Chicago Tribune

The case for shop class: How vocational schools and gap years can help ease academic anxiety

WINNETKA, Ill. - When New Trier High School student Ben Matejka got his results from the ACT, he was pleased with his score of 27, comfortably above the national average of about 21.

But when Ben told his friends, some of their responses took him aback. He got condolences.

"My score was much higher than the national average, but New Trier is not a typical high school," said Matejka, 18, a recent graduate, who this fall headed off to start his freshman year at the University of Denver.

That attitude - that students at elite public high schools such as New Trier must do more than just "good" on college admissions tests - is merely one example of the way kids are told there is only one pathway to success. Many students at high-performing schools such as Stevenson High School in Lake County and Naperville North High School feel they need to get fantastic grades, ace their standardized tests, participate in plenty of extra-curricular activities and sports, and then go on to elite, big-name universities.

But going to an Ivy League school, or even a four-year university, isn't achievable - or desirable - for every student, experts say, and they argue the mindset that anything else would be failure causes real harm. Thinking this way can create a barrier for students, they claim, blocking them from seeking nontraditional educational and career pathways,

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from Chicago Tribune

Chicago Tribune5 min read
Dan Wiederer: Mitch Trubisky Is Struggling. Again. He's Also Hurt. Again. So Now What?
CHICAGO - Mitch Trubisky seemed hurt. And not just a sore hip kind of hurt either. As the Bears quarterback stepped into a white tent outside the visitors locker room at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum late Sunday, he just seemed crestfallen. There
Chicago Tribune7 min read
In The Great Lakes' Most Productive Fishing Grounds, Dead Zones Are Eroding Livelihoods
CRYSTAL ROCK, Ohio - From his lakefront dock in Crystal Rock, 70 miles west of Cleveland, Dean Koch still gleefully reminisces on his career as a commercial fisherman in the heyday. At his first industry meeting in Sandusky in the late 1960s, fishing
Chicago Tribune2 min read
Editorial: A German Tourist Is Shot In Chicago: Immanuel Asare's Surprising — Heartening — Takeaway
No one would blame Immanuel Asare, a 20-year-old German national, if he felt bitter about his brief encounter with Chicago. There's a bullet wound in his left bicep that will remind him of his visit here. But the startling twist to what happened to A