ECAP Too Excessive?

ECAP is Arizona’s Education and Career Action Plan, but it can be seen as going too far and starting too young. Is this effective or excessive?


Photo Courtesy of Joseph Grosjean

As teenagers we are faced with finding schools and scholarships, the question remains, how young should you start?

Just a few weeks ago, our Scholastic Lab teacher made us take a test online about our career plans. For middle school students, this was a test on interests and helped determine a career type that is best for us and research a few of the jobs in that area. It inspired me to research a lot of the over one hundred careers in my top three career types. But it also just made me nervous. In order to be any one of these things, how am I to find the best school? How much money does it cost? How much time do I have to devote? How will I be able to provide for other needs while I’m doing this? And last: What do I even want to do?

I know I want to be an author, but I’ll want to go to school to learn something that will help me more financially, so I can have all of my needs before I devote myself to my writing. But I still want to do something that makes me happy. I’ll probably have a few jobs I hate, but this is my future career; I want to have the potential to do what I love, and I can’t do that unless I go to school for what’s right for me. And then, after this crossing my mind for days, something hit me: why am I worrying about this?

I am in the eighth grade; I’m still becoming who I am going to be. My interests will change. One day I may not want to do something as creative for my job. I may find a new hobby that I fall completely in love with, and I may fall out of love with others. I may even, and I hate to admit this, stop writing. As of right now, it isn’t likely, but it is a possibility. Who knows? I’m 14. I should be worrying about getting into the play, the newest episode of “Supernatural,” whatever. But my career and money? Yeah, it should be on my mind, but it shouldn’t cause me to break down because I don’t have it figured out. At my age, no one does. According to the Chicago Tribune, parents need to start preparing for their children’s education as early as possible. College is a lot of money – about $37,700 for a year’s tuition on national average – and parents are usually responsible for paying for it, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the children themselves should be preparing for it since birth.

On the Arizona Department of Education’s website, there is a page about ECAP, and on it is a presentation that gives the standards for each grade, beginning with Kindergarten. According to the document, the Postsecondary and Career Awareness standards state that by the time a child is ready for the first grade, they should’ve visited a college campus and applied for age-appropriate scholarships. I have done neither of these things, and the thought of them makes me fear it will only make me more anxious. Imagine a six-year-old doing this. They don’t know themselves yet, they think the world is all fun and games. When I was in kindergarten, I wanted to be a veterinarian. But it was only a few years ago that I realized that I couldn’t go into the medical field – for animals or for humans. The animal shelter commercials make me well up and doctor shows on TV make me look away. So why, at that age, should I have been worrying about college? I didn’t even know what I wanted to do – I still don’t know what I want to do.

Yes, I understand that preparing for our futures is important, but why are they making us worry about it from such a young age? At Horizon Honors, we have to do a six-year plan from the time we’re in sixth grade, but adults don’t even know what they’ll be doing in six years. My dad changed jobs about five times in six years just because he got bored with what he was doing. But maybe they should start off a little bit later and make the program seem less demanding, like you don’t have to have everything picked out by the time you’re in the eighth grade. Maybe my age is a good time to begin introductions to the real world and then escalate fairly quickly, so by the time we’ve ended high school, we’re ready for it. But starting too young only creates anxiety and dread.