Things I Know 218 of 365: ‘College- and career-ready’ is backwards thinking

I am often amazed at how much more capability and enthusiasm for science there is among elementary school youngsters than among college students.

– Carl Sagan

I mentioned a few days ago that I took issue with a couple of the questions asked at our new-student orientation. Not took issue in the torches and pitchforks, storm the castle, sense, but issue just the same.

One of the facts shared with us was the percent of students in the new class who are the first in their families to earn a bachelor’s degree (16%).

To set that in perspective, we were then told that only 27.2% of people in the United States of have a bachelor’s degree. To this, there was an audible “hmmmm.”

When we started discussing things at my table, I was interested in how readily we accepted the notion that a bachelor’s was to be expected, the mark of success or making it or acceptance.

I wondered who else in the tent wondered at the idea that what was likely expected for somewhere near 84% of us was out of reach, had slipped through the fingers or was uninteresting to 72.8% of those in the country.

It started me thinking on where I stand regarding college education.

I read Will’s post to his kids his acceptance of their choices later in life if they choose not to go to college, and I remember thinking how much care his words contained.

It didn’t get me going as to whether or not I would write a similar post if I had kids.

But of course I have had kids. For only 180-days at a time, but they were in my charge just the same.

And it’s interesting how what I wanted for that first class at Sarasota Middle shifted by the time I saw my last classes at SLA.

I hadn’t known enough kids when I started teaching to realize that college wasn’t the path for everyone.

I only knew me and knew that it had always been my path.

With that limited understanding, I applied my logic to my students through my teaching practice. I taught them as though the preparation of school could and should only be geared toward preparing students for college.

In doing so, I underserved and under appreciated those students who were learning and growing into remarkable adults, but who weren’t on a trajectory that would lead them to a bachelor’s degree.

Somehow, they and I were failing. I couldn’t see the flaw in my logic because I didn’t know what I was doing.

By the time I was helping to counsel my last group of kids at SLA, I knew better (though not nearly completely) how to see my students and listen to understand where they were interested in heading.

Yes, the vast majority were on their way to 4-year colleges, and many of them will secure degrees beyond whatever paper I finally settle with as a the terminus for my education.

For those who needed something different, whose paths called for what was other than dorm living, ENG 101 and lecture hall classes, I’d started hearing them and realizing they were heading to lives by way of roads I’d never seen.

That was tough.

Still is.

Yes, I know the financial impact a college degree can have on a person’s lifelong earning potential.

I’ve also seen the emotional and financial impact a degree earned out of obligation and not desire can have on a person’s lifelong living potential.

Much attention is being paid as of late to whether or not our students are college and career ready by the time they graduate from high school.

It seems to me, that perhaps we should be paying attention to making more and more diverse colleges and careers so that they have at least a possible shot of being student ready.

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