Reframing Our CTE Views

Another look at Career and Technical Education

Inn EdWeek, May 7, Mike Rose of UCLA wrote a wonderful piece that compliments my commentary of 9/27/14 on Shopcraft as Soulcraft. Rose has written a recent book entitled The Mind at Work: Valuing the Intelligence of the American Worker, and with comments that remarkably parallel those of Shopcraft as Soulcraft, he notes that the usual discussion about CTE is focused entirely on good jobs. “You will be hard pressed to find a sentence in all of this discourse that addresses intellectual or social growth, civic participation, aesthetic judgment, or the involvement in a craft tradition and the ethical stance toward work that tradition can yield.”

Skilled Trades Are Challenging, Complex Environments

His essay describes a visit to a plumbing class in which the teacher and his junior crew worked in old houses doing volunteer work to improve the plumbing. The instructor talked about the “library” of devices and fixtures the students would be discovering as they worked on the old fixtures in the home they were encountering. Rose notes that mechanics and engineers have developed “a variety of picture books and charts that classified and illustrated basic mechanisms and mechanical movements…” which are a rich resource that should “push our thinking by considering CTE in the unfamiliar but generative terms of libraries and alphabets, aesthetics and ethical traditions, for those terms reveal the kinds and range of knowledge inherent in work.”

As I’ve written before, our societal dismissal of hands-on work and the skilled trades defeats the legitimate interests and aspiration of thousands of young men and women for whom college is neither a practical option or a vocational direction. Nor is ‘college readiness’ a necessary option for a successful life after high school.

Education’s Goal Should Be Becoming

In the same EdWeek issue, Marc Prensky, of the Global Future Education Foundation and institute, writes “The Goal of Education Is Becoming.” Prensky’s commentary, I think, compliments Rose from another angle. He suggests we have over-emphasized learning for students instead of a larger goal on which educators should focus: Becoming. Prensky writes “Rather than putting so much effort into creating and implementing the common-core standards, we would do far better to design “accomplishment-based education” whereby our kids have the means to become the kinds of people we want them to be.” … “We spend so much time and effort looking at test scores … that we have little time or energy left to focus on who our student are (and are not) as individuals, what they love or hate, and what drives them.” Prensky suggests schools should focus on helping students become the “best and most capable people they can be…”

Well said, both of you.

One thought on “Reframing Our CTE Views

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *