I send you greetings from many wonderful deities! The weather has suddenly warmed, and they are having a lively chat by the Shrine of the Mists. I can hear them back there teasing the neighborhood tom cat.
The Great State of New Jersey wants to close the achievement gap between the highest scoring students and the lowest scoring students. It makes no sense to Governor Christie and his chums that poor kids don't perform well on tests, that they don't learn as much, and their futures are therefore grim.
Well, there are gaps, and there are gaps.
If you close the educational gap, you might well close the expectation gap. Don't know what the expectation gap is? Read on.
My students struggle to achieve a high school diploma. Armed with that diploma, they go get jobs at Whole Foods, Wegman's, Home Depot, and Target. My students are thrilled to find work at such places. They get decent wages and work hours, and some of these businesses offer health care (at least minimally).
College graduates who enter the work force consider themselves failures if they have to work at Home Depot. Is this what they went to college for? To shelve paint samples? Whole Foods. Is this what they went to college for, to chop up eggplant all day?
I had a student come visit me last week. She was all dressed up and supremely happy. She had found a good job cutting up vegetables at Whole Foods. She was in hog heaven.
Along with the educational gap goes the expectation gap. There's the expectation of a "better" job -- better than Bed, Bath, and Beyond.
My question to the Powers That Be, then, is this: If everyone gets an equal education, and everyone goes to college, who will be happy working at Dick's Sporting Goods? Shouldn't America have different calibrations of happiness?
I'll muddy the water even further. Is it possible that, armed with her high school diploma and some ambition, my former student will stride happily into Whole Foods and work her way up the chain of command? Isn't that how America is supposed to work, especially for the immigrant generation?
Call me old fashioned, but I believe in the self-made person. Maybe I'm too 20th century for this new world. But one of my grandfathers had a college degree, and the other one an 8th grade education, and they both had white collar jobs that they loved. Is that not possible anymore?
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