Vocational education needed more than ever

The wealthiest nations of the world are hard pressed to find enough skilled workers (“Wealthy Nations Compete To Lure Foreign Workers,” The New York Times, Nov. 24). The U.S. is in need because it does not accord vocational education the respect it deserves.

We continue to tell young people that they have a bleak future unless they go to college.  Once there, too many major in subjects that leave them unprepared for the jobs most in demand.  Other countries, like Germany, have long given vocational education great attention. As a result, Germany has a very low unemployment rate for young people.

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Music and art education is essential

In our obsession with teaching the 3 R’s, we forget that music and art are no less important (“The art of a rounded education: As NYC schools work to counter learning loss, they must offer more music and art,” New York Daily News, Nov. 24). In fact, they often are the difference between students graduating and dropping out.

Unfortunately, music and art are seen as frills.  When I was teaching English in the Los Angeles Unified School District, I saw how excited students were about their musical instruments and art projects. It would be a pity to overlook arts education as schools return to normal.

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Legacy admissions no worse than affirmative action

Giving a leg up to children of alumni for college admissions is unfair, but so is racial affirmative action (“Unfairness 101: End college legacy admissions giving advantage to alumni children,” New York Daily News, Nov. 22).  Yet is only legacy admissions that is attacked.

The only basis for admission to college should be pure merit.  Cal Tech is the only university that admits students that way.  It has resulted in an undergraduate population that is heavily Asian.  I say so be it.  If Asians excel, let them be rewarded by admission.

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Finally, justice for U.C. lecturers

For too long lecturers, who teach one-third of undergraduate courses at the University of California system, were treated shabbily.  But a new contract gives them an average 30 percent pay raise over a five-year period., as well as four weeks of family leave at full pay plus other benefits (“Strike averted, UC lecturers gather to rejoice,” Los Angeles Times, Nov. 18).

It’s long overdue because without them UC couldn’t possibly function.  Tenured professors complain about their pay, but the truth is that lecturers carry so much of the load.  Let’s hope the victory spreads to other colleges and universities across the country.

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Parents are ultimately in charge

One of the strengths, as well as one of the weaknesses of education in this country, is local control. That’s why parents are so outraged over their treatment by their boards of education (“Now that school parents are finally being taken seriously, here’s what’s got to change,” New York Post, Nov. 15).

In the final analysis, parents know what is best for their own children.  Deprived of choice, they are going to push back.  The controversy over critical race theory is the latest example.  Instead of teaching the basics, school boards are indoctrinating students with victimization.

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Fads in teaching math harm students

Students in this country continue to post scores on tests of international competition in math far below those by Asian countries.  Could that be because of pedagogical fads in teaching math (“California Tries to Close the Gap in Math, but Sets Off a Backlash,” The New York Times, Nov. 4)?

Few subjects have undergone such swings.  The “new math” of the 1960s was sold as more conceptual, but it failed to move the needle on test scores.  Then there was collaborative problem solving, which also failed to do much.

It would be interesting to see what would happen if teachers here adopted the approach taken by their Asian colleagues in teaching math.  I’ll bet that scores would improve.

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Great books have no place in college today

There was a time when an undergraduate liberal arts degree meant something.  But with the exception of a handful of schools, courses based on the Great Books have been eliminated because they are seen as promoting a white-supremacist version of history and culture (“ ‘Rescuing Socrates’ Review: Great Books, Greatly Missed,” The Wall Street Journal, Nov. 8).

The losers are students who graduate unable to think clearly and write persuasively.  That’s because they’ve majored in such slush subjects as gender studies.  They’ve been exposed to nothing that remotely qualifies as an education.  Instead, they’ve been indoctrinated.

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Liberal arts no guarantee of critical thinking

The debate over the choice of an undergraduate major today most often comes down to its marketable value (“Should Aspiring Entrepreneurs Major in Business?” The Wall Street Journal, Nov. 4).  The usual argument is that majoring in the liberal arts is more helpful than majoring in business because it provides grounding in generalist skills and ways of thinking.

But I question whether majors such as gender studies, for example, achieve that goal.  From what I see, students who get a bachelor’s degree in these slush majors lack the ability to express themselves.  That’s because they’ve never been exposed to contrary ideas. As a result, they lack the ability to analyze a given argument either in writing or orally. Therefore, what they’ve received is not education but indoctrination.

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Ministerial exception is abused

Although federal and state laws prohibit employers from discrimination, Catholic schools continue to do so by claiming ministerial exception (“A Gay Music Teacher Got Married. The Brooklyn Diocese Fired Him.” The New York Times, Oct. 27).  The latest example is a music teacher and parish music director who was fired when he married his boyfriend.

The trouble is that the Catholic church can now fire anyone it wants by labeling the employee a minister. That’s outrageous, but it seems that the courts have gone along with the charade. 

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The school safety agent controversy

Despite the existence of violence in schools, the presence of safety agents remains highly controversial (“Guns, knives and kids: Yes, New York City needs school safety agents,” New York Daily News, Oct. 27).  You’d think that they would be welcome, but out-of-touch politicians and others claim they should be removed.

In today’s highly litigious society, schools that follow such advice will be sued and students will be victimized. What is needed is better training for school safety agents.  But sometimes physical force is needed as a last resort.  That’s unfortunate, but is a recognition of reality.

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