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Paradox25's avatar

Should there be an emphasis put on vocational/workforce related training in public schools?

Asked by Paradox25 (10198points) November 21st, 2011

According to some critics such as Whitney Tilson, who supports education reform, American children should receive 17 years of public education with the sole emphasis placed upon an academic education. Whitney assumes that only the bottom 20% of children are not college material and should only receive vocational training on their own after their school years are up if they decide they don’t want to attend a traditional college. Here is a blog on this topic by Tilson.

On the other side of this issue of course are people like Charles Murray, who says that only the top 20% of America’s children are 4 year traditional college material or higher. Also according to Murray is that many children can benefit from vocational/workforce training by obtaining an in demand high paying skill/trade with a headstart while attending high school. Here is a blog by Murray.

Please read both blogs before posting a response since they’re both reasonably short. Do you think that offering junior/senior high school students vocational/workforce related courses dumbs down or helps students?

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33 Answers

wundayatta's avatar

Personally, I don’t think it makes sense to judge the subject matter of an education, so long as you get a good education. If people think vocational schools are places to dump stupid kids, then they will be a waste of time.

The fact is that there are tons of manufacturing jobs going unfilled because there are not enough people with so-called “vocational” educations. It takes a good deal of expertise to work in a factory these days. You have to be able to use computers and do some programming. The robots need instructions or they won’t do anything.

There is nothing wrong with a good vocational education, and it is likely that people who get one will get a good job, if they study hard. Offering a good vocational education program to upper level high school students will surely help many students. It may not even be bad prep for college, either. Think of the technical institutes. If you have good science and good technical grades, it seems to me you’ll have a much better chance of getting into one of the technology institutes.

YARNLADY's avatar

With the educational cutbacks, our free public schools are eliminating more and more programs. They are currently changing the K age to make more children wait to begin their schooling, and cutting to the basics in most other grades, plus increasing class sizes.
The taxpayers are not willing to pay for free classes anymore. Vocational schools are available to those who can afford them.

perspicacious's avatar

No, but there could certainly be more electives of a vocational nature. There could be a vocational track in high school so students have a choice. There are many ways to make the years spent in public school more fruitful. It’s possible that if a hands-on vocational track were available in public school, the drop out rate would drop as the non-college-interested kids would see some benefit to staying in school.

Paradox25's avatar

@wundayatta I agree with your whole response. I try not to slant my questions but I’m not afraid to give my own opinion about a topic I ask about. I always got decent grades in school but I was never interested in attending a 4 year college (or more). I have an Associate’s Degree in Specialized Technology and 3 other years of certification courses. I work as a maintenance tech and I can truely tell you that I don’t believe my field is beneath that of a white collar career field. With my schooling and 16 years of field experience I’m not even close to a small fraction of mastering my trade since it is so varied and technical.

I think if more people actually seen the type of machinery and circuits we have to work on as well as the diagrams we have to be able to read I think their eyes would pop out of their sockets.

Paradox25's avatar

@perspicacious Yes indeed, choice is good.

bkcunningham's avatar

I sat beside a man on a flight who showed me photos of his son who was a pilot and is now an air traffic controller. His son took aviation classes in a public high school in Florida.

I know of several men who went to work for a major general contractor after high school because of a program the school offered. The GC placed the young men in apprenticeship programs and they became licensed in various trades.

When I was in high school in the late-1970s, we had vocational programs in our schools where you could graduate high school as a Licensed Practical Nurse or as a licensed cosmotologist, masons or auto mechanics.

Do high schools still offer the Distributive Education classes in business where the students work part of the day and go to their core high school classes the other half? I think those are very good things to offer students.

Paradox25's avatar

@bkcunningham Imagine a country made up of all doctors, lawyers, philosophers, businessmen/women, engineers, etc but no electricians, mechanics, construction workers, programmers, pilots and other technical careers.

bkcunningham's avatar

It would be the end of the world as we know it, @Paradox25.

ratboy's avatar

A strong back is a terrible thing to waste.

augustlan's avatar

My high school did offer both paths to graduation. Along with the standard curriculum, you could take auto mechanics, cosmetology, carpentry classes, and farm related classes (we had pigs, cows, horses and chickens at school!) It also offered work/study programs in the business and merchandising fields. I’m all for a dual track high school.

rojo's avatar

Absolutely, along with additional information on how to function in a society. Not everyone is cut out to go to college and there are a lot of kids out there who would benefit from vocational training and/or a journeyman program.
Unfortunately we view our school years K-12 as college preparatory and not as a basis for functioning successfully in society. Not everyone is college bound or college material. My son is now a master plumber but he would have been a college dropout had he attended. At this point in his life, maybe he would be successful but it took 10 years beyond High School to get to where he can even consider it.

lillycoyote's avatar

It’s a little old style Soviet Union, but sure, why not? Why shouldn’t we try it in 21 Century America?

Wiki 1 – Soviet educational system

Wiki 2 – Soviet vocational technical school

Judi's avatar

I don’t know any of the people you quoted, but I know that not everyone is college material, and not being college material does not make someone stupid. Not everyone learns best from a book. The world will always need good mechanics, carpenters, electricians, truck drivers, farm workers, service personnel, hairdressers, gardeners, secretaries, and more.
Treating people without college ans some sort of sub class is stupid. Best to allow vocational training as well as college prep.

rojo's avatar

One thing I noticed is that Murray repeatedly refers to a 4 year college experience. I believe that the data would show that 5 years is now more the norm. My question is if that extra year is used playing catch up or just spreading the load out.
Anecdotal evidence from talking to college students in my neighborhood indicates that the general concensus is that 12 hours is a heavy load.
I, and others who graduated in the same timeframe (late 70’s), recall that 18 hours was normal, 15 easy and 21 an admittedly hard course load. I realize we have 30 more years of history to account for but have the other college courses become that much more difficult?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I think the purpose of education shouldn’t be to support the economy (especially the first 12 years) or to provide job training. No way would that ever be applied equally as it hasn’t in the past and it retrenches racial and class inequalities. As to the two opinions, I’m more on the side of the idea that most people are ‘college material’ or can be.

rojo's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I concur but it should give you a basis for the rest of your life. Is public schooling until you are 18 necessary? Don’t other countries cram more into a shorter timeframe? What if we worked on the basics until you were 16, then provided 2 years of more focused education. Is there any benefit from sending so many to college who drop out after their freshman year? What if you could not attend college until you were 20 and had to get out and work for a living (or public service) for two years in order to get your “act” together and decide if college is really for you?
I agree with you about the application process and the inequalities it could, and probably would, result. I just do not see the present system as being adequate to meet the needs of us as a society.

Paradox25's avatar

@rojo Personally I’m thankful that vocational courses were offered to me, they were not forced upon any of us. Unfotunately people like Tilson seem to have little problem forcing college preperatory education on us without giving us a choice. Another unfortunate scenerio is that many seem to look down upon vocational/technical career fields as ‘lower’ for some reason and I’m not sure why. My cousin has a 4 year BS degree in nursing and I would hardly say she is better at math than me or smarter than me (whatever qualifies as ‘smart’). I have an uncle who has a BS degree in electrical engineering and though he is a bit better at math than me I know much more about electricity than him.

Unfortunately it seems society judges one’s intelligence upon linguistic, writing skills and other academic skills alone when there is much more to applying your abilities than how well you can write an essay or letter. How you can handle hands-on problems, use your abilities to build/invent, use your ability to come up with new ideas, etc are other ways one shows intelligence. Of course many who’ve never been in someone like myself’s shoes tend to make snap judgements about what they know very little about.

Tilson’s ignorance astonishes me. I don’t agree with Murray on everything he said and personally I believe that more students than he assumes are at least 4 year college material.
My beef is with two things here from Tilson proponents; one is how technical/vocational careers are looked down upon as being ‘lesser’ (BS and again an assessment being made from people who have no idea what they’re talking about because they’ve never actually directly participated in what they’re criticizing) and secondly the lack of choice that students would have under such policies.

Judi's avatar

My husband barely graduated HS. We were talking to a guy who has several Phds the other day who was bummed because he didn’t pass the test for pilot ground school. My husband passed it with flying colors the first time. He also makes way more money than that guy, has the best sense of direction I have ever seen, and only has to touch something to fix it. Education has very little to do with intelligence.

