Monday, May 17, 2010

College for Everybody, Anyway

I like Claus van Zastrow's post on continuing the push towards college for everyone over at his Public School Insights blog today. He makes one of the few points about "college readiness" that rings true and sensible to me: "The vast majority of wealthy parents expect their kids to go to college," he writes. "Even some of those pundits who pooh pooh college in the pages of the Times or The Wall Street Journal would likely pitch a fit if their own children decided to go the voc-ed route. Poor children face a very different reality. (...) [T]hose who never went to college are getting hit hardest by this recession. The poor get poorer."

I'm skeptical, I admit, of the idea that all children can be made college-ready. Most children can, but many won't cooperate with the effort. But--and here's the key--college should be suggested and encouraged for every child. The child for whom college is the right thing--and maybe that's a poor child, an immigrant child, a child with learning disabilities--will be heartened and motivated by the expectation, the assumption that he, too, can make it to college. And the child for whom college is not right will hardly be dissuaded from education altogether by someone suggesting that she should stretch herself.

Maybe college preparation activities should be made "opt-out" at schools, rather than opt-in; that is, college tours or visits by admissions officers or SAT prep should be de rigueur for everyone. Only after a careful and realistic evaluation made by the student, his or her family, and a counselor should the child be pursuing other options that are concrete and realistic for that child. And those options should still include education.

I feel like a system like that would preserve the push towards college for bright, motivated kids who simply feel discouraged that college is out of their reach because of lack of resources. It would perhaps inspire some students to aim for college even if they didn't think they could or should do it before. And it would also help to care for those students who might still decide college is not for them.