Sunday, September 26, 2010

"Educational Reformers" Neglect Need for Vocational and Technical Education

Dr Mark Naison
Fordham, University

At a time when there is a huge need for technical/vocational education to train mechanics, vocational high schools are being shut down, to be replaced by small high schools, or charter schools which, when they work at all, train students for white collar occupations. To rebuild our infrastructure and shift to a Green Economy, we need engineers, electricians and construction workers, not clerks and brokers! But those with a 'one size fits all" approach to Educational Reform fail to see this

The irrationality of this hit home to me several months ago when I learend that Alfred E Smith Vocational and Technical High School in the
South Bronx was designated as one of 20 schools to be closed by the NYC Department of Education because of low test scores. I had visited Alfred E Smith last November to do a book event for Allen Jones Bronx memoir "The Rat That Got Away" and was tremendously impressed by the high morale of students and teachers as well as the huge auto repair shops the schools had. I remember thinking to myself how valuable an institution this was to have in the Bronx, where auto repair shops and body shops are among the most thriving of local businesses. When
I discovered the school was slated for closure, I was astonished. In a community where unemployment rates for Black and Latino youth approach 50 percent, you are closing the one school that actually trains them for decent paying jobs in their own community!

But the educational reformers, who seem to have "drunk their own kool aid" never let history, local conditions, or common sense affect the mechnical application of their test driven models. That other advanced nations, like Germany, have actually invested MORE in techichal education to help their society have the mechanical skills to adapt to a Green Economy never enters their calculations. That there will be millions of skilled mechanical jobs when ( if?) the US makes such a transition never crosses their mind either.

Someday, and I hope it is soon, people will challenge the union busting, test obsessed, charter school promoting lawyers and executives trying to remake American Education and develop a teacher centered, student centered, community centered approach that recognizes the wide variety of skills needed to have a vialble economy

Fortunatley this is happening in NY. Thanks to a lawsuit supported by the NAACP and others, Alfred E Smith High School has not yet been closed

Mark Naison
Sept 26, 2010