Is College Worth It?

My contribution to the debate is a new feature story in The Nation, which reports on several innovative, high school-level vocational education programs, and asks why the Obama administration's reform agenda has directed so little money toward linking young people to the world of work.

I also explore the newest thinking on how to bridge the gap between the vocational track and the academic track:

…some progressive education reformers have attempted to move beyond the old emotional debates about tracking and expectations, and are sounding the call for a more intellectual version of “career and technical education,” or CTE, one that infuses traditional vocational training with the academic rigor and ethic of college prep. “You can teach any given subject at multiple levels,” says Samuel Lucas, a University of California, Berkeley, sociologist and author of Tracking Inequality: Stratification and Mobility in American High Schools. “You can teach people how to fix a car where you talk about turning the screw. At that level of knowledge, they could get a job. But you could also teach them, well, what are the principles by which this combustion engine is working?”

That’s the type of education teenagers are getting at Aviation High School, a public school in Long Island City, Queens, that Arne Duncan praised in an April 19 speech. When I visited the school in February, Noel Adames, a high school junior, taught me not only how to weld but how welding works.

I hope you read the whole piece. Or, if you'd rather listen, check out this podcast on the story featuring my amazing editor at The Nation, Betsy Reed, and me. I really enjoyed recording this. Radio is my  favorite medium!

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