by Heidi Marttila-Losure
The recently implemented Common Core Standards aim to get students to be “college- and career-ready” by the time they finish high school. Those are both laudable goals. But I think from the perspective of communities, something vital is missing: Will our students be “citizenship-ready”?
The reason that we have public schools in this nation, as in others, is because we believe they will make our society better. And it is certainly better for society to have citizens prepared for the workforce (which could include college on the way) than to have citizens who are not.
But if that’s the only purpose of school, there would be no reason to have the schools be public. In a capitalist system, market forces would intervene to educate the population if those skills were vital to business.
Public school addresses the skills that are vital to a functioning democratic society but that are not so directly tied to economics: Knowledge of history so we don’t repeat our mistakes. Critical thinking skills so we can make judgments about policies presented to us and can vote responsibly. And knowledge of our place in the world so we know how to serve it.
Our rural communities need citizens with skills and knowledge that are not necessarily prized if we have an exclusively “college- and career-ready” focus. We could mistakenly prepare our kids for life in some vague “out there” and leave them unprepared for life in their hometowns—where many say they’d like to stay, if they could figure out a way to make it work.
Connecting schools and communities has the potential to significantly benefit both. Then we can make sure our kids are ready for college, career and citizenship anywhere—even here.
Read on for descriptions of how that’s happening in an increasing number of schools, including 20 in South Dakota.
Editor Heidi Marttila-Losure can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.