Meridian Star


August 12, 2012

Why don't schools offer vocational programs earlier?


    Intelligence plus character,  that is the goal of true education. Dr. Martin Luther King made this statement over 50 years ago.

    Imagine a teacher sitting behind a desk, with seven students standing in front of him.

    The students consist of a crow, tiger, bear, elephant, goldfish in a bowl, seal and a puppy. There is a large tree standing behind them. The teacher tells the students, “For a fair selection everybody has to take the same exam: Please climb that tree.”

    This comes from a journal “Our Education System.” It was created by Diane Morim. This pretty much covers the educational problem in a nut shell.

    My interest is children and their education. My ideas may be a little off base to some, but I believe them to be common sense. I have sent this message to several of our state and federal officials.

    I am hoping to initiate some meaningful dialogue leading to constructive changes in curricula in the lower grades that may affect the entire country.

    I was under the impression that all of our state (Mississippi) vocational classes started in the 10th grade — not true — 70 percent of our vocational programs start classes in the 9th grade, while 14 percent start in the 7th grade.     Imagine how many kids would consider staying in school versus dropping out if they had the option of starting vo-tech in a lower grade.

    Why don’t more schools start their vocational programs at the 7th grade level? It has become necessary to include more technology and computer literacy courses to become more in line with the needs in the workplace.

    As a teenager, I visited a junior high school in York, Ala. This school was equipped with state-of-the-art classrooms, awesome athletic facilities and a vocational curriculum that offered an outstanding array of programs geared to help develop teenagers into productive young men and women.

    The needs of all the students were being met. This was a black segregated school and George Wallace was the governor of Alabama. This school could have easily been a prototype for the successful modern school.  

    Somewhere, someone or group decided to carry education in a different direction, which was partially understandable considering the times. In 1957, Russia launched the first satellite into space and set off an academic panic in America called the Sputnik Crisis.  

    Increased emphases were placed on math and science courses and educating all of our children was no longer a priority. Many of our vocational courses were abandoned and replaced with advanced math and science classes.     Once the quest to the moon was completed, we realized there had been a high failure rate amongst low socioeconomic groups. Rather than adjust the curriculum to include more hands-on courses for the children who lack an aptitude for math and science, we decided to use a curriculum heavily laden with college preparatory courses.

    We must all agree our jails are filled with poorly educated inmates, many of whom are under the age of 25. Most educators would also agree there is a correlation between a lack of education and crime.

    Today in Mississippi, do we build new state-of-the-art prisons because we have a high crime rate or because we anticipate a high crime rate? If it is the latter, then public education plays a major role.

    I have been accused of being an advocate for the creation of a permanent second class citizenry when I speak out for truck driving schools, courses in plumbing, concrete finishing, electric wiring, weatherizing and roofing, carpentry, auto mechanics and jobs in the field of technology, all of which have the potential of paying more than a teacher with a master’s degree.  

    We are talking about head of household, active father, and community involvement. Is this a second class citizen? I think not!

    Mississippi is ranked last or near last in public education and has been for many years. How can we consider making cuts to education, when there is money available in a so-called “rainy-day fund?" People it is raining! It is raining hard.  

    If I didn’t know any better, I would think we are purposely undermining efforts to improve education. We need to diversify our public education programs to ensure that all young people graduate from school with knowledge and skills needed to become successful adults.

    Unless we truly make a commitment to educate all of our children, the repercussions will be felt far and wide. We need a comprehensive educational plan for rural children.


Coach J Ted Williams

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