Trade and Technical Education

Jack - Culver City, California
Entered on April 26, 2009

One major misconception of education in the United States is that every student should be taught the same curriculum. The current educational system ignores the need for trade and technical education. I believe that a change in focus of the education system can reduce the number of people in poverty and help strengthen the economy.

I grew up in a middle class family in West Los Angeles with parents who understood the importance of a good education. My older sister attended private school her entire life. I was on a similar path, but due to changes in my parents’ employment status, I had to switch to public schools, spending 11 years in public schools, including all of high school and college. My public education was invaluable in shaping my views on life.

While attending a 3,000-student public school, I began to realize that the current mandatory curriculum was not meant for everyone. As early as the ninth grade, it is apparent when a student is unmotivated to learn. Having unmotivated students mixed into the classroom setting hinders the academic progress of both the unmotivated student and the other students in the class.

Trade and technical education has vastly been replaced in the public school system by a more traditional curriculum. One major argument against trade education is that it is racist, but I have heard the racist argument thrown around as an excuse for many student motivational problems at my high school. This decline in trade education has followed the shifting focus of the American economy towards an information based economy and further away from manufacturing.

It is unrealistic to expect every student to excel at the same collegiate preparatory curriculum. It is also unrealistic to expect those that struggle in high school to continue their education after either graduating or dropping out. There are trade schools for post-secondary education, but at this point it may be too late for most people who do not have the time or money to attend. This is why it is essential for trade and technical education to be integrated into the public high school system.

People with trade based education are able to be productive members of our society and in some cases earning as much or more money than people who went to college. For this reason trade education allows for more people to move into the middle class and increase their spending power, which in turn strengthens the American economy.

Students should be given the option to enroll in a trade and technical tract as early as ninth grade. This alternative curriculum will still have a handful of relevant academic classes, but will have different graduating standards than the college prep tract. At the same time, it is important to remove the negative view of this alternative curriculum as less important than pure academics, because this will discourage students from pursuing such education. I believe we need to change this misconception of what is proper education.