In his recent State of the Union Address, President Obama raised an issue about which I have been passionate for almost 40 years. In his 1992 presidential campaign, President Bill Clinton was also talking a great deal about creating partnerships between private industries and public education.
The idea of training that prepares high school students to obtain apprenticeships in specialized tool making and other crafts really fires my imagination. Maybe it is because I dropped out of high school and then got back on track with an apprenticeship as an Ironworker with Local 377 in San Franciso.
I remember reading an article in 1991 about Clinton’s proposals regarding many U.S. employers that were unable to locate the specialized machinists and precision tool makers that Germany produces and how even then employers could not fill the high paying jobs that required technical mechanical skills.
So I voted for Bill Clinton in 1992. After he was elected, there was nothing more said about employer driven training programs. I soon found out that was the price we had to pay to open the door to other priorities that were high on Willie’s ideologically driven wish list.
I have not subsequently heard that kind of discussion about vocational training partnerships for students in the U.S. Not until President Obama proposed the idea for colleges. But why not have such partnerships at the high school level?
Washington state already has the occupational skills centers and vocational training at the community college level. Most of the discussion about high schools seems to emphasize academic programs and getting students into colleges. Many students would develop career interests in high school classes if more opportunities were to become available to work in partnership with employers like Boeing that hire workers skilled in specialized crafts.
Some observers have suggested that vocational education might encourage more young men and women not to drop out. Learning to repair any machinery, like cars and trucks, requires math skills. Math is not so difficult once a student taps into his or her interests.
Bill Stafford, a president of the Trade Development Alliance for 20 years, reminds students and the rest of us that cooks need to read and do math, too. The best vocational programs were once at the high school level.
Maybe many of the folks proposing that schools partner with private employers are actually modern day adherents to John Dewey’s Progressive educational theories that Dewey called “Industrial Democracy”. Dewey advocated dumbing kids down so they could become cogs to be moved around by technocratic social planners.
But according to Mr. Stafford, Edison Technical School was started in 1946 to help World War II vets who wanted to finish high school. Twenty years later, it morphed into Seattle Community College. Vocational education in Seattle is now mostly for students after they are out of high school.
If educators want to begin thinking creatively, they should think about all the occupations that involve precision machining.
Like firearms! It is easy to forget that Boeing is in the weapon system business.
Gun sales have been higher than ever before all over the U.S. and gunsmiths are in extremely short supply. Hillsdale College and 40 other colleges, including Harvard University, Harvard Law, Yale and MIT, just received grants for shooting programs.
One school, Montgomery Community College of Troy, N.C., developed a shooting program and also offers gunsmithing and hunting and shooting sports management programs. The grants came from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the firearms industry.
Gunsmithing is just one example of the kind of partnerships that educators should be discussing. Many educators don’t like talking about guns except in connection with gun-free zones. But who would you rather meet in a dark alley?
A graduate from a gunsmithing program or an armed graduate from one of our state’s largest vocational schools supervised by the Department of Corrections?
Students that get work experience in high school are likely to stay in school, graduate and get a good job. “College for All” is only achieved by one out of three high school students. According to at least one study, “College for All” seems to be the dream of elite educators.
The United States has the highest dropout rate in the industrialized world, according to Harvard Graduate School of Education’s “Pathways to Prosperity.” Many high school students apparently believe high school is not relevant in finding the path to what they seek.
Washington’s achievement gap in education is tragic. Even more tragic is the fact that many educators and school board members are focused almost exclusively on the academic-university educational paradigm. One school board member I know describes proposals for vocational training that partners employers with high schools as Alinskyism!
But the training that would lead directly to high paying jobs right out of high school requires computer programming, math and other serious academic skills. Thus, no one is proposing to deprive students of academic excellence. Most of the machinists I meet are as smart or smarter than your average school teacher or lawyer. They just lack the know-it-all attitude that takes some of us years to acquire.
Thus, the technical jobs that are begging to be filled right now can become an incentive to learn metallurgy, electrical theory and chemistry. And the vocational students will develop the ability to read technical manuals and work with very precise mathematical equations.
Apparently, Alinskyism is a reference to the author of “Rules for Radicals.” In other words, giving kids an option to by-pass college (remember- vast percentages don’t even graduate from high school) is the same as consigning our kids to a Soviet collective factory operating under the lash of the Commissars.
I can’t help but think I might be mistaken for a sugar beet that just fell off a Kulak’s turnip truck when a school board member tells me that I have become aligned with the forces of Alinskyism. The same local school board member asked me how I know that Microsoft will be here in 75 years if we let Bill and Melinda Gates come into our Federal Way public schools and start calling the shots!
I am worried now that I have identified with a cause that I apparently share with the 30th District Democrats, some of whom actually are self described community organizers ala Saul Alinsky. I am from Chicago just like Alinsky. And I used to be a bit of a radical.
Before long I will get my credentials yanked as a card carrying member of the Religious Right. Maybe the Ironworkers will give me back my union card and I can man the barricades when Occupy Wall Street begins its reign of terror this coming summer.
Boeing stated recently that it will have 20,000 retirements in the next 10 years. Would Boeing and some of its vendors be willing to partner with local school districts to create new vocational schools in Washington state?
It could be cheaper than the recently failed $110,000.000.00 levy for Federal Way High School — and more profitable.
The latest update to this story is that the school member who accused me of aligning myself with Alinskyites, former President of the Federal Way School Board, Tony Moore, is now charged with a federal felony. Notwithstanding the fact that he was arrested at SeaTac Airport while heading out on an expedition with others to see how they educate in Europe, I hope he is not convicted.
The taxpayers should arrest the FWPS Superintendant for advocating a Globalist agenda that has costed the taxpayers more than we should have to pay for such progressive horse manure. The irony is that Tony Moore condemned the concept of partnership because they educate like that in Europe. Apparently, according to Tony, I had been promoting European socialism!