Wednesday, February 18, 2015

If kids don't want to be adults, it's particularly true with poor students

Yesterday I wrote a piece for TheAtlantic.com about the idea that many kids may not appreciate "college-and-career readiness" programs since they don't really want to join the adult world. It's a long article, but in a nutshell: high school kids have a pretty good life, they see relatively uncool adults suffer through an inferior lifestyle, and therefore many kids aren't in any hurry to join that imminent working life.

One might think that it may be different for a poor and/or struggling student since a) their lives are not as pampered, and b) they probably want a job so they can stop being so poor.

But after the article was already published, I remembered an enlightening conversation with an administrator who was designing an outreach program for Spanish-speaking families. He told me that some of the EL students already know what job they're going to have to do once they graduate (or drop out) from high school—it's often a mindless occupation within their family's business. Consequently, these students are very conscious that these high school years are the best years of their life, and are therefore very difficult to motivate and/or discipline. He wasn't talking about (and I'm not writing about) all EL students or exclusively EL students. It's any poor or struggling student, or really any adolescent who knows a mindless job has already been arranged by his family.

I find this both paradoxical (since these kids are the type that "college-and-career readiness" programs are designed for), but also totally understandable. I don't, however, know exactly what to do about it. To read more about the bafflement, you'll have to read the whole article.

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