THE BLOG
03/07/2013 10:49 am ET Updated May 07, 2013

Two High School Tracks With Diverging Goals

By: Mark Herring

For relationships, they say first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes someone with a baby carriage. For education, I've always been under the impression that first comes primary school, then comes secondary school, then comes college -- and maybe grad school afterward.

I understand that not everyone is fit for college, but what I loved about our education system is that our schools would work toward that lofty goal to try to get students ready for college. Gov. Pat McCrory doesn't seem to agree, and he just passed a law that will recognize students for college-bound and vocational pathways in high school. Senate Bill 14, a bipartisan bill passed Monday, will "endorse" high school diplomas as "career ready," "college ready" or both.
Legislators justify the bill for economic purposes.

"In these tough economic times it is important that we teach our students the critical thinking and technical skills required to get a job," said Randolph County State Sen. Jerry Tillman (Rep.).

I'd like to know what McCrory wanted to do when he was entering high school as a teenager. I agree with the General Assembly that the state needs to train workers for technical fields, but education -- in its foundation -- should not be viewed as a means to end of training laborers. This bill's greatest shortcoming is its power to suffocate students' ambitions.

Is education's sole purpose to get students jobs? My answer is no. Is that idealistic? Sure, but so is the American Dream. If you're willing to scale down the former, then you should be willing to expect less from the latter, yet I don't think the governor would be willing to admit that. Though I value the work of our mechanics and welders, I think we should inspire our students from every demographic and background to learn, instead of placing them on a hamster wheel. The United States sets itself apart from the rest of the world by granting equal opportunities, and this bill undoes that for North Carolinians.

I was fortunate to study abroad in Spain when I was in high school, and I studied at a "bachillerato" school. In the last two years of high school, for those who qualify, students must choose between medical sciences, arts, engineering, social sciences or the humanities. One of my friends, an arts student, desperately wanted to apply to medical school, but was forced to give up his dream because of a decision he made when he was 15. I don't want North Carolina to end up that way, and I don't want us regretting this law once our children are locked into it.

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