Paradox25's avatar

@Judi Yes there are many different ways one can apply intelligence. There are many clever people in my field. I’ve worked with both electrical and mechanical engineers in my field. I have worked with technicians who even have degrees in physics. I used to joke with the one engineer that the only difference between me and him was the fact that unlike himself I get dirty when I come home and an extra 0.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@rojo All good questions….I just taught a class on sociology of education and education (though began due to religion) was never about teaching people but teaching them enough to work…but even to that end, our education fails our students…we need major reform…I think college education should be free, for one thing…I think shortening education is never a solution…

rooeytoo's avatar

The average person would be in hellish shape if there were no electricians, plumbers, car mechanics, carpenters, etc.. I acquired the requisite letters to put behind my name, and they made me lots of money but they didn’t make me want to get up in the morning, so I ignored the letters and went into the dog business. Now with those skills I can go anywhere in the world and find employment.

Foisting college education on people and leading them to believe it is a necessity for life is just not true for many, it is actually a waste for many. There are probably more unemployed but well rounded bachelor of arts walking around than plumbers. Guess it depends on what you want out of life.

I don’t think college should be free, it is human nature to not value anything in which one does not have a vested interest.

LostInParadise's avatar

I am very much in favor of tech schools and I greatly admire people who know their way around plumbing and electrical circuits. I have a degree in math and my practical sklls do not extend beyond being able to replace a toilet plunger. One thing not mentioned is that people who can do home repair are not in danger of being outsourced. I also think that it would not be a bad idea to teach those on a college track some practical home and auto repair skills.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@rooeytoo Yet, everyone in Russia I knew growing up went to college. For free.

Paradox25's avatar

@rooeytoo I’m all for students receiving as much of a free education that they can get while in elementary school and junior/senior high whether it is related to a technical, vocational, business or white collar field. I also somewhat agree with Tilson in that all students, regardless of their career goals, should recieve a more extensive academic education. I’m just not for forcing or shortchanging students who decide that a 4 year (minimal) college degree isn’t for them by taking away alternative educational options uch as vocational/workforce related training, especially if they can attain this training for free while in junior/senior high school yet.

I agree with you that all career fields are equally as important whether they are skilled blue collar, gold collar or white collar careers.

YARNLADY's avatar

I think the schools should restore the vocational training classes they had when I was in High School (1958 – 1961). They taught appliance repair, auto repair, woodworking, metal fabricating and many more choices. These classes were ended because parents complained their vocational students were not getting a quality education like the other students.

Paradox25's avatar

@YARNLADY Personally I believe that you can have both a quality academic education and learn a trade. In the end it all comes down to a student’s motivation in what they choose to aspire to.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Paradox25 Oh, yes – so do I. The school administrators just used this as an excuse to save a lot of money, by eliminating the program instead of modifying it to provide both.

bkcunningham's avatar

Education isn’t free. We pay for education in America and in Russia.

YARNLADY's avatar

@bkcunningham YES Thank you for pointing out that the TAXPAYERS pay for the so-called free education.

bkcunningham's avatar

You are very welcome, @YARNLADY. That is exactly what I meant. Public education isn’t “free.”

rooeytoo's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir – okay, okay, I should have said some wouldn’t value it because they wouldn’t have a vested interest (as @bkcunningham points out, their parents, if taxpayers would have the vested interest but as we can see by some students in the USA, that is no guarantee of seriousness towards ones studies). And I just googled unemployment in Russia, free or not, college degrees do not eliminate unemployment or judging by the social unrest make anyone happier.

Once again, one must remember that I grew up in the era where the question was not what my country can do for me but rather what I can do for my country. I paid for my own university and survived so can the students of today.

@Paradox25 – I think we are in agreement so I’m not sure what you are saying???

Paradox25's avatar

@rooeytoo I’d just merely stated that I was agreeing with you and the reasons why. I like to get involved in my questions.

rooeytoo's avatar

@Paradox25 – hehehe, well that’s a relief, I too thought we were saying the same thing but just got a little confused momentarily!

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