Rick Santorum and Barack Obama Actually Agree on Vocational Education

It's too bad that Rick Santorum is sullying what might otherwise be a fairly sophisticated take on the benefits of vocational education with a ridiculous smearing of President Obama and misrepresentation of the White House's higher-ed agenda.

Santorum on Friday:

Not all folks are gifted in the same way. Some people have incredible gifts with their hands. Some people have incredible gifts…and want to work out there making things. President Obama once said he wants everyone in America to go to college. What a snob. There are good, decent men and women who go out and work hard every day and put their skills to test that aren't taught by some liberal college professor trying to indoctrinate them. I understand why he wants you to go to college. He wants to remake you in his image. I want to create jobs so people can remake their children into their image, not his.

Here is what Obama actually said in his February 2009 address to Congress, the speech to which Santorum is referring:

So tonight I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. This can be a community college or a four-year school, vocational training or an apprenticeship. But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma.

It would be more than fair to complain–as I have–that the administration hasn't done enough to direct funding to successful career and technical education programs. But it's completly untrue that Obama expects all Americans "to go to college." Indeed, the president doubled down on his pro-vocational education messaging last June, when he visited a community college auto repair program in Virigina and said "the goal" of his higher-ed agenda "isn’t just making sure that somebody has got a certificate or a diploma. The goal is to make sure your degree helps you to get a promotion or a raise or a job. And that’s especially important right now.”

Obama is well aware that between now and 2018, over 14 million new American jobs will be created in "mid-skill" occupations, like dental hygiene, that require an associate's degree or an occupational certificate, but not a four-year college degree. That's why Secretary of Education Arne Duncan helped promote the Harvard report "Pathways to Prosperity," about the continued importance of vocational and technical education as routes from poverty to the secure middle class.

2 thoughts on “Rick Santorum and Barack Obama Actually Agree on Vocational Education

  1. Hector Martinez

    I find it very troubling that Rick Santorum continues to misunderstand what the late President Kennedy and President Obama is conveying on religious freedom and educational issues. He demonstrates a poor understanding of historical American political issues during Kennedy’s presidency. President Kennedy a Roman Catholic like Santorum , was dealing with Protestant distrust of him, hence “separation of church and State is absolute “. Obviously, he also did not read Obama’s speech on education. Santorum lacks the skill to choose his words carefully.

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  2. Ryan Carrington

    I think that higher education should be available to anyone who wants it. I also think Vocational Education should be available to anyone who wants it. Unfortunately, what neither candidate seems to get is that there is still a cultural attitude about vocational education (even among Santorum supporters who criticize Obama’s elitism) that makes it seem less worth or less intelligent. It is certainly a different kind of intelligence, but how many parents want their kids to make something nowadays? I think it is very problematic for our country. I am starting shop classes next weekend as an adult (which I never got in public school or with my mom working all the time as a kid), even though I went to graduate school and am a “knowledge worker.” I think we need to be better about not segregating the two, as someone who can think but cannot do is pretty useless. I blog on education issues, and I’ve written about the critical importance of integrating “elective” courses like foreign language and vocational skills into the curriculum (here on the value: link to spurninglearning.blogspot.com; and here on two really cool vocational integration models: link to spurninglearning.blogspot.com). I hope this gets a national conversation going about what it means to be educated in America that is beyond test scores and promoting knowledge without skills.

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