Aunt Becky is in big trouble mister!
Unless you’ve been living under an educational rock for the past week, you have certainly heard about the celebrity college cheating scandal that implicates actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin and at least fifty other wealthy parents. Accusations include bribing SAT and ACT administrators to allow test taker fraud, and bribes to get students into college under fake athletic credentials.
I teach juniors, and I have quite a few seniors that find their way back into my classroom to visit at least once a week. As such, this news story has been an interesting topic of conversation for us. We’ve been talking a lot about education:
What is the value of education? Who deserves it? How do we make it fair and more equitable for all students?
These questions are relevant today more than ever, especially considering the WV legislature’s leanings towards charter schools in our state. Money, unfortunately, has a habit of talking— and a habit of silencing the voices of those who don’t have it, but I digress.
Anyway, I’ll step away from the soapbox and share some teacher ready materials that have been helpful to discuss these topics in the classroom.
My county has a mandated Career Unit that with a culminating Mock Interview with community members. Many of our students find this to be one of the most beneficial activities because of its practicality. We’ve been working on resumes, cover letters, and job applications for a few weeks, and last Friday my students had their interviews.
In addition to our normal resume work, I had my students think about the following question: To what extent is “follow your dreams” good advice?
We looked a New York Times Graph of the week that focused on how susceptible certain jobs are to computerization. It provoked quite a bit of discussion about the financial value of certain types of degrees, as well as the value of communication and critical thinking in jobs.
We also listened to Steve Job’s 2005 “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish” commencement speech at Stanford University. We discussed Job’s claim that, “the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do”. We discussed his opinion of failure, and we discussed how passion can affect work.
To provide a different perspective, we also listened to a short speech from Dirty Job’s, Mike Rowe, entitled “Don’t Follow your Dreams”. Rowe focuses on practicality. He says “Dream Jobs are usually just that—dreams. . .. [explore] careers that offer a legitimate chance to perform meaningful work and develop a genuine passion for the job you already have”.
My students compared the rhetoric and argument of these two speeches. We discussed the meaning of purpose, of passion, and of failure. Here is the document we annotated: Mike Rowe and Steve Jobs on following your dreams
This also brought up the topic of whether ability to “follow your dreams” is a position of privilege. Our kids don’t have an Aunt Becky at home bankrolling their passions. And, sometimes, they have to balance the burden of helping to support their family with their desire to pursue their passion.
Though I didn’t have time to assign the essay, this year, I have sometimes extended this discussion into an argumentative essay asking the students the following:
I hope that my students love their college experience if that is their next step. I want them to love their jobs the way that I love mine. I want them to pursue their passion, and to find fulfillment. I hope that the concepts that we grapple with in high school influence their thinking in college. I hope that what we do now helps them become who they are meant to be.
We need to find a balance between being a Becky, and being a Debbie Downer. I want to encourage my students to pursue their dreams and passions, while also encouraging them to be practical. We need to keep in mind the real purpose of education.
I love Heidi Stevens words in the Chicago Tribune as she advises parents and students in relation to the cheating scandal: “College is a feast. . . You fill your mind with ideas and you just keep getting hungrier. You binge on new philosophies. You try on new personalities. You fall in love with new friends, new books, new buildings, new partners. You get your heart broken. You keep going. You grow.”
May we always keep that in mind as well. May we encourage our students to hunger for a better world. And may we do our best to feed their hungry minds while they are with us.
Don’t forget! WVELA 2019 conference is coming up in a few days! Have you registered? There is still time!
WVCTE is wondering . . . What do you do to prepare your students for college and career? What are your favorite resume or interview prep activities? Reach out to us on Twitter @WVCTE or on facebook.
Jeni Gearhart is a member of the WVCTE Executive committee and has been teaching at Hedgesville High School in Berkeley County for the past 7 years. She is a graduate of Grove City College in Western Pennsylvania. Though not a WV native, she loves to call this place her home, especially since recently becoming a first-time homeowner. Currently she teaches AP English Language and 10th grade Honors. Jeni loves books and coffee and exploring new places. If given a million dollars, it would probably be spent buying more books, or perhaps a pet unicorn. On second thought, the million dollars would probably pay of college debt and replace the pink stove in her fiancé’s kitchen.