Monthly Archives: July 2012

Wellesley Commencement

I’m not a johnny-come-lately to this topic, but I’ve been carrying around the June 25th edition of Newsweek (despite having it on my iPad) and re-reading the op-ed of the editor Tina Brown titled Generation ‘Special’. I don’t know how old Tina is, but the article is about the graduating class of 2012 and their place in our society. The article includes a photo of a young lady on some school campus from 1965 (a year before I graduated Sachem High School) and in general discusses the “issues” this and the past several graduating classes have faced and their attitude toward their future. Additionally the article references the commencement speech given by David McCullough Jr., who echoed what most cave dwellers have wanted to say (and some have) to their seniors every year. I don’t have a problem with Tina or David, rather more of an internal confusion about these graduates. If I am not mistaken my father’s words were very similar when I graduated to the speech given by David. His “Greatest Generation” gave birth to future parents whose idea of family was then to give everything possible to their children in hopes that their lives will be better than the one before. I don’t see anything wrong with that plan, yet somehow it turned out generations of graduates not really ready to graduate. Again I am still struggling with what (if anything) is the central problem?
Could it be that the problem does not really exist? As we’ve developed and adjusted timelines for adulthood over the years that perhaps instead of recognizing 18 as the point where magically everyone is considered an adult to move it up a few years to 21? And with this change we move and adjust school graduation to actually occur in the 15th year instead of the 13th? Why not? We added Kindergarten years ago to help students adjust to school, and now even pre-school. Why not adjust it the other way? The last two years of school would be career training or collegiate courses, like those already offered in many high schools during a student’s senior year. Additionally this process of deciding what course the student would take in their 14th and 15th years would have been pre-determined by early selection of careers, as currently practiced in Georgia In Georgia the students begin examining careers as early as the elementary grades so by the time they are entering the 9th grade they are ready to select a career.
Perhaps the problem is therefore,we do not provide them with the necessary training for any career in high school. In fact we do not prepare them for anything. Ever review a high school student’s curriculum? What is it they are training to be? What job is this preparing them for? Many schools have already done away with the only high school program that tried to assist a student in selecting a career, the Vocational programs, so they could add more math or science courses so Johnny could pass the state mandated tests and the principal and teachers could keep their jobs.
I am a proponent of the Common Core State Standards don’t get me wrong. I believe in a good solid, academic training. But if the product of this system is the student, after 13 years of working on the product shouldn’t it be able to do something?

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Three Cycles II

First of all thanks for all the emails/blogs and yes, I agree that it is still not that simple. Can’t really compare the education of a child to young adult with the manufacturing of anything because there are way too many dynamics. I agree. Adding to the mix the mobility of our society, various parental structures, ever changing technology, all of which simply goes to strengthen my central theme and that is the political process cannot help save education in our country. Try as we may to give all our problems up to the government, this is one that we cannot give up. This will take a much larger organization than the government, a more flexible, responsible organization. I think we are past throwing the responsibility back on the parents because they keep throwing it back. They throw it back because the educational system itself has gotten to be so complex that again I believe things like CCSS is exactly what we need. Not so much the standards themselves as the process that formed CCSS.
Many states over the past ten years have been chipping away at what used to be called vocational classes in order to better prepare students for the college path. Despite repeated studies showing the number of students in college and those in trade and vocational schools showing a gradual increase in these students, high schools seem too be going the other way. Tennessee among others, has been doing just that and I believe this will impact all of us negatively in the not too distant future. Some states like the NY system of BOCES is actually in the process of strengthening their vocational programs by developing a testing process like the end of year tests in academic studies, to validate the classes and improve student performance.