College Prep, College Readiness, College for Everyone?

Do you agree that college for all is a worthy goal? Why or why not? Is it even a reasonable goal for all students to be “college ready”?

College for all as a worthy goal? No. Not every person needs college to be successful, and not every person will be a good college student.

Some people want to be farmers, plumbers, construction workers, auto mechanics, barbers, travel agents, or any of a hundred other professions that can be highly profitable but that do not require college degrees. (They do require specialized education, for the most part, but not college.) Some people simply lack the interest or skills to be students for another 4 years, and I don’t see a problem with that.

Perhaps what is needed is more of an opportunity for high school students to get a real, firm grasp on what they want to do with their lives (maybe more encouragement to leave the school and experience real life?), as well as more of an acceptance of high school students who reach the end of their secondary education and admit that they have no idea what they want to do.

I had a few friends who, immediately after high school, had no interest in college. Their parents honestly would/could not allow their children to “waste their lives” by not going on to college right away. Their parents spent the next several years yelling at their children for wasting their money on a college education they did not have any interest in, or on changing their major several times. I suspect everyone would have been better off had these friends been allowed to just start their lives and then pursue a degree later if one became necessary.

I honestly think we need to bring back vo-tech education to our high schools. My mom, in the years after she had to retire from teaching, tutored students who very smart but had problems. Several of her students simply were not academic types. One in particular wanted to be an auto mechanic. And he knew all about cars. How they run, how to fix them, etc. He just couldn’t get the hang of advanced math and all that other stuff they want you to do in high school. He did finally graduate, but it was such a struggle, and he had decided at one point to just drop out, he was so, so frustrated. How many students are there in our public schools right now just like him, but without parents and a tutor who are on his side, trying to help him struggle through? But what if his school had a good technical education program? Something he could SUCCEED in? I mean, he would still have had to struggle through the basic graduation requirements, but he could have at least had something that he was good at, something he could look forward to about school. And his high school education would have been able to actually help him towards his goal of becoming an auto mechanic, rather than the mistaken goal of making everyone ready for college.

I do not think that it’s even a reasonable goal for all students to be “college ready.” What does that even mean? When I hear “college ready,” I tend to think more in terms of maturity than in actual book knowledge. The vast majority of college drop-outs I know failed in college due to lack of maturity than due to not being able to hack the academics. (At least, that was true for DH and for my sister.)

I think that our schools MUST make sure that they are graduating students who can read, who can write English in a coherent manner (and, seriously, most adults I know can barely construct a sentence), who can do basic math, who have good life skills (like balancing a checkbook, making good financial decisions, etc.), and who can be good citizens (as in, they don’t just go vote for someone because they’re slick or a particular color or sex, but they can articulate the reasons for a candidate and the effects that proposed policies might potentially have if enacted). I don’t know if this alone constitutes “college readiness.” Geez, I consider those to be just the basics that a person needs to function in society.

Now, I need to admit something here. As a homeschooling mom, I will support whatever result my children choose for themselves. But part of me is secretly rooting for blue-collar work. Pays well, easier to become self-employed than your typical office/desk job, and the hours are more flexible. (I chuckle every time I think of the parade of workers we’ve had into our home. My favorites were the plasterers. Earl and his brother, I think it was. Learned plastering as children with their father, who learned from his grandfather. They obviously enjoyed the work, and enjoyed working together. And, um, they got paid well.)

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2 responses to “College Prep, College Readiness, College for Everyone?

  1. That’s what I was getting at about maturity.

    You make a good point there about the auto mechanics kid. I had a student one year who ONLY wanted to write about race cars. So I let him. Beautiful, creative essays- all trying to fit the assignment and be about his beloved race car. It worked. Later he said it was the first A he’d ever gotten, let alone in English.

    Sad thing- his parents were “making” him major in IT.

  2. I agree with you! I think far to many people in our country go to college. Did you know the average age of a welder in our country is in their FIFTIES? I think by the time my kids are ready to enter the work force, blue collar jobs will be in HIGH demand and pay VERY VERY well

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