Magazine article Vocational Education Journal

Make Room for Dali

Magazine article Vocational Education Journal

Make Room for Dali

Article excerpt

The word is out. And this time they say it really is for real: "Our moment is at hand--vocational education has finally arrived."

It is clear that interest and enthusiasm (though not necessarily funding) for vocational-technical education programs are up--politicians are clamoring for a highly educated and high-tech workforce.

Employers, too, are jumping on the bandwagon. Businesses are slowly making more of a financial and human investment in local programs.

Teachers, too, are out in front with ideas and programs to meet the increased demand. Vocational education, in many quarters having shed the "student dumping ground" label, is winning renewed acknowledgment and status.

It may seem that the tide in education now is flowing toward the hands-on, applied methods that vo-tech always has championed. Many say the remaining years of the 1990s are going to be "our time."

Yet there is, or at least there should be, a caution. If we are up does that mean someone else is down? Is it going to be back to the same old, myopic "us versus them" mentality--with the opponent being academics? If the battle comes, will vocational education be inclined to show its dark side of yesteryear-its parochialism, its "training only" mentality its anti-intellectualism?

As vocational education climbs the ladder to new recognition, is it going to seek to step all over the "frivolous," "can't-get-a-job-in-it" English, sociology, art or music disciplines? I hope not. For to do so is wrong, foolish and counterproductive.

It is wrong to pit vocational education against academics for the simple reason that the latter belongs to "us" just as it does to everyone else. Why should students studying electronics, auto mechanics, drafting and printing be denied their art, literature, and other cultural heritage just because they are preparing for a technical career?

Our cultural achievements in the last 200 years in agriculture, architecture, civil engineering, transportation and communications tell the story of technology's impact on our lives. Vocational-technical students yearn, as do all students, for a sense of where their chosen field has been, where it is now and where it is going. This is especially true now in this fractionalized, specialized world, where our own work often is but a tiny part of a vast, worldwide undertaking. We hunger for a broad perspective to give ourselves a sense of worth and purpose. It is foolish to belittle the practicality of academics. More than ever, in the years to come vocational education will need a strong academic foundation. …

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