Tonawanda News

February 1, 2014

LETTER: Vocational education being overlooked

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Vocational education being overlooked

While thinking about no school, the cold and the Regents Exams going on this week:

I was speaking with a friend concerning what I thought the importance of a Regents diploma is/was. He stated “To certain students it is, while to others it shouldn’t be.” What we were talking about is the Board of Regents, the New York state Commissioner of Education and, yes, some parents. Let me clarify this by an example he gave. Your car is broken down on the side of the road. You wait for the tow truck operator with his flashing lights to pull up. He finally arrives. Is the first thing you say to him “Before you touch my car I want to see your Regents diploma?” I highly doubt that. You want someone who is skilled to get you back on the road.

You see there is a calling for skilled trades: carpenters, electricians, blue collar workers, etc. We seem to make the importance of what is really needed in our work force to getting that all important Regents diploma. There are many of us that wish we had the above skills and creativity, probably more then those that want to be the next Bill Gates. I’m not saying it’s wrong for those who want to achieve academic excellence to seek it. But what are we doing to help those that want to go into an equally satisfying vocation that is desperately needed? It’s not an easy task to install electrical wiring in an 82-story building. The education to become a journeyman is just as difficult. I wish I had the creativity and ability that my friends who are carpenters have. Maybe I should have stayed at the motor plant back in the 70’s, where they continue today to create the excellent vehicles we drive.

While I’m on the subject, what about those students who are challenged in different ways and some would prefer to get a vocational diploma? It seems that we are pushing them to achieve something that, for these individuals, is not achievable. Not all mind you. Mentally and developmentally challenged students make up a percentage of our academia. And they should have that right, just as those that do not want to should have the right for a different path.

My opinion (and we all know what that will get you) is it’s time to bring vocational diplomas back. Administrators, guidance counselors and parents need to listen to our children when they want to develop skills that are different then our certain, maybe sometime imagined, values.

Bill Paton

North Tonawanda