Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Two Roadblocks to Effective Postsecondary Counseling

By:  Patrick O'Connor Ph.D

There isn’t a single school counselor who can’t tell you what they need to make their job easier.  From smaller caseloads to far fewer “other duties as assigned” (I’m talking about you, schedule changes), the logistics of what we do could be fine tuned in all kinds of ways to make us more productive and more student-centered.

There are other changes that could improve our work we don’t talk about as much.  As discussions about the role of college and the jobs of the future continue, it might be time to reconsider these principles—some held by our profession, some held by society-- if only to reflect on how our perception of them can change our work with students and families for the better. These two are a good place to start:

People who go to college are better off that people who don’t  It’s amazing what we’re trying to do to make people feel better about themselves just because they don’t want to spend four years (or more) of their lives at college.  This is especially true in the last five years, where an effort is underway to define “college” as any kind of training that comes after high school.  That way, if everyone gets some kind of training, we can say everyone goes to college, and no one has to feel bad about themselves.

But isn’t that based on false assumptions of what’s valued in this world?  This obsession with college would probably be news to the plumber who left my house after ninety minutes of work two days after Christmas with $225.  Personable, outgoing, knowledgeable (and clearly not hurting for money), the training he received through his union certification program wasn’t college, but it was exactly what he wanted to do with his life—and given the task at hand, it came in way more handy than anything I’d learned at university.  Would he really see his life as more complete if we said he went to plumber’s college—or are we trying to fix our view of the world, since nothing seems to be wrong with his?

Aggregate data abounds showing cities and states do better when they are populated by more college graduates, but every one of those college graduates needs their pipes snaked, their chimneys cleaned, and their clothes dry cleaned.  If their work wasn’t important, it wouldn’t be necessary.  The workers in these fields see it that way; why doesn’t society?

College ready and career ready are the same thing The minute we finally decide difference has value, we’re ready to deal with the most bogus claim in the school counseling lexicon—that college readiness and career readiness are the same thing.  The skill set needed to build a house has remarkably little in common with the skill set needed to make it through Introduction to Western Civilization.  Both may require communication skills, promptness, and critical thinking.  So does making it safely through Happy Hour, but I know of no building trades program or History prof where two-for-one drafts are part of the instruction.

Different life experiences require different preparations, and we do all students a disservice when we develop a school counseling curriculum that assumes the skills needed to become a machinist are the same skills needed to make it through graduate school.  Once we accept the idea that difference is valued, we can get on with the business of meeting individual needs with something other than a one-size-fits-all approach to life after high school—and we’ll get more students interested in what we have to say. ​

No comments:

Post a Comment