Opinion
College & Workforce Readiness Letter to the Editor

College-Readiness Push: Shortchanging Choice?

July 12, 2010 2 min read

To the Editor:

Chris Myers Asch’s recent Commentary “The Inadvertent Bigotry of Inappropriate Expectations” (June 16, 2010) makes an important point: Emphasis on college as the primary road to success can divert students from other, possibly more appropriate choices.

We who are involved in college- and career-readiness and college-access programs fight this battle all the time. The passion that many of us feel to provide options for high school students through readiness and access can certainly influence the rhetoric and, yes, inadvertently direct some to college who would prosper in careers for which college is not necessary.

If we preach that college is the only road to success in post-education careers, we are indeed depriving many students of what their preferred career genuinely might be. Interestingly, there has been a reverse bigotry operating for decades that has kept some traditionally college-bound students from following their star into the trades.

There are of course numerous factors that contribute to students’ being able to make appropriate college and/or career choices in high school. Our role should be to avoid prejudgment of students and to enable them to prepare for a range of choices until their goals become clear enough to pursue.

We also need to keep in mind that plumbers and electricians are likely to inherit the earth. We will need good ones.

Gillian B. Thorne

Executive Director, Office of Early College Programs

Director, UConn Early College Experience

University of Connecticut

Storrs, Conn.

To the Editor:

Chris Myers Asch’s Commentary “The Inadvertent Bigotry of Inappropriate Expectations” confronts our nation’s college bias intelligently and directly. As an administrator at an alternative school, I emphasize to parents and students the importance of deliberation over the many postsecondary options available.

There is certainly a strong herd instinct at work driving free, rational individuals to choose conformity at all costs. The high school graduates who have had the greatest success, I have found, are those who have been honest with themselves and pursued an option that fit their needs, aptitudes, and interests.

As educators and as a society, we should affirm the unique gifts each child possesses and prepare students to pursue their own paths rather than the trodden way. Some will attend college, others vocational school; some will enter the workforce, and still others will travel or volunteer or blaze a trail in an unforeseen direction. The college-readiness movement fails to respect individuality and, instead of ensuring no child gets left behind, ironically perpetuates a system that discourages and even drives students away from school.

As William Blake observed, “One law for the lion and ox is oppression.” Our children have been oppressed by a monolithic system far too long. Thank you, Mr. Asch, for articulating so well in your essay the need for change.

Jeffrey D. Woolley

Head of School

Dartmoor School

Bellevue, Wash.

A version of this article appeared in the July 14, 2010 edition of Education Week as College-Readiness Push: Shortchanging Choice?

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