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The next chapter…college?

college (Estelle)


 It’s a word that means a lot of different things for a lot of different people. For one of my best friends, Iris, it meant depressing summer tutoring classes and stressful SAT sessions. For my parents a few decades ago, it meant the promise of a steady job and an education so many others in their home country would never have the fortune of experiencing. For me? It meant my duty as a student and daughter. It was never a choice and quite frankly speaking, I’m okay with that.

 But for some people, college isn’t any of the above. It’s not extra prep classes or their door of opportunity or even a mandatory next step in life. For some people, the word “college” is inconsequential and meaningless.

 That’s because college isn’t their intended stepping stone. As a country right now, America is often recognized as a technological powerhouse, home to some of the world’s leading innovators in Silicon Valley. But before we were a leading figure in the tech industry, we were a country of industrial production and factory workers. Yes, times are changing and computer science is the next big deal. But those who find it in themselves to be our future mechanics and tradesmen face dire straits. And as a society, we need  them.

 The fact of the matter is, college doesn’t have to be the only road to take. Growing up in the K-12 education system, we’re taught to aim for the stars, otherwise known as four year higher education. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just that everyone’s stars are different.

 This past month, the universal topic of conversation for high school seniors across the country has been about college acceptances and rejections. Some kids bemoan the lowest acceptance rates in history while others have just gotten into their dream colleges and are over the moon. Higher education is a centerpiece of news at the moment and rightfully so.

 In fact, this “higher education is the only way” mentality is something that is increasingly pervasive as the world grows more and more connected. In a globalized society—where young adults no longer have to compete with just their neighborhood, state or even country, but the entire world of job hopefuls—it is understandable that college seems to be the sole route to success. Make no bones about it, our teachers and educators are right to promote that.

 And yet, this whole movement, sparked in part by President Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” program more than a decade ago, has left behind a whole group of not college bound kids.

 This is a group that feels increasingly alienated by the universal mindset that everyone’s success must be defined by their level of education. This is also a group that has rapidly lost its footing as programs like shop class and the industrial arts have been eliminated.

 Ever hear someone joke about not knowing how to cook at all? Well, a Forbes article titled “The Death of Shop Class and America’s Skilled Workforce” notes this very epidemic, as more and more kids enter adulthood well-versed in history and mathematics and yet boast zero experience in practical applications like sewing or even cooking. Hands-on jobs are going extinct, and so are the kids who feel college is optional.

 I realize if you’ve read up to this point of the editorial, it may sound like I’m extremely disapproving of higher education. In no way is it my intention to minimize the unparalleled importance of going to a two-year or four-year college and getting a degree from a higher education institution. In fact, as someone who has dreamed about attending university my entire life, I’m proud of myself and all my fellow members of the Class of 2018 that have worked tirelessly the past four years to make their college dreams a reality.

 But, somewhat in line with the whole message of this last issue of Paw Prints Weekly Volume 50—senior goodbyes and all—, I’d like this last editorial of mine to be a parting message to students, seniors or not.

 Julius Caesar’s iconic phrase goes “Veni, vidi, vici.” I came, I saw, I conquered. As students, we come to school, we see all it has to offer, and we conquer this educational journey of ours. Now, it’s time for the next chapter.

 As cliché as it sounds, everyone’s road and future is different. College or no college, we all have different destinations. Goals diverge, paths diverge and lives diverge. And if I can go out with one thing, it’s this: veni, vidi, vici. Come, see, conquer, and I promise the world will be yours.

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