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Make time for industrial tech

June 16, 2008

by Kristen Miller

I know I’ve written it before, but I’ll write it again. I’m so glad I don’t go to school these days.

Granted, it’s only been a decade since I graduated from high school, but a lot has changed since then, especially when it comes to graduation requirements and standards.

I don’t disagree that education needs to be rigorous and in some instances, more difficult for students to graduate. Students need to work hard for their diplomas and not think that it’s just something they receive for going to school for 13 years. It’s an accomplishment; an award for good behavior, if you will.

I also agree that students should be college-bound, but how many times have you heard a graduate say they don’t know what they want to go to school for?

High school is their opportunity to explore different areas – to see where they excel and what areas they enjoy.

I understand that math, science, and English are important, but there needs to be more for students to get a feel for who and what they want to become after they toss their caps.

Graduation requirements were again brought up at the last school board meeting I attended. A board member asked if elective enrollments were declining because of students’ heavy schedules in relation to graduation requirements.

Steve Ellis, industrial technology teacher, has seen a drop in program enrollments and is a little concerned by the numbers.

Students simply don’t have time to take electives such as home construction, welding, machine tools, computer-aided drafting and design (CADD), and others.

There are no education requirements for industrial technology. There are requirements for fine arts, which can include either choir, band or art, but not industrial technology which, for me, seems equally, and in some cases, more important.

Don’t get me wrong, I do value the creative arts, but industrial technology teaches skills that could potentially turn into a career.

I grew up in a family where my father was out in the shop and my two brothers were oftentimes alongside him.

They were fortunate to have that experience. Now, because of it, one is a machinist and the other is an electrician, both with college educations and both successful in their fields.

What about those boys (and girls) who don’t have such exposure in these areas? They could find it at school.

With more and more emphasis being placed on engineering and technology, I’m afraid we won’t have men (and women) entering critical fields like home construction, welding, and CADD.

Of course math and science have their place and are critical when it comes to these types of careers, but it’s also important students have the time and opportunity to explore such areas.

Not everyone has a father at home to teach them such skills. School may be the only time students have for exposure to these types of classes, which could steer them in the direction of a related career path.

When creating these requirements, the powers-that-be need to remember and not devalue the importance of these careers and the students who choose to explore them.

After all, these are skills that no one is just born with. I can certainly use a hammer and an electric screw- driver, but ask me to build you a house and it isn’t going to happen.

Students need to have time in their schedule to explore these areas, or we will be building our own houses – and that won’t be pretty.