School to Work or College and Career Ready: What Can Be Wrong with That?


Industrial Revolution children workers

School to Work or College and Career Ready:  What Can Be Wrong with That?

Clearly parents today are worried over whether or not their children are College and Career Ready.   The societal voices begin early and push hard beginning at birth.   Did the parents sign up with Parent Aware for birth to 3 government information?  Have you had your home visits?  Are the children ready for preschool?  Are they ready for kindergarten? First grade?  Have they passed all their federal Common Core tests in 3rd?  4th?  5th?  6th?  7th?  8th?   What Career Path was designated at 7th?  Did your child receive 4 year college or 2 year college on their ACT PLAN test? Has the school (or you as a parent) developed the curriculum for the Career Path through middle and high school?  A Career Path that is steered toward one or possibly two limited careers?  A Career Path with a possibly narrowed curriculum?  In today’s America, this is the overly regulated system of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, No Child Left Behind, that many parents (and students) have come to know.

How did we get here?  A country founded on freedom in every area of life.   A country where education was purposely not written into the Constitution and thereby designated into state and local domains.  How did America get to the point where we place kids on Career Paths, even in middle school and where our Secretary of Education envisions 2nd grade as a even better placement opportunity based on children’s data collected from birth?  Diane Ravitch writes about Sec. Duncan’s comment.

One of the most important “workforce” stepping stones of the  20th century and nearly 20 years ago was the “School to Work” initiative.  School to Work and GOALS 2000 were federal laws passed and sent on to the various states in 1994. GOALS 2000 was the writing of federal education standards developed at the federal level.  These were significant rewrites of History, Civics, Government, and Economics under GOALS 2000 as well as a major move away from the “classic” Literature that America had enjoyed in its classrooms for generations.  (Yes!  This has all happened before Common Core!)  The School to Work program promoted the ground-breaking idea that schools were first and foremost skill training centers for work and business interests.  Schools moved away from being a place where one could receive an expansive liberal arts education, one that would prepare a student for any workforce profession.

The School to Work Opportunities Act.

The GOALS 2000: Educate America Act.

Education essentially became skills training and that is where we are today with College and Career Ready.  C&CR is merely the updated brand of School to Work.

So what is School to Work and what is the concern?  Recently I came across an article written in 1997 that describes the concern felt just following passage of the federal legislation.   I was hearing about School to Work/GOALS 2000 planning at my university and from doctoral student-friends while in graduate school (1991) and their concerns though I don’t believe any were voiced with professors.  “What’s Wrong with School to Work?”  By Robert Holland outlines and discusses seven major concerns with School to Work (College and Career Ready).   Holland was Columnist and Op-Ed Editor at the Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch.

  1. School to Work, which is linked with GOALS 2000, inject the federal government deeply and dangerously into shaping the curriculum of American schools.
  2. School to Work locks students into career tracks much too early, chilling opportunity and killing youthful dreams.
  3. School to Work drastically narrows the curriculum, making it less likely that schools will produce literate, well-rounded generalists who can cope with rapid change in civic life as well as the workforce.
  4. School to Work infringes on the sovereignty of the individual and the family.
  5. School to Work, as part of the national human resource development system, cuts local school boards and state legislators almost completely out of the decision-making loop.
  6. School to Work is part of a managed economy and data-collecting network that poses grave dangers to Americans’ liberty and their privacy.
  7. Judging by the historical record, School to Work simply doesn’t work (and uses historical examples).

Do we really want “College and Career Ready” or as it was called twenty years ago “School to Work” for our children?  The No Child Left Behind/Elementary and Secondary Education Act is that same iteration of School to Work and GOALS 2000 and it is about to be voted on again with overreaching  and expansive regulations in state law, religious schooling, psychological profiling and continued testing mandates.  Call your US senator and representative and tell them to vote NO on the ESEA!

What’s Wrong with School to Work?  By Robert Holland    It’s worth the read!

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