2011-10-28 / Editorial/Opinion

Bring Back Vocational Schools

Channel 2 News had a story a week ago pointing out the fact that many businesses that need skilled machinists and other trade workers cannot find them in the United States. The story ended with a state politician calling for more vocational schools to train the skilled workers that will be needed in the future. “That’s one way to solve the jobs problem,” the politician said. “Train workers for the jobs that are available.” What a great idea! The problem is, that idea was rejected by the New York City Board of Education and the City Council 30 years ago, when vocational high schools were flourishing and thousands of kids graduated each year as plumbers, electrical workers, auto mechanics, machinists, beauticians and secretaries. In the 1970s and ’80s, however, liberal educational experts, many of whom never taught in a classroom, decided that everybody should go to college and that the vocational schools were per se racist because a high percentage of their students were minorities. Many of the programs were closed and the rest were truncated. Where once there were three high school diplomas – academic, technical/commercial and general, now there was only an academic diploma, and every student needed to pass at least five Regents tests to get that diploma. If you wonder why it is so hard to hire a plumber or electrician, that’s your answer. We were no longer training young people who did not want to go to college for those professions. We should, however, begin to do so as soon as possible. Not everybody wants to go to college, nor is everybody capable of doing collegelevel academic work. There is an old joke about a doctor who hires a plumber to do a small job in his home. When the plumber tells the doctor what it would cost and how long it would take, the doctor reacts to the news by saying “That’s more per hour than I make.” The plumber’s reply? “I know, that’s why I gave up brain surgery.” The joke is no longer funny. Bring back comprehensive vocational high schools and teach the next generation the skills they actually need to get a job and forge a career.

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