Each of us has, or ought to have, a passion inside for a particular occupation, skill, art or science. A passion that overrides every obstacle and places us in life’s catbird seat, unashamed and happy in who we are and what we hope to accomplish before the ride is over and night falls.
A person should be prepared for this future, at least in part, by their experience in public education. The goal of education should be to help prepare students for life after school. Notice that I did not say, “prepare students for college.” That was intentional because, now hold on to your garters; Not. Every. Person. Should. Go. To. College.
Now, I realize that I just delivered an electric, politically suicidal, heresy. Don’t worry. I’ll give you a moment to recover from the shock.
Now that you’re breathing again, consider: that kid at the desk over there. The one who’s world revolves around graphic art, comic book plot lines, and the hero’s journey – the kid who spends every unobstructed moment creating astounding examples of visionary art work – does that kid need physics? Or would he do better in a graphic arts class?
What about the student who is besotted with cars? She can break down a transmission, diagnose the issue and put it back together again – fixed – in under an hour even though she has no formal training. (Most high schools don’t have auto shop anymore and all her dad knows about cars is the difference between an ignition switch and the car charger port.) Does she really need AP literature? Or would she do better in an apprentice program that turns out specialists in the automotive field? I’m not talking about intelligence here. I’m talking about desire.
Are there kids who benefit from the college path? Of course there are. There are a lot of kids with a passion for law, or medicine or teaching. We need them. But we need carpenters and accountants, philosophers, mechanics and construction workers too. Student A longs for a career in nuclear technology while student B really, honestly wants to be a sailor. Their passions, abilities and skills are different, but we need them both. And that means their educational needs are different too. Trying to shave off their unique edges so that everyone fits the predetermined mold leaves our society poorer, and more frustrated.
Turning a blind eye to the individualism that has created such marvels as the Golden Gate Bridge, fiber optics, nanotechnology and the X-men is madness. We need to stop doing it.
“Pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.” Maya Angelou
Ms. Angelou had a point and we need to shape an educational system that lets students prove it.