What Is the Value of a High School Education?
There is a near universal consensus that the ever increasing rate of progress seen in modern times is in part attributed to the proliferation of education throughout modern societies.
High school is a particularly formative time in a student’s life, and nations that prioritize the education of their young citizens tend to experience rapid expansions in their industry, or in their social paradigms – or both – not too long after. However, many argue that while beneficial for society as a whole, increased access to education leaves each individual student worse off. If a high school education is so valuable, then it stands to reason that it becomes devalued to its holder when the supply increases, just like with any other commodity. In addition, increased access to education undoubtedly affects the efficiency of the arguably bloated educational system. The job of educators becomes increasingly challenging year after year, as a reflection of having to constantly adapt learning materials to ever rising standards from parents, and a diverse range of learning styles from students.
Carefully read the following seven sources, including the introductory information for each source. Then synthesize information from at least six of the sources and incorporate it into a coherent, well-developed essay that defends, challenges, or qualifies the claim that the widely accessible, modern high school education is of little value to students. Or that develops a position on the most important considerations students face when developing their plans for college, career, and life after based on their high school education. Make sure that your argument is central; use the sources to illustrate and support your reasoning. Avoid merely summarizing the sources. Indicate clearly which sources you are drawing from, whether through direct quotation, paraphrase, or summary.
You may cite the sources as Source A, Source B, etc., or by using the descriptions in parentheses. Source A (Carl) Source B (Pew Research) Source C (Wong) Source D (Oloffson) Source E (Rall) Source F (Davidson Institute) Source G (Gates) The following passage is an excerpt from the Springer Report, a scholarly inquiry into modern educational theory. It comments briefly on the progress of modern society in relationship to the proliferation of access to education throughout society. Source A Carl, Jim.
“Industrialization and Public Education: Social Cohesion and Social Stratification.” SpringerLink, Springer, Dordrecht, 1 Jan. 1970, link.springer.com/chapter/ 10.1007/978-1-4020-6403-6_32.
The expansion of public education and industrialization went hand in hand. After all, had not the pioneering philosopher of free-market capitalism, Adam Smith, foreseen good reasons at the outset of the industrial revolution for nations to educate their populations? “The more they are instructed, the less liable they are to the delusions of enthusiasm and superstition,” he argued. “An instructed and intelligent people, besides, are always more decent and orderly than an ignorant and stupid one” (Kandel, 1933: 51). Before the industrial age, provision of formal schooling virtually everywhere was scarce — dependent on tuition and fees, voluntarist, and usually limited to males. Education belonged to the church in feudal Europe, and with seven out of every ten workers engaged in agriculture, the slender surplus enabled only small percentages of people to earn their bread through the written word (Bloch, 1963; Cipolla, 1993). Although some states, especially in Protestant regions, required villages and towns to keep schools, such edicts were subject to the wants and resources of the localities, and often had little material effect.
With the growth of industry, support for public education grew, and the result was a transformation of schooling from limited provision into widespread and hierarchical educational systems (Katz, 1987). Precise relationships between industrialization and the rise of public education are difficult to pin down, however. If we take as our unit of analysis the long nineteenth century that stretches from the dawn of the industrial revolution to the eve of World War I, then we discern a general correspondence between the spread of industry and the rise of mass schooling. The industrial revolution sparked prolonged, rising rates of productivity, first in the British economy and then in continental Europe, the northern United States, and Upper Canada (Madrick, 2002). As educational access widened, the education of women increased, the study of the classical curriculum declined, and, by the twentieth century, the importance of schooling for both national economic development and individual mobility took on the status of an “education gospel” (Grubb & Lazerson, 2004: 1–2). Gains in income and wealth during the industrial age made possible larger public expenditures for the welfare of the general population, and all governments considered schooling in their expanded social calculus.
