Monday, January 04, 2010

Differentiated Education

Way back in prehistoric times, when I was a high school student, everyone in my crowd wanted to go to a four year college. Lower middle class kids from families with no college graduates were supposed to do this. There was no decision. We all took the academic classes that would lead to college acceptance and strived to do our best. We all took them except for one girl, Minnie. Minnie was smart but just not interested in pursuing a career in teaching or nursing, the only careers we knew of that were available to kids like us. She wanted to be a secretary and instead of taking the courses we took, she followed the path that brought her a commercial diploma (in those days, the politicians were smart enough to know everyone wasn't college bound and schools offered programs to meet differentiated needs.) I remember how we all begged and pleaded with her to reconsider. We all thought she was throwing her life away.

I ran into Minnie yesterday at the funeral of an old high school friend's mother. Minnie not only looked great, but she is doing great. She has had a position in the same company for many years, has worked herself up and is now earning a very nice salary. She has benefits and retirement packages and everything else anyone could possibly want from a career. In other words, Minnie, the only non four year college graduate in our crowd is one of the biggest successes around.

Today I am thought about Minnie as I taught my classes and once again tried to convince a group of kids why it is important to know the difference between SAS and HL. I wondered how Minnie would have turned out if she had been subjected to the education my students are being subjected to. I wondered what went wrong with the system that took the classes that Minnie loved and did well in and did away with them. Yes, technology has come along and made many of those classes obsolete but there are plenty more classes like those to replace them.

Minnie did eventually go on to get a two year degree from a local community college. She could have continued on but never had the desire. Wouldn't it be great if the kids today had the same opportunities Minnie had at their age? Money is always a factor but think how much money could be saved on remedial courses, think of the way students will start to appreciate school and think of the number of dropouts that will be prevented.

I know I sound like a broken record but education has got to change. Charter schools and closing down schools are not the answer. The type of courses offered is what needs improvement. It is up to the powers that be to learn to really differentiate education.


Mrs. H said...

Pissed Off,

You are so right on with this post. It breaks my heart to see kids try and go off to the University, get themselves or their parents in debt, only to find that college is not for them. We have got to quit lying to these kids and help them find the best path for them. Unfortunately, the system is making that harder and harder for them to do.

Anonymous said...

It is taboo in my district to say anything but "all students will go to college". Think it's even in our mission statement. If students fail their academic classes they are removed from electives and sports and put into "math more" class, etc. I get some very angry, defiant kids in there. All work and no play makes many drop out in 10th grade.
Mrs. B.

Pissed Off said...

Apologies to the last commenter. I accidentally rejected your comments.