Thursday, December 23, 2004
More thoughts at Cold Spring Shops and Shot in the Dark. In the latter, Mitch talks up vo-techs, which work for many people at first. I had this discussion with someone writing an article for MnSCU on how the system could help with jobs in manufacturing. The problem is that training for a particular job allows you to get ... a particular job. My son is learning to be a chef, and I suppose that's a job that will always be there, but the nature of jobs will change regardless because economies evolve. You would think my job is the same as when I became a professor in the mid-1980s, but I'm doing most of my work now on a laptop with a wireless connection sitting in a coffee shop or in my basement. In general vocational education will help with training for jobs that exist now; they are much less helpful with jobs that will occur. I tried to impress in that interview that there's a need for people to be trained for a flexible set of potential tasks.
If we're to "college-educate everybody" it is going to be at places like mine, and a school that pays lip-service to critical thinking while engaging in indoctrination isn't going to be much more help than technical training. Students still think reactively, waiting to be told how to fix a term paper to get an 'A' (of course they should all have 'A's, it's good for their self-esteem!) rather than exploring the boundary between knowing and ignorance. Mitch argues that we should "Encourage more of our society to seek further development of everything that makes them a person - their minds, their skills, and whatever it is that drives them." But I don't know that we are doing that here or at technical colleges.