« Southern States Report Making Progress on Graduation Rates | Main | Required Reading for College-Application Season »

Duncan Laments 'False Dichotomy' of College vs. Career

| 8 Comments

From guest blogger Dakarai I. Aarons:

Arkansas Senate Majority Leader Joyce Elliott has a problem.

When she hears people say "not every child is going to college," it really bothers her, she told U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan last night, because "It's always someone else's child we are talking about."

College-prep curriculum is often viewed as being only for kids dubbed smart, while vocational and career-preparation programs are for those who aren't so brainy but are good with their hands, she said. What are the secretary's thoughts on rigor and readiness in career and technical education, she asked?

Duncan said he knew just what Elliott meant. When his friend John was younger, he was told he would be a good TV repairman. John Rogers went on to graduate from Princeton University, founded Ariel Investments, and became a multimillionaire.

"I think college versus career is a false dichotomy," the education secretary told the audience at a conference of the Wallace Foundation in Washington. "I think far too many of our students have been denied a college-ready core curriculum."

Career and vocational high school programs were great in the 1960s, Duncan said, but since then, "we have lost our way."

"The college-readiness skills are also career and technical skills," he said. "I think we have to get dramatically better in both of those."

Duncan, who said the nation's dropout problem is the result of "poverty and social failure," said more effort must be made to give more children opportunities to connect with higher education, including through dual-enrollment and early college high school programs.

And states, he said, need better standards. In his native Illinois, Duncan said, the standards leave students "barely prepared" to graduate from high school and lead to high remediation rates when students enter college.

8 Comments

The career versus college dichotomy is a false one. Most current "careers" require what college required 20 years ago.

I disagree as an educator I think we need to go back to the seperate track system. Some students are not going to go to college and they should be put on a general education tract that will allow them to take vocational studies. The problem with education is that we are put all levels of students in the same classes. This hurts both groups because it brings the overall course direction down to appease all levels. This also prevents the higher level students to not compete with like students.

I agree that high school should discontinue the Sort and Select syndrome. That is an old paradigm that must be left behind. I do believe that our K-12 education should be a place where students obtain a core understanding of the disciplines so that they may move into any further experience, or education that they desire. This means moving away from the "pile on the facts" curriculum to a teaching for meaning and understanding curriculum. More "rigorous" standards mean more of the same, slower, louder, and in more quantity.
That is NOT the answer!

In countries, such as Japan and Switzerland, there are high expectations for all students. Not only the children of the elite are encouraged to learn high-level math, for example. Over the years, these educational systems have developed to meet the different needs of their students without shortchanging them. Vocational study is an option, but one is still expected to share a common core knowledge with peers of all backgrounds. In the United States, however, there are some educators who think they have the right to decide early on which students can make it in a traditional college setting. To try to make a permanent assessment of a child's future potential when he or she is barely an adolescent shortchanges everyone. As technology advances and the world becomes more complex, citizens will need to be more educated. Regardless of their social and academic background, they will probably also need to have some vocational skills. If we learned anything from the recent recession, we learned that change is inevitable. White- and blue-collar workers have lost jobs, had to reinvent themselves, and explore new careers. In the 21st century, being able to work with both brains and hands can be an asset. Let's avoid typecasting our kids. Instead, we could focus on providing them with the best possible education to prepare them for diverse roles they could undertake in the future. Also, let the students play a role in figuring out their own limitations. It's not the educator's job to decide what the student will be able to do at the age of 30 or 40 when the child is just 13.

Senator Elliot is a very impressive educator, and she is right.

I'd argue that the operative factor is respect. In my experience, it is easier to motivate low-skilled students to attempt challenging lessons than dummied down lessons.

But too many people see "rigor" in reductionistic terms. "The Hand is the cutting edge of the Mind." In my experience, rigor has been reduced to nonstop bookwork, wringing all engaging methods out of the classroom. We've gambled everything on "the Head" and undercut poor schools efforts to teach to "the Heart."

I blame this on a misunderstanding of "best practices." Individual students deserve the same respect. And in effective schools, increasing "rigor and relevance" may be enough to increase student performance. But to turnaround high-poverty schools, the key is "relationships." The rate that we increase rigor for low-skill students will always be determined by the rate that we help motivate, help build confidence, and build emotional bonds with our students.

Its what "kind of smart" a person is. Differentiated learning should be implemented more in the high schools. Math classes need to be aimed at the different types of learning styles. Too many kids are left so confused by algebra or geometry they don't even know what questions to ask in order to get help. Public schools are so overcrowded there are not enough teachers or the funding to provide interventions. The verbal kids keep asking, "but what does that equation mean?" "How is it important to my life?" Returning to Applied Math will help those students see where algebra and geometry come into play in practical application to tasks and careers.
Perhaps if more kids receive some vocational training in high school, they will find work in the trades that can help them earn enough salary to pay for college without taking on the burdensome loans students must have now in order to attend college. Not everyone can go to college because most do not have the credit to take out the loans. A loan is NOT financial aid. Its a weight upon a promising young person's future.

Here's an idea. Prepare every student first for a trade or vocation. Stand the paradigm on it's head. A great new book "Shop Class as Soul Craft" is written by a former ivory tower elite, who now finds joy in fixing motorcycles. I teach at a vo-tech, and I think that we need intelligent people to be carpenters, car mechanics, electricians. Then, once they have that trade, they can go on to Princeton or Harvard, and invent incredible things. If college doesn't work out, perhaps because of a bad economy, that student can still earn very good money, instead of folding shirts at the Gap in the mall. Stop assuming knowledge workers are superior to tradesmen. Have you paid a plumber or your auto mechanic? Do you know why you need them? Because you don't know how to fix your plumbing, or fix your car. So, stop dogging vocational education, it needs to be elevated and preferred. Knowledge workers can be exported to India, your mechanic won't loose his job to Bangaloor, but many other jobs will be. We need to make sure we can train our students for jobs they can actually get. Trades schools do this unfailingly.

I think the debate of college vs. career is based upon a false assumption on both sides. Why must a person be ready for college at the end of high school! Many people work and learn about life before college. That is part of the strength of America. You have the freedom choose your own way, unlike countries. Why are there separate courses for career vs college. The same skills are needed at the beginning of a career and college. One needs to have good time management skills,a good work ethic and the ability to motivation to do the best you can.

Comments are now closed for this post.

Advertisement

Recent Comments

  • Rick: I think the debate of college vs. career is based read more
  • MBrubaker: Here's an idea. Prepare every student first for a trade read more
  • Mary Forston: Its what "kind of smart" a person is. Differentiated learning read more
  • john thompson: Senator Elliot is a very impressive educator, and she is read more
  • Annie Gregoire: In countries, such as Japan and Switzerland, there are high read more

Archives

Categories

Technorati

Technorati search

» Blogs that link here