Sunday, January 11, 2009

We all want our kids to go to college....

...but Coyote makes a good argument that this is not always wise.

Back when I was still in Germany, there were 3 tracks in education: Volksschule, Realschule, and Gymnasium. You were routed to one of these tracks based on a test you took in 4th grade. Maybe this is a bit early to decide the rest of your life (actually, this was not final, there ARE ways of switching tracks), and Germany has abandoned this system, but it did have its advantages.

Volksschule was for the worker bees. School was only mandatory until you were 14 years old (plenty of time to get a grounding in literacy, math, and civics), and then you were expected to move on. This didn't mean your education was OVER - typically you moved into an apprenticeship that prepared you for a trade.

Gymnasium was a college preparatory school, and the track you took if you wanted to be a teacher, a college professor, a doctor, various highly respected professions.

Realschule I don't really understand that well, but apparently it was a middle ground between the two.

This satisfied both an egalitarian ideology (everybody had the same fundamental first four years of schooling, everybody had a chance at ANY of the tracks) without forcing everybody to sacrifice a large part of their life on preparation they did not want - in the American system there is no way these days to opt out before you are 22 without being labeled in some way a failure.

In Germany, a kid who attended Volksschule and went on to become a Master at his trade was STILL a highly respected person (qualified to lead and teach others - my own father was a Master in 2 different trades (metalworking/plumbing and heating/cooling) and an advanced Journeyman in one other (electrician) although he never finished Volksschule) with no history of failure behind him, even though the respect was of a different flavor from that accorded an intellectual.

In retrospect, I mourn the demise of that system. It should have been improved rather than abandoned.

2 comments:

jtfiederer said...

I agree that the U.S. should adopt such a system. Not everyone is going to go the college route, so everyone should not be treated as if they were. At the same time, I believe that everyone should be given some kind of a personal finance course that prepares them regarding how to handle the money that they will eventually be making. They should get some training in the practical matters they will encounter when they become independent.

jens said...

That sort of goes under "civics", which would of course also include some basics in evaluating political leaders.

Hard to do that in a state-sponsored system without brainwashing, though.