Homeschooling will save the day

Posted on 04/17/2011 in misc

Career advice columnist Penelope Trunk believes that Generation Z (the 'Net generation) is going to revolutionize the workforce because they are much more likely to be homeschooled.

Generation Z will revolutionize education | Penelope Trunk.

Gen X is more comfortable working outside the system than Baby Boomers. Gen X women are fine quitting their jobs to take care of their kids - they have no feminist ax to grind in the workplace. And Gen X parents don't feel a need to have their kid compete because Gen X is so noncompetitive. So homeschooling among Gen X parents is becoming mainstream. It's no longer just for religious radicals and problem children. Homeschooling is for parents who know public schools are broken and don't have $20,000 a year for private school.

Generally true, but misleading. Homeschooling is growing slowly. It will never be more than a niche option. And given the economic breakdown in the US over the last few years, how many young families today can afford to have one parent at home? Real incomes in the middle class have failed to keep up with inflation over the last generation.

We have established that school does not prepare people for work. In fact, Gen Y has been very vocal about this problem because a) they did everything they were told to do and it didn't help them get a job and b) we have a national crisis because gen y has huge debt from college and little ability to pay it back.

I think she is missing the point here. The problem is not that school fails to prepare you for work. It's that running up $40K in student loan debt when the entry level jobs pay $24K is not a smart financial move. The kids getting CS and EE degrees are still doing ok. Outside of the tech sector and professional education like accounting, starting salaries have stagnated over the last 20 years. For example, teaching pre-school generally requires a college degree. Starting pay in 1990 when my wife started at it was about $9 an hour. 20 years later starting pay is still about $9 an hour.

Baby Boomers are too competitive to risk pulling the college rug out from under their kids. And Gen Y are rule followers- if adults tell them to go to college, they will go. Gen X is very practical and is also the first generation in American history to have less money than their parents. So it makes sense that Gen X would be the generation to tell their kids to forget about college.

This is certainly true in my personal experience. My parents were very much in the "go to college no matter what" camp, even though neither of them were college graduates. My kids are on the college track because they want to be, not because I am requiring it. And given my daughter's career interests, it is not a given she will go to college. I think she will, but if the right opportunity to work with horses full time comes along as she turns 18 I'd have a hard time coming up with a reason that she shouldn't go for it.

I'd like to believe Penelope is right, but the fear of doing your own thing is very powerful. Certainly kids coming of age in the 'Net generation are more open minded about how to make a living, but I believe the vast majority of them will follow in the footsteps of previous generations. There is simply nothing in American culture that points to that radical of a shift in education processes in one generation.

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