Friday, November 7, 2008

Graduating at 16?

This article, "Should Kids Be Able to Graduate at 16?", brings up an issue that has bothered me for a really long time ... about as long as I have been teaching. Not all students are meant to go on to higher education. Marty Nemko wrote in The Chronicle of Higher Education that college is a waste of money for students who graduate in the bottom 40% of their class because two-thirds of those students fail to earn a college degree. People need to start being realistic about their expectations AND need to stop projecting their own priorities onto complete strangers.

Our traditional public school system assumes that all students want to go on to college; furthermore, it forces all students to follow in that academic path. This is ludicrous and unfair. I have had many, many students in my classroom who know that they are not going to go to college. They don't want to go to college, and they have their own ideas about what they want to do. Success should not equal a college degree.

My husband went to college. He works for a man who did not go to college. His boss learned a trade while just making it through high school. Once he graduated, he continued in his trade and learning from his bosses until he was able to go it alone. Now, he owns his own business, has his own employees, and teaches my husband the trade.

Isn't the purpose of the public education system to serve the public -- all students. It seems to me that in an effort to serve all students the powers that be have forgotten that all students do not fit into one mold. Worse yet, the system is designed in a way that makes those students who do not fit into the pre-established mold feel like losers because they have different strengths than those students who fit the mold.

Sure, I fit the higher-education mold, as did most of my friends; however, I have friends who did not, and I have certainly had my fair share of students who did not.

How do you justify teaching Shakespeare to a senior in high school who plans on working with his father as a mechanic ? How do you justify teaching chemistry to a junior who pans on working with her mother as a hairdresser? You can't. As a teacher, I have lost that argument many times.

It is not that I do not value these things in education -- quite the contrary. I value appropriate curriculum designed to meet the students' needs and not those of the parents or the school district.

Shouldn't we have options for the students? Shouldn't we be able to provide training in specific skills in order to actually prepare them for the real world?

Instead, we force all students to suffer through a college preparatory curriculum that misses the mark for almost all students except those who are extremely average. The students who are very eager to learn the curriculum are usually bored because teachers have to aim for the common denominator. The students who are not planning on going on to college know that they are going through the motions just to get through and don't feel invested in the process.

This is why my fellow teachers and I are always complaining that honors isn't honors anymore. Honors has become "all students who are college-bound." Regular has become "all students who are too lazy or who are on campus because the law (and/or mommy and daddy) says they have to be there." It's time to meet EVERYONE's needs and make public education a positive experience for most students rather than some students.

No comments:

Post a Comment