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Re: Sign-o-the-times

To: <>
Subject: Re: Sign-o-the-times
From: Scott Hall <>
Date: Tue, 14 Mar 2000 00:49:59 -0500 (EST)
On Sat, 11 Mar 2000, Michael D. Porter wrote:

> It is, frankly, a shame that such happens. But, the long explanation has
> to do with the educational system in this country today. Having been
> community-college level instructor twenty years ago, I've thought long
> and hard about which you allude here. Forty years ago, there were two
> main tracks in high school -- college prep, or the trades. Over time,
> with the changes in educational philosophy in this country, eventually,
> the goal was to put everyone in college. Admirable, but not entirely
> practical. The reasons for this, I think, were  sociological,
> philosophical and a matter of economics. 

well, I went to high school less than forty years ago ;-), but from my
experience, michael is exactly right.  there _were_ two tracks listed on
my h.s. class sheets, college prep. and 'other', but I have no idea what
'other' entailed, because there weren't any auto shop, metalworking, etc.
classes offered.  when I got interested in that sort of thing in h.s., I
went to a counselour and asked about taking auto shop.  I got a funny
look.  the room that was the shop in my h.s. had been converted into a
band room.  there was a *woodworking* shop class offered once a day by one
teacher, as an elective (no credit towards graduation) as opposed to
algebra/trig/calc classes offered every period (seven of them) by several
different teachers (so about 30 of each class/day).  I don't think there
were other classes besides that woodworking class, only 'dumber' versions
of academic subjects, like 'business math', or 'reading periodicals'.  so
I guess if you couldn't hack it in the advanced classes, you were screwed,
'cause you sure weren't going to be taught a trade in public school.  the
idea was that *everybody* should go to college, and if you didn't get into
a university, well, there was community college.

> Combined with that was the educational philosophy emerging in the `70s
> that there were no bad students, only bad teachers, and that everyone
> could go to college. That created a situation where the trade school
> functions were gradually shifted to the community college level.
> Community colleges discovered, in the `80s, that they had trouble
> placing people in the hard trades, and it was much easier to begin
> programs with more class, more visibility, and more likelihood of
> placing graduates in jobs--computers, nursing, A&P licensed aircraft
> mechanics. The old trades gradually withered, and high school graduates
> who didn't go to college were solely dependent upon the apprenticeship
> programs of local unions, for electricians, plumbers and pipefitters.

even the local community college fancies itself a smaller university.
there are no trade programs there, except for the nursing program.  they
started teaching classes with computers as a subject *last*year*, and
still don't have any technical computer training.  I'd love to take an
mcse program there, or web design/java programming, but they don't offer
it.  no technical training there, at all (except for nursing/dental
hygene).  what you do get is an a.a. or a.s. degree which allows you to
attend a university.  the idea is that you are always able somehow to
attend a university, and that everyone should do so.

to be fair, we do have a vo-tech here, but it is the serious trade stuff.
I looked into the welding class--it's something like 4000 (that's right
four _thousand_) hours, and costs something like $14000 to attend.  the
school is operated by the public school system, but if you have a job that
allows you to spend $14000 and 4000 hours to learn to weld, you don't need
to learn a new skill for employment.  they have financial aid packages,
but they're not very useful--you pretty much need to have most of the cash
before you sign up.  same story for aircraft maintenance, etc.  now,
if you were without prospects, would you know how to get/be willing to
spend that kind of money, just to learn a skill that might get you a
job, maybe?  think about this in the context that the community college 
*literally* right next door charges ~$35/cradit hour and financial aid
there is _very_ easy to come by.  admission is open to those with a
pulse.  the instructor I talked to when I asked about the welding class
said they cut a program about every other year due to lack of students.
they have this huge campus that must at one time have held machine shops,
paint booths, auto shops, you name it, but the whole place looks like it's
ready to be demolished.  the community college, built at the same time and
as part of the same complex, just finished a huge, multi-million dollar
expansion and renovation project, it's now bigger than one of the
universities here.  it has almost three times the number of students.

the guy I took a small machining job to earlier this month has recently
almost doubled his prices to $60/hr.  when I asked him about it, he said,
"where else you gonna take it 'round here?".  he's right, I think he's the
only one.  I'd love to learn how to really weld (I mean *really*, where
the bead looks like overlapping poker chips), and precision machine (or 
at least get competent on a lathe, mill, etc.  but from who, and where?  I
can't afford to move to kansas to attend jay leno's college, and buying a
bridgeport just to practice seems a little silly...


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