Ask any group of high school teachers, and they will report that the most frequently heard question in their classrooms is, “When are we ever gonna use this?” In a traditional college prep program, the honest answer is usually, “Maybe when you get to the university.” But in the real world? Depending on the class, maybe not at all.
However, in high-quality Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, that question is moot. Students learn skills that will help them prepare for stable careers and success in a modern, global, and competitive economy. A student who wants a future in architecture doesn’t question his first drafting course in high school. One interested in aerospace sees value in her introduction to engineering design class. An aspiring medical professional is enthusiastic, not indifferent, about high school anatomy.
Unfortunately for millions of American students, CTE is not a meaningful part of their high school experience. Instead, they are shuffled through large, bureaucratized schools that do not adequately prepare them for anything, be it college, career, or both.
In large part, this is because CTE has been chronically neglected by American education leaders and policymakers. Many CTE advocates suspect that it’s because of the damaged...