On Thursday the Obama Administration hosted a series of roundtables on topics that were highlighted in the President’s State of the Union Address. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sat down to answer questions from the public about education issues. Among the issues that were raised were how to balance the reform agenda with state budget shortfalls, Obama’s plan for a new ESEA, how to foster critical thinking in a time of multiple choice tests, and college access and affordability.
At the 29 minute mark, a participant from Jersey City, NJ asked “Why have high schools abandoned vo-tech programs? Plumbers, electricians, carpenters, auto mechanics all make decent livings, yet our schools do not offer young people proper education in these fields. These are the kids who choose to dropout.”
Duncan admitted that the United States “probably did a better job in the career technical training 30, 40 years ago, and somehow we lost our way a bit there.” He went on to say that we need to invest in both the careers mentioned in the question, as well as new careers that are needed in this technologically advanced age.
He went on to say that the debate about college or careers is a false one; students need both to be successful. By giving students the choice of both college and careers as early as high school and middle school, we can help keep them engaged before they drop out, and help them to figure out the right path to reach their goals.
Secretary Duncan’s response was noteworthy because he used the term “career technical training” rather than “vocational education,” as he has in many of his previous speeches and statements. This shows the progress that Secretary has made over the last two years in educating himself about CTE and that he sees it as something beyond the vocational education programs of the past.