Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Readings of Summer

I have been spending some of the extra free time I find on my hands during the summer catching up on some reading. I have spent time reading articles, blogs, and books. My choice of topic as of late has focused mainly on secondary education and post secondary education. That is where my kids are in their lives so it makes sense that I would gravitate to these areas. I was aware of the variety of opinions that exist on these issues before I embarked on this reading adventure, but I have come to realize that many people are not up to date on the current state of affairs as it relates to these topics.

Historically, there have been two options for a young person graduating from high school. One could choose to go to college (this includes technical schools) or one could choose to enter the workforce (this option includes the military route). College was reserved for those careers where a degree was necessary--doctors, lawyers, CEOs, etc. One didn't need a college degree for jobs such as those in accounting, store managing, restaurants, and even teaching. Laura Ingalls studied for her teaching certificate at the age of 14. Times have changed.

In my reading I came across many who state that college is a waste of money, some who believe that not all young people are suited for college, some who advocate college should only be encouraged for sons while daughters should be encouraged to stay home until marriage, some who believe all high school graduates should go to college for at least a year...the opinions are many. As I sorted through them, I found myself disagreeing with many that I once agreed with and vice versa. I used to think I had it all figured out, but times have changed. The biggest influence on my thinking was not a blog or a well written magazine article, but rather a documentary titled, "Waiting for Superman". If you have not seen this movie, I encourage you to spend the dollar to rent it from Redbox. It will open your eyes to the true state of public education in America.

I used to think college was not for everyone. I still believe that to a point. There are some special needs students who would obviously not be successful in a college setting. But, for the average student who is capable of doing better than he or she showed in high school, I have come to believe that college is a necessity. According to the documentary, the United States will not have enough qualified individuals to fill jobs in the engineering fields in the foreseeable future. Technology is advancing by leaps and bounds everyday and our high schools are not doing a good job of keeping students up to par with the advancement. That will leave the United States no choice but to recruit qualified workers from countries whose educational systems are tarining their students poroperly--India, China, and Japan for example. In these countries emphasis is placed on learning and achieving academically, while in America we still feel that our high school students are children and deserve "play time". Students in these other countries have longer school days, weeks and years than their counterparts in the U.S. This gives them a huge advantage when it comes to being successful in college and beyond. Many American students who do go on to college often are going simply to party and enjoy the perks of living away from parents.

All that taken into consideration, though, I have come away from my readings believeing that college is essential to secure a good job. Of course there will always be exceptions. Everyone knows Bill Gates is not a college graduate and I'm sure most of us know at least one person who has made it in this world without a college degree, but the bottom line is as technology continues to advance and become more central to our everyday lives, our young people of today will need to have the skills necessary to keep up with the changes. I have also come to believe that going away to college is an important stepping stone to growing up. The cost is cheaper to live at home, for sure, but valuable lessons are lost by doing so. That must be a post for another day, though.

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