The term “college and career readiness” is ubiquitous in K-12 education today. Our new state standards in Math, English Language Arts, and Science, Technology, and Engineering were explicitly developed with the end goal in mind. I am pleased with the elevated standards across all disciplines, particularly because they foster critical thinking, problem solving, application and higher order thinking skills that will surely prepare students for the next steps in their lives.
Yet I have often felt that the term “college and career” is missing a critical piece. This piece is curriculum that is necessary for our students, presented in the formal and informal curriculum delivered in the Wakefield Public Schools on a regular basis. This is the curriculum that guides relational and character development to help our students, and eventually our graduates, become contributing, successful members of their community.
This past Wednesday, a Black Hawk military helicopter landed at Wakefield Memorial High School on a beautiful September morning before the entire student body, staff, and honored guests. Two Medal of Honor recipients (two of only 72 living Medal recipients in the U.S., visiting only seven Massachusetts high schools on this day) disembarked and were accompanied to the WMHS Field House for a memorable assembly.
The curriculum that followed is not offered in our textbooks: it was intimate time spent listening to veterans who were willing to humbly share their stories. These are lessons rich in meaning, ones that point not to historical events but to the development of one’s character. As a recipient of the highest award for valor, one speaker shared this reflection: "Courage”, he said, “is a conscious decision, moment by moment, to do the right thing”. He paused. “And you will know in your heart what it is."
If this isn’t the definition of essential curriculum, I’m not sure what is.
So as we articulate our vision for the successful preparation of our students upon graduation from the Wakefield Public Schools, we need to extend our thinking from “college and career”, to “college, career and community”.