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Schwartz  Interview                                                                                    Please take one minute to evaluate our website. Click here to take the survey.

These comments are responses to the Civic Caucus interview with

Robert Schwartz, Professor Emeritus, Harvard Graduate School of Education
February 11, 2015

Does a strict focus on academic education come
at the expense of adequate career/technical preparation?

Overview

According to Harvard Professor Emeritus Robert Schwartz, the rise of the standards system in U.S. K-12 education has led to increased pressure on schools to devote more time to core academics at the expense of vocational education. By their mid-20s, only 32 percent of young Americans have graduated from a four-year postsecondary institution. Yet, those four-year colleges and universities are the ones influencing standards for high school graduation.

Schwartz says strong vocational education systems in certain other countries, especially those with the strongest youth apprenticeship programs, help kids make a successful transition from adolescence to adulthood. He believes the U.S. system keeps kids in adolescence longer than they need to be. He points to Switzerland's system as a good example of a system that supports the learning and development of young people and helps them through the transitional years. He notes that the Swiss and German apprenticeship systems are mainstream systems, preparing students for white-collar careers in high tech or banking, as well as for traditional blue-collar trades.

He believes Americans have always seen vocational education as a second-class system for kids who can't do academic work. As a result, vocational education in comprehensive high schools has withered away and we've behaved as if college were the destination for all. Schwartz says all kids could benefit from much earlier exposure to all kinds of career options and the kinds of training and education that can get them to those careers. He endorses graduating students from high school with both certified, structured work experience and experience taking courses on college campuses.

For the complete interview summary see: Schwartz interview

Response Summary: Average response ratings shown below are simply the mean of all readersí zero-to-ten responses to the ideas proposed and should not be considered an accurate reflection of a scientifically structured poll.

To assist the Civic Caucus in planning upcoming interviews, readers rated these statements about the topic on a scale of 0 (strongly disagree) to 5 (neutral) to 10 (strongly agree): 

1. Topic is of value. (9.3 average response) The interview summarized today provides valuable information or insight.

2. Further study warranted. (8.6 average response) It would be helpful to schedule additional interviews on this topic.

Readers rated the following points discussed during the meeting on a scale of 0 (strongly disagree) to 5 (neutral) to 10 (strongly agree): 

3. Schools over-emphasize academics. (9.3 average response) High schools are wrongly prejudicing students' future plans by giving too much emphasis to academic education at the expense of career/technical education.

4. 4-year universities have too much influence. (8.5 average response) This emphasis on academics results from excessive influence on high school course offerings from four-year universities, which graduate not more than one-third of young people.

5. Address career options, qualifications early. (9.4 average response) It's essential that youth be exposed early to a wide range of career options and to the training and education needed to pursue those careers.

6. Offer applied learning via apprenticeships. (8.6 average response) Employers and education leaders in Minnesota should emulate apprenticeship-based applied learning offered in countries such as Switzerland to help students make a successful transition from adolescence to adulthood.

7. Workforce intermediary needed. (7.4 average response) Minnesota needs a workforce intermediary organization that sits between employers and high schools and colleges to help set up internships and apprenticeships.

Response Distribution:

Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree

Neutral

Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

1. Topic is of value.

0%

0%

0%

44%

56%

9

2. Further study warranted.

0%

0%

11%

44%

44%

9

3. Schools over-emphasize academics.

0%

0%

0%

44%

56%

9

4. 4-year universities have too much influence.

0%

0%

0%

56%

44%

9

5. Address career options, qualifications early.

0%

0%

0%

44%

56%

9

6. Offer applied learning via apprenticeships.

0%

0%

0%

67%

33%

9

7. Workforce intermediary needed.

0%

11%

11%

56%

22%

9

Individual Responses:

Dennis L. Carlson (10) (10) (7.5) (10) (10) (7.5) (7.5)
1. Topic is of value. Timely topic.

2. Further study warranted. Jessica Lipa (STEP Director at Anoka-Hennepin) will be a great resource and interview on this topic.

3. Schools over-emphasize academics. We do not spend enough time and effort respecting multiple intelligences among our students and developing tests that would recognize and reveal those unique gifts. Also, as much as employers want our students to excel in soft skills (honesty, respect, punctual, work ethic) our current tests would not reflect that.

4. 4-year universities have too much influence. Our academic system and our HS testing system are both developed for 4-year institutions who successfully serve one third of its students. Not to mention the resulting high student debt and underemployed (or unemployed) college graduates.

5. Address career options, qualifications early. Beginning at the middle school level.

6. Offer applied learning via apprenticeships. Partnerships between businesses and high school career and tech staff are essential. Customized training partnerships (for local businesses) between high schools and community colleges should also be encouraged.

My belief is that high schools must provide concurrent enrollment opportunities so that high school students can obtain one to two years of college credit as they graduate. That means that many students could graduate from high school with a marketable job skill and go directly into the work force with no accumulated college debt. Work experience opportunities, apprenticeships, and mentoring would all be important components. As much as I agree with Bob Schwartz that getting students into the college environment is a good one to encourage early college experiences, I would not want our high school students to totally leave the high school setting. We need those students in our high schools to be positive leaders, to be good academic role models, to be students who respect and celebrate diversity, and help to maintain student safety and well being.

