Our View: Education is more than the three Rs
In light of the disappointing phasing-out of the auto shop program at North Tahoe High School, it was somewhat reassuring to read that Tahoe Truckee Unified School District Superintendent Dennis Williams and his staff are hearing and hopefully understanding an oft-repeated request: Give students more vocational programs.Just as North Tahoe students and parents have voiced their dismay over the elimination actually, demolition of the auto shop at the high school, students across California are saying loud and clear that hands-on classes oriented for the real world are what they want.The reality is that not all high schoolers are heading off to leafy, idyllic university campuses after graduation. In fact, some are having a tough time hanging in until graduation because they dont see any real-world application to what they are doing.A recent study backs up that reality. Last March, a poll conducted for the James Irvine Foundation of 619 California ninth and 10th graders found that six out of 10 students werent motivated in their studies. Of the unmotivated young people, 90 percent said they believed tying classes to their future and real-world careers would inspire them to work hard and do well in school.What does all this mean? Well, in addition to the three Rs, we have to give students and not just those heading to college a full spectrum of opportunities.Thirty-nine percent of students questioned in the poll said they liked going to school and that their courses motivated them.But a large majority said they would be more interested in a school where they could take courses they need for college but also have more opportunity to acquire skills relevant to future careers. Almost all polled said they would be more motivated to work hard and do well if they attended this kind of a school, according to the Irvine Foundation.And while were learning, lets rethink the notion that shop classes are where counselors push minority students or that they are of interest only to boys. The Irvine poll, conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates, found that girls were more likely than boys to say that they would benefit from hands-on learning.This information about vocational, career, technical education or multiple pathways to success comes at a time when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has committed to spend $50 million this year to expand such programs.In a Sierra Sun story Tuesday about the situation at North Tahoe High School, Superintendent Williams said We have not tapped the potential [of our region] to give our students work experience.It appears that the students themselves have already told us that.