Why I Hate College…in High School

The push for college has grown to epic proportions, even since the 15 years it has been since I have been in high school. We inundate our students with message after message about going to college. We show statistic after statistic about how much college degree holders earn. At the same time we hear more and more stories about unemployed and underemployed college graduates. When a student will take the step to be forthcoming and tell us what path through college they want to take we often will respond with, “what are you going to do with that?”

We tell our students anecdotal stories about how pointless general education courses are in college. Why should I have to take X if I am going to do Y? We also hear how some of the general education courses can cause students who are capable of becoming productive members of a profession to drop out of college altogether. The only logical reason for general education courses for many students is to rationalize them as a sort of categorizer. We rationalize that the purpose of general education courses is to weed out the weak minded.

Some communities apply pressure to their children to get into the right school. They are worried about the brand that is attached to a degree.

Students in my community are under a different kind of pressure, cost.

Students chasing brand schools sacrifice happiness, and even health, in an effort to obtain that label. They want to be able to say, ” I am a Harvard graduate.” They want that elite label without having to be concerned without embracing the qualities that made that institution elite in the first place. Money isn’t the object here, it’s status.

I get the distinct impression that at my school students aren’t chasing the brand so much as the label of being a college graduate. They seek out the path of least resistance, usually in terms of lowest cost. Best case scenarios would be a path that would allow for the lowest cost and lowest effort. Our society has created an economy that has credentialed out many middle income professions to high school graduates. As more students enroll in college to gain access to decent paying jobs a gap in academic skills was noticed, which then led to the ever increasing push to have ever increasing academic standards since good jobs required college.

Those standards increased to the point where we as society felt that wide swath of high school students are adequately prepared for college and that spending extra time in high school doing busy work was unfair, hence the rise of College Credit Plus (CCP). CCP allows students to obtain for college classes which are taught on campus, online, or at the high school by qualified teachers. I see many detriments to CCP. The main selling point behind CCP is that students will save money when they eventually enroll in a four-year university because of all the general education courses they have taken. While I will freely admit there are students who would benefit from this program, I feel that there are far too many variables involved to broadly advertise CCP to the entire 7-12 student population.

As a teacher, since I am not qualified to teach CCP, I feel pressured to become qualified so that students would could take more math classes at the high school rather than taking them online or on campus at the local community college. Right now my schedule includes teaching upper level math, math that would normally be college level in content, but because I can’t offer college credit to students, they might choose to take their advanced math at the community college and get the credit. No one has ever directly stated that I need to go get CCP qualified, but when students are encouraged to take math else where that means that there are fewer math students for me. And if my classes can’t be filled I become unnecessary and can be let go.

In my upper level classes, Common Core provides leeway on what specific topics get covered. Because the upper level maths don’t have a state mandated end of course exam, I have the freedom to widely adapt the pacing to my students abilities. When it comes to the process of teaching I have to worry about local evaluations and OTES, but I have been allotted professional discretion when determining the content of my class. If I were to become CCP qualified I would lose the last vestige of my control, the content. My cooperating college would determine the pacing and assessments. As much as I want to the job security of CCP, I don’t know if I am willing to sacrifice my autonomy for it.

What really bothers me though doesn’t have to do with CCP, it is about the students. Every time students chooses CCP over my class they are essentially telling me that I have nothing left to offer them. Best case scenario, a student that takes CCP over my class is telling me that they are willing to sacrifice my class to potentially save about $600. In other words, students that sacrifice the college credit are telling me that whatever it is that I offer, it is more meaningful than $600.

I know not every student is going to like me or want to take class with me. That should be a given understanding of anyone who takes up the teaching profession. I do not have an issue with a student who wants to take math someplace else simply because of a personality conflict.

Where CCP is concerned, it forces students to make an economic decision regarding my value as an educator.I am worth about $600. My identity as an educator is being prostituted. As the deadline for my CCP application draws near I feel like I am caught in some horrible sting operation.

I feel so dirty.

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