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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Daugaard on Education: Send Kids to Work

Among some things that catch my eye in Dennis Daugaard's just-released education plan is his focus on career and technical education (CTE) in high school. I always get nervous when folks talk about education as preparation for the workforce. In my ideal world, education is about forming a complete citizen, a well-rounded human being, not just another cog in the corporate machine. The focus on turning kids into workers is reason #347 why we plan to home-school our daughter as much as possible, to keep out her outside the walls of the factory-school.

But on CTE, Daugaard also talks about helping kids learn outside the school walls. He talks about expanding the Dakota Seeds program to find internships and job training for high school students along with the undergrads and grad students currently served. Daugaard wants kids to get high school credit for such on-the-job experiences... which is fine, assuming the kids will have time to get out and get those credits on top of the science, math, and other graduation requirements the state is fond of piling onto students.

One line I really like: "We can offer high school students valuable experiences with potential employers and save schools the expense of purchasing duplicative equipment for classroom-based training." Instead of buying a fancy auto lab or machine shop for the school district, schools could save money by sending kids out to get the same experience doing real work at Prostrollo's or Laser Cut. That's officer thinking... but I wonder: student labor for private business... does that count as a subsidy?


  1. I started working summer and part-time jobs when I was 13. It was a great experience and taught me about a good work ethic early on. My dad's generation went to work even earlier than that. It'll be good for young folks to get some real world experience earlier.

  2. While I agree with Bob that work experience in the teen years can teach a good work ethic, it can also be very distracting. I too started working at an early age, and coming from a poor family in a wealthy community,I enjoyed very much the extra money that I had from this work. By the time I was in high school, I was working a full time job in the evenings as well as going to school.The job was much more important to me and my studies faltered to the point that I barely graduated and had no desire to continue my education, I was making enough money in the workforce already and didn't believe I needed to further my studies. At this point in my life I look back and would have done things quite differently. Work ethic is important, but a well rounded education is just as important. Once a child is introduced to the workforce it can be difficult to keep them focused on their education.

  3. I can see both sides of the liberal hand-wringing fears that public education not become (only) a factory approach to turning out "worker bees". On the other hand there are plenty of young adults these days (with well-rounded, liberal educations I assume) that can't seem to find their way out of their parent's basement.
    At any rate, the real problem with this plan is that it is carefully crafted to cost nothing (to state government anyway). Meanwhile, public school districts are is desperate need of additional funds to run what they are already doing. Leadership at the state level has to at some point move beyond cheerleading and platitudes in "support" of K-12 education.

  4. Well, Ellis, that explains everything, starting with how a guy like you can write so much yet say so little.

    Gotta make it look like work, right?


  5. Christine Nelson9/15/2010 11:17 AM

    Speaking as a youngster in the Cory blog world, I don't think the idea is completely crazy. I know many of my classmates didn't want to go to college and having job skills or at least knowing what they wanted to do would have helped. Many young adults and new high school graduates lack direction and some work experience might give them some ideas. I myself knew I didn't want to be a waitress for the rest of my life. But Cory's right school isn't just about creating worker bees (although we all need a job).

    Perhaps high school should provide a life skills class. Many of my peers can't balance a check book, pay bills on time, or use a credit card wisely (really people if you have a 5K limit it doesn't mean you have to spend that much). Information on contracts, investing money, buying cars and homes would have been nice. Being well rounded means having practical life information as much as understanding higher levels of math, science or philosophy.

  6. It is a tricky issue for me, Christine. I know we need philosophy and practicality: the challenge is finding the right balance.

    On life skills, I note that a former student and debater told me one of his favorite classes at SDSU was an econ class on investments where they learned about stocks, the bond markets, all that stuff on the financial pages. Any room for that in high school?

    On working: indeed, real apprenticeships can be a great learning experience. But if we send our kids out to put in hours at some business, it needs to be a real learning experience, not just the same-old thing every day (same thing I'd expect of English class!). I also see a bad trend of more kids picking part-time jobs over sports, debate, theater, and other extracurriculars. If the kids don't really need the money, I tell them they'll have their whole lives to punch a clock for someone, but high school may be their only chance to play ball in a state championship or really dive into a theater production or travel and perform with a choir. I wonder: do we gain by moving some of that work time for learning purposes onto school hours?

  7. It takes intellect to process information, Bill. Too bad you're so short on it. I seem to remember a great man once saying something about pearls before swine...

  8. Wow, if this is the debate that is occurring school as an institution has failed.

    The point of any K-12 education should be to teach the student how to learn independently. The exact content is pointless. Learning a specific craft is a skill, not education. Education is teaching a student how to increase the speed at which they learn new skills.

    However, all people are not created equal. Some are capable of understanding more difficult topics while others are not. It does make sense to me to let individuals out of school early if they appear unable to grasp difficult topics.

  9. Ellis. Intellect? Are you serious? It doesn't take any intellect at all to process information. This computer I'm using here does it at the speed of light, and it's as dumb as a post. (Okay, maybe a grasshopper.) Kind of like some people I know.

  10. Thank you for illustrating my point...yet again.

  11. Many many moons ago.....when I was a junior in high school I participated in a similar program that was offered at my high school. The criteria was strict, the time we dedicated was equal to one class period and counted as an elective class. We did earn a pay check, of sorts, minimum wage was about 2.75 then. I think if commonsense is used to implement a prgram such as this it could be very rewarding to students. While OJT jobs were limited for us, gaining the work experience, work ethics and aiding in resume building as a teenager were crutical, not to mention memory building.
    I would support this or a similar plan.

    Patricia Stricherz


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