Last summer at my kids' summer camp, I met a camp counselor named Jack Utrata. I didn't see him again until today when I took the kids to dinner at Just Fresh (which I highly recommend, by the way). As I frequently do when I chat with young people, I asked Jack where he was in school and what he was studying.
Jack is a film major at Elon University. He will graduate in 2013. He loves acting and recently played the lead in West Side Story. His face was glowing as he told me of his plans to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. When Jack told me he didn't have a website, I asked him if he knew that he could get one for just a few dollars. He said he had no idea, and that got under my skin.
There Oughtta Be a Law
I started to think that there oughtta be a law requiring public schools to educate high school seniors about how to use the Internet as a professional and career development tool. At a minimum, they should graduate knowing basic things like how to reserve their names as domain names, how to set up simple blogs and how to create a basic but professional website to display their achievements, awards, aspirations and contact information.
In today's society, it's crazy to think that our school systems don't require students to learn basic information on how they can use the Internet to further their educational and career goals.
It would cost very little for Jack to reserve a website, and create some pages and a blog that include highlights from his acting career, his acting resume, a few head shots, his contact information and information about how he is pursuing his passion on a regular basis. Something that simple would show his commitment to his craft and make him available to casting directors 24/7, even when he didn't know they were looking.
Jack could use blogs and websites maintained by famous actors to get ideas. He could then implement those ideas on a smaller, less expensive scale. Jack wouldn't need a huge budget either. His name could be reserved for about $10 a year. If he were required to learn how to set up basic blogs and websites, and understand basic HTML code, he would have everything needed to create his own professional piece of the Internet.
Jacks' site could be updated through the years to share his professional progress. The website would grow and expand with Jack's career.
All Kids Can Benefit
Not every graduating high school student is an actor. And unlike Jack, not every student knows what he or she wants to do for a living.
But high school should prepare every one of them for life in the digital age, where the difference between landing the gig or not can be as simple as whether or not you are easy to find on the Internet.
It seems to me that every young person graduating high school should know how to use the Internet to further his or her professional career, even when they don't know what those careers are going to be yet.
High school is all about preparation for life. During the high school years, young people are molded, their characters are developed and they are provided with the tools they will need to create, assess and take advantage of opportunities.
So many of those opportunities will be connected to the Internet.
Graduating seniors go to college knowing how to use Facebook and participate in chat rooms and play online games. It just seems logical that, if they learn all that, they can and should be required to learn how to use the Internet for professional purposes.
And they should learn how to do this before they need to. If we wait until they need it, it's too late. They're already behind the eight ball.
No Child Left Behind
I think it's time for school systems to play a decidedly proactive role in making sure that the future leaders of America also get to college knowing how to use the Internet to advance their careers, don't you? To me, it seems like the very definition of “no child left behind.”
Question: What do you think? Is this required in public schools where you live? How beneficial do you think a required course in using the Internet for career advancement would be for high school seniors?