The notion that kids should decide what they are going to do for the rest of their adult lives while in middle school, or even high school, is crazy.
The idea that schools should be training kids to work at a particular business or a particular kind of business is similarly nuts.
Primary and secondary schools should not exist for the purpose of training employees. Their function is to educate children so they can become productive members of U.S. society. Their duty is to the child, not to a business or industry.
A recent story by Stephan Bisaha for Wichita public radio station KMUW noted the growth of programs in public schools that aim to recruit employees for particular businesses and industries in the state.
At the same time, more schools are pressing middle and high school students to choose careers and to start tailoring their education to attain certain jobs.
Some students are steered toward science, others toward arts. Some are advised to get vocational-mechanical training, while others prep for office work.
As an editor, I worked with reporters who had degrees in journalism, sure. But some instead majored in biology, archeology or English. One of my hires had been working full-time hanging drywall. Another was a pig farmer.
Journalists, however, might not be good examples. Our industry has been pulverized by the move of advertising dollars to such internet-based businesses as Facebook and Google. As a result, many journalists have been forced out of their chosen careers.
Even before the industry started falling apart, I worked with journalists who left newspapers to start their own businesses, or to pursue advanced degrees in information technology, or to work in public relations or government.
While journalists may be especially active job-hoppers, the same sort of dynamics affect workers in other industries. One example would be the aircraft industry in Wichita. Many of the companies now complaining that schools need to train employees for them are companies that laid off trained employees during bad times. And they did that again and again. Many workers who had been laid off repeatedly switched careers. Now that the aviation business has picked up, companies think the education system has let them down.
Just how often adults change careers is hard to determine. If you go online and research the topic, you find some unbelievable figures — mostly from companies that profit from people seeking new jobs and the businesses seeking to hire them. Some claim people change careers a dozen times or more.
That figure might be accurate for job changes, but not career changes. Good, solid research on the subject, however, is hard to find.
We all know people who knew since they were 10 that they wanted to be a nurse or become a pilot.
And it’s easy to see why schools would encourage students to think about what they want to do with their lives. It’s a way to make education jibe with students’ ambitions, while controlling costs.
But exposing students to lots of different activities, experiences and possibilities makes it more likely that they will find, in the long run, professional satisfaction and lifelong opportunities.
Education should be more than a job-training program. It should be a means of discovering the world and your role in it.
A native of Garden City, Julie Doll is a former journalist who has worked at newspapers across Kansas.