Tenth graders in a local high school were shocked recently when a guidance counselor walked into their classroom and announced that the State of West Virginia determined that they must have a clear idea of who they wanted to marry by their date of graduation.
Okay, this did not really happen, but it is not far from the truth. The counselor stated that the State of West Virginia expected each student to have a career choice by graduation from high school.
Say what? I did not know what I wanted to do until I was almost done with college. Some people do not find their calling until much later in life. How can tenth graders, many of whom experience trouble picking out their socks in the morning, understand what they will want to do when they are thirty, forty, or fifty?
What ever happened to the school encouraging children to use their youth to try out different choices? What ever happened to teachers telling their students that they could do anything they wanted? Sure not everyone can be a brain surgeon, but let the intrepid find out on their own whether it is for them or not.
One student called it "Communist" while some parents advised their children to not inform the counselor even if they did have one in mind. After all at the end of the day, it is not really their business. It actually does encourage a more socialist view of schools manufacturing children like tractors and playing a heavy role in "helping" students make choices that in all honesty they do not need to make at this time.
It is not even desirable for students to be pressured into such choices so early. Most people change almost completely between high school and their mid twenties. You gain perspective on life, your experiences change your dreams. The kid who wants to be an NBA superstar at age 15 figures out he wants to be a dentist by 22 because his life experience helped him to choose all on his own. But who has the right to take away this kid's dream before life has convinced him to give it up (unless he really is that good!) Hard work and determination sometimes turns impossible dreams into wonderful realities unless someone along the way crushes the dream by encouraging the kid to be "more realistic." If Owen Schmitt were realistic when he was 20, we'd never have heard from him and he'd certainly never be in a Seattle Seahawks uniform. We'd also have many fewer doctors, researchers, writers, and poets from the ghettos and hollows who were told "you'll never make it out, don't even try."
Again, like any blog entry I write about the school system, the blame rarely lies with principals, teachers, or counselors. It lies with those at the top who make decisions that sound wonderful on paper and make them look good politically, but actually disrupt the learning process and undermine respect for the entire system.
We need to encourage kids to dream big, to dream about all the possibilities, and to make choices in their own good time, not on the regimented schedule of Uncle Joe and the State of West Virginia.