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Transcending “College and Career Ready” on Christmas

December 25, 2019

I had a wonderful Christmas.

One of the events that I treasure is the errand I needed to make to one of the few open stores in order to buy hamburger buns. (My brother grilled burgers, and what? No buns!)

I invited one of my young relatives to take the ride with me. It gave us a chance to talk.

Three years ago, this young man graduated from high school by ed-reform accounts “college and career ready.” His test scores and grades were top notch. He even graduated a year early and was accepted into multiple universities.

The only problem (and a huge one, at that) was that he was rebellious and sported an entitlement complex. He longed for the day when he would be free of his parents– free of their rules and restrictions– free to completely call the shots in his life.

In fact, he was not willing to wait until 18. He pushed for emancipation at 17, which his parents reluctantly granted.

He did attend the university but dropped out before completing a semester. He had freedom but lacked discipline or direction.

For the next three years, this young man received an education that no school could teach him.

He learned the very hard way that freedom must be coupled with responsibility.

His arrogance landed him in seedy, scary, unsafe, unstable situations. Nothing in his life was a given: not living situations, or jobs, or people. And most certainly not the naive divorcing of responsiblity from freedom and living in some unprincipled utopia.

My prayer for him was simple: “Lord, let there be no homicide and no suicide.” I knew this young man had set himself up for some stinging life lessons, and it was what it was for however long it would take for him to learn them.

And then, like the prodigal son, this young man finally came to his senses, and his opinion of his parents shifted to include inklings of respect for what it takes to establish and maintain a stable life.

He returned home on a trial basis.

For perhaps the first time in his life, he regarded the opportunity for the privilege that it was.

Over three months have passed since his return. I have spent time with him twice.

In our discussions, I detect no hint of entitlement. In its place is a newfound respect for his parents and for the home they provide, which has opened up the possibility for him to build peaceful, mature relationships with both his father and mother.

He has a job and a modest goal: To save money for his next car while his current car is still in working order.

He is not sure that college is for him and just needs time to think and to recover from the frightening whirlwind that was the unfettered life he thought that he wanted.

At 20 years old, he is not “college and career ready.” He is something–someone– far better, and I am proud of him.

Merry Christmas to all.

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Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

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  1. pwtx23 permalink

    Lovely, and thank you for sharing this.

    This young man had no clear discernible what-do-you-want-to-do-when-you-grow-up aspirations at 6, 10, 16?  

    I knew my life path at 5.

    Blessings to you, Mercedes.  Wishing you a happy 2020.

    Peyton Wolcott

    P.O. Box 9068

    Horseshoe Bay, TX  78657

  2. My youngest son had to go through a similar experience. A couple years wearing a name tag and working a cash register at a convenience store cured him. He has now graduated from a technical program, has a great job, and is doing well. Different kids, different paths. Happy holidays to you and yours, Mercedes!

  3. ira shor permalink

    Marvelous story, a blessing, thank you.

  4. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    The college and career meme has truncated thinking about what life requires and may reward beyond getting good grades and getting a job. Stories abound.
    My brother dropped out of high school. With our parents consent he went to work at Langley Field test site for big bombs and new aircraft. That job was created by WWII, and it was challenging, but he grew wiser and smarter in a short time by being around adults in that top secret environment than he would have as a teen “trapped” in high school and longing to fly an airplane. He qualified for that job because he was a highly skilled maker of model airplanes. They needed that talent for wind tunnel tests.

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