What has occurred in our society which has resulted in the implication that all students should follow the same path? Today it is assumed that students graduating from high school immediately go to college. Although this path is ideal for many, it is not the universally ideal path for all.
The problem with this new sociological expectation is that not all people/students are created equally. While some are academically enthusiastic and excel scholastically, others may struggle scholastically but excel in other areas which bring great value to society. However since now, virtually all students are trying to be squeezed into a round peg, their natural born talents are being squashed in an effort to force academics upon them.
How many of us took shop in high school? Electives were a requirement – whether it was woodshop, automotive, electrical, cooking, etc. We learned practical skills which would serve us later in life. Yes, I built a lamp out of a Coca-Cola can – which when I brought it home my father was extremely proud while my mother was more concerned about the red color of the can lamp contrasting with her decorative theme. But as a result…..I have the basic electrical knowledge which allowed me in my adult life to change outlets, switches, repair appliances, etc.
What about automotive? The reason most adults in their 30s & 40s can change a tire, battery, and/or oil is due to the practical skills they acquired in shop class. I remember the excitement of my father when he assigned me the task of changing the oil in his car. If it was not for my forgetfulness of reinserting the plug before filling the engine block back with oil, I think his excitement and pride would have lasted much longer.
Nonetheless, many of the students participating in my classes went on to successful careers as a mechanic, electrician, plumber or carpenter. The success of their careers was not based on a stereotypical collegian path. Their success was often the result of their hard work, passion, and the continued enhancement and expansion of their skills via trade school, internship, or other alternative practical methods. Unfortunately, today many do not have the same opportunities that we had in our youth.
The one-size fits all approach of every student expected to attend college is not only a disservice to the student but society as a whole. Most of the younger generation lacks the practical skills to do their own self-repairs. Obviously, it is not their fault; they were not provided the most basic skills. Therefore, they are forced to hire individuals to complete these tasks. Unfortunately, the problem is amplified since there are also fewer individuals in these professions.
The irony is that the elimination of these courses may have been done with good intentions – providing and steering all students in a higher academic path. The unfortunate reality is that not all individuals are academically gifted. Their natural skills may come in the form of a craft/trade. I can honestly say that I believe that my mechanic and plumber probably earn more money than some people I know with their Master’s Degree.
Secondary education is important. As previously mentioned, college is a critical path for many in achieving their goals. However, college can also be costly and ineffective for those with different goals or passions. The true key is to ultimately identify the goal and then determine which form of secondary education is the appropriate path. Understanding that there are different acceptable paths should ease the pressure and improve the odds for success. Needless to say, it does not appear that elective courses will be resuming any time soon in the public education system. Therefore, the parents must now solely shoulder the responsibilities of building these skill sets with their children.
It can be challenging but also provide a great opportunity to talk with your child about all aspects of their lives in an informal setting. The added benefit is the memories being created – even when you forget to put in the oil plug and have to clean up 4 quarts of oil off the garage floor.
Check out the link below for another fun article on the subject!
Husband, father, coffee connoisseur and lover of all things hockey. At 51 I sometimes wonder have I done enough. I have been married to my best friend for 30 years. She knows all my faults and loves me anyway, As a father of “almost always” perfect boys, I am always surprised at what life has to offer. It is messy, scary, thrilling, and always fun.