Taking That Careers and College Thing Too Damn Far

An important phrase used by education reformers lately has to do with fixing American schools to prepare all students for “college and careers.” This is theoretically a good idea, since high school for anyone at all is followed by either more education or a job. While some politicians can support the whole “education as job preparation” concept a little too enthusiastically, a new reform in one state appears to be taking this to the point of absurdity.

According to a piece in the Washington Post:

The Arizona Department of Education Web site, asks kindergartners to “check out scholarships” for college, start a college savings account and “read picture books about careers and select the jobs I like.” There’s more, including monitoring reading standardized test scores. (What would a college and career road map for kindergartners be without a focus on standardized test scores?) Young kids, of course, like to imagine what they might be and do when they become adults, but should they really be checking out scholarship lists and obsessing over test scores?

Here’s the adorable/frightening image used to help the tykes begin the long march toward productive wage earning:

JobCar

Yes, this checklist should be completed with the help of an adult, indeed.

Weird ideas like this are not exclusive to Arizona. An elementary school principal in New York wants five-year-olds get ready for careers, too.

It’s not just that kindergartners are incapable of making career decisions. Nor is the problem necessarily that until about sixth grade students have no choice whatsoever about what classes to take.

No, a far more serious problem here is that today’s kindergartners won’t start jobs until about 2026. We have no idea what jobs will exist then.

When I was a little kid I had a few career ideas, too. I thought it might be kind of exciting to be a fireman. That isn’t even a real job in most places in America. I also thought a travel agent might be kind of cool.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer