During my sophomore year at Proviso West High School in Hillside, Ill., my guidance counselor, Mr. Gusloff, refused my request to take auto shop because I was college-bound, he said, and my presence in a vocational program would take space needed by a student who was not so destined. I was disappointed, and I felt then, as I still do, that he was wrong to pigeon-hole me and limit my options, but I had no choice but to accept his decision. I never even told my parents, both of whom held Ph.D.s. They would have only shrugged their shoulders, anyway. This was before parents were “involved” with their kids.
Back then (the 1960s), nearly every high school in America, and especially those that served lots of kids from blue-collar households, offered vocational education. In addition to auto shop, Proviso offered machine shop, woodworking, plumbing and other trades. Today, despite the fact that America still needs mechanics, machinists and plumbers, and despite the fact that (political incorrectness alert) some kids, for various reasons, simply are not college material, it is the rare high school that offers vocational education.
Which is one reason why the outstanding bill for government-issued college loans currently stands at, in round numbers, one trillion dollars, a good amount of which will never be repaid. It also goes a long way toward explaining why more than 5 million jobs are going begging in the United States. My solution would be to require high school guidance counselors to assume half the college loan debt of former students whom they should have told “Sorry, but you aren’t college material,” but didn’t. If their bad advice cost them something, perhaps they’d think twice before doling it out.
Parents want their kids to go to college, because they like to brag about their kids and they believe college equates success. High school guidance counselors are also given incentives to encourage college and help kids obtain acceptance letters. School administrators like to brag, too, about how many of their graduates go to college. They never talk about the number who don’t finish, finish with crippling debt, or can’t find jobs after graduation.
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The high school dropout rate has declined to around 7 percent, but the number is misleading, because, a good number of students drop out but still occupy desks. Vocational-tech would promote student motivation, increase literacy and significantly reduce dropout rates. Reducing dropout rates would reduce crime, drug use and other social ills.
Then there’s the matter of the jobs that are waiting for the kids in question. Employment opportunities in skilled trades for high school graduates who aren’t college material are the best possible antidote to poverty. Employment reduces crime and drug use, and also fosters the formation of families, thus promoting responsible child-rearing. In short, the societal benefits of vo-tech are numerous and far-reaching.
Every American, regardless of political persuasion, should get behind President Trump’s plan to reinstate vocational education in America’s high schools. I’m certain that if he was still alive, Mr. Gusloff would.
Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents’ questions on his website, Rosemond.com.
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