I love an “old school-new school” debate, especially when there is a “light bulb popping on” moment.


Recently I had a conversation with a male friend that was so eye-opening. We talked about the curriculum of today’s schools versus what we experienced pre-1970. Both of us remember our mandatory courses in home economics for the girls (sewing and cooking), woodshop for the boys. Both of us are old enough to remember having a trade school in the city, cosmetology classes, auto mechanics and distributive education.

The conversation started off with “can you name a person that dropped out of high school when we were in school?” I sat there and tried to remember. I couldn’t come up with one name—neither could he. On the other hand his son who is under 30 could come up with more than a dozen names of friends who dropped out of high school.

Not that we were trying to solve the problems of the school district but just some common sense ideas that seemed to be changed without serious investigation. Everyone is not meant to go to college. Often by taking a class in high school like woodshop or cosmetology a young person can see where their skills are strong and a solid future can be determined. In today’s world if you want to learn these types of skills you have to spend to the tune of $18 to $30 thousand dollars to attend a culinary school, a business school or an 18 month course that may lead to no where. Please know that this is not an assault on these schools but it is very hard for a young person to attend these schools and then try to find a job in their field and pay the loan back for the school.

I loved my cooking class and sewing class. I learned so much about following a recipe, preparing a good meal and I made clothes that were fashionable and wearable. Chemistry and biology were not for me. Many young people work better with their hands and being creative. Wouldn’t it be great to see classes in culinary arts, digital photography, customer service and retail management? The young person could get a taste of what this occupation is about before spending a large amount of money on a trade school.

Why do these seem like good ideas to us? Is it because we are on the outside looking in, perhaps glamorizing the past? Why is the drop out rate so high? What can we do, as John Q. Citizen, to close the gap in academic achievement and why should we care? According the National Education Association we can tutor and mentor a struggling student, volunteer in a school or adopt a school.

We should care because these are the young people that are waiting on us in stores, the ones who can not count back change if the computer goes down. The ones who run the words “have a nice day” into do you want to super size that. The ones that are taking care of our aging parents in the nursing home and the ones that are preparing our food in the family restaurant.

Get involved, attend a school board meeting, write to the president and let your voice be heard.

(E-mail the columnist at deb­bie­norrell@aol.com.)

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