Friday, March 13, 2009

Response to "Fresh out of College, But can't land Work"

Normally, I ride the bus to and from work so it is mostly podcasts or books that are my companions. But earlier this week I drove and it was my old friend NPR. I heard several good stories and it reminded me of why I donate to Public Radio. One of the reports angered me so much I had to write about it.

The report titled "Fresh out of College, But can't Land Work" really frustrated me. I feel for the young lady in the report. As she states it, "I played by the rules" She stayed in school. Got good grades, chose a good field, all the stuff that is supposed to mean you will be a success. There were two failures from my perspective.

One, extended adolescence. I have written about this before, but it still seems supremely relevant. This girl was 23 and from the tone of the report I got the impression that she was striking out on her first job hunt. WHAT???? When I was in college, I held down several different jobs. Now, maybe she did too but they were University or Work Study programs that end when you are no longer a student. But still WHAT??? Why would our system fail this young lady by not providing real world actual paying job experience as part of her education. Again, I got the impression that she had gotten all the way to 23 and through college without society or her parents actually expecting her to take responsibility for herself. The message seems to be:
  • Finish College
  • Enjoy life
  • Find yourself
  • explore the world
  • BEFORE you start to be an adult
Why do we devalue our youth by teaching them they must wait until they are done with college before they can start to work on their life and try to make a difference?

Wouldn't it be so much more effective if as students were progressing along their skill continuum they suddenly subtly started doing the actual work. What if they didn't even notice they graduated. What if the shift from "learning" and "doing" the job was so gentle that students became employed almost without awareness. I am so frustrated with the delineations and demarcations we have. Why can't a 13 year old do the work rather than prepare for the work? Why must they wait? Why are we extending adolescence into the midlate-20's. We force so many to wait to live their lives because they aren't old enough yet? Why? I am not advocating a return to the negative and almost slavelike conditions of the apprentice system, but rather the positive aspects of learning alongside the hands of a master while actually doing the work coupled with time to study and learn about other things students may not know exist. I am convinced that the vital role of work as part of the formative adolescent years is being abandoned. The best way to get authentic student achievement is to facilitate opportunities for them to do authentic work.

The very last quote from the report was what really got me:

This isn't at all what she imagined 23 would be like. She was supposed to be working toward the next big thing: dazzling her family and friends with her accomplishments, on her way to becoming a successful adult. (emphasis added)

WHAT??? On her way to... legally she has been an adult for 5 years and emotionally, cognitively and physically for something probably more like 8 to possibly 10 years. Granted at 13 she was not experienced enough nor does research support the idea that 13 years olds are completely matured cognitively or emotionally, but they are well on their way and could certainly start to really work and not wait until 23 to start becoming an adult.

Citation Nods:
Dr. Tim Tyson's UCET 2009 Keynote address (7 March 2009 held in Taylorsville, Utah)

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