Career Pathways

By Donna Garner

Issues and Action in Education

An e-letter produced by EdWatch, a nonprofit organization.

December 16, 2006

See also Tucker Plan Includes Cradle Control and Does the new education concept have merit?

Marc Tucker of the National Center for Education and the Economy (NCEE) has updated his plan for education in the globally planned economy, called "Tough Choices or Tough Times:The Report of the new Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce."The first report, released in 1990, called "America's Choice: high skills or low wages!" was the framework for the school-to-work system described below. (See "FACT: “School-to-Work” Is Alive and Well!"). Look for EdWatch's coming commentary on the newest Tucker plan.

Recently people all across our country are beginning to wake up and realize what "systemic redesign of schools" actually means, and the term "Career Academies" is being tossed around widely.
This is the question you need to answer regarding these career academies:  How many eighth graders do you know who are equipped and ready to decide their life's career pathway?  I shudder to think where our own sons would be today if they had made such a decision in eighth grade.  Remember that these decisions must be made then so that the students can enter the specific Career Academy in Grades 9-12. (Please see the list of Career Academies at the bottom of this e-mail.)
I would not be so concerned about career academies if students all took the same common core cluster of classes with the same exposure to foundational core curriculum and then supplemented their interests with a few elective classes in a chosen career.  Those experiences would most assuredly motivate students and would help them to begin to think seriously about their future plans. That is a good thing, but that is not the way that this new plan works.
In our state the plan is entering under the name of Achieve Texas; in other states the plan is named small learning communities, systemic reform, schools-within-schools, career clusters, extended learning, seamless system, 21st Century Learning, etc.  All are coming out of the same original source (NCEE/America's Choice/New Standards Project) which has now extended its tentacles into the U. S. Department of Education, Chambers of Commerce, National Governors Association, Business Roundtable, and other such groups.
Here are some statements which are in Achieve Texas which is swooping into our state without the prior knowledge of our elected state board of education members until a few weeks ago.  These statements occur on page 12:
"This idea is to build a system that provides smooth educational pathways for students to follow from elementary school, into middle school, and on to high school, through postsecondary education or training and into the workplace...Under such a system, curricula for grades K-12 would be progressive and cumulative.  Knowledge and skills acquired in early grades would be built upon and expanded in later grades.  All classes would integrate academic subjects such as English and mathematics with career education.  This would mean redesigning instruction to hands-on, interdisciplinary, problem-and-project-based education." 
Can you imagine how many hours of the all-important years in elementary school would be spent in students' "experiencing" various careers?  Think of the interruptions to the school day which would occur if schools attempt to bring in representatives from the workplace to expose children to the 16 career clusters! 
You can bet that many of these experiences would mean field trips to hotels, kitchens, banks, hospitals, travel agencies, hardware stores, marketing firms, water-treatment plants, furniture-manufacturing companies, etc.  Sounds like fun, doesn't it?  Never mind learning how to multiply, divide, read, write, and spell!  There would not be time to learn those "silly" things. 
Of course, elementary schools would be required to expose each child to each of the 16 career clusters so that they (supposedly) would be ready by Grade 8 to decide on their chosen career pathway.  Let's always keep in mind the maturity level of the average eighth grader who is struggling just to keep up with his hormones, much less plan out his entire future!
This is the old School-to-Work plan which we education activists thought was dead.  Instead it has reared its ugly head again and is now sweeping across our country. This is Hillary Clinton, Ira Magaziner, Mario Cuomo, and Marc Tucker's NCEE plan of the 1980's. Turn our schools from knowledge-based instruction which is objectively tested INTO schools where everything is performance-project-based and subjectively assessed.
The result is to create a nation where 10% of the population has a well-rounded, liberal arts background which will equip them to become the thinkers, executives, and CEO's while 90% of the population will be doomed to become "worker bees" who will not have the core knowledge needed to question the decisions by the 10%.  This fits exactly the definition of Socialism.
How can a child in eighth grade decide to go into Health Science, spend four years taking English classes which are geared totally to Health Science terminology, and then decide in 11th grade to go into some other career?  He could never make the leap because instead of reading the great classics and the historic pieces of literature upon which our country is founded, his classes would have spent time reading about various doctors and nurses and their experiences with illnesses in Africa. 
Instead of learning basic vocabulary which would apply to any life work, students would learn only vocabulary which deals with Health Science.  Never mind learning literary terms because they do not fall under Health Science!  Instead of learning to analyze poems, plays, and novels, students would create scenarios to help them practice bedside manners. Students would spend time in their Health Science cluster in learning how to write up directions for the operation of heart monitors instead of learning how to research and write up a formal research paper on the Civil War. They would learn how to scrub down surgical equipment instead of studying Shakespeare, Dickens, and Homer.  Just think of the literary allusions which are commonly used in our society that these Health Science students would not understand.  Who is Shakespeare anyway? 
These career clusters depend heavily on dual-credit courses where students get "college" credit for the courses they take in 11th and 12th grades.  Never mind the fact that a college course for a public-school classroom filled with 16-17 year olds, many of whom qualify as "at-risk" students, cannot possibly be delivered at the same academic level as one delivered to "real" college students who are several years older.
High-school students typically bow at the altar of peer pressure, self-image, and group acceptance.  College students are more visionary and more independent, less focused on peer approval.  There is a big difference in their study habits and in their abilities to analyze issues.  To give college credit for these dual-credit courses gives high-school students a false sense of accomplishment and ends up dumbing down their actual knowledge-base. 
By the way, what happens to a student who has been groomed totally for the Hospitality & Tourism industry if the economy takes a sudden downturn and that industry craters? 
What happens to the student who has spent his time learning how to operate laser technology if suddenly some technology comes along which completely replaces the laser? 
What happens to a person who has been trained only in the area of financial planning if suddenly some mechanism makes those jobs defunct? 
Becoming a specialist at an early age keeps a person from having the flexibility to change with the marketplace demands.
I won't even go into the kind of citizens and voters Achieve Texas would create since 90% of the population would not have the core knowledge to be able to judge what is credible and what is not.
Here is a list of the 16 career clusters:

Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources
Architecture & Construction
Arts/A/V Technology & Communications
Business, Management & Administration
Education & Training
Government & Public Administration
Health Science
Hospitality & Tourism
Human Services
Information Technology
Public Safety, Corrections & Security
Marketing, Sales & Service
Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics
Transportation, Distribution & Logistics

Where would your eighth grade son or daughter fit in this list?  What if he/she changes her/his mind in 10th grade?  It is ludicrous to assume that the academic rigor of an English class offered in Hospitality & Tourism would be offered at the same academic level as Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics; but what if your daughter/son decides to move from one cluster to another cluster well into her/his high-school years? 
Let's face it; your child would be stuck in a cluster she/he might not even like and would have to stay with that cluster for a lifetime -- a cluster which was chosen when she/he was 13 years of age! 
The Great American Dream would no longer exist; the free enterprise system would vanish because 90% of the population would not have flexible, broad-based skills.  Capitalism would  be dead because people would be pre-ordained and locked into set occupations and salaries at the very tender age of 13. Is this what we want for our children and grandchildren?
Donna Garner
Writer/Consultant for
Grammar Packets
Texas Alternative Document (TAD) for English/Language Arts/Reading (Pre-K-12)
Research-Paper Writing
Steps to Research Paper
Expository Research Paper - English I-II
Expository Research Paper - English III-IV

For more articles on education see EdWatch Index

and Promoting Homosexuality in the Public Schools by Donna Garner

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See also Brave New Schools, Chapter 2: The International Agenda