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
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