By Mike Armstrong
KSBA Executive Director
This past June, while taking advantage of a local pizza place’s drive-through, I enjoyed a brief, but reinforcing, conversation with the young woman at the pick-up window. She was quick to recognize me as the (then) local school superintendent; in fact, she shared that I had presented her high school diploma at graduation three years earlier. I asked if she was continuing her education now or if she had chosen another route. With the greatest enthusiasm possible, she shared that she was a student at a public university here in Kentucky. She had considered a career in education, but instead had changed her major to nursing. And she was also learning a foreign language – Chinese. Her ultimate goal was to use both her nursing and foreign language skills on a career path.
I couldn’t have been any more proud of this young woman. I knew the geographic isolation and limitations she had experienced as a student, and the dedication and determination she had exhibited just to get to and from high school every day. And now, her goal to extend her education and herself into a country and culture that would be completely and totally alien to her, clearly exhibited the ultimate power and potential positive influence of education!
As a lifelong educator, I obviously believe in the power and potential positive benefits of education. But all too often, I simply lost personal track of our high school graduates and the path they had taken post-graduation. But to talk to this former student was indeed reinforcing to me.
Today’s students have so many career opportunities from which to choose. Being prepared to even consider a highly challenging career thousands of miles away from home is indeed outside the norm, even for “flat world” students. Back in 1973, Evans and McCloskey, in Rationale for Career Education, wrote that certain employment “general capabilities have been demonstrated to be fundamental:
“1. Minimum levels of literacy.
2. Oral communication capabilities, especially conversation and informal discussion.
3. Basic science and mathematics capabilities.
4. Motivation to earn an income and pursue necessary training.
5. Attitudes that contribute to individual productivity and cooperative on-the-job human relationships.”
Fast-forward to today’s Kentucky high school graduate and all of the opportunities available to exhibit a level of competencies and ultimately graduate high school “college and career ready.” And these opportunities for college and career readiness attainment provide every student with real and tangible skills, talents or abilities.
The exchange between me and the high school graduate is just one example of how our students, regardless of their background, socioeconomic status, race or gender can take these new skill sets they have chosen and use them not only to their individual and personal advantage, but likewise to the benefit of a larger subset – and us all.