Planning ahead is a responsible and practical thing to do. But let's be honest. At age 12 or 13 did you know what you wanted to be when you grew up? Did you stick with it?

Considering most college students switch their major at least a couple of times, it seems a bit presumptuous to assume teens should be able decide on a career before they're old enough to get a driver's license. But that's what Oregon's goofy CIM and CAM (Certificate of Initial Master and Certificate of Advanced Mastery) system subscribes. By their freshman year, Oregon students are supposed to be pointed toward a specific career and lining up their course work appropriately.

That may be just fine for the tiny minority who conclude early on just what they want to do with their lives. More power to them. But for most of us, it takes more life experience, more observation, more trial and error to determine what we're best suited to do or how we want to spend our work lives. Add to that the fact most high school students are likely to change professions at least a couple of times in the course of their lives, and it seems even sillier to push kids to pick a profession before they've even held a part-time job.

We think the annual Career Showcase put on by the Education Service District, area businesses and industries, and local schools is a great thing. Teens should be exposed to as many occupations and professions as possible as early as possible. Youth need to expand their view, to look beyond how their parents make their living and beyond the stereotypes they see on TV. By middle school they should be starting to think about how they'll fit into the adult world.

But choose a profession by the time you're 14 and then feel obligated to stay on that track? Ludicrous. (Of course, students can change their minds. But we've heard some counselors admit that by the junior or senior year they tell students who want to change their career track that they should go ahead and make new plans but they'd be better off to stick with their initial choice as far as the CIM/CAM paperwork goes.)

Remember, they're teenagers for heaven's sake. Yes, there's a lot to be said for preparing for the years ahead. But there's also a lot to be said for encouraging - and allowing - youth to enjoy the time of their lives when they're not expected to pay their way while keeping their eyes and minds open about the future.

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