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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Teach practical skills -- not college prep -- says post-pandemic poll

The pandemic has changed Americans' priorities for K-12 education, writes Greg Toppo on The 74. Preparing for college, ranked #10 in 2019, has slipped to 47th in importance, according to a new Populace survey. The top priority: "Students develop practical skills (e.g. manage personal finances, prepare a meal, make an appointment)."


Americans have seen a college degree as the path to higher paying career, said Todd Rose, Populace’s CEO and co-founder. “It’s not clear that that value is there from college anymore. So then when you pile on the outrageous cost … and the debt you’re incurring . . . the value proposition isn’t there anymore.”

"Respondents with college degrees were nearly as likely as high school graduates or even dropouts to give college prep a low priority score," writes Toppo. "It ranked 48th for college graduates, vs. 49th for high school graduates and dropouts.

Overall, the #2 priority was "students are able to think critically to problem solve and make decisions," with character third and "basic reading, writing, and arithmetic" ranking third. Career preparation ranked fifth.

"Students learn from exposure to different ideas and beliefs," which ranked ninth in 2019, had slipped to 27th by 2022.

Asian Americans, who tend to have the highest scoring children, put college prep ninth, notes Toppo. Their top priority is giving all students “the option to choose the courses they want to study based on interests and aspirations.”

Blacks and Hispanics are near the middle in their rating of college prep. Blacks' top priority was critical thinking; Hispanics most valued allowing students to advance in school "if they meet minimum grade requirements."

Whites are the most dubious about college prep (46th) and the most enthusiastic about practical skills.

I think it's important for young people to learn practical skills, but I always assumed that was the parents' job.

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