TIME Magazine of May 14, 2012 says ‘Tech Schools was once the place you sent kids who were unsuited for classrooms, no more.‘
That is what we call Vocational Schools and there still is a negative idea floating around high schools that if you are of limited intelligence, you should learn something that requires hands on. What a bunch of nonsense. No, not everybody is suited for the academic towers called universities. I have seen firsthand what some kids, special education or regular, can accomplish outside the classic classroom. Most of them languish at their desk while the English teacher reads, in a monotonous voice, “The Pit and The Pendulum”. We cannot afford to waste such skilled manpower; we have to find a way to motivate them and the best approach is no doubt a vocational school that combines intellectual and manual tasks.
Some of these kids don’t need to know about Shakespeare or Edgar Allan Poe. It would be nice if they did, but only as an optional course. They can still learn good English, including the technical words that abound in technology. Who cares if they don’t respect all the grammar rules? Or if their speech is hesitant. As long as they can communicate clearly, we should be satisfied. A perfect example are the professional athletes; have you noticed how most of them cannot link two sentences without using the crutch ‘You Know’ a dozen times? And their choice of diction certainly doesn’t do justice to their college degree. Who cares as long as they can catch a pass in the NFL!
One day, while discussing his future, one of my special ed kids said something extraordinary to me; he said that maths wasn’t interesting to him until he started doing carpentry in our vocational class. He had to measure each piece very carefully and make sure the angles fit perfectly. Hello! Is there a message there for us, the school system? Yes, and the message is that they, the kids in vocational schools, do much better with a 3-D environment than a with 2-D one. So what are we waiting for? Let’s teach them maths and geometry where it counts in real life. That way, they can see exactly what they need to be successful and they motivate themselves without our intervention.
A four-year liberal arts college is often seen as the mandatory goal for every child, including those left behind, the kids who drop out early whether due to criminal activities or to the fact that they have to make a living and help their families. Let’s ask the president of such ivory tower how he or she can survive without mechanics, plumbers, radiation technicians, gardeners, cops, construction workers, cashiers and baggers at the supermarket, and a myriad of other occupations that are just as important as engineers and teachers.
Our traditional high school is making an effort to develop the CTE program, but we are still saddled with nefarious perceptions: Kids who take the technical route are not capable as the ones who eventually go to college. We still force the vocational kids to take four years of English, when two would be quite sufficient. We force them to take four years of Maths, when to would be quite enough. Yes, I repeat myself to emphasize the urgent need to change our educational model. We could certainly learn from the German system which separates college-bound teens from CTE kids after a couple of years together. TIME magazine got the ball rolling, let’s make sure more people hear about it.