College isn’t for everyone. This shouldn’t be news, but it still is. In a popular article published on both Slate and Business Insider, Michael J. Petrilli argues that we should stop pretending that underachieving kids should remain college-bound. What might at first sound like a callous proposition is really a sound statistical and professional concept.
Alongside clear evidence of a growing demand for skilled labor in sectors like the middle market, shouldn’t it be common sense to steer some young people toward vocational education and technical training rather than academia?
Here’s Petrilli’s main point:
“…making sure that there are real options for our young people—options that include high-quality career and technical education—is a totally different proposition. We shouldn’t force anyone into that route, but we also shouldn’t guilt kids with low odds of college success—regardless of their race or class—to keep trudging through academic coursework as teens. Yet it appears that we are doing just that; according to Kate Blosveren Kreamer of the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education, only 20 percent of high school students “concentrate” in career and technical education, even though that’s a better bet for many more of them. Then, even when students graduate high school with seventh-grade skills, we encourage them to enroll in college, starting with several semesters of “developmental” education.”
Petrilli suggests that such remedial courses might be the greatest crime against low-income students: it forces them down the same path as their better-equipped college classmates with a rigid definition of success (and failure). Without any agility to redefine success for themselves, it shouldn’t be surprising that less than 10 percent of students starting college with remedial education complete a two-year degree within three years.
The picture Petrilli paints of American education highlights how irrational the system can be, and offers a much more grounded perspective on education as a tool for upward mobility. Read the full story here.