For years the mantra has been every child must go to college. Of course, that’s why Americans were given the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). And that’s why students are being pushed with “rigor” to master skills at earlier levels than ever before. It is also why K-12 students are being pressured to fit into a narrow curriculum that ignores their individual strengths and interests.
As the story goes, our students were doing terrible and dropping out like nobody’s business. This message has been overly hyped (see “The Exaggerated Dropout Crisis” by Lawrence Mishel http://www.epi.org/publication/webfeatures_viewpoints_dropout_crisis/), but effectively used to go after public schools and change instruction.
Many of us realize the “students are failing” message has always been a nod towards privatization of our public schools. Who’s going to want private, including charter schools and vouchers, if public schools are doing a good job and sending students to college?
But many parents are worried about CCSS because they fear it is pushing their child, not into college as we know it, but into low-wage jobs. Classroom assignments, involving a change in what a student learns, like the restructuring of math, and a heavy emphasis on reading informational text, worries parents.
In the meantime many students still march forward, like good little soldiers, towards 4-year colleges and beyond. College attendance is at an all-time high http://www.pewresearch.org/daily-number/college-enrollment-at-all-time-high/. Ivy League schools turn away hundreds every year. State schools also have a record number of applicants.
Now politicians unfairly criticize students for dropping out of college! The real reasons are more likely due to the huge expense and college debt, not inability, or students do not see the value of continuing when they will graduate to fewer jobs.
Along with this, there is a strange conversion involving the college message.
The definition of college is no longer a 4-year college degree, but community college. Two year degrees seem to be what is emphasized the most. One gets the feeling the politicians and business leaders are suddenly figuring out that the Every Child, Every Day, College Bound (a real motto in Memphis) should be Vocational Bound instead.
When corporations say they can’t find skilled laborers, one must ask, what kind of skills are they talking about? Politicians and CEOs still manage to ridicule students for not being prepared—but the preparation is, in reality, vocational. The end results seem to be different than before.
While vocational-technical jobs are certainly critical and important to society, we are witnessing a lack of college jobs at the masters and PhD levels. Where are the jobs for lawyers, physicians, engineers, architects, etc.? Where are the careers in high-level STEM areas? Shouldn’t we be concerned for the many students who are headed in that direction, not to mention a country that appears not to have many jobs in those areas?
What jobs are we really talking about when it comes to the future of our students and America? Are parental concerns about Common Core State Standards and the future of jobs legitimate? And why are we pushing students harder and faster than ever before? You decide.
Here are the fastest growing occupations according to the January 2014, U.S. Dept. of Labor—Bureau of Labor Statistics. These jobs call for a high school diploma, or the equivalent, and Moderate-term or Long-term on-the-job training. A few call for an Apprenticeship.
- Automotive body and related repairers
- Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks
- Bus drivers, transit and intercity
- Computer-controlled machine tool operators, metal and plastic
- Construction and building inspectors
- Crane and tower operators
- Eligibility interviewers, government programs
- Excavating and loading machine and dragline operators
- Hazardous materials removal workers
- Industrial machinery mechanics
- Insurance sales agents
- Maintenance workers, machinery
- Mobile heavy equipment mechanics, except engines
- Occupational health and safety technicians
- Operating engineers and other construction equipment operators
- Painters, transportation equipment
- Payroll and timekeeping clerks
- Private detectives and investigators
- Property, real estate, and community association managers
- Real estate sales agents
- Sheet metal workers
- Surveying and mapping technicians
For another good perspective on this topic see the following: