Twenty-five years ago Education Secretary T. H. Bell presented to his boss, President Reagan the report of the National Commission on Excellence in Education, entitled “A Nation at Risk”. It’s findings were a shock to both Bell and Reagan.
“The educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a nation and as a people,” it warned. “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.”
I would be hard put to say that we have made much progress in 25 years. The same forces of inertia control the agenda of education. What can be done? Are we teaching the right subjects?
I throw out one more piece of data that complicates the matter. The conventional wisdom is that you are doomed without a college education and yet more than 30% of high school students drop out before graduation. But Manpower, Inc just released their list of the top ten hardest jobs to fill.
2. Machinists/Machine Operators
3. Skilled Manual Trades
5. Sales Representatives
6. Accounting & Finance Staff
9. IT Staff
10. Production Operators
Could it be that we have drunk our own “knowledge society” kool-aid and are neglecting the manual arts training aspect of high school for those that could fill most of these jobs?