Where have all the vocational schools gone? There was a time when all one needed was a good honest trade to possess the American dream, when one would own a piece of land, along with a mule to plow it. At the turn of the century, going to school was necessary only to a certain point: when he only needed a third grade education because working the farm was more important than books; or when she stopped school at eighth grade because now she was old enough to help with the domestic issues at home. This was, certainly, a way of life: limited schooling and a lifetime of hands-on-experience.
This linear way of thinking continued on; however, now it’s in schools, when the only option for our future is college. Of course, there’s is nothing wrong with higher education, but what about those students who would rather work after school than to have college or the military as their only brass ring?
At one time, schools like Spingarn High School fed into a vocational school called Phelps, for students who wanted to learn electrical engineering; and Mckinley Tech High School fed into the Penn Center, a vocational school for students who desired to learn in the field of communications. In fact, in the past, many of the DC high schools fed into vocational schools, where students could go to school during the day to learn the basic, reading, writing and ‘rithematic, then in the afternoon would have the option to learn a vocation outside of the traditional classroom setting.
Today, vocational means “alternative.” These types of schools are for students who are 16+ years old, who either decides to quit high school, finds that mainstream teaching is too much, is in trouble with the law, or who has simply made some “bad” choices. Alternative programs like: Roosevelt STAY, Twilight Program, Choice, Incarcerated Youth, Job Corp, helps teens to get on the right track in order for them to be productive citizens in today’s fast-growing society.
But what about those students who aren’t at-risk and simply want to just learn a trade? Does a child have to be a menace to society in order to learn a fair trade?
So what do we do now? It seems that the options are few, only to sit in a classroom all day and learn that college is the only road to success? Granted, vocational school may still have some traditional settings, but at least the student will be learning what she wants, which will increase her appetite to want to learn more.
Primitive learning plus no options equals a child left behind.