It turns out Americans might be a little too focused on the notion that college leads to upward mobility. According to an article by Joyce Jones in Diverse Issues in Higher Education:
According to a report released today by Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, the United States’ increasing emphasis on a single pathway to success is at least partly to blame for the country falling behind other nations. Indeed, the report found that “there are profoundly troubling signs that the U.S. is now failing to meet its obligation to prepare millions of young adults” to achieve economic success.
The report “Pathways to Prosperity: Meeting the Challenge of Preparing Young Americans for the 21st Century,” is here and while it’s a very interesting piece, it should probably be qualified as rather speculative.
It’s not really a study at all so much compilation of discoveries other researchers have made. It’s sort of hard to demonstrate that America’s focus on college is actually causing educational problems.
It’s an interesting argument, however. If Americans think “college is the only path to upward mobility” and therefore children must go to college in order to become a successful adults that means schools see pushing people into college, any college, as good thing.
It also means that we neglect really good vocational paths to success. Going to college might be very good for individuals and the country, but high quality education, in any form, would be a better thing is a better thing. Focusing on how many people start college is a good way to detract attention from valid attempts to look at college readiness.