The following graphic was excerpted from a study conducted by the Pew Research Institute. It compares the median annual incomes earned between different kinds of high school and secondary graduates, across several successive generations in American history. Source B Current Population Survey Integrated Public Use Samples. “The Rising Cost of Not Going to College.” Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends Project, Pew Research Center, 11 Feb. 2014.
The following passage is excerpted from a recent article in The Atlantic, discussing how graduation on the high school level can set up students differing degrees of success, depending on whether they choose to enroll in college afterward or not. Source C Wong, Alia. “Where Are All the High-School Grads Going?” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 11 Jan. 2016. In some ways, the high-school graduates who head straight into the labor market are the most practical among diploma recipients. The Atlantic’s Gillian White has pointed out that the types of institutions seeing the most significant declines in enrollment tend to offer degrees that provide only marginal improvements in job prospects compared to high-school diplomas.
Today, the popularity of a given degree and its return on investment are often “almost inversely related,” said Anthony Carnevale, who directs Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. The high-school graduates who tend to forgo college and make it in the economy, Carnevale added, are also the ones who can land jobs that aren’t traditionally associated with higher-education degrees—blue-collar fields such as manufacturing, mining, and agriculture. Carnevale said there are only a few ways to beat the college wage premium—the income advantage of having a college degree—”and generally the only people who beat this game are boys.” In blue-collar jobs, “you can work your way up, learn on the job. But there’s none of that for females.
Basically, there’s no real pathway for girls out of high school [except college].” No wonder women account for a majority of today’s college-degree-holders. “When enrollments go down, the first thing you lose are the boys.” But going the non-college route is increasingly impractical, even when the objective is a job that’s more vocational in nature. While a job may certainly be an appealing alternative to an increasingly costly postsecondary education, the college wage premium has risen drastically since the early 1980s… These economic benefits even affect those who start college but don’t complete it, according to some research. Moreover, if recent trends are any indication, the people who skip out on school altogether probably won’t ever get a chance to get their degrees.
The following passage is an excerpt from an article in Time Magazine, reporting on the value of education to recent graduates, as it relates to opportunities in the job market. Source D Oloffson, Kristi. “The Job Market: Is a College Degree Worth Less?” Time, Time The devaluation of a college degree is no secret on campus. An annual survey by the Higher Education Research Institute has long asked freshmen what they think their highest academic degree will be. In 1972, 38% of respondents said a bachelor’s degree, but in 2008 only 22% answered the same.
The number of freshmen planning to get a master’s degree rose from 31% in 1972 to 42% in 2008. Says John Pryor, the institute’s director: “Years ago, the bachelor’s degree was the key to getting better jobs. Now you really need more than that.” Employers stress that a basic degree remains essential, carefully tiptoeing around the idea that its value has plummeted. But they admit that the degree alone is not the ace it once was; now they emphasize work experience as a way to make yourself stand out. Dan Black, director of campus recruiting in the Americas for Ernst & Young, and his team will hire more than 4,000 people this year out of 20,000 applicants.
There are a lot of things besides a degree “that will help differentiate how much attention you get,” says the veteran hirer, who has been screening graduates for 15 years. Enterprise Rent-A-Car hiring guru Marie Artim, who says her company will hire 8,000 of 200,000 applicants worldwide, has found that her applicant pool is changing. “While 10 years ago we may have had the same numbers, today we have higher-quality and better-qualified applicants,” she says. So what does it take to impress recruiters today? Daniel Pink, an author on motivation in the workplace, agrees that the bachelor’s degree “is necessary, but it’s just not sufficient,” at times doing little more than verifying “that you can more or less show up on time and stick with it.” The author of A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future says companies want more.
They’re looking for people who can do jobs that can’t be outsourced, he says, and graduates who “don’t require a lot of hand-holding.” Left-brain abilities that used to guarantee jobs have become easy to automate, while right-brain abilities are harder to find — “design, seeing the big picture, connecting the dots,” Pink says. He cites cognitive skills and self-direction as the types of things companies look for in job candidates. “People have to be able to do stuff that’s hard to outsource,” he says. “It used to be for blue collar; it’s now for white collar too.
