Posted in Conversations

On the Importance of College and the Opinions of Mikes

Chelsea:  Hey babe…I’m interested to hear what you think about this…


Mike:  I’ll check it out.  First off, not sure I’m gonna like it.  Not a fan of Rahm Emanuel…comes off like such a politician.

He is a politician…

Well he still sounds like a spin doctor, but he is NOT wrong.  Modern economy = modern workforce. The current reality is that decent employment does require post high school training.  He is right about the key being acceptance letters to programs…not just paperwork of some kind of “plan.”  Now, the other detail that matters is that the university track is not necessary for all, and it’s wise to include trade apprenticeships, military service, and the like in that “acceptance letter” criteria.

I definitely appreciate the idea that schools are responsible for helping kids develop a plan for after graduation, but I’m not sure I agree that “decent employment does require post-high school training.” I think it’s SO WRONG to tell kids they have to go to college to be considered a “success” in life.  How many times have we talked about kids, who even at the high school level, just aren’t capable of some of the higher academic courses they are required to take, and yet they are forced to suffer through them?  And all they end up getting out of it is the feeling that they aren’t as good as everyone else because aren’t as “book smart?”  Put them in a machine shop and they might be able to do things a college graduate could never do.  Maybe that’s the apprenticeships/trade school thing?  I don’t know….

That is definitely the apprenticeship/trade school thing!  It is not that we are telling them they are less equal, less entitled than anyone else, but they need to hear that they are less employable in specific ways, in specific fields because they don’t know this and can’t do that.  We are also not making schools responsible for them having a plan…If done right this could make themselves and their parents responsible for having a plan of continued education (with obvious advice and counsel from public school).  

Well, I don’t see how this is going to make the parents or students responsible for having a plan….Since when have parents and students taken responsibility for meeting any of the other graduation requirements?  That task is going to fall on guidance counselors and probably whole new departments built to help kids get a plan.  Not that that is necessarily a bad thing, so long as those plans are legitimate.  

Well there would definitely be a practical concern about the quality of education/training in the programs they are accepted to.  Are they pay for diploma setups that lack rigor, accountability, and mentorship level candor or are they good programs that reflect the actual employment landscape?  This is a fine idea, but the details matter more than the abstract idea…but it could be a start.

The REALITY is that to be successful professionally, regardless of the field, they will have to keep learning.  No one disagrees that in 2017 one has to be a life long learner…So why adopt a set of expectations lower than that reality?  Kinda like accepting a D for credit in a class.  No one really thinks a D is acceptable but you get to pass go and collect $200 anyway because we don’t want to hurt your feelings because you may have tried hard.  We need to match what we hold young people accountable for to what they actually need to be able to know and do.  I don’t think of myself as an idealist, much more a pragmatist…and speaking pragmatically, they are going to have to learn something beyond high school to be employable in a decent job.  We are deluding them into thinking they will be “successful” if they just graduate from high school.  

But what about kids who have legitimate jobs lined up after graduation?  Shouldn’t that be considered a “plan”?  I mean, what about kids like my cousin, James, who is working with his dad and will someday take over the farm?  Would they consider that a legitimate “apprenticeship”?  Or would they force him to sign up for classes he doesn’t need at a community college to get his diploma?  And at what point do we stop teaching and let kids be adults?  And make decisions on their own?  Aren’t we just extending childhood even FURTHER than it already has been?

I’m sure there is a practical way to put in common sense exemptions…

Yes, because government-run programs are so well-known for their common sense….

Also, what percent of US students do you think are like your cousin…lined up with a large family farm waiting for them to graduate?   0.01%?  Schools have not extended adolescence to 30; society, and more specifically parents, have.  We might as well actually hold them to at least starting down the path of what it is going to take to have the job, pay, respect, and leisure time they envision for themselves.  Currently, too many only hear that “the world is their oyster,” that they should “just pick something they love and they will never have a day of real work in their lives,” or some mumbo jumbo about what worked for their parents 30 years ago will all just “work out” for them.  They don’t need touchy feely slogans and excuses for their lot in life, they need real mentorship and high expectations.  They need a reality check and some basic accountability! Not gonna solve all the problems, but it does seem like a step in the right direction with the reality of a 2017 globally competitive job market and national economy.  

Speaking of the economy, another angle I have an issue with is cost.  The cost of college…even sometimes just classes at a community college, is getting ridiculous.  And unless you want this guy to be president, that’s not changing anytime soon…

bernieI think that just as much as we have kids graduating high school without a “plan,” we have kids graduating from high school, racking up thousands of dollars in college debt…and they STILL don’t have a plan!  Too many kids go to college now-a-days who are NOT college material…and I’m not saying that as an insult!  I’m saying they are wasting their money on something they don’t need, when their time and efforts and money would have been much better spent somewhere else.  And I worry that a program like this will push even more kids into areas that don’t match their abilities or interests.  I think instead of making a broad rule that every kid has to show an “acceptance letter”, and paying to put a bureaucracy in place to monitor that, maybe they should put that money into a careers program and require all high school students to job shadow a certain number of fields every year of high school.  I think that would be much more likely to solve the problem than an arbitrary graduation requirement.  

You have legitimate concerns here with cost and flooding universities with students in the wrong fields or who don’t really want or need that type of education.  Free college, don’t get me started.  Costs are out of control and more government debt for more handouts isn’t  the answer. Too many kids have it free already, paid for by mom and dad as part of a life experience instead of a professional training. Costs need to be brought down, especially at public universities, but students need to be paying for it themselves…you know engaged and confronted with the reality, making the hard choices, dealing with the consequences…ya know rising to the occasion…capitalism and all that “law of self-interest” stuff.  

I’m all for a career education program but I have not seen one that works yet…always seems to be just on paper and too little too late.  I don’t think the key is job shadowing in high school, although some of that could be good.  I think the key is engaging them them with that decision earlier in age.  Middle school students (and parents) need to be confronted with their future professionally and they should be made more active in making actual decisions sooner rather than later.

I agree with that!  At the middle school we have (or used to have?) a careers class, but it wasn’t enough.  The kids should be taking that every year starting in 5th or 6th grade….and not the cheesy career programs that come in a neat little kit where they take a multiple choice quiz to figure out which career path is best for them and then read about it online.  The kind where real people from the community come in as guest speakers on a regular basis, and they interview people they know about their jobs, and the kind where they have to create a budget and compare it to the average salary for different fields.  Practical stuff.  But see?  The devil is in the details!  So, is Rahm Emanuel making a rule really going to help….?

Basically, I’m with this guy!  

mike rowe

Do you think Mike would like the idea?  🙂

He would! Because college is not the right answer for everyone, but some kind of professional training/education/apprenticeship is for everyone!  I think he would agree with a pragmatic initiative that worked out the details to ensure effectiveness in the real world…provided it still had a few common sense exemptions such as entrance into the armed forces.  And if both Mike’s agree, it must be a good start!  

Now we just have to ask my dad…to make it a trifecta.

Great Mikes think alike!