Dear Dr. Fournier:
My daughter comes in day after day complaining about school and how boring it is. Her grades are mediocre and she has no direction, and it has been a struggle to keep her in school. What options do we have? She says he wants to go into nursing, but how can she get there if she can’t go to college?
Preparation for college is very important for many students, but it may not be the best option for all students.
The current numbers for high school dropouts are staggering. Many of these students drop out due academic difficulties. However, an alarming number of students say they dropped out “because they felt their classes were not interesting, and that high school was unrelentingly boring.” Can we blame them? The current industrial era model of education will only continue to become more and more out of date as culture continues to evolve, and as a result the number of students who say they are stuck in a system with no relevance will continue to grow. Is it any wonder that according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States now has the highest college dropout rate in the industrialized world?
The recent recommitment to post-secondary education will be of value to the country if it is in an effort to focus attention on options for students that are broader than simply continuing with a one-size fits all “college for all” ideal. Don’t get me wrong, a BA from a university is a wonderful achievement and can lead to promising career opportunities for graduates, but recent numbers show that a better goal may be to push for “post high-school credentials for all.” The reason we must expand our thinking is that only roughly forty percent of students have received their BA or AA degrees by their mid twenties. For the other half to sixty percent, we must provide better guidance and awareness of other comparable options that have proved to put workers in position to earn as much if not more than their BA counterparts. These options include vocational training, community college, CTE (Career and technical education programs) and others.
WHAT TO DO:
When I do career “pathing” with students, or speak to them about post-secondary options, one of the watchwords I like to use is “position.” What I mean by “position” is a livelihood that allows you to be in charge of your life as you work toward making your long-term vision a reality. In other words, your position will be your job, the work that provides you with the resources to pay your bills while you are in pursuit of your goal. Given the variety in financial, social, academic, and personal circumstances for each student, it is safe to say that no two pathways to a vision will be quite the same.
Position relates to your job and your personal life. It’s the job title you hold at different times in your life. For example, working as a warehouse stacker at a shipping hub would be a position. It’s also what you are in your personal life: the mother of two children, or the scout leader of your child’s troop.
Vision relates to something you wish to accomplish that is beyond what you do for a living. For example, make a documentary to increase awareness about the suffering of children in Africa is a long-term vision.
How all of this relates is that I try and instill an awareness in students to both hold their long-term visions and to be selective of their positions so that they function as stepping stones in one capacity or another to help them along the way to turning their visions into realities. For the hero or heroine in a movie, the journey to the goal is often fraught with trials, diversions and setbacks. Students should expect the same to happen in their own lives, and only a firm grip on their vision can help them to stay focused when the chips are down or if despair comes calling.
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