I often lament how government schools seem obsessed with preparing students for careers earlier and earlier in the educational process. Students seem hardly out of elementary school before specialized classes in business, engineering, and trades are offered to the masses. These students are trained towards a particular work without ever being trained to think. Moreover, they are taught how to do a job practically without training them to do a job virtuously. My tendency, therefore, is to shy away from career advice and specialized education in the K-12 curriculum.
At Hogwarts, however, students are given career counseling at 15 years old. The scores that they receive on their OWLs (Ordinary Wizarding Levels—a standardized test for 5th years) determine what career paths they can choose. We will talk more about OWLs, standardized tests, and teaching towards these tests in next week’s post. For now, the emphasis is on how these students meet with their Head of House for career advice when they are 15.
At a classical Christian school, our emphasis is not on career preparation. Nevertheless, what should our responsibility be towards students in this respect? I would suggest four things. First, we must provide students with an education in virtue. It does no one any good, most of all the student, to prepare them for a career but to leave them without virtue. This virtuous education is certainly centered upon Christ, though it need not (and should not) ignore virtue in the Great Books. Second, we must provide students with a well-grounded education in the liberal arts that teaches them to think, discern, and integrate knowledge across disciplines. Third, we should help encourage students in subjects or studies that they love, taking time to help them delve deeper into understanding and giving them recommendations and resources for further study. Finally, I do think it is appropriate within the context of an education that does these first three to discuss with interested students what careers may be available to them in their areas of particular interest. We should not, unlike Hogwarts, require all students, especially 15 year olds, to make curriculum decisions based on career choices and thereby limit their options.