Vocational training is often considered a second choice, but that does not make it second-rate. One of the most frustrating things about the public education system is the way that it tends to lump everyone together. I’m not exactly sure when it happened but, somewhere along the line, the importance of having education standards morphed into an emphasis on the importance of standardizing education.
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Standards versus Standardization
Some politicians—and even some educators—seem to take it for granted that these two things are one and the same. Unfortunately for students in the United States, they’re not. Having education standards means taking certain precautions to ensure that the government provides everyone with equal access to the same quality of education. Standardizing education involves forcing everyone into the same box, regardless of whether or not they fit. This “one size fits all” approach to education is problematic because it ignores the fact that everyone learns things differently. Instead of crafting different strategies that take into account these different styles of learning, public education tends to emphasize the importance of a traditional academic setting by framing college as a prerequisite to academic success.
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According to an article by Arthur Posey, a former high school guidance counselor, alternatives to traditional education (like trade school or vocational training) are often stigmatized by “the over-emphasis that American high schools place on the importance of 4-year colleges.” He explains how educators “tell academically successful students that vocational schools would be a waste of their talent” and that “they’ll have more opportunities if they go to college.”
The Value of Skilled Workers
Posey goes on to point out that parents and educators “sometimes forget how much we need skilled workers. A highly-trained workforce is the backbone of a strong, diverse economy. Not everybody wants to be a doctor, a lawyer, or a business executive—and that’s a good thing. Society couldn’t function if they did. How many of Harvard’s magna cum laude know how to repair a motorcycle? How many of them know how to build a house? And why is an MBA considered so much more impressive than the ability to do either of these things?”
Posey is correct—we need to step away from the standardized model of education that pushes everyone, regardless of their preferences, toward university. We need a more diverse model of education that emphasizes the importance of providing alternatives, vocational training included, for people who don’t enjoy the traditional academic setting.
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Please don’t make the mistake of assuming I’m anti-university. I wouldn’t trade the years I spent in college for anything in the world. I had a wonderful time and I learned a lot. But it seems narrow-minded to continue operating under the assumption that it’s the right choice for everyone. There are many things that cannot be taught in a classroom, and even the most successful students will tell you that, sometimes, experience is the best teacher.
Katlyn Myers is a public relations coordinator for Anthem Education. She loves reading, writing and her two kids, Max and Ben.