Post Secondary or Starve
I would have to say I was pretty lucky growing up. I graduated at the tail end of the glory years of high school in the mid 1980’s. I had choices coming out of my yin yang, just like kids of today but I had one choice that kids these days don’t have, the choice to become an independent adult.
As I entered my final years of high school, I remember being excited about my options. I could choose to work at a dead-end job, go into a post secondary program (after some upgrading), start an apprenticeship… Hell, I could have even dropped out in grade 10 and gone worked in the oil patch if I wanted. Sure my parents would have been pissed but hey, as long as I wasn’t living out of their back pocket, so be it.
Looking back, I realize that having the option to simply go find a job and work, far more motivating then anything the modern school system promises kids today. These days, we tell kids they can be anything they want, the sky is the limit, just stay in school… indefinitely.
The school system gets the crap kicked out of it because it doesn’t “prepare our children for the world” but in reality, the real world is no longer willing to support young adults. The actual role of grade school today, is not to get kids ready for the world; it is to prepare youth to spend as much of their life as possible, warehoused in some academic institution someplace.
The ruse we have created to counter the natural desire of an 18-year-old to get on with one’s life, is that the school system isn’t inspiring them. The curriculum isn’t relevant, it isn’t meeting their needs! But what if all an 18-year-old wants or needs, is the opportunity to become an independent, self-supporting adult before the age of 30?
When I work with kids trying to figure out what they will do in the years to come, the life drains from the face of many when I tell them that they don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of feeding themselves without 2 – 8 or more years of post secondary education.
Ok… Perhaps I don’t put it so bluntly but the message is clear. In today’s world, post secondary education is the gateway to a functional adulthood. The problem is, that even a Post Secondary education doesn’t guarantee that you will be able to feed yourself and kids know this. They see no sign of an independent adulthood in their future.
What this translates into in my classroom, is that kids eliminate excellent career possibilities not because they haven’t the aptitude or ability but because they won’t be able to feed themselves, buy a home or god forbid raise a family. Despite the political mumbo jumbo… Students don’t really have the choice of following their passions. They have to chase the brass ring, otherwise they remain their parents dependant into adulthood and beyond.
It begs the question, how did we get to this place? In 30(ish) years we have gone from a world where the young adult was given the opportunity (hard though it was) to become an independent and self-supporting, to one where economic independence is next to impossible without spending the prime of your life warehoused in some academic institution.
It makes me think that, perhaps we have gotten things a bit backward here? Perhaps the problem the youth of today face, isn’t an education system that doesn’t prepare them for their future. Perhaps the problem is an economy that only sees a young person as a source of cheap exploitable labour. Perhaps it is an economy in which your only chance for economic independence is to collect enough degrees and certificates, that you eventually can be considered valuable enough to make a living wage.
If we take a look at the stats, today’s youth unemployment rates are not abnormally high. In fact from a historical perspective they are really quite good. They are even better than what they were when I got out of high school. The question then becomes, What has changed? Why are young adults struggling to get on with their lives?
What we have done, wether it be unwittingly or by design, is create an economy of dependence. At some point in the past 30 years, we have decided that we need to marginalize young adults and keep them from becoming independent, functioning contributors to society. Keep them dependant on their parents for an extra decade or two and we don’t have to provide a living wage, because mom and dad will pick up the monetary slack.