I have seen a few tweets and articles lately about the value of college.  I started to think about all the jobs you could get without a college degree.  You do things similar to starting an airline like Jet Blue, launch Dell Computers, become the head of Microsoft, create American Idol, make movies like Private Ryan and E.T., or maybe even start a website like Facebook.  I know, the people that did those things without a college diploma are just rare exceptions.  Probably just in the right place at the right time.  We all know that getting a college degree grants you more opportunities and ends up netting you 100s of thousands of dollars over the course of your life.  One just has to take a look at the Forbes 400 richest people.  66% of them have college degrees.  Although the other 34% without degrees have a higher net worth than the 66% of those with college degrees combined.

What if you didn’t need a college degree to teach?  In CT you do…after looking at every loop hole it all comes back to needing course work in the area you wish to be certified in from an accredited college.  It would be cool if someone out of high school could hook up with a master teacher for 3?4?5? years, and then take the tests, submit the portfolios for certification and become a teacher. I am pretty sure that if someone could work with me for four years I could cover with them what they would have had to do in college classes, and **bonus** give them actual classroom experience.   Too many student teachers are experiencing teaching for their first time after three-and-a-half years of college.  At the college down the road, that means they would have spent $120,000 to learn “how to teach” before they even had the chance to try (no I am not counting the 20 hour observation class before student teaching).  Lets face it, if we taught mechanics how to fix a blown head gasket and didn’t let them do it until three years later, we would have many more broken cars in our driveways.  That is kind of what we do with pre-service teachers…and I wonder if it results in more broken kids.

I wonder what you would do differently if you knew your kids were not going to spend years and years in school.  As a middle school teacher there really just doesn’t seem any reason to get them ready for “the real world.”  There is still high school, and then college.  Why rush?  I wonder how the system would change if you took one layer off…what if no grad-school…what if no undergraduate college…what if no high school…what if no elementary school…how low could you go.  Can you image the impact to middle school classrooms if we knew we were the last stop before going out into “the real world.”  You have probably heard the expression, what if we taught each kid like they will be the President.   What would happen if we taught each year, or each level like it was their last?

My daughter is starting to talk about college, and my wife and I are starting to talk about how we can’t afford it.  Sure…we could all go into huge debt.  But what if my daughter wanted to do something that did not require a certification and have as its core  a requirement of courses from a college.  I could see letting her get into a company and convincing them to let her work for free, side-by-side with people who could model and share their knowledge and craft–we could pay all her living expenses, much cheaper than college.  Maybe she bounces from job to job because she is just working at for free.  Maybe without the pressure of paying thousands of dollars a year for coursework she will be free to explore options, change course, and not work the rest of her life in a field she doesn’t enjoy just because that is the one her $150,000 college education prepared her for.

I often think of the label we put on people who do things differently–“exceptions.”  It is so easy to look up a list of “successful people without college diplomas” on google.   It is so easy to say that they are simply exceptions to the rule.  Really?  Maybe labeling them “exceptions” is an easy way out for us.  Maybe labeling them “exceptions” allows us to feel better about what we do and the decisions we have made.  Maybe we do it because it is hard to admit that they might just have more “guts” than the rest of us.

I hope that my kids have learned that there are exceptions to the rules.

I hope that they become “exceptions.”

I hope that they will have the “guts,” that I never had.

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