I wish I could recall the first place I read about this.  From that book, I had an ah hah moment; not all career paths require a college education.  There are very specific professions such as becoming a doctor, lawyer, teacher (even that can be done these days without a degree, all those pop up ads “become a teacher in 6 weeks!”), professor, or certain financial roles, to name some, that require a higher education.

A recent event I attended, a fundraiser for a developing arts program for an inner-city charter high school, left me questioning.

A charter school that is in the thick of gang violence, low income families, and altruistic teachers.  My experiences of working in that type of school climate such as this charter school, taught me students are often saddled with getting jobs as soon as possible to contribute to the needs of the family. It is rare that they maintain commitments to sports or after school activities.  They are dealing with all types of pressures that supersede many educational obligations or enjoyment. And, while

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I think it could be viewed as a noble and important cause to encourage these students to go on to college, it is not in the best interest of the entire student body.  The intention lacks genuine contemplation (like much of education) of ndividual needs.  The concept of deciding for the group (like much of education) with a PR thumping of the chest, seems to be a wave that won’t stop coming.

 

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This lingering notion of sending ALL STUDENTS on to college was a proud point for the speaker (which I can understand). At this event, Charles, a leader at this charter school, shared the impressiveness that every single graduating student of the former class 2016, had been accepted to college.  I couldn’t help but think, “How will these inner-city students afford it?  What is the purpose of going on to college?  Do the students know what they want to study?  Is going on to college purposeful for them?”

Promoting the concept of higher education as the only or best option for students is dangerous at worst, irresponsible at best, here’s why:

  • A concept endorsed, is a slogan: “All of our students are going to college!” It becomes a race to the top, perhaps a great form of peer pressure where students push one another, “What did you get on your test?  Did you pass the mid-term?  What is your topic for your final project?”  It is like a pep rally delivered by the teachers for the benefit of themselves, or grant funding, or self-serving satisfaction of the school or neighborhood relations (which could be very positive, if… that is for another blog).  Now that school can say, “All of our students go to college.”
  • Irresponsibility: If high-school sucked, college will likely be worse. Why not foster student interests?  Some kids detest school.  Why would they opt for more sitting, listening, and learning when they have spent the last years of their education, cutting class, handing in no work, mediocre work, or being dragged through work by a devoted teacher?  When, oh when, will we individualize for students or even groups within the group? Differentiation used to be and still may be a talked about approach for meeting the needs of students – where is the differentiation at the high-school level; those  who may be enormously talented in carpentry, humor, writing, beauty, styling, or constructing?
  • Danger:   College is glorified as a solution to conditions.  A response to, societies view of inner-city students not faring well academically.  It is a nose in the air, by the school, that, “We’ll show society, we can send our kids off to college.”  The sell is, “If you go on to college, you will be successful (earn a shit ton of money) and live a luxurious life.”  dollar-signMy thinking is, the idea is promoted with no net, no ladder, no forward planning. How will tuition be paid? How will loans be paid off?  What career is in the making? (Mass marketing and mass media shouts out loud, one must go to college!)  If you will be working as a mechanic, painter, tattoo artist, construction worker, make-up artist, esthetician , or manager of a store (yes, I’m generalizing), you do not need a degree, nor do you need the debt.  When these students complete the trajectory, that they were willing join, because they were impressionable and caught up in the excitement, what is next for them? I’m guessing that high school won’t be there for them…

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So many teachers are amazing influencers.

Teachers have great power, particularly with the ones with whom they share a great bond.

It is not the administrators, it is not the policy makers, it is not the curriculum, it is the teacher, there, every day, with love, compassion, dedication, and pulsing blood of invested interest in guiding, educating, supporting those children as individuals.

I suggest teachers have conversations like this: “Derrick, I see the pictures you show of the bookcases you made?  Where did you learn how to do that?  Do you enjoy that work?  Have you thought about creating more and selling them?  You seem to be developing quite a skill working with wood and carpentry, could I help you further – it is a viable career path which could earn you a nice income and keep you happy with your work.  Have you thought about promoting your work on social media? Starting how-to videos, for carpentry, for youth?” Or…

“Tania, I’m always catching you fixing your friends hair, or touching up their make-up.  I see you polishing up the boys in the hall.  Plus, you yourself always look lovely and fashionably together. You seem to have a great interest in beauty and styling.  Is that something you’d like to do for work or income after high-school?  I could use some tailored looks for work, would you like to suggest some clothing options or make-up options for me, I could change my look and talk about what you’ve done for me with the other teachers.  I also know of a few local shops that could take you under their wing for learning the business ropes, selling, and customer service.  Perhaps, I help you set up some after school classes for students interested in upgrading their wardrobe or need pointers on make-up application.  Would that interest you?”

Stop, please stop, promoting higher education as the catch-all.

Teachers, you know your students well, support them as individuals getting ready for adulthood.

Have you been a teacher in a school where college is heavily promoted?  What was your experience?

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