Joe Klein has an article in Time magazine (May 14, 2012) entitled “Learning that Works” on vocational education. The most arresting information: Students in these programs do better on state comprehensive tests, graduate from high school at a higher rate and go on to post-secondary education also at a higher rate than nonvocational students. Of course. If for no other reason than CTE (Career and Technical Education) courses immerse their students in the physical world – an environment that provides immediate feedback and accepts no excuses. Mis-suture a sheep or leave a bolt untightened and the consequences are harsh. The world of a teenager is physical – tactile and kinetic. Young people are in optimum condition for learning any hands-on practical knowledge. And the concrete world enforces its own discipline requiring close attention, consistency, planning and self-confidence. These traits are also necessary for success in life and for success as a student of any kind. So, of course Voc Ed students can be and are also successful in their academic endeavors.
On a personal note, a zillion years ago I dropped out of graduate school. As I now understand it, I was depressed. I call those few years of knocking around the country my “hippy years” without the drugs. But really that was the time I found myself – at least myself in the physical world. I worked in factories, on farms and in restaurants and any other place that would take me. I learned to cut felt, dry tobacco, and cook Chinese style. I learned to knit, to sew and to repair my possessions. I particularly acquired good carpentry skills and developed enough confidence to build a stone house and also enough confidence to stand up in front of a classroom of strangers and start my teaching career.