EDUCATION IN AMERICA
I have chosen Rose’s “I Just Wanna Be Average” to discuss as I have felt this way many times over the years whether it was in school or in the work force. In "I Just Wanna Be Average" Mike Rose explains how he was placed in the "vocational education" program while he was in high school by error. He and his parents tried to even fix the situation, but it did not work. While in this program he began to learn some dead-end skills from his teachers that were often unprepared, underprepared, or even incompetent. Rose says that those students in the "vocational" track have been written off by the system, but show unrealized potential that no teacher seemed to realize or even want to see. While in high school, Rose had a friend named Ken who was asked by a teacher for his opinion about parable talents, about achievement, and working hard. Ken simply stated that he just wanted to be average. This stayed with Rose and he explains how he feels the school system is built so the children do not excel. In the "normal" or “college prep” classes the kids are viewed as moving forward and in the “vocational education” the kids are viewed as "slow" or just an "average" student trying to get by with minimal effort. The vocational education program is supposed to be there to provide the student with basic job-skills necessary for him/her to be "average" in society. The main goal is to provide training to students who are deemed by the school system as not being able to function in society or college, so they are going to train for a “trade”. They provide them with the basic knowledge, information, and facts to get an average job which in turn does not give the kids any reason to go beyond that and so they become “average”. Rose’s purpose of this article is to educate people of how the “vocational educational” programs are being used in the school system. He wants people to know that the students are really just being pushed through the system without anyone trying to see the potential that these students might have as far as what aspires them to do anything. He is also wanting people to know that if just one teacher reached out to the students that can make a difference in how a student feels out himself/herself and wanting to find something that gives them drive to perform or learn more. Rose uses examples from his time in high school when he felt left behind and how he saw his friends’ potential for greatness in a particle area that they felt passion for, but no teacher recognized it. He tells of the one teacher that gave him hope and explains how this teacher impacted him to do more with his life.
I agree with Rose that the school system does seem to just put kids that have bad grades or behavioral issues into programs that are meant to just pacify them through their high school years and the goal of these programs are to give the students some type of technical/vocational training to get an average job and have an average life. I also feel that some of the “college prep” classes do that to students also.
I felt that I just wanted to be average in high school. The “smart” kids got picked on for being smart and the “dumber” kids are got picked on for being “dumb”. I just wanted to be in the middle to keep from being picked on. The only reason I received good grades was my mother. I did the work just to get by for her standards of what she thought I could do. Thinking back, I could have been great in school if I had applied myself since I graduated with a 3.2 and really didn’t do much work.
When I was making my decision to continue my education or work for a little while, I started a semester at Kent State, Salem Branch in 1993. Once that semester was over, I knew that going to school right out of high school was not for me. I felt I had just spent 12 years in school and wanted to take a break before I continued my education.
Four years after high school, I felt that working in a factor for the rest of my life was not what I wanted, so I looked into a two-year program school that my sister had went to and I was going to just find something to do. I took the admissions test for medical transcription and the advisor at the school indicated that my test grades were well beyond what I was thinking about doing and he suggested maybe I take the legal assisting classes. Taking his advice, I did just that and once I started college I made the decision that I would overachieve and I did just that. I graduated Magna Cum Laude in my 2 year paralegal/legal assisting program. I then tried to overachieve at work also. After 16 years that got me nowhere but the unemployment line for the last two years. During my time working I saw people doing mediocre work or even less than mediocre work get raises and promotions and treated like “rock stars” yet I was not and I always went above and beyond what my regular duties were. I came in early, stayed late and helped others when they needed help once my work was finished. So I again just wanted to be average.
I have been on unemployment twice in the last three years. It has been very hard to find a legal assistant position here in Ohio. Employers want someone with a Bachelor’s Degree, but only want to pay $9-$12.00 an hour or they want someone with very little experience to pay them $9-$12.00 an hour. I only have an Associate’s Degree and I have been a legal assistant since 1997 so I have work experience that matches a Bachelor’s Degree education, but that does not seem to matter. I was making $8.00 an hour when I started in 1997 so I am trying really hard to figure out why I should still be making that now. For about a decade, I lived in Kentucky and when I moved back to Ohio in 2010, I was making $16.45 an hour.
These events in my life have me thinking that my education does not count. The schools indicate that a person with an Associate’s Degree in certain areas should be making well over what employers want to pay. So I feel that school systems have “lied” to us just to get the tuition.
My thoughts and feelings on the subject might be what others think or feel, but I tend to agree with Rose and his opinions on the school system. I honestly do not think that the education in America leads to empowerment, that is a very nice goal, but not obtainable to most people.