When I was in college taking American Government in the early 1990s, I wrote a research paper on the then-new School To Work Opportunities Act of 1994. It was legislation written to link to Goals 2000 in an effort to transition students from school to the workforce. At the time, my dad and many other conservatives keeping an eye on such legislation understood the problems they would create and the eventual lack of educational freedom this act would bring when fully implemented.
Now —21 years later — the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has taken up this banner again with “Talent Pipeline” Management. The idea is to prepare students as young as elementary school age for the future workforce. Business partnerships have already been implemented in many areas to make this happen. A family friend who has been fighting the educational freedom fight from the beginning, Linda Murphy, has written a thought-provoking article to explain what exactly is going on with this move: “The Chamber of Commerce and National Governors Association global workforce plans.”
On a practical level, when does a move to “align education with the needs of business” cross the lines from helping students develop their strengths into limiting their education to what “society” needs them to do? What happens when your child is tested in 8th grade and it is determined that they will make a good nurse, so the direction of their studies is focused toward this occupation, however they later decide they don’t like nursing work in practice and want to do something that requires completely different training? Just because a child shows an aptitude for a particular career, does that mean we limit their chances to explore areas that are considered “non essential” — such as the arts?
Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for educating a child in what interests him/her in the hopes that he/she will be able to make a future of it. However, I also want my child to have a well-rounded education and to study and read a wide variety of things beyond his currently identified interests and strengths.
It’s like when a child shows an aptitude for sports (such as football) and is pushed through school with no concern for top grades because the child will probably be a football star and get a scholarship. What happens if that child gets injured? Do they have an education to fall back on, or will the inability to play that sport mean the end of success in college? What if that child hasn’t had the chance to develop other interests because of the intense focus on sports?
The ramifications of government intervention like this could reach even farther. What happens if a child decides he/she want to be a preacher — and not what the test prescribes? Is it a violation of church and state to allow a religious choice to affect what they want to focus on? And what if a child wants to be an artist or a writer, but they are told that there won’t be enough job opportunities for those careers in the future? Where does the “alignment” with the needs of society end?
These are tough questions we should all be asking ourselves when we see news like this.
Even more important, the question every parent should ask themselves is: Am I educating my child with the main purpose of preparing them to join the workforce and fill a particular role in society, or am I educating my children to think for themselves and make educated, wise choices on their own? Am I preparing them to have deep spiritual and emotional thoughts and conversations, to be able to write, create, and invent — or simply to produce?
In the end, I believe education for education’s sake is both the goal and the reward for teaching my children. As Charlotte Mason succinctly stated years ago:
Thought breeds thought; children familiar with great thoughts take as naturally to thinking for themselves as the well-nourished body takes to growing; and we must bear in mind that growth — physical, intellectual, moral, spiritual — is the sole end of education.”
What do you think of when you hear the terms “school to work” and “talent pipeline” being related to education? Have you seen any changes in your local school districts that demonstrate the impact of programs like these? As a homeschooler, what is your primary mission in educating your children, and does it differ from the focus of programs like these?