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Teacher Concerns about Career Education

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Teacher endorsement of career education depends upon the extent to which it corresponds to teachers' perceptions of student welfare and their own professional identities. Teacher resistance will be directly related to the extent to which teachers themselves are asked to change their attitudes, their philosophies, their competencies, and their teaching methodologies, without conviction that these changes are needed. Since career education asks teachers to change in all of these ways, it is extremely vulnerable to teacher reaction. Some advocates of career education have assigned to classroom teachers a greater share of the blame for current shortcomings than they deserve, and a greater portion of the responsibility for change than they can possibly assume on their own. Thus it is not surprising that large numbers of highly competent, conscientious, professional teachers have un-resolvable doubts regarding their role in career education and the viability of the concept itself.

Many teacher questions pertain to such routine administrative matters as how they are to be given the time required to adapt their lesson plans to the career education concept, how they are to acquire the knowledge and experience required for their participation in career education, and how and where they can obtain career education materials for use in the classroom. Those questions that cost money are the easiest to answer. If both school administrators and the general public are convinced of a concept's importance, they will provide the money as rapidly as possible. The hard questions are those related to the teacher's professional commitment to the concept. It is those answers which will determine how much the teacher is willing to give of himself or herself in converting the concept into reality.
  • What is this career education I keep hearing about? Everybody talks about it but nobody tells me how to do it. The statements I read about it are often contradictory. It is hoped that this volume will have contributed to alleviating the how to do it concern. Concepts of career education differ widely among its advocates. For some, it is vocational education in a new guise; for others, it encompasses all education. For some, it is for the non-college-bound; and for still others, it encompasses college, adult learning, industrial training, and all of the formal and informal learnings concerning productive activity throughout a lifetime. If the conception is too narrow, it will change little; if too broad, it becomes devoid of meaning. The current outpouring of writings about career education will undoubtedly lead eventually to a more coherent synthesis. At the same time, the teacher should never expect a blueprint. The career education which fits the teacher and the class will be that curriculum which emerges from the teacher's perceptions and efforts to give reality to the concepts.

  • U.S. Office of Education priorities come and go with the political winds. Why should I revise my whole teaching approach only to see career education superseded shortly by a new panacea? If career education were really new and only an Office of Education invention, one would be wise to adopt a "wait and see" attitude before making a major investment of time and effort. However, what is currently called career education is only a modest extension, though a general endorsement, of trends which have been under way for at least a decade. It has grown out of concern for the demonstrated difficulty American youth experience in making the transition from the world of school to the world of work. It is a culmination of more than ten years of conceptualization, research, and experiment.
Knowledge of these experiments has not been widespread, and therein lies the greatest contribution of the Office of Education-aggressive endorsement and dissemination of the concept. The nation will remain concerned with increased output from its expanding investment in education, it will insist that young people enter the adult world with productive values and skills, and it will reject the in-egalitarian emphasis upon college education as the only really acceptable preparation for life. These and other incentives for adoption of something like career education will remain, regardless of federal education priorities.
  • My classroom day is already crowded with subject matter and skills which must be taught. What shall I throw out if I must bring career education into the classroom as well? Throw out nothing. Teachers have been deluged with instructions to include concepts of environmental education, drug education, sex education, citizenship education, etc., and know these cannot all be accomplished in the time available. If career education represents an addition to this list of subject matter to be covered, the concept has not been clarified. The point must be once again emphasized. Career education is at once an objective and a method for all education. Using career interest as a vehicle and a motivator for knowledge already purveyed and tapping learning resources outside the classroom must increase the productivity of instructional hours or it should not be undertaken.
There will be many times when a discussion of career implications is simply not appropriate, and if inserted would be distracting and wasteful of time. The use of career relevance as a form of educational motivation is best judged by the teacher. One career education objective is to provide teachers with another means of helping students see that school can make sense for them. It is designed to help students learn more, not less, of the substantive content the teacher is trying to get across to students. If this is done correctly, students should be better prepared for further education, as well as for work, than if this form of educational motivation were to go unused. The assumption is that if students are made aware of the career implications of their subjects, increases in student learning will take place. This assumption has already been tested and verified in many classrooms with various groups of students. It is certainly one that could be easily tested in any school.
  • My teaching goals are much broader than simply preparing students to work. How can I teach career implications without detracting from other worthy educational objectives? Many teachers are disturbed by statements of one or two advocates of career education that all education should be career education. They are reminded of past pronouncements that all education is progressive education. All education should not be concentrated around the goals of career education. Preparation for making a living is only one of a number of worthy goals of American education. Much of the work today's students can look forward to doing will carry no economic rewards whatsoever.
Preparation for making a living is only part of preparation for living itself. There is nothing new about the contention that American education should be concerned about helping students learn how to make a living. This has been one of the stated goals of American education in every major policy statement on education that has been promulgated during the 20th century. The trouble is, it has been the one goal that has never been successfully implemented in educational practice for all of the children of all of the people. The "school for schooling's sake" emphasis has made education seem to be an end in itself. Whatever education is, it certainly must be viewed as preparation for something-preparation for making a living, preparation for enjoying life, preparation for good citizenship, preparation for home and family living, preparation for intellectual activity... but preparation for something. Career education merely avers that education as preparation for making a living has not received as much emphasis as it deserves. With the increasingly close relationships now existing between education and work, it is an educational purpose that can no longer be ignored.
  • With the current uncertainty regarding the future nature of occupations, the dehumanizing nature of some work, and the probability of continuing high youth unemployment, is career education's emphasis on education as preparation for work a wise direction for American education to take? Some find it anachronistic that education should raise the priority of employability and productivity among its objectives just when, as they perceive it, work is of declining importance in the economy and in life. They misread the signals. Leisure has increased slowly as the fruits of productivity have been divided between higher incomes and more time off the job. But the threat is that productivity will decline, not accelerate. Much of the rising productivity which allowed the choice between income and leisure was a product of the transfer from low-productivity agriculture to high-productivity manufacturing. The transfer of labor to service industries has the opposite effect. The four-day week is a repackaging of the standard forty hours, not a decrease of work time. Increased time spent in transportation to and from work rarely has leisure value.
The nature of work and the work ethic is changing. Much of what was once done by hand is now done by machine. It is also true that many additional things now done by human labor could also be automated, were it not that people are willing to do these tasks more cheaply than machines. Nevertheless, it remains true that economically speaking, "there isn’t free lunch." Individual incomes and national strength still rest upon productivity. Some can live without work only by lowering the standard of living of all. We are wealthy enough as a society to afford to support those who cannot work for a variety of reasons. We also have the wealth to support many who contribute in ways not measured by wages and salaries in the labor market. Still it also remains true that no society can survive without work. Moreover, he who does not contribute in some way to society's well-being soon feels himself a parasite, even if his culture does not condemn him. If the school prepares people for life, it must prepare them for work and for some type of personally defined work ethic within which they can respect themselves. One can argue about the nature of work, but there can be no argument about its necessity. Preparation for work is, in a democratic society, simply part of preparation for good citizenship.
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