College Isn't for Everyone

In his State-of-the-State speech on Monday evening, Governor Mike Easley called upon the General Assembly to expand the Earn to Learn Program to include high schoolers who currently are unable to attend a college due to their location by providing internet based courses and opportunities for these students. The state of North Carolina has made the preparation of high schoolers for college a major necessity. I applaud these efforts, but as an educator who sees high schoolers on a daily basis, I am concerned that too many students are being left behind because of the increased efforts of the state to push students down the college track.

North Carolina, like other states, faces a severe situation concerning the amount of teenagers failing to finish high school by dropping out. I teach "at-risk" students who on a daily basis consider dropping out of high school for a number of reasons generally related to their lives out of school. Coupled with these home related issues is the lack of a "keeping mechanism" for these students that would compel them to finish school.

I hear this often when the drop out issue is discussed in class. For many "at-risk" students, college is not needed for the career track they want to pursue and the forcing of college-prep curriculum upon them makes it more likely they will drop out.

Consider a recent class discussion, out of 25 students 20 have considered dropping out of high school in the past three months. When asked why they did not, five students answered they want to enlist in the military and a diploma is necessary, while the other 15 stated they were not 16 yet. Never once did any of these students mention the suspension of their driving privileges as a reason for staying in school.

I pressed these students further and found that most of them do not want to attend college and would love nothing more but to learn a trade while in high school so they can enter the job force upon graduation. If asked whether vocational education would keep them in high school, the resounding answer was yes.

The state of North Carolina is considering changing the drop out age to 18 years of age with the drivers license privilege requirement. I stand opposed to this idea because I see it as further adding to the drop out rate of our teenagers.

Instead of changing the age of drop out, why not consider adding vocation education programs as options for our state's high schoolers. There is nothing wrong with learning construction, plumbing, and auto mechanics. Hell, I encourage it because these skilled labor jobs pay well and can not be outsourced to other countries.

Having an auto mechanic who can quote Shakespeare and Homer is a wonderful idea for some, but I'd rather settle for a mechanic who understands his car parts and country music!

North Carolina can do better for its students who want to learn a vocation. Pushing every student on a college track is not the solution to the information aged economy and will only add to our state's drop out woes that currently plague a number of our school districts.


My own daughter may not be college bound

and is feeling a huge sense of being discriminated against about it. She may end up going . . . but it's not clear to me it's necessarily the right path for who she is and how she learns.

I totally get where you're coming from and agree that our one-track approach seems more than a little misguided.

Very very well said

Education means providing the best for each student. In a few months I will graduate from college, but there are countless people who I would not be able to function without that work in jobs where a college degree would be useless.

Having an auto mechanic who can quote Shakespeare and Homer is a wonderful idea for some, but I'd rather settle for a mechanic who understands his car parts and country music!

Doesnt have to be country music does it?

Draft Brad Miller -- NC Sen ActBlue :::Petition

"Keep the Faith"

I agree.

Two of my cousins went into trades after high school. One's now an HVAC tech, and his younger brother is studying something else. Their parents are a mechanic and a hair stylist. Another cousin on the other side of the family is studying to be a mechanic.

I've long thought the German idea of splitting into trade school/college track at grade 5 & apprenticeships at grade 8 or 9 for the trade schoolers would be a good thing to institute here, or something like it.

Great post

I totally agree. Many who go to a four year school don't belong there and a few who don't, should have. The ones who should have gone will figure that out later and go back. I love Easley's idea of tech college training in high schools. Its brilliant. It will give many many more kids a chance to succeed.

Here in Clayton, the High School -- which not too long ago had a very strong vocational department -- is doing away with all vocational classes. All of them. Why would they do that? Its crazy. When I said something about it to someone who has worked in the schools and talks to administrators, the response I got was,

"Nowhere in NCLB is there any requirement for vocational performance scores. Its about Federal money. That's all."

Our system condemns students who could be very successful in a trade career to failure. We tell them there is only one path to success and if you get off it you. are. doomed. In other words;

Kid, your momma may love you, but nobody here gives a damn about you. You want an education geared to your strengths? HAH! Right. Just get your butt into that little cookie cutter mold right there and don't you dare get out until we tell you to.

C.Diane, I like the German system, too. I had a friend who lived in Germany (military) for many years. Her German friends there were finished with school by 15 and apprenticing as police officers, semi-professionals and engineers (technicians are refered to as engineers there) at 16. By 18 they were fully independent and self-sufficient. And even getting out of school at 14-15 they all spoke English.

"They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum Then they charged the people a dollar 'n a half just to see 'em. Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone? They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."