Anonymous (10) (10) (10) (10) (7.5) (7.5) (5)

Michael (10) (7.5) (10) (7.5) (10) (7.5) (2.5)
3. Schools over-emphasize academics. Many jobs do not require a 4-year degree but do require specialized training. If teenagers get some work experience and get excited about a field/career they will be willing students and see a connection [to] their future.

4. 4-year universities have too much influence. Colleges and universities should be required to publish the jobs prospects for all majors they offer, including what percentage of graduates got hired in their field within 12 months, how many are still working in the field after 3 or 5 years, starting salary [and salary] after 3 or 5 years, what students that didn't get hired in their field are doing, etc.

5. Address career options, qualifications early. From middle school on students need to be exposed to a wide variety of jobs and career. There should be semi annual career fairs in high schools. At least 50% of the careers would not require a 4-year degree. Businesses that have a shortage of workers that need 6-month to 2-year training programs should be a focus of at least one career fair per year.

7. Workforce intermediary needed. This should be part of the services all high schools, colleges and 2-year trade schools offer. For smaller schools this could be offered online .

Peter Hennessey (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na)
Again, not a word about Common Core, which only casts the problem in deeper, thicker concrete.

Nevertheless, it is refreshing to see that someone from ACHIEVE, INC. (one of the co-conspirators who brought us Common Core) lays out the philosophical and practical argument against Common Core. If a State wants to engage [in] truly meaningful education reform, perhaps they should heed the advice of people like this one, and recognize that it is simply illogical and counterproductive to insist that everyone go to college, because not everybody has the innate intelligence, temperament and predisposition for the academic life or the academic point of view on life's challenges.

When the current generation of retirees were high school and college age, vocational/practical education was available in high school -- auto, wood and metal shop, welding, home economics, business office skills, music, art, etc. You did not have to wait, and pay extra, to get those courses in community college. The Common Core standards mention none of these areas, even though they are supposedly intended to make kids college and career ready.

Larry Schluter (9) (9) (9) (9) (9) (9) (7)
This problem has been discussed before and nothing ever happens to develop this system which is disappointing. In Europe many students go to a technical school and then on to a university to get a degree in engineering or some other line. Hopefully we will see some movement in this concept in the future.

David Detert (9) (5) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10)
I struggled with this when I was on a local school board and felt that vocational education should start by age 13-14, include year round school especially in areas with a high percentage of children from social chaos, poverty, language barriers and the like (which would now include most Minnesota schools) with the idea that secondary education would be over at age 16. Follow this would be ongoing free education for two years of technical or academic schooling after high school. I could never find an audience or way of achieving this.

Vici Oshiro (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na)
Long ago kids were more likely to work with and follow parents' career paths. Today they need to learn adulthood in a different environment. Schwartz's suggestions seem reasonable.

Mina Harrigan (10) (10) (8) (6) (10) (10) (10)

Chuck Lutz (8) (7) (9) (8) (9) (10) (8)

Frederick Zimmerman (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na)
Varsagod.

James Fuller (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na)
This guy is carrying the flag for the economic elite who want a trained work force and most definitely do NOT want an educated populace, which tends to question the primacy of the rich guys.

Wayne Jennings (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (9) (9)
Most sensible speaker ever on this topic. I have heard high school principals say much the same thing for forty years.

Marianne Curry (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na)
In my opinion, the experimental charter school programs produce a mixed result at best with very little accountability for outcomes. They simply drain resources away from our public school system. My son Christopher spent a year in the Swiss system, which is a very practical model for matching student gifts to vocational choices and workplace demand. But in America, depressed minimum wages for technical jobs are holding the economy hostage.

And there is a direct relationship between the federal student loan guarantees and the inflationary costs for tuition. With the federal backup, higher education institutions have had no incentive to keep costs affordable during the past 20 years. Meanwhile, student loan debts prevent the next generation from investing in homes, etc., which impacts consumer spending directly. If America can afford a half trillion annual military budget, it is only a matter of will to forgive student loans as a strategy for boosting the economy.

Look what happened post WW II with GI bill invested in an entire generation, which led to a booming economy in the 50ís and 60ís. Student debt is bogging America down. It is no mystery. We are going to see shortages of doctors, nurses, teachers and technical workers as the boomers retire.

And Congress refuses to solve the problem of Social Security funding by raising the rate of worker contributions and retirement age. The solution is simple and could be implemented incrementally.

I do not believe the competitive model in education is appropriate, since our constitution requires this as a basic right of all citizens. These observations of mine go way beyond your set of questions.

Tom Spitznagle (8) (9) (10) (6) (9) (7) (8)

 

The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Interview Group  includes persons of varying political persuasions,
reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

  John S. Adams, David Broden, Audrey Clay, Janis Clay, Pat Davies, Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje (Executive Director), Randy Johnson, Sallie Kemper, Ted Kolderie,
Dan Loritz (Chair), Tim McDonald, Bruce Mooty, John Mooty, Jim Olson, Paul Ostrow, Wayne Popham, Dana Schroeder, Clarence Shallbetter, and Fred Zimmerman

 

 

 


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The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
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Dan Loritz, chair, 612-791-1919   ~   Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.
 

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