Thursday, April 7, 2011

College or the workforce?

About a month ago, the Harvard School of Education released a report called “Pathways to Prosperity: Meeting the Challenge of Preparing Young Americans for the 21st Century.” The report challenges the notion that k-12 education must be focused on preparing students for college, and suggests that high school education needs to offer young adults an option to continue on a technical career path -- right along with Obama's vision of "College or Career readiness" mantra.
At the national seminar of the Education Writers Association in New Orleans – where I’m writing from – Harvard Graduate School of Education Academic Dean Robert Schwartz defended the report, saying that Europe has a host of programs geared toward young adults that give them the option to follow a technical program rather than a four-year college education.
That many teenagers are bored with high school, and drop out because they can’t fathom completing high school so they can just go on with four more years of the same boredom. These are the students who need different options, he says.
Yes, Kati Haycock of the Education Trust says. There needs to be more options, but whatever new ideas come forth to increase technical education should not be meant to channel one set of students (i.e. low income children of color) on a technical career path while others are funneled to college. As she told Schwartz “funny how the prescription offered for your children is different from the prescription offered for other people’s children.” And that’s a battle that many in the community of color have been fighting for years: they don’t want their children to be pushed into a technical career. They want their children to go to college.
But what if college is not for everybody? What if there are children who need different challenges? What if some children would do better in a one-year program? Some people would say this is a racist way to look at the world, but, why not give it a chance?

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