Work in Progress

Baseball, Seminary, Wrestling, and the Dreams and Days of one Mike Work's Angeles experience

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

American Education
On a side note, while thinking about the ed. system, a potential thesis topic in the field came up in a comparison of the high school where I student taught v. the one I attended, with radically different philosophies of education, one stressing a pragmatism in guidance, and understanding that 'college isn't everyone, and that not everyone should go', and another priding itself on high test scores/90+% of graduating seniors going to college. The question is: what happens to those students?

In Georgia, the HOPE is an added incentive for schools to push students to go to college, as anyone with a B average can qualify for free tuition at any in-state public university, provided they meet admission requirements. But do those students who are guided towards college want to go, and is it best that they go? In some situations, HOPE is just a semester-long party pass, with education being optional, not optimal. While the scholarship fund does provide economically-deficient students an opportunity to earn a university education and enjoy the attached benefits, does it function as such? How much tax money goes into this?

My example here is this: even with HOPE, my younger sister did not go to school full-time last year, and didn't see any need to do so. Now, she's getting back into school, and wants to go. Financially, HOPE will be of help. Yet had she taken advantage of it last year, without any desire to do so, would the scholarship have necessary have benefited her, or simply created a sense of duty/obligation to use the taxpayers money?
Would a clear statement of purpose, or an interview/essay, serve to make HOPE more than a handout, or welfare for the 18 year old?

These thoughts come from returning to the area I grew up in after four years out-of-state, and seeing/hearing that quite a few of my fellow graduates have lost their scholarship, dropped out of school, transferred due to bad grades, and/or seen a reality different from that they were told of in high school. Could some of these been avoided (for the taxpayers interest=$ saved) if the school system were more realistic in preparing students for life? What do guidance counselors do? Do they really get to know students, or simply recommend based on blind test scores, without taking into account person, motivation, and goals? Do teachers account for reality, or do we teach a myth of 'you can do anything you want to do,' without taking into account that while I'd love to play professional sports at the highest level, that was not going to happen, and that realistic alternatives should be presented (In this regard, I am fortunate to have had high school coaches who recognized this and offered me a chance to stay within the athletic realms as a student coach instead of constantly pursuing discouragement)?

A project such as the one I'm thinking about would involve massive follow-up interviews with graduating classes, possibly tracking student groups from high school through 4-5 years afterwards, and crunching numbers, not the ones provided with each graduating class to create a stunning ceremony/commencement speech, but the real ones, which don't emerge for several years and tell the story of lives. At this moment, I don't see myself undertaking it in the near future, so if there is interest, I'd love to know of anyone working along this vein.

What would this accomplish?
Re-evaluate the educational system and its purposes (on the secondary as well as the university; related question: is the university's primary goal vocational training/preparation, or an educated member of society?), better use of taxpayers resources, and hopefully prepare the next generation for life, instead of preparing people to enter a world without sin and being shocked when planes crash-land into buildings. The lyrics below, from 'The Kids Aren't Alright' by The Offspring, sum this concern up fairly well.

When we were young the future was so bright
The old neighborhood was so alive
And every kid on the whole damn street
Was gonna make it big and not be beat

Now the neighborhood's cracked and torn
The kids are grown up but their lives are worn
How can one little street
Swallow so many lives

Chances thrown
Nothing's free
Longing for what used to be
Still it's hard
Hard to see
Fragile lives, shattered dreams

Jamie had a chance, well she really did
Instead she dropped out and had a couple of kids
Mark still lives at home cause he's got no job
He just plays guitar and smokes a lot of pot

Jay committed suicide
Brandon OD'd and died
What the hell is going on
The cruelest dream, reality


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