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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Merging Career and Technical Education with College Prep

Merging Career and Technical Education with College Prep

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David Stern, emeritus professor of education at the University of California, Berkeley, is a leading researcher on career and technical ed. Here's a statement from one of his papers: "In recent decades, traditional forms of vocational education have gradually given way to what is now called career-technical education (CTE), a broader notion of preparation for economic self-sufficiency that includes readiness for postsecondary education as well as for entering the workforce directly." The report is titled "Expanding Policy Options for Educating Teenagers" http://futureofchildren.org/futureofchildren/publications/docs/19_01_10.pdf We'd like to invite conversation about this particular area of CTE in this thread. Join the discussion!

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Jim Berman's picture
Jim Berman
Chef Instructor working with 10th, 11th & 12th graders; Wilmington, DE

Being part of a technical high school for the last 8+ years has awakened my senses, both palpable and not, to grasp that we are not producing much in this country. Not to discount what does exist in terms of industry, but we have a waning population of craftspeople, artisans and skilled workers industrious with their hands. Our chief export is websites. We dispose of appliances, furniture, clothes and automobiles with the reckless abandon of which most of it was constructed. In a nation that so values possessions (just more stuff!) we don't really place a value on those items' worth.
The cabinet maker is folded into a box neatly packed by IKEA. The clothes maker is cheaply sewn into the label of countless retail outlets. We have downgraded the value of worthwhile trades in exchange for cheap, fast and easy. Preparing for self-sufficiency must certainly start with building our own 'stuff,' no? We can send our students off to college in an inexpensive, easily-replaced automobile to a cheaply furnished off-campus apartment and dispense web-based education to what end? The value of the traditional 'workforce' has been discounted to the point of it sounding like a bad word. Blue collar can be swapped for dog collar and even then an industrialist, craftsperson or non-degree holder still has to be a manager of something to be taken seriously. Where is the reward, the intrinsic value of a Job Well Done?
Matthew Crawford (Shop Class as Soulcraft) does a much better job of wordsmithing than I:
"So perhaps the time is ripe for reconsideration of an ideal that has fallen out of favor: manual competence, and the stance it entails toward the built, material world. Neither as workers nor as consumers are we much called upon to exercise such competence, most of us anyway, and merely to recommend its cultivation is to risk the scorn of those who take themselves to be the most hard-headed: the hard-headed economist will point out the opportunity costs of making what can be bought, and the hard-headed educator will say that it is irresponsible to educate the young for the trades, which are somehow identified as the jobs of the past. But we might pause to consider just how hard-headed these presumptions are, and whether they don't, on the contrary, issue from a peculiar sort of idealism, one that insistently steers young people toward the most ghostly kinds of work." (http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/shop-class-as-soulcraft)
So, are we heading towards economic self-sufficiency or ghostly work? Suppose, though, more questions than answers. But isn't their honest, measurable value in Manual Competence?

Kathleen Marshall's picture

While I am an elementary school teacher - in fact a 2nd/3rd grade class due to enrollment numbers - I have very positive, very strong feelings about programs such as this. My husband and I are very involved in Sea Scouting. This is the co-ed maritime division of scouting for 14 to 20 year olds. We are very fortunate to have a 90' 1938 Sparkman and Stevens yawl that our council aquired for $1 in 1978. We sail in Commencement Bay in Tacoma, WA every Thursday night as well as do a High Adventure program in the San Juan Islands during the summer. Our kids come from a very diversified area in distance as well as economically and culturally. During there time with us they learn how to sail, leadership qualities, responsibility for knowing your job, standing watch, working with peers as well as new, younger members, adults on charters, general seamanship, engine maintenance, wooden boat restoration, navigation both manually and using GPS as a double check,how to work cooperatively with adults and other teens in a joint venture. I could continue for a long time. The good news is that in 16 years we have not had an active youth in trouble with the law and the vast majority go on to a university, a technical program, or a maritime academy where the technical skills come into play but even more importantly the leadership and interactive skills are well developed. You will see numerous marine biologists, engineers, entrepreneurs, environmental specialists around that have been part of the Odyssey. To learn more about this program go to www.sssodyssey.org and watch a video clip done by a local tv station. These programs are essential for many kids who want the reality added to their learning.

Mike Reilly's picture

This is a great topic, glad to see the new group!

At our PBL effort (http://cdat.lanierhs.org), we're focusing on a long-term approach to the game development, simulation, and engineering industries of the CTE world. While we're just in our first year, getting kids exposed to all of these things, we hope to have them focus even more towards a specific industry. Short term, some kids can actually start small businesses while in high school, some may pursue technical certificates from the local community school as well. However, my long term hope is that they OWN their business, not just work at it. For that they will need some business classes later on.

Of course, we're just starting out, but we're at a unique time in history, where it seems any young person could invent the "next great thing" in technology, and I want to make that happen.

Bill Eckles's picture
Bill Eckles
Assistant Principal at Carroll County Career & Technology Center

From Matthew Crawford - "and the hard-headed educator will say that it is irresponsible to educate the young for the trades, which are somehow identified as the jobs of the past."

The problem with these "jobs of the past" is that all of the web site producers and disposable furniture makers still expect their light switches to work and their toilets to flush. These are the jobs that cannot be outsourced. Although it may not be as glamorous, these are jobs that are not going away.

Jim Berman's picture
Jim Berman
Chef Instructor working with 10th, 11th & 12th graders; Wilmington, DE

...and yet, I hear people say "Oh, he's just a plumber," or "she's just a carpenter." Just? Just?! These are folks with skills, not just jobs, for life! I have to remind myself to keep from jumping over the table and asking how they might like their houses' built, or how they would like their three-course dinner prepared, or how they would like to get home without "the trades."

Rhonda's picture

Jim's comment about the "value of the workforce...." hit home with me. I taught for many years in a vocational high school and heard the students' apologetic tones when they said the name of their school. It upset me tremendously as I knew these students were some our VERY BEST welders, mechanics, draftsmen, and cosmetologists. Today, they are very successful and some own their own shops. I no longer teach in that school, but I wonder if it's even worse now that the world is so focused on technology and even less inclined to value those skills.

Kathy Baron's picture
Kathy Baron
Former Edutopia reporter and editor, mother of two.

It's unfortunate, but the terms vocational education and career technical education still evoke negative sentiments. That's why, in California at least, the emphasis is now on merging career tech with college prep. The goal today is to prepare students for both. It's not dismissive of CTE, it's realistic. Looking at the Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers, nearly every growing occupation requires some postsecondary education. It may be anything from a one-year certification program to a PhD, but higher education is the norm today for most living-wage jobs.

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