Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Back into the Fray: Vocational Style

APS Pepsi
Today I received in physical mail an article published in the Albuquerque Journal on November 7th. The article is short, but I'm not a big fan of the journal online, so I'll just quote the meaningful bits here.

"We've created an environment where we want every child to go to a four-year collegiate program," she said. Cole said there's a stigma attached to students who don't. But recognizing that all don't want the same future "allows students to choose a nondegree track if they wish and have that be an honorable decision."

I talk a lot about education, and an idea I've voiced in class that has yet to make it to the blog is that the notion of "every student can go to college!" is wrong and flawed. First qualifier - the big deal here is the use of "every". If it was just "any", that would be fine, and it would make sense for resources to be provided. After all, no one wants to be told that their kid can't make it to college. That will lead to all kinds of nasty territory, and that is not really a productive use of energy.

But to say that every student can go to college is wrong. It is a lie, and in a school district with a dropout rate close to 50% (under, but close), it seems to me criminal.

College isn't for everyone. 25% of Americans graduate from college. Public school serves more than 25% of Americans, and while it is realistic to expect that number to increase, it is unrealistic to expect it to increase that dramatically. College is not for everyone, and in a state where cost is increasingly becoming, if not a non-issue, much less of an issue, we should be content with the job already being done on this front, and focus on other problems.

The drop-out rate, say.

A solution to this, and a solution that the Great Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce (source of the quote above; and yes, I can hardly believe I agree with them) is to provide more vocational education, and to work with the city's secondary and post-secondary institutions. This makes lots of sense, and while the GACC may well want this to create a greater pool of skilled workers to attract investment, I see this as a way to make school meaningful for kids who don't see the point to taking math up to calculus, or the point of taking algebra 2/trig at all. Or even for the kids who see no point to history. Doesn't matter - if they don't think the college prep course is meaningful, they won't find the watered-down college prep (in path not quality) regular education system meaningful. And, well, vocational school, the trades and what not, they are more immediately meaningful. They're useful. And they're useful and meaningful for the youths who hear all this praise of college, know that college isn't for them, and don't know where to go next, except straight into the job market.

It's rather pathetic to not devote any resources to them.


Image by Esther

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