Pathways to Prosperity: Meeting the Challenge of Preparing Young Americans for the 21st Century
How can America effectively educate the “forgotten half” of her children (non-college-bound students)? In Pathways to Prosperity, a team of researchers at the Harvard Graduate School of Education view current drop-out trends as evidence of the failure – not of the quality of education – but of the “college-for-all” standard currently embraced in the US. Rather than calling for higher standards, higher graduation rates, and overall increased performance, the report labels the high bar (college-for-all) flawed, simply because students are currently not meeting it (i.e. obtaining a bachelor’s or associate’s degree). They admit that students need some sort of post-secondary certification to obtain a job with a middle-class salary, but assert that vocational education would be much more practical and appealing than a traditional college for many students. The researchers subsequently call for a massive vocational education initiative guided by the following principles:
- Multiple pathways: Middle and high schools offer vocational training, especially in-workplace training, in order to help students earn a career/technical training certificate.
- An expanded role for employers: Businesses partner with schools to provide middle and high school students with vocational training.
- A new social compact with youth: The government requires students to achieve certain academic outcomes (high school graduation, etc.), providing “as much support as necessary” along the way. If students fail to meet the requirements, they may face consequences, such as the loss of social benefits.
Interestingly, the researchers consistently lift up northern and central European nations’ education systems as ideals in career and technical training, but they allot very little ink to Japan and Korea, which have adopted college-for-all models and lead the world in high school graduation rates.
Speaking of college for all, the researchers need to look no further than Geoffrey Canada and the Harlem Children’s Zone to see that holding high expectations works (to the tune of a 90% college admission rate),even in the most economically challenged communities in the US. Certainly, vocational education is important, as the authors of Pathways to Prosperity indicate, but the college-for-all model is more practical than they admit.
Pathways to Prosperity: Meeting the
Challenge of Preparing Young Americans for the 21st Century
Harvard Graduate School of Education
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