Peripeteia and Anagnorisis: College and Career "You Are Not" Ready

This is a post you may not want to share; watch it and think about it before it’s Tweeted or posted on Facebook. I’ll post it, just because I love a good discussion. I’ve been labeled “pot stirrer,” but I can live with that. Keeps the good stuff mixed in.

My husband sent me this link to watch, Mike Rowe, Learning From Dirty Jobs. While watching it, it struck me, my own  anagnorisis if you will, about how many of my students who simply do not belong in the factory/cubicle setting of school. Now this is not a discussion on out-dated educational models we cling to like hole-filled rowboats, nor a diatribe about all the things we get wrong. In fact, we get many things right, very right. It is my belief that education is necessary because it is its own reward, its own existence. But I think about one student in particular who walks around the classroom and the campus like a caged tiger. Because we have gone to “war with work,” as Mike Rowe contends, we do not honor an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. This young man has zero interest in finding text evidence to support a claim. He has no engagement when it comes to sitting in fluorescent-lit rooms with algorithms and anagrams. He wants purpose. He craves purpose. He does have one: he comes to school to walk a girlfriend to and from class –it’s his one thing during the day he does well. He has no control over parents’ care, homes, and he is barely in control of his actions or deeds. (And when I say barely, the thin bubble between humor and threat has been scarred).

We are failing this young man in every way possible. We have filled his world predominately with middle-aged women telling him what to do, where to go, and when he can use the restroom. We have taken from his world any journeyman or apprenticeship possibilities, but put him in room with counselors who repeat on auto play “school is important.” Why is school important? What are we really offering him?


Our current banner of every child being ‘college and career ready’ has many holes in it. This is scary for me to write about. It’s scary because I don’t want to be perceived as classist. As being someone who doesn’t believe that every child doesn’t deserve the finest education the world can offer. I do believe, of course. But if I truly believe in the whole child, the whole human, then I am being hypocritical if i don’t call out the crisis of limitations.

We can’t all simply become service industry folks, waiting tables to pay off expensive college loans.  We do need to open the doors wide and true and provide opportunities for one and all. But our menu of choices are so limiting to our children, so bland and tasteless. Why can’t we offer apprenticeships to teenagers, or real mentoring or internships? I don’t know how to do this, and I can’t wait for “someone else.” I am a good mentor with those things I enjoy: writing, discussion, and art. But I have never castrated a sheep, or picked up road kill. I’m just a teacher. It’s a dirty job but…you know the rest.

2 thoughts on “Peripeteia and Anagnorisis: College and Career "You Are Not" Ready

  1. I could have gone my whole life without knowing how they castrate lambs, my friend. So thank you for that. 🙂 Nevertheless, I completely agree with you and Rowe. We really need to offer real internships and apprenticeships–real mentoring–to our students. As Rowe said, “People with dirty jobs are happier.” Perhaps, the goal we should push our students toward is happiness rather than college.


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