Academic AND Vocational Education

Sidetracking traditional education and leaning into vocational training at an early age will only exacerbate cultural division in the U.S. Much of what currently upsets under-educated Americans is that they do not understand much of what they have to deal with on a daily basis. It’s not news that people fear the unknown.

The anti-vaxxers are a perfect example—people who know nothing about viruses or how they function in the human body or how vaccines work to provide a level of immunity. So there’s all this pressure from the educated (scientists, doctors) and the government (tasked with protected public health) for people to get vaccinated, and the anti-vaxxers just feel pushed around and outraged. Conspiracy theories substitute for knowledge, that health spokespeople are on the take, that they create the virus to make money, that it’s better to take horse wormer than listen to the doctors.

Meanwhile, the virus finds unprotected human bodies to infect and starts happily mutating, a standard activity of viruses and other invisible meanies. Pretty soon the old vaccine doesn’t work against the new variant, and the anti-vaxxers say, “Ha! See?” without realizing that they are the weak link in allowing the virus to gain the upper hand. If the virus has no hosts in which to breed and mutate, the virus dies.

And so it goes.

  • The know-nothings dismiss all journalism because they don’t know the difference between legitimate journalism and fake news from ‘announcers’ who could care less about the principles of professional journalism.
  • The know-nothing avidly embraces sensational claims of wannabe tough guys like Trump whose records clearly reveals his lifelong failure in business and his bankrupt character.
  • The know-nothing passionately puts forth ad hominem arguments without understanding the principles of legitimate fact-based debate.
  • The know-nothing votes only for president because it’s the most high profile without understanding that every level of political office is essential to healthy function of our government.
  • The know-nothing hoards arms and joins with likeminded know-things in fantasizing about civil war when they can get rid of the ‘enemy’ without having any awareness of the real tragedy of civil war.
  • Worst of all, the know-nothing is defenseless against propaganda.

Living in the modern world requires that people are educated not only in math (yes, even algebra, which is not so much about remembering theorems as it is training the brain in logic) and English (grammar, spelling, literature, and essay writing all contribute to a person’s ability to read and understand as well as his/her ability to communicate with others),  but also in biology, speech, civics, and history. Our young people also need full access to learning in the arts whether music or visual arts; for some, these are the only pathways to a fruitful future. We must provide these many facets of a nourishing preparation for life.

So we need to be very careful about any ‘reforms’ to the education system or required curriculum. Yes, vocational skills are great for a significant portion of the population in terms of future jobs. There will always be a need for plumbers, electricians, carpenters, welders, car mechanics, and so forth, and these can be lucrative careers. But that alone does not equip the population to succeed in these times.

We do not need to make a choice, either/or, with our educational system. We must have both.