Phi Beta Cons

More Pathways to Prosperity Needed

On the NAS site, Ashley Thorne reported on the findings of a Harvard Graduate School of Education report, “Pathways to Prosperity,” and the accompanying response by the AAUP. This Harvard report focused on the need for additional options for higher education besides college.

In her essay, Ms. Thorne lists the primary goals outlined in the Harvard report:

  • Broaden the range of pathways for young people: Adapt Common Core standards to allow upperclassmen high school students to opt for hands-on career training.

  • Expand employers’ roles: Encourage employers to get involved earlier by setting standards and designing programs of study.

  • Develop a new “social compact” — a cultural shift in mindset: As a culture, we need to take more “collective responsibility” for the training of our younger generations.

In turn, AAUP General Secretary Gary Rhoades criticized “Pathways” because he saw the report’s goals of not recommending college for everyone as limiting career opportunities for minority and low-income students (i.e. denying the college opportunity to those who do not have the means to go).

Ms. Thorne responded the AAUP position by stating:

The greatest value of the Pathways report is in its openness to the true diversity of human life. It acknowledges that some people naturally gravitate toward intellectual exercise and some prefer more hands-on experience. Thus, college is one sensible option but there are other good things that bright and talented young people can do. This recognition could be the first step in removing the cultural stigma surrounding career training, apprenticeships, military service, and other non-college options. That bias, our culture’s tendency to look down on such options, is likely the reason that Rhoades looks on them as “limiting” and “narrowing.

A commenter on my recent post “The Advantage of Non-Careerist Disciplines” summed up this issue articulately in her analogy to gym teachers:

Why, incidentally, does a phys-ed teacher need a college degree? As best I can tell, good phys-ed teachers draw upon a set of skills that are simply not taught in the college environment. Educationally, they need a few courses on health, fitness, first aid, etc. (perhaps enough to earn an associate’s, perhaps not) as well as an apprenticeship of some sort. Yet, they get stuck in my classes writing long papers, which they’re not good at and don’t need to be.

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