Real Education Includes Vocational Education

By September 5, 2008Education and Training

Charles Murray’s new book, “Real Education,” is now out. Murray is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, known for taking on issues that some prefer to gloss over. From the AEI summary of the book:

Ability varies. Children differ in their ability to learn academic material. Doing our best for every child requires, above all else, that we embrace that simplest of truths. America’s educational system does its best to ignore it.

Half of the children are below average. Many children cannot learn more than rudimentary reading and math. Real Education reviews what we know about the limits of what schools can do and the results of four decades of policies that require schools to divert huge resources to unattainable goals.

Too many people are going to college. Almost everyone should get training beyond high school, but the number of students who want, need, or can profit from four years of residential education at the college level is a fraction of the number of young people who are struggling to get a degree. We have set up a standard known as the BA, stripped it of its traditional content, and made it an artificial job qualification. Then we stigmatize everyone who doesn’t get one. For most of America’s young people, today’s college system is a punishing anachronism.

Hal Tarleton, editor of the Wilson (N.C.) Times, wrote about Murray’s arguments the other day, noting North Carolina’s mistakes on vocational education. From his column, “College Isn’t for Everyone“:

North Carolina’s community colleges started out as vocational training centers but have morphed into stepping stones to four-year degrees. They teach the academic courses needed for transfer to the university level and have dropped the “technical” name as an outdated remnant of an industrial age that no longer exists.

Meanwhile, employers are complaining that they can’t find the skilled workers for their factories and service jobs.

Judging from the description of the book, Murray does more than complain, offering substantive proposals for educational reform and improvement.


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