A few interesting things have come across my path of late. First of all, the American Welding Society and WEMCO have honored Mike Rowe with their 2015 Excellence In Welding award. It's good to see Mr. Rowe receiving recognition for all he does to promote not only welding but vocational education and honest, hard work.
Related to this, Senator Marco Rubio stated in the presidential debates that there needs to be some changes made to higher education, including elevating vocational education to a higher level, stating that we need more welders and fewer philosophers. I've got nothing against philosophers but in light of what's been going on lately on college campuses, I don't think they've been carrying their own weight to promote free speech and the open debate of ideas. Having practiced and taught the craft of welding for almost 50 years, I'm certainly biased towards the welding camp but I think Senator Rubio is correct. We need more welders and, more importantly, we need to hold vocational education in a higher regard. All of us in the field owe Mike Rowe a debt of gratitude for his efforts in doing just that.
Friday's Wall Street Journal had an editorial piece titled "Why Students Need to Sit Up and Pay Attention" by Eva Moskowitz. Ms. Moskowitz is the founder and CEO of Success Academy Charter Schools. According to Ms. Moskowitz, Success Academy has a 95% pass rate on the state math test where only 20% of the regular public school students do in the neighborhoods where the Success Academy schools are located. Regardless of your feelings towards charter schools, those are numbers that are hard to ignore. To what does she attribute this high success rate? The pedagogical techniques of a Mr. Paul Fucaloro.
Mr. Fucaloro was brought in as a teacher trainer and much of the success of Success is due to his insistence that students need to sit up and pay attention in class. There is more to it, of course, and the editorial goes on to explain it in more detail but it's all pretty simple. The editorial doesn't go into what happens to students who refuse to cooperate and I think this could be a major problem at the public schools. The high school where I last worked was always overly concerned about the State's grading system. Too many suspensions or expulsions and the school's grade would be lowered. Have to keep the graduation rate up, don't you know. If that is going to be the main driving force along with the "BIG Test" how are you going to get little Johnny to stop texting his buddy, sit with his hands clasped and pay attention to the teacher and his fellow students? I went out to breakfast with some former colleagues Saturday morning and apparently during the Veterans Day convocation at the high school, not only were some of the students using their phones, but several teachers were as well. Obviously there's a problem there.
I think the pendulum is starting to swing back towards reason in education. With the efforts of people like Mike Rowe and Sen. Rubio, vocational is getting a much deserved second look and with the success of Success Academy Charter schools maybe the old fashioned tried and true teaching methods will be making a comeback as well. Definitely time for a change.