Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Prepared for What?

Are students taking multiple AP courses for the right reasons? This peculiar opinion piece from the New York Times seems to think not, but lays the blame on education, both collegiate and high school. Perhaps as parents, we are teaching our children wrong values. 

This year our school is offering their first AP course and all the other courses have been asked to push the academics to higher levels. I have also heard parents (both directly and echoed by their children) proclaim that to just get into college, students need a GPA above 3.8 and AP courses.

However, the most striking thing I am shocked by this year is the number of kids dropping my elective courses in the first two weeks. The number one reason given is the need for a study hall. Web Design and Programming enrollment has dropped in half. Yearbook is down from thirteen students last year to four. It truly feels like students are pursuing college admissions competitions rather than learning life skills.

I know it is not a new opinion. My own parents did not care for me to drop Algebra II second semester for an Industrial Technology course. They feared that I would not get a "good job" (i.e., high paying) without a college degree. Nevertheless, I earned a college degree but have never held a job in my field of training. On the other hand, I still use the art, electrical, mechanical, and musical and drama skills learned through high school elective courses. Therefore, I could also argue that high school prepared me better for the diversity of challenges found in my work experiences than my Bachelor of Arts degree.

I am all for academic rigor, but I would rather see a kid wholeheartedly pursue something they love and will use through life. If my own kids need a degree for the career they want, they had better work hard at it. However, the degree should never become the primary goal. Is there anything worse than only being qualified to do something you despise?