Growing up in an upper middle-class school district, the ultimate goal throughout my education was the same for everyone; graduate and go to college. I’m not about to suggest that shouldn’t still be the goal for all students in public education today. In fact, I’m fairly certain teachers in every school across America are stressing the importance of education and moving on to college. It’s their inherent nature. However, reality suggests the percentage of high school graduates attending a four year college is much, much lower (33% in 2008-09 to be exact). Yet the mindset in public education today is still the same as it was for my generation of the 80’s and 90’s.
Today, I teach students who’re quite different than the friends I went to school with. The state deems our school “economically disadvantaged”. I suppose that characterizes a majority of Americans during these times. And while it certainly paints a broad picture of the kids you’ll see walking our halls, it shouldn’t characterize all. The major difference I’ve found between my students and the ones I grew up with begins at home. If anything said at school will ever take effect, parents have to confirm and back it up at home. More times than not, that isn’t happening in the lower economic areas of America (as much as you might think). It’s said the lower socioeconomic culture is one based on entertainment rather than the middle and upper class culture based on acheivement (Ruby Payne: “Framework for Understanding Poverty”). I agree, but only because of the current educational system in place.
I wonder how America would survive if the overall theory of educators got its way? What would a college degree mean if everyone had one? Where are the customer service reps, sanitation workers, and mailmen gonna come from? Granted, I don’t believe all teachers shove college down the throats of their young minds, but most tend to. Many would probably agree that a 16 or 17 year old high school dropout has failed in life (and they don’t seem to be afraid in personally letting them know). But with the success stories of internet and online businessmen getting younger and younger, who’s to say what IS and ISN‘T “successful”? The Office for National Statistics points out that the amount spent on state education has risen by 43% since 2000, yet school “productivity” has actually declined by almost 8%. That’s called a “reverse correlation”. My old warehouse boss had a 9th grade education. Check that, he only finished the 8th grade. Failure isn’t a fitting description in any way, shape, or form for his accomplishments.
I don’t want to see any 11 or 12 year old kid feeling that education has left them behind…and there’s no way to catch back up. The sad reality is, Johns Hopkins University research has shown indicators that begin in 6th grade proving whether or not a students will graduate high school or not.
- Under 80% attendance (usually missing around 35 days during the year)
- More than two (2) behavioral consequences (with the office/principal)
- Failed math
- Failed reading
Students matching three (3) of these four (4) indicators will almost certainly become negatively labeled, cast aside as a failure in the educational system. I’m thinking of a handful of them right now. I’m not trying to bite the hand that fed/feeds me, but I think a change in philosophy may be in order. In some cases, it is. Technical careers and trade schools are being promoted more and more at the high school level. Options are out there, and hopefully students are taking advantage. But I believe those options could be even more exclusive. What if a student realizes standard college just isn’t in the cards? Why not give them the chance to work towards a career in say, automotive, and take NOTHING but classes geared toward that end goal, beginning as a freshman or sophomore? Why do three science & math, four English, and however many elective credits constitute a “successful” high school graduate? Why not offer a diploma needed to attend a standard four-year university and another to satisfy other careers? We already have high school diplomas and GED’s to get in the military…how about something fitting in between?
The “real world” isn’t high school. It isn’t college. Maybe it’s time our educational system tweak itself accordingly.