Changing the System

Posted by Lynn Evans on 5/28/2019 4:55:00 PM

"Twenty years of schoolin' and they put you on the day shift" - Bob Dylan

This is not a post that professes to have the solution to changing our current education system. It's actually quite the contrary.  After 33 years in education, I'm looking for answers and clarity.

Up to now, the current education change speak pushes more academic rigor (which I tend to agree with to a point).  It also speaks to preparing each child for college. Sometimes the change agents come right out and say it, sometimes it's inferred.  This part, I am not in agreement with, at all.

I think that this is the exact type of thinking that is, in part, responsible for our economic problems and I am not speaking of the problems over the past 10 years. I am talking about the imbalance in trade and the gradual gap that has been widening between the haves and the have-nots over the past 5 decades. The disappearing traditional middle class.

A college degree is not the answer for every child, and certainly preparing each child for a four-year college education is not the answer. We continue to hear that kids can't find decent paying jobs, a living wage, benefits, etc...with a high school diploma.  I don't know that this is always the case. Now, I do believe that training or education beyond high school is a great thing.  I also think that the ability to continue to learn throughout one's life is critical.  I also know that there are more entry-level jobs that need some form of post-secondary training.  I just feel that for the masses, a liberal arts bachelor degree is counterproductive.

So what do we need?  We need to focus our secondary schools more toward technical reading, giving students opportunities to problem-solve, create, synthesize, write creatively, express themselves. Yes, math, science, reading, history, economics, foreign languages are all still important, but we need to be delivering them in context, not in isolation.  I also firmly believe that for the majority of students community college, junior college, technical schools are not only adequate but a much better choice.  We need to be preparing the majority of our student for that type of a post-secondary experience, not a liberal arts education.

What we have been creating is a labor force looking for supervisory, managerial, white collar jobs.  This is being pushed by primarily well educated, white collars or the university system.  The reality is that you can get a bachelor degree in subject areas that have no real-world career track. This sets not only our children up for eventual failure and disappointment but it creates an economic structure where the labor force refuses to be true laborers. An imbalance occurs. People refuse to accept certain living wage jobs because society implies that the job is below them. 

As I prepare to leave public K-12 education after 33 years (over 20 of which were in school administration) I am encouraged that the pendulum is beginning to swing back. Business and industry is beginning to have an influence on lawmakers in a positive manner. There is a beginning recognition that the trades are extremely valuable.  The College and Career Readiness initiatives are bringing the community college system to the table with K12 to help fill the void created by the liberal arts degree for all mindset of the past decade. 

If I were inclined to leave a parting thought, this would be it.