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Monday, December 5, 2016
Time for “Tracking” in Post-Secondary Education?
How do politics affect post-secondary education in the United States? Are they truly a meritocracy, or is the system rigged? Will we ever be able to bridge the wealth gap in college education?
These are just some of the questions now on the front burner as we await a Trump Administration. Obama's tenure can be best described as an era focused on college completion. His administration pushed for transparency in the fiscal value of college degrees. He worked with philanthropic organizations to create post-secondary credentials that had meaning and value in the workplace. And in recent years, the Obama administration made great strides for community colleges.
The Trump administration's position on higher education is still not abundantly clear, but it may end up being eclipsed by a focus on creating jobs. Ironically, the creation of jobs and support for four-year education are things that-in American culture-are often mutually exclusive. Trump has promised a $1 trillion infrastructure improvement program; most of the jobs created by such an endeavor would only require a high school diploma.
Which raises the issue of "tracking"-a system common in parts of Europe which typically causes Americans to bristle. Such a system tracks students early on, recognizing that some students will become doctors and some will become plumbers, and that it is equally important to prepare students for both.
This system acknowledges that all students are different, but goes against the grain of the American bootstrap mythology that anyone can reach the mountain top if they just work hard enough. History has proven this to mostly be untrue.
So while a Trump administration will likely (and intentionally) unravel much of the education policy crafted under his predecessor, he may in fact create a professional environment meeting many of the same goals.
It just may be that "success" no longer includes a four-year degree.
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