools that are already taking this approach, thumbs up to you. For the rest, it is purely a matter of changing the mindset for why schools exist.

As other countries become developed, they will make it increasingly difficult for nations to compete without citizens with a world-class education. To avoid this dilemma, it is time to have a single-minded commitment that focuses on making students successful.

What do you think? I'm open to ideas. Or if you want to write me about a specific topic, connect through my blog

Are We Really Educating Our Children?

Once again, I sat down with the wisest person I've ever met. In this conversation, he and I brainstormed about the educational system. As with all of my conversations with him, I experienced the sensation of being educated about subjects I may not have considered. This dialogue was no different. As usual, he leads with questions.

He asked me if I knew the etymology of the word education. That led me to Wikipedia. There I learned that etymologically, the word "education" is derived from the Latin educatio ("A breeding, a bringing up, a rearing") from educo ("I educate, I train") which is related to the homonym educo ("I lead forth, I take out; I raise up, I erect") from e- ("from, out of") and duco ("I lead, I conduct").[3] With that said, he asked if I could discern what was missing in the educational system. He asserted that we've lost sight of the intention of the word educate.

I'm rarely foolish enough to defend my point of view against him. Therefore, I listened. And he gave me an earful.

He said the educational system starts with a presupposition that children are not intelligent. On the other hand, some institutions believe many four years olds qualify as geniuses. Why is it that so many children grow to dislike school and do just enough to get by if they start as geniuses? It may be because we don't leverage the brilliance children already possess. If you look at the word education, it has more to do with bringing up, to lead oneself, conduct and come out of. These children already have what it takes to lead themselves. They only require guidance.

The educational system is the opposite of empowering children to lead themselves. Instead of guidance, we impose beliefs upon them. We demand they memorize thoughts, beliefs and discoveries of others. We are asking them to be robots with memory chips. We do not engage them in such a way they develop authentic thinking. They only learn to rely on thoughts in their memory. What's worse, is many of the tests are multiple choice or true and false. And there are people who do not memorize the material. They just memorize if the answer is A, B, C, D or true or false.

In that paradigm, children never learn to lead themselves. In fact, that method teaches children to shut themselves down and value the knowledge of others more than they value their own innate brilliance.

I told him his analysis was harsh. He said he was still being nice. However, he said there is a better way to guide people to lead themselves to authentically think.

He suggested teachers serve as a guide to students. Instead of the teacher being at the front of the class, each student would be better served if they led class lessons. The teacher's role would be to work with each student to help them prepare for their turn at leading a lesson.

In that paradigm, the students would have to know the material to teach it to his or her peers. The student would also benefit if they could give their perspective on what they learned and how it relates to supposedly unrelated matters. That would encourage thinking. Furthermore, the other students would study the material with the intent of quality control. They would be more critical of their peers leading class than they are of the teacher. Some of the students would question their peers in a more challenging way than they would question the teacher.

This method would ensure students learn the material and lead themselves. The idea of critical thinking would become first nature and it would leverage the brilliance they already possess.

What do you think? I'm open to ideas. Or if you want to write me about a specific topic, connect through my blog Ted Santos

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