The Hopes and Fears of Teenagers

How listening to young people might improve college and job training programs intended to help them reach better futures

(EWA Radio Episode 291)

“People can’t tell me what they’re going to college for. But they put themselves in thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars of debt—that doesn’t sound like it makes any sense. That’s like buying a car and not knowing how to drive.”

That’s just one of the answers Rebecca Koenig of EdSurge got from teenagers on the cusp of adulthood by asking a deceptively simple question: What are your hopes and fears? Koenig’s new project sheds surprising light on the too-frequent disconnect between teenagers’ aspirations and the college paths and job training programs they’re encouraged to pursue.

Among the big takeaways: not enough people who design postsecondary pathways are talking to teenagers and really listening to their answers. Koenig profiled nine teenagers from a diverse range of backgrounds and educational experiences. She also spoke with two dozen educators, economists, psychologists, employers and other experts, to figure out the intersection between adolescent brain development and the best educational programs that can actually tap into a young person’s curiosity and enthusiasm for learning.

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