by Christopher Paslay
Yesterday, I published a commentary in the Inquirer headlined Seniors need a backup. The article had two main points: that graduating seniors should have a contingency plan in place in case things don’t work out as anticipated after high school; and that schools should do more to help students take advantage of the government’s $100 billion in federal aid for higher education.
To help achieve these goals, I suggested adding an extra requirement to the senior project. “Every single graduating senior must successfully apply to a community or four-year college, or to a trade or technical academy,” I wrote. “In addition, each senior must complete an application for government financial aid or a scholarship of his or her choice.”
Basically, I was trying to give graduating seniors more options. If after high school they went straight to work, great. If they got together with their buddies and backpacked through Europe, or took over their uncle’s store, or went into the military, even better.
But if months passed and they were stuck with no prospects, by applying to a college or trade school as part of their senior project, they just might have that extra option waiting for them to use as they pleased; and they would get practice filling out applications and meeting deadlines in the process, real world skills that everyone can use.
How were the ideas put forth in my commentary received by readers? Not so well, I’m afraid.
On the Inquirer’s comment board, I was called an “idiot,” and my article was labeled “a moronic piece of PC fluff”. I was stunned at how many people completely missed the point, people who either failed to read—or comprehend—the article, and reacted solely to the subheading.
A commenter named “Dutchman” wrote, . . . This has been written by someone who has had little contact with anyone outside of the ivory tower. The ugly truth, plain and very simple, is only 23% of high school graduates earn a four year degree. . . Now kids who will never go to college are forced to spend large amounts of money to attend post high school trade schools instead of starting a career . . .
Ivory tower? I guess Dutchman didn’t notice the article was written by a high school teacher (who, by the way, teaches IN A TRADE SCHOOL). I guess he also missed the part that said attending a college or trade school was merely a BACKUP PLAN.
A commenter named “TwoEvils” said, Not everyone has the intelligence and/or skills to make it through college. . . . What’s wrong with guiding high schoolers with aptitude and desire to technical skills schools for studies like automotive and construction (carpentry, masonry, electrician, plumbing, etc.). That anyone in this day and age considers such jobs lower class is ridiculous when you take into account the knowledge, including math and reading, required to do it right. . . .
I guess when I wrote, “Every single graduating senior must successfully apply to a community or four-year college, or to a trade or technical academy, he must have thought the phrase or to a trade or technical academy really meant people who work technical jobs are uneducated pieces of garbage and should be slapped in the face with a leather glove.
Those commenting on this blog were just as negative and cynical. A guy named Jim, who wrote that he works for one of Pennsylvania’s public universities, said he would like to see more lower-income students take advantage of government aid, but he was less enthused about “filling schools with students whose only reason for attending college is that their other plans fell through”.
Studies have demonstrated one of the key factors in student success is having clear academic and career goals, Jim said. Folks in student affairs know that students without goals are the ones that are most often in trouble (lots of partying, little studying). If these students don’t succeed, they’ve gained little beyond debt that they will struggle to repay.
Well, if folks in student affairs say these kinds of kids are poor candidates for higher education (and studies prove it), then why waste our time trying to get them to fill out college applications at all? In fact, why not replace all the college applications at their schools with McDonald’s applications?
A guy named Sam was the most off the mark (and angry). He wrote: This sounds like a wonderful idea. Wonderful, that is, until you consider the consequences.
Want to take over your father’s business straight out of high school without wasting $50 per college application? Tough luck, we’re going to force you to waste your time and money on something that will not benefit you.
Applied to a dozen colleges, and didn’t get into a single one? Well, since you didn’t “successfully apply to a community or four-year college, or to a trade or technical academy,” I guess you can’t get your high school diploma.
Your proposition would create far more problems than it would solve. Thankfully, the people we’ve elected to office think about the actual consequences of nifty new mandatory government programs rather than just considering the upside, taking advice only from their yes-men. . . .
Sam got his facts wrong in three places: One: if a student had the option of taking over his father’s business straight out of high school, he could certainly do so. I said a college or trade school was a BACKUP PLAN if other options didn’t materialize, not a mandatory requirement.
Two: I never said that a kid couldn’t graduate if he didn’t fill out an application for higher education. I said he would not be eligible to participate in commencement ceremonies. There is a big difference.
Three: “Successfully applying to a college or trade school” doesn’t mean getting accepted. It simply means successfully filling out the paperwork on the application and submitting it before the deadline.
It’s amazing how cynical adults are when it comes to trying to send students to college. It’s even more amazing how these same adults can’t even comprehend what they read in the newspaper.