” For now, graduates can steer their careers where job growth is strong — education, health care and nonprofit programs like Teach for America, says Trudy Steinfeld, a career counselor at New York University. “Every college degree is not cookie cutter. It’s what you have done during that degree to distinguish yourself.” The following image satirizes recent developments in high schools to integrate a greater focus on college and career readiness in the curriculum. It was created by Ted Rall, a prolific political cartoonist residing in California.
Source E Rall, Ted. “Student Loan Legislation & the Debt Crisis.” Ted Rall, Thermal Exposure. The following passage is an excerpt from a student memoir published by the Davidson Institute, who collects the stories of unique individuals and their talents for the purpose of reforming education. Source F Profoundly Gifted Student.
“The Fallacy of a ‘One Size Fits All’ Education.” Davidson Institute , Davidson Institute for Talent Development, 2006. “One size fits all” is a ridiculous statement. Everybody is unique in his or her own special way, so one size couldn’t possibly work for every person. In education however, public schools have to group kids together to get them through school in a somewhat efficient manner. Public schools clump kids based on age, but that doesn’t work for everybody.
Public schools will provide some extra help for a below average student with special needs. But what about the other side of the spectrum? Do the smart kids need anything special? The generally accepted answer is “No” because people believe that smart people can take care of themselves. However, that is not the case.I was unusual. I was born four weeks early. When I was one, I screamed for one hour straight, at 5:00 p.
m. sharp, every day. My parents soon figured out the explanation: I was bored, and I needed to burn off energy. Later, when I was four, I started misbehaving. I was mean to other kids and my younger brother, and I was disrespectful to adults. Again, the problem was attributed to my boredom.
I started kindergarten early at a small private school, and I returned to my nice and respectful self. Private schools can be more flexible than the general “one size fits all” belief, and provide a more personalized education, which was exactly what I needed. I later realized that without private school to allow me to progress at my own pace, I would have lost all interest in school and developed serious behavioral issues. As I progressed through material that I had already been taught, my behavior worsened. I was a child with “special needs”, but mine were unusual.
I didn’t need extra help understanding concepts; I just needed to stay challenged. When my parents realized my need for challenge, they strove to provide it. When I was provided with harder material, I became excited with my work, and my love of learning was formed. If I mastered concepts ahead of average pace, I was advanced to new material. In this way, I was kept thoroughly challenged and happy. I was the top in my class, I had several friends, and my life was great.
When I progressed to the third grade however, I had already gone through most of the third grade curriculum. My teacher, the principal, and my parents all thought that I should be advanced to the fourth grade. I was thrilled by the idea of more challenging material and I loved the idea of skipping a grade. To me, skipping a grade was an oft talked about event, but I had never heard of it happening. For that reason, I was excited to be the first person I knew that had ever skipped a grade. I also wanted to make my parents proud.
I knew that skipping a grade would be difficult, and I was determined to show my parents that I could and would succeed. Above all, I knew that I had to be challenged, and I was sure that a new grade would leave me thoroughly engaged. The following passage is an article written by Bill Gates, a wealthy philanthropist who spends his time and money on a variety of pressing issues including education. The article chronicles a meeting he undertook with a recent nominee for the Teacher of the Year award. Source G Gates, Bill. “‘I Want Students to See Many Different Futures.
‘” Gatesnotes, The Gates. I envy people who are good at working with their hands. As much as I love computers, I never got into putting them together or taking them apart the way a lot of hobbyists do. Writing code was one thing—I had fun doing that—but soldering circuit boards was something else. A lot of that was just my personal aptitude. But maybe things would have been different if I’d had a teacher like Camille Jones, the 2017 Teacher of the Year in my home state of Washington.
