Certainly, we believe that all students should be encouraged and allowed to rise unhindered to their highest potential, but there are choices along the way that must be made by the students themselves, with the support of parents.
Our society relies on productive citizens who make contributions as artisans, craftsmen, technicians, and skilled laborers. A large percentage of our workforce falls under the headings of “skilled” and “semi-skilled” labor. These occupations need to be filled with capable individuals who are both inclined and suited to the work.
As core academics have been pushed to the fore of our school system, vocational training has in most cases diminished. Our system is not providing for those who feel that they were born to a trade. We all know wonderfully bright people who have chosen to work with their hands.
There is a lot more to a career choice than academic training. Factors like temperament, interests, values, beliefs, social skills, character, and a host of other personality traits and external influences enter into our career choice. These factors have a greater bearing on our ultimate success than the educational coursework we’ve received.
Vocational education must be reinstated as an essential and vital part of public education. The public education system must provide the option of a vocational route for middle school and high school students.
It is not necessary for the school to dictate the route to be followed by a student. Such an important decision should be left to the student and the family. But the school should be expected to continually inform and advise families and to bring every available support and resource to assist students and families in making informed and timely decisions.
We believe that beginning with the 7th grade, students and families should be seriously thinking about the general direction the student is heading in: college-prep or vocational education. Up to the 7th grade, it should be assumed by the school that all students are on a college-bound path, but at no time should a student feel that this is their only option.
After 7th grade, all students should be free to remain on the college-prep route, or to move into a vocational path that emphasizes the acquisition of skills over formal academics. At this point, academics should become a means to an end, rather than an end in themselves.
It is vital that all students be introduced to the “world of work” beginning at the earliest age. Career education should be an integral part of every social studies curriculum in the elementary grades.
Students must be taught the nobility of work, and the intrinsic value of all occupations. There should be no suggestion that a college-bound path is necessarily superior to a vocational path. It should be left to the students, with the support of parents, to weigh their talents and interests against the rewards of various occupations, and make their own judgments.
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