From the Harvard Political Report: Accepting Alternatives: Career and Technical Education Should Be Embraced

October 27th, 2016

A great article from the Harvard Political Report about outdated perceptions of the value of career and technical education:

…To many in the United States, vocational education is a scarlet letter.  However, this stigma is not exclusive to affluent communities like those that protested in San Diego.  It pervades all levels of American society, including the government.  It’s no surprise that in 2006, when the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act was up for renewal, it was quietly renamed the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act…

…For a government obsessed with higher education, CTE just doesn’t seem good enough.  Despite its positive results, funding shrank by 20 percent over the past decade, even as demand from students and parents has increased.

There are 4,600 students on waiting lists for vocational schools in Massachusetts alone.  In 2014, Philadelphia received 11,000 applications for CTE programs; it only had capacity for 2,500 students. But despite this increased interest, CTE was defunded and downplayed once more…

When asked what concrete skills students leave a four year education with, college and university presidents often point to critical thinking and writing skills.  However, for many students, four year colleges don’t provide those skills anyway.  In fact, sociologist Richard Arum finds that after four years of college, 36 percent of college students had no significant improvement in critical thinking or writing.

…Meanwhile, the United States job market is feeling the strain of the country’s lopsided priorities.  As the United States forces more students into traditional education, where many don’t excel, it’s exacerbating a country-wide shortage of machinists, welders, nurses, and other jobs CTE provides paths for.  There are 600,000 unfilled jobs in manufacturing alone.

Read the whole article.

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