Camille teaches STEAM—Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math—and as I saw when she stopped by my office earlier this year, she has a real gift for sparking your imagination with hands-on projects. Camille teaches at Pioneer Elementary in Quincy, a small farming town in Central Washington. She sees every child in school, which means some of her students are just 5 years old. I was surprised that she talks to such young kids about STEAM. I think it’s great, but apparently not everyone agrees: Camille has heard the argument that it is only appropriate for older students. “It breaks my heart to hear that,” she told me.
“By the time students get to fifth grade, a lot of time they have their ideas about what they’re good at and what they like to do. I say, bring STEAM in from kindergarten. Let’s show them all the opportunities in the world today.” So how exactly do you talk to a 5-year-old about engineering? Camille showed me a clever lesson using a few index cards and a handful of pennies.I also wondered how Camille reaches every kid at a school with more than 400 students. She approaches her job a bit like a librarian or gym teacher, but with a twist.
She sees each class about 15 times a year, and from those classes she and her colleagues identify promising students who would benefit from spending extra enrichment time with her. And from that group, they choose a few students for even more focused attention. This model is unusual enough that even some of the educators on the Teacher of the Year selection committee hadn’t heard of it. “I’m looking for kids who would benefit from being pushed a little harder,” she told me. “I see kids who are struggling buy into the idea that they should try things that are hard.
And kids who are succeeding become better advocates for challenging work. When you do something difficult and new, your brain grows. It changes your attitude and your perspective on the rest of your education.”It is a fantastic approach for any school and especially a high-needs one like Pioneer, where a lot of students are English language learners and a number are undocumented. In the three years Camille has had this role, enrollment in her enrichment classes has skyrocketed, and it’s still growing.For Camille, it’s all about giving children the opportunity to make the most of their talents.
“I want students to see many different futures for themselves,” she says. After meeting Camille, I have no doubt that she’s helping all her students dream big. Zain Raza Mrs. Pelletier AP English Language and Composition-2 4 June 2017 The High School Education Has Diminished, But it Can Be Saved What does a high school education represent? It goes unsaid that everyone who is addicted to the ever increasing rate of advancing technology and social ideals in society, everyone who relishes the accomplishments of miracles such as space travel or contraception, has interest in ensuring that education remains valuable to students. There are three main metrics to weigh the value of education against: first comes accessibility of education; secondly is the quality of the education itself; and thirdly is the efficiency of the system administering the education.
Unfortunately, high school in the United States favor the first metric at the expense of the last two. In other words, since everyone goes to high school, the value of a diploma decreases for each individual: and the education system itself becomes inefficient, over bloated from the abundance of students, being ill equipped to adequately serve who come from a diverse pools of backgrounds and needs. Therefore the high school education severely under delivers on its value, because its wide access perpetuates a system that devalues the diploma and inadequately addresses the needs of certain demographics of students. In an industrialized nation like the United States, it is extenuating to locate a substantial segment of the population who has not had any form of access to a high school education. In fact, wide access to education is an intentional, not coincidental, tenet that upholds the high standards of living in the United States. Adam Smith, the philosopher renown for founding the ideas behind capitalism, once even championed education for its tendency to eliminate delusional thinking from a society (Source A).
If that is the case, then the public high school education system of today is indeed of exuberant value, at least to society as a whole. Yet, there has to be a distinction made here, between the dichotomy of value afforded to society by education, and that which is meant for the individual. Ironically if the ideas of the free market are applied consistently to education, it appears the individual is in fact underserved on the value of his education. According to the laws of supply and demand, the wide access to high school education today diminishes its value to the students receiving it. Ultimately, the solution to providing a high value education will require more nuance than simply providing access widespread access to it throughout society. When the reality of public high school is that the majority of Americans have received their diploma, it devalues the value of that diploma to the student.
