Monday, June 20, 2005

Time to commit some educational heresy

PITTSBURG, Calif. - The people in charge of high school education in California are clear on one thing - everybody, and I mean everybody must take college prep classes in high school.

If they don't they are headed into some kind of educational abyss, from which they will never be able to pass the state's tests to certify that they are, well, certified.

There's a little problem with the idea. No, make that a problem as big at Kate Smith's (fill in the body part of your choice here). Who is Kate Smith? Whoa, you need to study your American History. Look under American singers, circa WWII.

The test these state education bright lights are talking about tests, not surprisingly, what you need to know to go to college. And what you need to know to go to college is good stuff. (I teach college, I'm not going to impeach all of higher education.) But somewhere in the last few decades the nation has forgotten that while knowing how to write a sonnet (14 lines of rhyming iambic pentameter) is great, so is knowing how to weld, connect an electrical box and use paint and chemicals without poisoning yourself.

Today's San Francisco Chronicle has a compelling story that's worth looking at:
  • A Blue Collar

  • In the Dark Ages when I went to junior high school, all boys were required to take what were called 'shop classes' - mechanical drawing, wood shop and metal shop. Mechanical drawing taught you the precision side of drafting. The two shop classes taught you some basic tool safety and God-knows how many ashtrays, cutting boards and barbecue forks were manufactured. A fair percentage of my high school class opted out of college and went to work in the factories and in professions that required a knowledge of metals, wood or electricity, not iambic pentameter. Provided they didn't get caught up in the corporate job slashing and move to the South of the U.S. (this was before U.S. manufacturers discovered India), they did quite well financially, and the nation was well served.

    Right now the nation is not as well served, as is obvious if you read the Chronicle story.

    Sometime later today I have to take my car into the shop to get it steamcleaned and have a mechanic check for an oil leak. If it's what I think it is, it will cost me $70 per hour to get it fixed, with the mechanic getting maybe half of that (maybe more), the business the balance.

    I'm glad that they will be able to fix it, because I certainly can't. I didn' t take auto shop, nor am I inclined to wrench on a car.

    But while they're doing it, I'll see if I can get another column/blog/web-entry from the experience.

    We all have our talents, things we like to do and things that training and education can prepare us for. California's education gurus need to recognize it and stop making everyone write sonnets.

    No comments:

    Post a Comment