How important is a college education?
Regarding Walt Gardner's Sept. 3 Opinion piece, "College is not a must": Although courses of study may be labeled "college prep," it does not mean that is necessarily the track the student needs to be on. It should be named "career prep," since the rigor of the studies is what the overwhelming amount of jobs require just to get by in today's world of work.
The inference made about "plumbers, electricians, and auto mechanics" not necessarily needing a strong secondary-education background is ridiculous. Most apprenticeships in these trades require Algebra I as a minimum requirement for entry. Show me an electrician who can get by on the job without the ability to transpose the formula for Ohm's law or a carpenter, plumber, pipe fitter, sheet-metal worker, or ironworker without the ability to use the Pythagorean theorem.
Reference to "our competitors abroad" understanding and accepting "the fact that students can have a productive and gratifying career even when they do not go on to some form of tertiary education" is misleading. The rigor in foreign education has been shown to be much higher than ours.
We need to do whatever it takes to have a workforce, at all levels, that is able to think, reason, and apply knowledge and skill to the jobs of today. It may not take a degree, but it definitely takes an education.
Eugene W. Stepanik
Director, Cleveland Electrical Apprenticeship & Training Center
In response to the recent Opinion piece on precollege requisites: I have believed for a long time that the emphasis on a college degree for all children has not only led to frustration and fear for the kids, but can also cause damage to family relationships.
I have heard many middle school and high school teachers and guidance counselors mention manual occupations as examples of what the students will end up doing for the rest of their lives if they don't go to college.
Many of these youngsters have had parents or relatives in those occupations.
The kids are afraid to defend their parents against this authority figure whom they have been taught to respect and obey. Sometimes they become ashamed of their family members. Sometimes they have spent summers and vacations helping a parent on the job, learning the trade.
Not all people are even comfortable with the requirements of most degreed careers. To be in an office all day or even just indoors, seeing the same people and handling the same paperwork or technical materials can be unnatural to a lot of personality types. My husband worked on a street crew and loved it.
In response to the recent Opinion piece on college-prep classes: Mr. Gardner asserts that the growing requirement for Algebra I in some schools is resulting in an increased dropout rate.
What is it that instills such fear in the minds of students whenever the "A" word is mentioned? Why not stop treating "algebra" as a separate subject and start integrating the key concepts into the students' primary school mathematical experience?
After all, algebraic concepts weren't developed to make math harder, but easier! If taught correctly, those students with a basic understanding of Algebra I should find solving math problems easier, while their friends in a "general math" class continue to struggle.
Fort Collins, Colo.
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