I'm just finishing up the "School-to-Career Transitions" chapter in our text Understanding Youth. I'm trying to work through a couple of thoughts that seem to contradict each other.
First off, in UY we read about the importance of career-development education being woven through curricular starting at a young age up through high school (and probably beyond). As I read the chapter, I found myself nodding in agreement. The school where I currently teach ends up centering a lot of curriculum around career paths: our 6th graders study the human body and go through a "grand rounds" as though they were MD's, our 7th graders produce documentary films and design cities, and our 8th graders learn how to fly a plane. These are just a few examples. Our students often get to meet professionals in these fields, while the projects gives students a taste of what the work might be like. I have no evidence to show that this method is better than others. But since each project usually requires a culminating performance of some kind, all of our students remain fairly engaged throughout the process.
On the other hand, I began thinking about a book I read by Eric Gutstein, Reading and Writing the World with Mathematics. He critiques the National Council Teacher of Mathematics Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics (1989) which submits "mathematically literate workers" as one of its goals. His major criticisms are that this goal serves the needs of profit accumulation, does not question whose needs this goal serves, and means different things for different students in our socially-stratified world (some kids will need calculus and beyond for their careers, others will need little more than basic arithmetic).
So my questions are: How do we get kids thinking about school having meaning for their life beyond high school and about how they want to prepare themselves for their possible career paths? And at the same time, teach them to be critical consumers of the the biases and values inherent in career development education? (Do my questions even make sense???) I'm going to be mulling this one over for a while...