For instance, it is harder today than ever before for high school graduates to compete in the job market, against those who continually seek further tiers of secondary education. Pew Research Center corroborated this finding in “The Rising Cost of Not Going to College,” a study which observed that for nearly half a century, the annual median income earned by high school graduates in the United States has been lower than that of both bachelor degree and two year degree holders; and that trend shows the gap is only increasing in the future (Source B). Simply put, the practical value of a high school education today is not the diploma itself. The competitive edge of a high school diploma is only in that allows a student to move further into acquiring the lucrative degrees in college and beyond. Therefore, the next question in evaluating the high school education is evaluating the college degree. Unfortunately, this is where the value of the high school education plummets, because despite the median incomes earned by college degree holders, considering what happens to the majority displays a clearer reality.
For instance, more recent trends than the Pew Research study are actually finding the amount of college enrollments stagnating as high school graduates are increasing. Anthony Carnevale, who directs Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, explains this trend by asserting that on average, the prevailing degrees college students enroll in – such as the liberal arts, or visual and performing arts – have been found to have the fewest job opportunities when students go into the workforce (Source C). Instead, those students who forego college may just become the most practical ones of all, having a markedly increased chance to pick up readily available jobs in blue collar work, such as manufacturing or agriculture. On both the high school and college level, education has also been devalued because of the “skills gap.” After surveying multiple employers throughout the country, such as Rent-A-Car hiring manager Marie Artim, Time Magazine found that employers need to see more skill competences than what most students are trained for by just their classroom experiences, such as in creative thinking and self-directed character (Source D). In sum, the high school education has been devalued because it has prepared many to be misled into a college education, which will all too often fail to deliver on its promise of professional success.
These shortcomings devalue the high school education only as a reflection of greater flaws in the education system itself, whose lethargy has yet failed in redressing them. First of all, the education system implicitly struggles to show its students alternative directions for life after than, other than enrolling in college for the ill fated degrees mentioned earlier. Not everyone needs to go to college to obtain a stable and financially secure career. However, most high schools will fail to deliver this message in their personal finance classes, which are supposedly aimed at getting students to contemplate their futures practically, because they continue to stick to the false dichotomy between choosing either college or menial jobs in the workforce (Source E), while ignoring the blue collar work available. Continuing with this “one size fits all” approach, many high schools have also devalued their education, this time to the types of students that fit outside the norm of how learn. High school is one of the most formative periods in a person’s life.
It should be a period when students discover what makes them unique, what kinds of gifts they possess, and what they can offer to the world. Instead, there are countless stories of students, such as those collected by Davidson Institute, whose creativity is squashed in schools just because they are too much to handle for the teacher. That student is then set up to be mislabeled as “special needs,” when the reality could be they possess special talents surpassing those of their peers (Source F). Fortunately, even beyond Davidson Institute, there are already signs of change coming in education, to broaden teachers’ understanding of different types of learners. For example, Camille Jones, a kindergarten teacher who teaches S.
T.E.A.M. (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) to her students was recently nominated for the Teacher of the Year Award in 2017. Jones was nominated because of her novel approach of first experimenting with students’ natural aptitudes for a concept, and then choosing to dive deeper with both those who needed remedial instruction, and those who could use a greater challenge (Source G).
Closer ties between teachers and students may only be one of many possible solutions, but if efforts continue along this path it could make its way to reforming the high school education system. Currently, the high school education has diminished in value towards its students, because its wide access has devalued the diploma in the job market, and created an inefficient education system. Although wide access to education has historically proven to be beneficial to society, there is no question for the individual that the more people in high school, the less prized their education will be, just like with any other valuable commodity. As a result, the high school education has become useful only so as to get into college, yet this is a misguided paradigm at a time when the skills gap makes blue collar work a better option for most students. However, the high school education system persists in the narrative that college is a necessity for all, with harmful effects on its students who reside outside of its conformity.
Ultimately, one day high schools will regain their socioeconomic value though, thanks to the coalition of teachers, parents, and students who fight for the pursuit of real education, and not just degrees.