"I just want to ask you about a statement on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's Web site that I read, which is that, "All students in the United States can and must graduate from high school, and they must leave with the skills necessary for college, work, and citizenship.
Yes, I think we can. And, in fact, I'm here today in the Chicago school district visiting with students...huge number of Latinos and African-American populations, and guess what? I'm in schools where 95 to 98 percent of these kids are going on to college, and it's because they started freshman year with teachers who believe in them and said, 'These kids can do it.' And maybe they are not coming in with the right reading or math skills, but we are going to bring them up, and we are going to have high expectations of them. And guess what? Those kids are succeeding, and those kids are getting into college."
This got me to thinking because on Friday's Weekday on KUOW, they had women in the trades on (there was a trades fair going on downtown that day). One woman was a welder, one was an electrician and I believe the other one was in construction. Two of them had college degrees but really wanted to and ended up enjoying their work tremendously. There is a looming shortage of workers in the trades (men, not just women; most are in their late '50s according to these women on the show). They work for about $22-30 per hour. But shop and other vocational ed classes have gotten phased out and many kids don't even know about these types of jobs.
- I agree with Ms. Gates on the college ready, work and citizenship fronts (but, as I have said previously, I really believe the citizenship one is vital and yet gets virtually no press or emphasis even though we are in a war, are having the Bill of Rights challenged on every front and have failing voting rates). However, the reality is not every student is going to college. No way. It may be a great sound bite but college is not for all kids and college is not affordable for all kids. If we make kids feel that they are failures for NOT going to college, we send them out into the world feeling defeated. At 18.
-She also says that with the kids in Chicago they started in freshman year. Really. Okay, great if that's how it worked out. I have a hard time believing that you can turn around that many kids in 4 years. I'm with Mike Riley over in Bellevue. You start in kindergarten just talking about college and how important it is. Kids need to believe (or at least be thinking in these terms) by middle school that they need to plan for college AND that there is a full support system to help them.
So here's a couple of questions:
-Should the goal be college-ready or everyone in the pool to college (and can you imagine the systemic changes that would have to occur for this to be a reality)?
-Why, if you can't swing a dead cat without hitting someone who's remodeling their house in some way (meaning we need all those people who have expertise in all kinds of skills), do we not talk to kids about their options? Frankly, some college or a college degree can only help a person with any job especially if they want to run a business. I have been an at-home mom for years and just recently explained to my son that my degree helps me be a better parent because I can teach him more, advocate for him better and be able to help him make choices about his life. But I don't believe every kid will choose college and shouldn't we be giving kids options?