Schools may need to consider their audience

Travis Cantonwine, Writer

Each student has either complained out-loud or at least thought in their head, “This class doesn’t teach me anything I will use in life.” In general, the careers that students can be interested in are restricted based on the main subjects they have been taught for thirteen years. Physics will help engineers, geography helps those interested in cartography, chemistry is essential for lab technicians, weights helps students reach careers that concern sports; and I can ramble on about this for every subject I have personally taken, but I cannot say that too many students are interested in these careers anymore. Important to note, most lower-class students find jobs outside of what requires a college degree for implied reasons, and this can shift the status quo of job searching.


It simply doesn’t fit our demographic–where we see influencers as the political machines and we see our friends work minimum wage jobs after high school. We see our fathers and mothers either being accountants and bankers or we see them become a manager at a retail store. Sometimes our parents cannot get a job. It’s concerning, especially since trickle-down economics has ruined my parents’ generation of work, but it makes my generations’ work almost disappear. McKinsey, a technologically advanced company that helps organizations modernize, estimated that 75-375 million workers may need to switch occupations and labor skills by 2030 to keep up with jobs replaced by technological automation. Of course, more jobs will be created, but this solely depends on what the newer generations will need. Maintenance workers will decline by almost 30 percent, says the same source. But healthcare workers will continually increase. Some fields get weeded out as our country finds new markets, and it is the job of our education system to accommodate these markets. 

High school students today have more information about these subjects than any other generation before. This is a general assumption of how information is spread as we learn new information every day, but when we say these simple claims we do not consider those in a “lesser” social class. Unfortunately, our world is separated into those who can and those who aren’t allowed. When a social class is considered less important, like the ones who are unwealthy, their interests can be pushed aside, and that may explain why careers are so different now although our school system stays the same. Scientists, nurses, engineers, lawyers, and other high profile careers all have been catered by the education systems’ subjects, but many high school students don’t even know what to do when it is time to do taxes, vote, or apply for their first job at McDonald’s when they need one. 


After high school in the distant past, graduates would seldomly require a degree to work, and when they did get a degree it cost tremendously less. Education Data reports: “…from 1989 to 2016, college costs increased almost 8 times faster than wages. In 1989, [a 4-year] degree cost $52,892; by Fall 2020, $101,584 was the price of a bachelor’s degree.” Our minimum wage has increased, including inflation, by only 108.9% (in Colorado), while it seems as if the degree increased by almost 192%. If the tuition was consistent with wage inflation, we should only pay an average of about $57,500. Consider the consequences as inflation exponentially affects prices of education. This same source also reported that 40% of undergraduates drop out overall, and the top two reasons for that are financial issues and lack of academic preparation. Most students cannot afford or have the time for college remedial courses to catch up academically. Generally, students who struggle academically have a different learning style compared to the teacher’s teaching style. A group of students who fall behind are “gifted” students selected in elementary schools. These programs pulled students from learning because they seemed smart enough to catch on, but colleges require rigor and understanding that was taken away from some of these gifted students as they aged with high expectations to just know these subjects. After this, subjects bore them, and they find no motivation in these preselected careers. The pressure to achieve scholarships and discoveries and excellence is what has shifted our interests as we create programs that negatively glorify the learning style of one student and reject the learning styles of others. Much like students introduced into the gifted program, students of the future will have too many expectations to impress colleges, although it isn’t impossible to do so.

A lot of changes have been made to how America regulates labor, worker rights, pay methods, and other means of work. For example, the minimum wage was introduced by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1938 in the Fair Labor Standards Act, as a reaction to the Great Depression. If we related productivity with minimum wage, the amount should be upwards to $25 (the negative impacts of the Reaganomics Era and the way this relationship works is another topic, but a contributor nonetheless), but it is currently $7.25, which is not productive. Our jobs are changing from mostly salaried workers to mostly wage workers and individually develop business salaries, and if we disrupt the trend any further, it seems as if these jobs that the school subjects cater to will be irrelevant and almost impossible to reach for low to middle social-economic classes. 


A lot of the times when spiritual arguments are introduced, it is simply discussing religion, but the spirituality that is being referred to is the acts of passionate energy shared with the world. In other words, your contentment with nature and your attitude concerning your free will. This is only important to note so that it is acknowledged that Gen-Z and everyone who joins society afterwards are the only generation that has thousands of digital tools at their disposal before the age of sixteen. After this, we lean towards a society based on creativity and connectedness, rather than jobs that don’t require some passion, but grit. It isn’t fair to assume that newer generations’ creative outlets will not require some type of grit, but the main idea is that it is changing, and the system may need to change along with it. 

What Can Be Done:

Not preferring the subjects in school that are offered is not an excuse to give up all together, in fact, it should be motivation to use this system more to your advantage while still acknowledging the need for a change. Unfortunately, the way our schools are run is not going to change overnight, and won’t even promise an abundance of results, but students can use what is offered to cater to their needs, it is simply just more difficult. 

Examples of action that can improve your chance at creative careers or careers that are not introduced in high school can be: having more discussions with teachers–after all, they share a human connection with you regardless of the class they teach; engaging in extracurricular activities, specifically ones that help inch your way to a desired career; exploring third party internships, jobs, and volunteer opportunities that regard a career of interest; and motivating oneself to apply themself into society more frequently.