13 thoughts on “The K-12 Failure

  1. DaveP.

    I’m not the first to point out that education in this country was a lot better before ‘education professionals’ took over.

  2. Jardinero1

    There are numerous private trade schools in this country. Many trades still have journeyman and apprenticeship routes to competency. I question stories that say there are not enough applicants to fill positions or that the applicants aren’t good enough. I would suggest that any employer who is willing to pay enough will find a tradesman good enough for any given position. I am glad the K-12 establishment has gotten out of trades training. If you don’t believe the K-12 establishment can teach kids to read and write, do you want them teaching kids something where lives might be at stake, like pipe fitting, welding and electrical. And do you really think the K-12 establishment can plan with any certainty what trade programs are the most useful to their graduates?

      1. Robin Goodfellow

        I’d settle for ensuring basic literacy and cursory knowledge of algebra. That might as well be rocket science for the average HS grad these days.

      2. Jardinero1

        I hear you but there is no information feedback mechanism in the K-12 establishment other than the bi-annual school board election. Teachers and administrators in the public schools really have no clue what trades are in demand and decisions about what trades to teach will be politically driven and not market demand driven.

        1. Rand Simberg Post author

          Again, no one is advocating that the schools teach specific trades — employers will do that through apprenticeships. Just that they should provide the basics, and stop denigrating them.

      3. Daver

        Part of this may be a litigation problem. My school had shop & small engine repair and home ec and basic electricity and (through the local community college) welding and some farm equipment repair. My daughter’s school has none of these. I’m guessing that at least part of the problem is that the school doesn’t want its little victims to get hurt if it might be liable.l

  3. Larry J

    I don’t know how widespread it is but Huntsville, Alabama has operated a good high school vocational program for decades. My father taught carpentry there about 40 years ago. Students interested in vocational education attend their regular high school half a day and spend the other half at the trade school. They do this for 3 years, which is far better than simply having a one-period shop class for a semester. In that amount of time, they can learn some meaningful skills in a variety of trades and most graduates have little trouble finding jobs.

    Of course, the regular education establishment doesn’t like this program because they see it as money that could be spent on their “college for everyone” curriculum instead. They’ve tried to close the trade school over the past several years but the business community has fought back. We’ll see how long this continues.

    I’ve talked to several of my coworkers from other communities and they had similar programs. Maybe this is mostly a “southern thing.” Some other places have arrangements with local community colleges to allow high school students to take vocational training classes for credit towards graduation.

  4. T.L. James

    How much of this is motivated by blind parental preference for the higher economic status of kids with college degrees (any college degrees)?

    I started junior high in 1981, and even then voc-ed and shop classes were looked down on as “prole”. A constant refrain of the Occupuds was that they were “cheated” by this expectation that they had to get a college degree in order to Be Somebody.

    Pity. I’d be a better engineer now had I taken some machine-shop classes in high school.

  5. Robin Goodfellow

    The travesty of public K-12 education has become a huge burden on the last 2 generations. A high school diploma is no longer a guarantee of literacy, fundamental mathematical competency, etc. And for those reasons employers for pretty much any “knowledge worker” or white collar job have had to rely on college admissions and graduation as a necessary prerequisite credential. Sometimes a job posting will call for “some college” or “any college degree” as a requirement. This is because these are the only ways to avoid having to sift through applicants who lack knowledge of remedial English et al.

    These escalating credential requirements mean that more and more workers are finding it necessary to put themselves into debt in order to get the college experience that is now necessary for so many high paying jobs. Worse yet, because they’ve been let down by the K-12 system and lack the basic skills that a high school diploma should guarantee often times they have to spend time working through remedial math and English courses. Here they are effectively paying out of their own pocket to complete the education that they should have received in public school.

    The combination of these factors is delaying the entry into the job market of many newly minted adults and saddling them with student loan debt, putting them at an economic disadvantage.

  6. George Turner

    My best friend started a non-profit program called Newton’s Attic, where I spend much of my time. It’s aimed at teaching budding engineers and scientists how to build things, including skills like designing, machining, welding, robotics, and other essentials. He has trailers that he can drive to schools and set up as mobile machine shops.

    One of the volunteers one year was a girl who was finishing up her degree in mechanical engineering, prior to going into aeronautical. She recounted that one of her professors asked her class if anyone had any welding experience, and she was the only one who raised her hand, and that was because she’d learned how to weld in an art class.

    Something has gone horribly wrong when the art students are being taught hand’s-on metal fabrication (because they’re artists) and the engineers are not (because universities don’t want to turn out “mechanics”).

    As a side note, companies keep donating CNC machines, lathes, grinders, and huge CNC plasma cutters to him. Last week someone dropped off an EDM machine, which I’ll have to gut because the electronics are obsolete (it uses tapes) and he wants to turn it into a 3-D printer.

    Anyway, it turns out that a lot of parents want their children to be able to handle tools, from hand saws to CNCs to controlling robotic vehicloes via TCP/IP, and then go on to be engineers.

    The latest construction project they’ve got going is building a single-seat replica Neiuport 28 biplane with a 9-cylinder 150-HP Rotec radial engine, being built for a doctor who already owns a P-51D. Fun stuff.

  7. Tony G.

    I attended every shop class offered in the St. Louis county public school I attended. I learned valuable skills in every one, and the vocational welding class my senior year was the most useful. (I still have and use the engine hoist I made for extra credit in 1987).

    It pains me that all of that is gone now. Those skills put food on the table when my aerospace job went tango uniform.

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