Education bureaucrats in about half the 50 states are currently pursuing strategies that will ask students to choose their lifelong professional employment paths as early as the sixth grade, according to a report by EAGnews.org.
The concept is to establish “student learning plans” for 11- and 12-year-old kids.
Massachusetts is one state to have enacted the student-learning-plans model.
The Massachusetts state government adopted student learning plans under 2014 legislation, H.4527, signed by then-Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat.
The legislation establishes a committee tasked with designing a process under which “all students in grades 6 to 12” in public schools will be subject to a labyrinth of career planning from guidance counselors.
The goal of the project is to have students as young as 11 years old defining careers for themselves and completing coursework within student learning plans that will lead to those careers.
Advocates of student learning plans say they are a terrific way to help youngsters get ready for the exciting world of work. Students can change career plans and their student learning plans can be changed or updated, they swear.
Critics are not as optimistic.
“To me, this is one more indication that we have lost our collective minds,” Jane Robbins, a senior fellow with the American Principles Project, told EAGnews.
Robbins believes that sixth graders should not have to decide what they want to be when they grow up and most of them have no idea what they will be good at six years or a decade down the line, anyway.
She also fears that students who aren’t ready to commit to a career at a young age or who are constantly changing their minds could get “dinged” under any student-learning-plans system.
“When we are putting kids on a path at the age of 11, that means that our workforce obsession has really taken over our common sense,” she added.
Despite good intentions, guidance counselors might also deter students from changing their young minds, she also suggested.
Robbins noted that the notion of student learning plans for little kids has been in America’s education ether for some 20 years.
“They’ve never been able to get the states to coalesce around this,” she told EAGnews. “When it was called School-to-Work 20 years ago, it was a fad for a while and then it fell apart. And now it’s a fad again.”
Education fads are dangerous things, Robbins believes.
“The problem is the U.S. Department of Education encourages all of this kind of stuff and the people who are running public education in the various states all believe in this because that’s what they were taught when they were in school,” she told EAGnews. “And they realize that federal money can be connected to whatever the federal government wants.”