Choosing a College Major Should Not Be Like Choosing a Puppy

Most mornings, I grab a cup of coffee and some form of breakfast at the closest dining room on campus. On my walk over, I noticed a posted sign. “College Major Fair. Get Help Choosing A College Major.”

And, I got pissed off very early in my day. Here’s why.

These “fairs” are really designed to help students who are floundering in college. They are floundering in their first year, or 3rd semester, or perhaps even in their 2nd or 3rd year of college. These students have accumulated 30-60 hours of college credit and still have no idea what their academic course should be. Parallel with this, the students have also acquired some student loan debt.

Thus, colleges organize these fairs more or less for damage control. To me, this damage control says volumes about the education students are getting in high school, in Secondary Education.

Choosing a College Major should not be like going to the animal shelter and picking the most adorable puppy and hoping that the puppy integrates well into one’s life. But, that very philosophy seems to be the guiding principle used by people to select an educational path.

Doubling irritating involves a conversation I had with a student on Wednesday this last week. The student was not irritating but the story she related I found troubling and irritating. A family member, new to college, is struggling. The student is struggling in her college science courses and is upset because the high school attended didn’t do a very good job in preparing graduating seniors for college. The students did really well on standardized tests, and performed very well in their high school courses. Upon getting to college, the former good high school students found themselves to be really lacking in reading, writing, and math skills. The student felt ashamed, embarrassed, and lied to by the high school. An education she thought was preparing her for college was woefully inadequate, she found.

From listening to people complain about being unemployed, listening to employers state their willingness to hire yet cannot find people with needed education and skills, and keeping an eye on global economies, I am convinced that the last 10 years under No Child Left Behind will result in a lost 10 years of education. In fact, NCLB should be called, Every Child Left Behind (ECLB).

I want to know what good testing and assessment does if the end result is a student unable to function in college.

The end result of a high school education should be a young person ready for college. Period. The high school graduate should know how to do simple research, using online journals, books, and magazines. They need to understand plagiarism and how to avoid it, and they need to know how to write and sound educated. Journaling is bullshit; free-writing is fine for a creative writing course but a complete failure for educating a person on how to write effectively. A high school graduate needs to know how to write a research paper. A high school graduate need to be able to read, comprehend, synthesize information, and report on subject matter. A high school graduate needs to be able to perform algebra-level math.

The end result of a high school education should be a young person ready for college. Not only should a high school graduate be ready for college academically, but a high school graduate should have a good sense of what academic program he/she wants to pursue. Education in the United States needs to encourage, in fact, I would say, demand more investment by business and industry. Every able person should work. People should find something they are good at. Business and Industry should step forward, be pro-active, and work with all levels of national education, and demand the development of a skilled and knowledgeable workforce.

Business and Industry currently waits to see what the Education Machine churns out, then complains when too many workers of Type-A are produced, and not enough workers of Type-2 are available. Both Education and Industry need to work towards developing an integrated relationship to prevent idle workers, prevent high unemployment, and ensure the US labor force meets current and future needs.

Of the current GOP candidates, only one, John Huntsman, seems to “get it,” though his education platform still seems anemic. However, compared to all other candidate, who are nearly unified in their belief in the elimination of the Department of Education, Huntsman seems like an Education Advocate. I don’t support John, I am not soliciting support for John, I am merely making a comparison.

Simply because a government department seems ineffectual is not a reason to eliminate it. People need to realize that Education is equal in importance to Defense; I would actually argue that Education is MORE IMPORTANT than Defense. Education is the driving force behind our economy, not Defense. Rather than strip the Department of Education of power, the DoEd needs a staff that develops a plan of national education that works toward creating an educated and sustainable workforce.

Most GOP candidates favor abolishing the Department of Education. They favor returning all power to states and local communities. This is tantamount to Educational Anarchy – thousands of small groups, operating with the own sets of rules, without any over-arching set of goals. Meanwhile, Europe and East Asia continue to work toward Knowledge/Information-based economies. It is almost as if the GOP is advocating not NCLB, but the “United States of America Left Behind” with their attacks on education, literacy, and knowledge.

Just like the Department of Defense has immediate, intermediate, and long-range goals, our U.S. Department of Education needs to attack education in the United States as if our very survival is at stake.

Period.

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