Vocational schools may offer a needed alternative for today’s students


Vocational schools offer a chance to learn skills that students can use for the rest of their lives. | Fiona Legesse / The Cougar

There are alternative paths to a successful life that don’t involve a traditional college experience. Right now, students across the country are struggling to complete their education while carrying massive debt that will follow them for years to come. We were given the ultimatum that it’s college or nothing.

Buthere are other options. Options that we as a society have completely overlooked. One of those choices is vocational schools. Vocational schools teach non-college students valuable skills that will provide them with a source of income for the rest of their lives.

Vocational schools, however, are no longer prevalent in middle-class society. High schools no longer give students the opportunity to learn valuable skills that are not taught in colleges.

By offering no alternatives to students, society is sending the message that if they do not have the mindset required by the university, they are doomed to unemployment in their eyes. People who are not in university are therefore discouraged from pursuing studies beyond high school.

It is time to rethink our position on vocational schools.

School calendar

Before the 1950s

During this period, education was increasingly becoming a must rather than a choice for young Americans. Students would follow the three R, reading, ‘ritering and’ rithmetic, and learned business skills on the side.

The 1950s and beyond

This is when things got complicated.

From the 1950s, a new pedagogical idea appeared: students should follow academic paths according to their abilities. In other words, those who continued their college education would receive more advanced courses in reading, writing, and arithmetic. This is where the higher levels of science and math came into play.

Therefore, advanced students would never see a trade for the rest of their college life. Meanwhile, students who did not meet the standards set by higher education received poor classes and instead learned business skills.

Eventually it degenerated further into a test not of competence but of socio-economic status and race. What was once a perfectly functioning system was now marred by societal prejudices.


Education today has shifted from a mixture of academic perspectives and manual work – which could also be life skills – to purely academic studies. For public schools, institutes that cater to just about everyone of all ethnicities and socioeconomic status, students are only prepared for college, doing “college preparation.” the basic program for US standards.

Imagine a whole set of expectations based on white middle class individuals. Who knew?

Vocational school, as the type of education would be called, was relegated only to the minorities and working class students. Not that it’s bad in any way. In fact, I personally admire those who study practical skills (learning from a DIYer on YouTube is not the same).

While I also understand the value of higher education, not everyone can pay $ 127,000 for a bachelor’s degree.


Education before the 1950s was certainly an interesting time to live. There was an economic boom and schools saw a significant increase in the number of rural immigrants and applicants. This meant that the institutes had to adapt to a new group of people: the lower socio-economic class.

In 1917, the Smith-Hughes Law was passed, which allowed the US government to fund vocational education. These funds prepared the new set of students for careers that did not require the level of education enjoyed by their wealthier peers.

The school at the time not only prepared students for college in the ways we understand today, but it also provided an educational opportunity – or a lead – for people from families who simply did not have the skills. means of studying in universities. Instead, they were placed on a course that allowed them to work with their hands.

The professional sector would indeed benefit from a surplus of disadvantaged families.

Children from these less well-off families would have the opportunity to acquire new skills and improve their current living conditions and future prospects. There was a fairly distinct shift before the 1950s and after that changed job opportunities – especially within the lower socioeconomic class – for good.

Different learning styles

It goes without saying that each student entering high school is unique. Each individual has their own strengths, weaknesses, ambitions and learning styles. It may come as a shock to educators, but not everyone is good at math, not very good at English, aspiring to be the next Mozart, or not being an ace in history. Of course, there are times when students are strong in one subject but struggle in another.

They just need a little help, right?

Well, not necessarily. There are students who can’t even care about these academics. In some of their eyes, all they do is sit down, read a book, listen to a teacher talk, take notes, and then be sent home with homework.

Some people marvel at learning different concepts. Others abhor this. These students are not necessarily less competent than their theoretical peers, their brains are just wired differently. These students are stuck in the classroom with no other option. They are stuck.

But why don’t students adjust their learning styles? After all, going to college offers better job opportunities and better income opportunities. Getting a scholarship, especially for those coming from struggling families, is well worth it, in theory.

Aaccording to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, 68 percent of high school students who graduate go to university. This leaves 30 percent of graduates without sufficient professional or academic skills.

That 30 percent could benefit from some sort of vocational school. Learning to weld, repair appliances, or any other skill-based job could be a gift for life. But we are not teaching these students a skill.

Thriving jobs

High schools prepare students for college when college can be a barrier. There aren’t many other options for high school students.

Believe it or not, skilled jobs are still flourishing. And this will continue for years to come. We always need people who can do qualified work. People who work with their hands for a living are always in demand. Your plumber or mechanic or the guy who climbs the poles to maintain your internet connection are examples of people with blue collar jobs which are also flourishing.

People will always need a skilled workforce for jobs they cannot complete. There is a need to teach the next generation of students a valuable trade.

With regard to university education, vocational school is in a sour light, to such an extent that the idea of ​​learning a trade is totally out of the question for high school students who are discovering what they want to do with their career path. career. There is that kind of ‘college for all’ mindset that has been established by society, but we usually forget that college is something not everyone can afford.

Vocational schools create opportunities for students. Vocational schools provide a necessary alternative for students who may not wish to go to college, to those who believe college is not the goal. Let’s take a close look and think about whether vocational schools really are as bad as we claim.

Opinion columnist Kristin Chbeir is senior in psychology and can be reached at [email protected]

Key words: blue collar, vocational school


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