School-Watch: America’s New School-Career Passport

Pity the likes of Henry Ford, George Washington, and Bill Gates, who had to forge their own way in school and in the workplace. However did they manage without the nanny state to guide them? Citizen-workers in the future, however, will no longer have to endure such autonomy, for the ultimate passport to success, the national Certificate of Initial Mastery, or CIM, is ready for issuance.

The CIM, a concept now widely espoused by educrats, is the new high school credential intended to replace the traditional diploma. It is to be granted to all students, college-bound or not, at about age 16 after two years of vocationally-oriented, academically-diluted high school. Students failing to match up to CIM standards are to be packed off to Youth Centers until they do, but no provision at all is made for students unwilling to participate in the educational process leading to the CIM.

With CIM in hand, students, now government-endorsed beasts of burden, are herded directly into work or “career pathways” determined by the Labor Department, such as agribusiness or computer technology. There an elite few are, in practice, tracked into a further academically-diluted college preparatory program and all the rest into narrow technical/professional studies. Successful completion of this second school-to-work stint, also two years long, leads to the Certificate of Advanced Mastery, or CAM.

Forever after, if the certification corps prevails, all American workers— not just young ones—are in for a lifetime of entreating government to certify and re-certify their job competence. What is more, it was the original intent of CIM creators to pay for this $73 billion per annum scheme by legislating that employers “invest” at least 1 percent of their payroll in it. Perversely, many business leaders have eagerly joined this “partnership” of government, work, and school.

The brand of schooling leading to the CIM would be unrecognizable to most Americans. Its emphasis for all students, from kindergarten on, is on federally defined goals involving applied skills and attitudes rather than textbook-based instruction. For example, students in Cottage Grove High School, located in Oregon where the new system is most advanced, rarely read textbooks, but instead forage in groups for knowledge relating to “real-life” projects. One student was required to demonstrate bicycle repair as part of a “block” course—here, incongruously, a melange of language arts, science, and history. She received an “I.P.” (or “In Progress” mark, which requires students to repeat failed work indefinitely until mastery is achieved) because she was eight seconds short in her demonstration of the task.

Whereas such an educational model may enable students to read, write, speak, research, do useful tasks, and work in groups, it severely slights their academic formation. According to parent Gayna Flake, one Cottage Grove teacher judged that students within the CIM program “were only taught one-fourth of the normal curriculum.” One participating student, anxious about transferring to another school, said, “I might be lost because I haven’t received a background in history, English and science.”

True to this bias against broad, precise knowledge, CIM proponents seek rather to mold intangible attitudes and values deemed befitting of the new “global” workforce. A typical CIM test thus obliges students to show that they are “confident in their ability to do mathematics” while simultaneously specifying that students “provide no single right answer.” Favoring group cooperation to the point of compliance, CIM advocates frown upon stiff-necked individualists. A member of the Cottage Grove School Board, for instance, reported that students were often given I.P.’s because of their “bad attitudes of questioning the program.” Not surprisingly, C1M supporters prize the malleability of the very young, therefore requiring “career awareness” in kindergarten.

Other unacceptable changes linked with the CIM include ungraded primary school programs geared to inculcating community, not necessarily family, values; grouping together students of highly varied academic abilities; using portfolios to evaluate students, i.e., collecting and electronically storing samples of their school work as well as personal and medical information; extending the definition of family to include any combination of individuals who function similarly to those related by blood, marriage or adoption; screening students on an ongoing basis for a great array of physical and mental deficiencies, and referring those decreed so afflicted to a panoply of government experts and services; and the establishment of a new pyramid of federal, regional, state, and local boards to police schools’ compliance with CIM laws.

The CIM has been hyped by President Clinton as the perfect marriage of academic and vocational learning. In truth, however, it is a blueprint for marrying education to labor, health, and social policy. Does its general mien—collectivist, egalitarian, obsessively complicated—seem familiar? This is because the CIM was dreamed up for the National Center on Education and the Economy by the Grand Machinator himself, White House advisor Ira Magaziner, whose rejected national health care plan it resembles.

Also, as early as 1991, it was promoted nationwide by Hillary Clinton, who was paid $101,630 by the Center for her efforts. The inspiration for the CIM is Germany’s job apprenticeship system, a highly state-engineered, rigid, costly policy that enthralls, not only Magaziner, but Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, who now co-administers education funds with the Department of Education.

The CIM has never been put forth for proper public debate. Nevertheless, thanks to lush federal grants, this monstrous reform is being considered for adoption in 17 states and six urban school districts, and is already policy in seven states. To give the appearance of uniqueness from state to state, its backers label it differently, e.g., in Pennsylvania, it is called the Career and Academic Passport.

Above all for poor minorities, this is one passport leading only to stunted opportunity and dead dreams. For all students it leads to shrunken intellect and pliant souls. And for America, it leads to the class-riven Europe of yesteryear.


  • Candace de Russy

    Candace de Russy is a nationally recognized scholar on education and cultural issues and an Adjunct Fellow at Hudson Institute.

tagged as:

Join the Conversation

in our Telegram Chat

Or find us on
Item added to cart.
0 items - $0.00

Orthodox. Faithful. Free.

Signup to receive new Crisis articles daily

Email subscribe stack
Share to...