Joe Klein has an article in Time magazine on vocational education, an idea that seems to be gaining momentum. Klein points out that although vocational education is a “tough sell” (costs too much money for the Republicans, Democrats would prefer to send everyone to college), the potential gains are not limited to the direct on-the-job training vocational education provides. By teaching students through the far more motivating lens of hands-on learning, Klein argues, vocational training also improves general student abilities.
Klein’s article is heavy on anecdote and light on data, but vocational education seems to be becoming attractive to schools caught in the vice of both increasingly rigorous national standards and demands to maintain or increase graduation rates. Programs that give mediocre, marginal, or unmotivated students direct working experience, allowing them to transition directly into their careers without the expense and risk of a college education, look like a good way out of the current impasse.
Although Klein’s article, with its emphasis on sweat and physical contact, seems a long way away from the growing world of online educational technology, a strong case could be made for synergy between the two trends. New educational technologies can shorten the distance between school and workplace, so that, without having to build new million dollar learning centers, or import professionals across the country, schools can provide their students with valuable practical working experience.