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Former Senior Technical Producer, Edutopia

Thanks to B. Smoot and Judi

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Thanks to B. Smoot and Judi Carmona for bringing up career and technical education. What a wonderful word "vocation" is. What a wonderful thing to find work that excites and engages you! Vocation = your calling. I believe that we owe it to all students to show them a range of occupations, and honor their choices if they've found their "calling" while still in high school. That's what vocational education can do--speak to the interests that drive you to succeed. Also, we all agree that vocational education should NEVER track kids into jobs because certain kids are deemed "not college material." (You'll see from other posts in the Spiral Notebook blog that at-risk kids do well when they are held to high standards, supported by caring adults, and given the "right" kind of education -- one that is infused with problem-based/project-based curricula. Be sure to check out Ron Smith's posts.) However, in a knowledge-based economy, it's my belief that career and technical educators need to prepare their students for some sort of post-secondary education. Having just a high school diploma is not going to cut it anymore. The Knowledge/Information Age (the Digital Age) is transforming every aspect of our lives -- including how we work. Even in the traditional "trades," like auto mechanics, keeping up with new technologies, and new processes and procedures, is the new order of business. It's critical that students realize that learning never ends. Our goal, then, is to help students learn how to learn since they will need to continually upgrade their skills for whatever career(s) they choose. So...shouldn't we offer all high schoolers the opportunities to explore careers; shouldn't we allow all kids to learn academics in the context of career-based projects? Career and technical education does not narrow options for students; it's a great way to reinvent high schools -- to relate academics to the world outside of high school (including the world of work). Those of us interested in career academies and other learning communities that relate academics to the real world have been talking about the new three-R's for some time: Rigor, Relevancy, and Relationships. Betsy Brand, Director of the American Youth Policy Forum, has a great article that will explain more clearly than I can do in this post. Read "Reforming High Schools: The Role for Career Academies." Also, read these articles and watch the accompanying videos on the site to see best practices:
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Diane Demee-Benoit Former Director of Outreach at Edutopia