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Monday, June 27, 2011

Why are we talking about careers with pre-schoolers and not high schoolers?

The same day I wrote the previous article, Kids who know what they want: a competitive advantage, my daughter brought this worksheet home from pre-school. At 3 years old she is being exposed to possible career choices in school.  Sitting together we chatted about what the people are doing in each picture and she quickly responded to the ones she remembered such as the baker, "He makes bread!"

This experience reminded me of a book I had when I was a kid and later purchased to read to my son, Richard Scarry's What Do People Do All Day.  This book shows people (well, not people actually, rather dogs and baboons and worms) going about their day in a variety of easy to understand jobs for kids. Richard Scarry's book is recommended for kids 4 to 8 years old.  So what happens when they get older?  Based on my own experience as a kid and seeing the education my son receives now, all discussions of possible careers end when our children start elementary school.

Richard Scarry's What Do People Do All DayThe focus in elementary school is on skills training (reading, writing, arithmetic) which is all well and good but there is a lack of discourse about real world applications (read jobs) that continues up through high school.  It is understandable actually considering the focus on grades and standards as our kids get closer and closer to college application age.  How do you justify spending valuable class time going over what a marketing manager for P&G does versus an actuarial for Hartford Life Insurance? Wouldn't it make more sense to take a practice SAT exam during that time?

For us as parents it gets harder as our kids get older as well.  Most of us can explain in a fair amount detail to our 3 year old daughters what a baker does.  The same is true for firemen, baseball players, mailmen and hopefully whatever Mommy or Daddy do for a living.  But, how many of us can talk with any conviction to a 16 year old about the day to day life of an investment banker?  Do you know what a supply chain management consultant does?  Once our kids are old enough to understand adult level explanations about jobs the shear number of possible careers becomes an obstacle to talking about any of them.  So we don't, figuring that our kids will work it out when they are in college (and out of our house). Let them get a good, well rounded education and it will all work out.  Laissez-faire may be a legitimate strategy in economics or politics but I think it is out of place when raising our kids.

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