18 February 2013

Tug of War

As I mentioned in my last post, I've been spending time chatting with educators in super-small school districts. About 1 in 5 districts in our state has student enrollments of 200 or less. So even though their individual constituencies are small, their collective concerns represent a large number of communities.

One of my personal beliefs about public education is that we should enable every student to be college and career-ready. As adults, we don't get to decide the path they take...that some classes aren't appropriate for "those" kids because they'll never do x. We don't know for them any more than we know for ourselves what the future holds. The best we can do is give them access to a high-quality set of knowledge/tools/learning/whatever-you-want-to-call-it so they can pursue whatever is next for them, based on their choices.

I believe this is true for every child, and at the same time, I'm struggling with whether this viewpoint represents social justice or imperialism.

In many conversations I've had with teachers and principals in small districts, the topic of community and parental values comes up. There is a lot of support within high schools to get kids into college, but the consensus is that almost all of them are back home after a semester. Teachers spend a lot of time helping kids fill out applications for college and scholarships...but there isn't much in the way of parental involvement. Most parents would be quite happy (according to the stories) to have their kids just stay at home after high school. And there can be a real stigma for a kid who successfully navigates the outside world...that they think they're "too good" for their family/community. Is an 18-year old supposed to choose between parental acceptance and a college education or job/apprenticeship)? Taken to its extreme---is it right to produce college/career-ready graduates at the expense of their connection to their families?

I think that a student should get to decide what happens with their post-graduate life, but what if parents do not? What makes my belief system about public education any better than theirs?

This is what keeps me up at night. I'd like to think that as adults, regardless of our role, we want kids to grow and reach their dreams. I don't want there to be a tug of war, even an unspoken one, between us. But I don't know how to let go.

Jason's post on What Gets Left Behind gets at something similar, but for urban students. Go have a look.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You can want it for them, SG, but they have to want it for themselves badly enough to go through the cultural and familial gauntlet of really leaving the nest.

I believe, as you do, that every student should have the opportunity to succeed at the level they really want. And I believe that every parent should be supportive of aspirations that don't involve criminal behavior. But in the end, it's up to the individual and their desires.

As long as you stand ready to help a student who wants it, where and when you can, you should sleep well.