This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Leadership in Normal 2.0
 

  The Herman Trend Alert

December 5, 2001

Upheaval in Education?

We've seen a number of studies, commentaries, and articles asserting that our high schools are not doing a satisfactory job preparing young people for the jobs that will be available today and tomorrow. Business leaders, ultimately the consumers of the products of our educational system, are tired of the mediocrity they perceive. They argue that some radical changes must occur.

A number of interesting recommendations are being made. As controversial as testing is today, employers urge mandatory high school exit exams. They also advocate yearly math and reading tests for students in the third through eighth grades. Teachers, already challenged with heavy curricula, complain that such testing relegates them to "teach to the test." They suggest that students will learn less and that government should not dictate educational standards. It's an interesting conflict.

Employers also propose mandatory internships for high school students in real-work environments. While fraught with complexities, this concept certainly has advantages to help students acquire real-world experience. Hopefully, interns would learn good work habits and obtain some valuable career advice, but these outcomes would be subjective, at best. Students in urban or suburban high schools would have some good opportunities for internship experiences, but high schools in rural areas may not have enough local employers to support such a program. This disparity throws us back into unequal opportunity.

Many corporate leaders feel strongly that business should be involved in shaping school curriculum. They believe they know best what knowledge and skills the graduates they hire will need. Unfortunately, while corporate involvement is valuable, we can not allow businesspeople to have overdue influence over what children learn. Although their perspectives may be broader than those held by some educators, they don't have all the answers either.

Others challenge why students are only in school for three seasons, and not all day long. Questions are raised about why kids go to school for twelve years. Would ten be enough before starting some sort of post-graduate process-college, work, military, public service? There are no easy answers, but these issues will be on the front burner in the immediate future.


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