June 02, 2005

Education for life

I'm very busy a the moment (for a hint at what I'm doing you can look here), but I'd like to take some time out for some quick comments on Amritas's latest post. He makes the radical statement that higher education isn't for everyone, and points to an article by John Ray called Down With Education! I basically agree with them, but I would like to briefly mention some things that I think the education system could do, but doesn't.

As John points out, there are two major goals of education: to teach skills that will be useful in life, and to create good citizens. I would like to add to this a third: to expose students to life's possibilities. Most people graduate from the educational system (whether at the High School or University level) with very little idea about their options. If you ask students about their career goals, for example (to pick just one aspect of life), your answers will be something like this:

  • Teacher
  • Movie Star
  • Sports player
  • Rock star
  • Doctor
  • Lawyer
  • Scientist
  • Father's/Mother's profession

This is, to put it mildly, a very unrepresentative picture of the true nature of the possibilities, both in terms of scope and proportion. These are simply the possibilities that are visible to the average student. But there is a big world out there, it would be nice to know something about it before you get there.

I think that this can be addressed. I think that every year (at least the four years of High School) students should take a course which is devoted to simply describing the workings of different industries - I can't think of a good name for it at the moment, any suggestions are welcome. The way it would work would be to take an industry - say food production - and describe all its components, e.g. what the farmers do - who they buy from, sell to, what are the factors which influence their decisionmaking, what are the different jobs in the industry, what are the skills that are required for the different jobs - then do the same for the people they sell to or buy from. Industries should be chosen based on their prominence in the economy, and diversity (i.e. their inner working are different from each other). I even think that government agencies should be covered - after all they really are potential career choices! Four years of this, and you can cover a lot of ground, and people would come out of it understanding a lot more about how the world works, and what their possibilities really are.

It seems to me that most students would consider this a fun course - it doesn't involve mathematics, and doesn't require good writing skills. Fun and useful, what could be better?

Posted by David Boxenhorn at June 2, 2005 09:52 AM | TrackBacks
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All public high school students in Los Angeles Unified would have to take the college-prep sequence required by California's public universities, under a proposal before the school board. Teachers and counselors at Hollywood High told the LA Times that...   ... more

Trackback by: joannejacobs.com (College for all) at June 3, 2005 09:35 PM Permalink

I wonder if it would be even more beneficial to actually work in various careers for at least a few hours a week. Learn and do is probably the best way to really understand anything.

Posted by: Rachel Ann at June 2, 2005 08:46 PM Permalink

Hello David:

I have written this small post on Disengagement plan (in English). Probably we donĀ“t agree, but I am very interested in your opinion:


Posted by: Kantor at June 3, 2005 11:58 PM Permalink

It would be nice if there were teachers who were bright enough to incorporate some kind of blogging curriculum into the classroom. The students could find bloggers in industries that interested them and comment and ask questions. I am sure that folks would be happy to respond and honestly tell the students what it is really about. The kids are going to be doing this kind of thing anyway, unguided, so imagine how productive it could be if there were assignments, and a little guidance, etc. I suppose smart parents might already be doing this kind of thing. shalom.

Posted by: koa at June 4, 2005 09:29 AM Permalink

University, just because, rather than to prepare for one's future is a waste of time and money. In Israel the kids first go to the army or National Service. and then they sometimes travel. So by the time they study, they have an idea, and acceptance to university is to a major, and it's a three year program.

Posted by: muse at June 4, 2005 08:27 PM Permalink

Muse is right; by the time Israeli children have reached college age, they have gone through the army, have perhaps held leadership positions, no what it is to work with little free time, do something for someone else. THey come not only older, but more prepared to do work.

Posted by: Rachel Ann at June 4, 2005 08:42 PM Permalink

When your hobby is also your career, then going to work might be a pleasure. A professional sports person or recognised artist, for example.

I always fancied glass blowing, or this http://www.outline-uk.com/Neon.htm

How about swordsmithing? http://www.thearma.org/


Posted by: Pericles at June 5, 2005 12:55 PM Permalink

This is very interesting, actually I'm having the same thought since I left school (which was 10 years ago). I live in Germany and although kids have the opportunities to take internships and visit companies I always thought it might be necessary to change the way of becoming a teacher. I mean here you leave school, you study at the university, you go back to school to be a teacher. Its a closed cycle somehow and although there are teachers that are very committed, curious and interested in miscellaneous things also a lot of them aren't. How can those people be able to draw a picture of the world out there and to give hints about the vast opportunities?? Difficult I'd say.

Posted by: heike at June 6, 2005 01:55 PM Permalink

My career goal when I was in high school was race car construction, which got me looked down upon both because it was considered blue collar and because I was a total dweeb about it. I let myself be pushed into college for mechanical engineering, which would have been useful in that field, but I'd have been far better off with a metalworking apprenticeship.

Of course if I had told people back in the '60s that I wanted my current line of work, using laptop computers and GPS mapping to optimise GSM wireless telephone networks, they really would have thought I was nuts.

Posted by: triticale at June 23, 2005 04:43 AM Permalink

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