To the Editor:
The headline of your May 24, 2006, article “Ambiguity About Preparation for Workforce Clouds Efforts to Equip Students for Future” should read “Forget About Preparation for Workforce.” High schools see themselves as preparing students for college—not work. And, unfortunately, the college-prep curriculum offers little in work-preparation skills.
The college-preparatory curriculum, going back to the founding of the Carnegie Commission, is a set of hoops designed to function as a gatekeeper to college. Work skills have only been an issue for high schools during periods of high unemployment, when school attendance was used to keep teenagers out of the workforce.
The college-prep curriculum is about the SAT far more than it is about work. Why else the stress on narrative reading over expository, and math concepts over context? Why the sudden interest in penmanship after the introduction of SAT essays? Certainly not because it is a useful communications tool.
Work skills? Where in the curriculum are listening and speaking addressed, and where is math as a communications and decisionmaking tool discussed? Where is teamwork, so critical to developing cooperation and negotiation skills? Instead, students are admonished to “Do your own work!”
The college-prep curriculum, for far too many schools, is about producing college-acceptance letters. It is these letters by which high schools—and parents—gauge a school’s success. For high schools, work is a four-letter word. Not their concern.
How ironic is the suggestion that the college-prep curriculum be made more rigorous and applied to more students as a solution to what is wrong with our high schools. I suggest that the college-preparatory curriculum (and how it is applied) is not the solution— it is what is wrong with our high schools and the greatest impediment to real high school reform.
Joseph H. Crowley
Warwick Area Career & Technical Center
A version of this article appeared in the June 14, 2006 edition of Education Week as College-Prep Curriculum: Problem, Not Solution