Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Connections yes, funding no

Today's Everett Herald had an interesting editorial piece on education. To summarize: there are a lot of good, high-skilled, high-wage jobs out there, but students aren't aware and aren't preparing for them. The solution is a $900 million fund for grants to help draw the connections.

Okay, I'm buying the part about good jobs. I agree that students aren't recognizing the full range of career opportunities. The drop-out rate is way too high, yes I'm with you. So we need a new federal program to make grants. Oppps, you lost me on that last one.

Is it possible that students don't see these as an option because we - parents, teachers, counselors, business leaders, politicians and editorial writers - have spent the last 30 years devaluing these careers? I've done it myself. I've joked about avoiding jobs where your name is sewn on your shirt. Never mind that for the last 20 years I've been sporting a badge that tracks my every moment and features a picture that makes my driver's license photo look like Annie Leibovitz was working the camera at the DMV.

A month ago I walked into the Mariner High counseling center for our first advisory committee of the year. What I saw were big banners with the registration dates for the major public and private 4-year colleges in the area. That's all I remember seeing. There may have been information on community colleges and apprenticeship programs, but I sure don't remember them. If it made that big of an impression on a 50-year old, imagine the message a 15-year old receives.

I have heard on several occassions, from teachers in different districts, that counseling students to options other than a 4-year degree directly following high school is not done. The expectation is that college is the one true way to succeed in life. Society sees it that way, why shouldn't counselors. You've heard administrators proudly claim that "xx% of our graduates are accepted to 4 year colleges"? Okay, again why are students not looking at the full range of career options? Is it possible that students are listening to what we are saying, even if we aren't listening to ourselves?

So yes, we do need to feature these career paths. Yes, we do need to counsel students about their options. Yes, we do need to celebrate the opportunity Sno-Isle Skills center and our community colleges offer. We don't need a federal program and grants to do it. We've put up a wall to block student's view and now we want a federal grant to install a window. It's our wall and we should remove it ourselves.

For related discussions, see my 2+2+2 = Bachelor of Applied Science and Review Rep. Loomis Wrap Newsletter posts.

Tags: , ,


Anonymous said...

Did you see the latest article in the Herald, noting that our esteemed Senator Hobbs has the *brilliant* idea to fund a four-year college in this county *using only COUNTY money*? Okay, so a new state college funded totally by county money... how does that work, exactly?

- annoyed in Snohomish

Corey Smith said...

Dear annoyed in Snohomish (I feel like Dear Abby all of a sudden),

I did see the article, and while I am still considering it (blog post to follow soon), the thing I like is that it says "I am willing to put my money where my mouth is". I don't agree with a new campus, regardless of the funding, but at least Hobbs is saying this really does make sense and we can pay for it.

We want this college because we (tri-county) need it, not because Bremerton or Yakima needs it. We could just as easily use the $1 billion to fund slots at existing schools. Why shouldn't we pay for it? Why shouldn't Kitsap county pay for the university they want?

As for how it would work, I don't know what Hobbs has in mind, but maybe it wouldn't be a state school, it would be ours. Perhaps a public/private partnership of some sorts. How do the Jesuits or University of Phoenix start and operate a new college?

Anonymous said...

I'm looking forward to your post on the article.

- maybe not quite so annoyed in Snohomish