By Bisol, John L.
Techniques , Vol. 77, No. 4
I worked for a billionaire (for 10 years), who was quoted as saying that he saw no reason why anyone would ever want a computer on his or her desk. He further argued, at meetings with his engineers, that he was not going to commit company resources to some "fantasy idea" about personal computers. I'm not sure if he is a billionaire anymore, but I am writing this on a personal computer, which is on my desk.
Today, I work for a much different boss, but in my travels throughout my home state, I still run into a few people with a vision. Their vision, however, is of the past. They are comfortable with the way things "used to be." They won't change a thing about the way they do business, because everything is as it should be--as it was in 1980. In their world, nothing is written down; all knowledge has been committed to memory--their memory, to be exact. They eschew academics, because they know what's best, and that's that. Some even resort to the old "my way or the highway" theory of classroom management. They scoff at the thought that they should write lesson plans or upgrade their methodologies (that stuff is for "eggheads"). Unfortunately, some of these people are shop teachers in one or another of the 30-odd regional vocational-technical schools of Massachusetts.
Despite the fact that they are still teaching the "basic trades," the advances in educational technology, standardized testing and classroom inclusion have evolved to the point where it is imperative that students in today's career and technical schools expect new approaches to old subjects. Some instructors bristle at the suggestion that they themselves should get a degree or become certified by the state to teach. Yet the educational world is passing them by, and their choice to ignore the educational advances exposes their classroom efforts to undue criticism from parents and taxpayers who expect their students to benefit from structured education and want to see the documentation of curriculum.
Certainly, there may be only one way to teach someone to hit a nail on the head, but there must also be space in the class organization for a well-written curriculum to include instruction on building specifications, codes, zoning issues, permitting, designing and customer relations, interaction with allied trades, and the ever-present "all aspects" of the trade. The emphasis should be on related academic integration and process management.
I don't mean to infer that only carpenters suffer from the "Way We Were" syndrome. ALL trades suffer to a greater or lesser extent--it's just that carpentry came to mind.
Massachusetts is now in its 250th year of "educational reform," and there has been a whipsaw effect to all the changes. …