(Readers: Please note this blog is constructed as a story about a revolution in the United States. While not all chapters are linked, I think the story will be more meaningful by starting at the beginning.  Read a few segments a day and you will catch up quickly.)

Scene: Jordan’s office. JC, Greenie and Jordan continuing conversation interrupted by a phone call.

Jordan: “My apologies for the interruption.”

JC: “We understand, Jordan. You’re a big cheese…or at least you think you are. Just kidding. We appreciate what you’re trying to do.”

Greenie: “As I was saying, we…societal we…need to recognize that students have different skills and different ways of learning.  Not everyone needs to be on a college track. It is important to bring back into high school the teaching of skilled trades.”

Jordan: “What did they call trade-like classes? I’ve forgotten.”

JC: “We called those classes ‘shop,’ right?”

Jordan: “Yes, shop. Classes were in carpentry, metal working, electrical, auto mechanics, plumbing, computer repair and other stuff.”

   

JC: “Having everyone on a college track makes no sense. Based on my teaching experience, forcing kids into a standardized program that is effectively college prep is a disservice to students who are not book learners and disservice to the public.”

Greenie: “I support that 100%.  Kids who are not book learners get frustrated and many end up dropping out of school. We…again societal we…end up with people who are good in skilled trades but have no high school diploma, and then no job.”

Jordan: “I like the idea where a student can be on a college track and take a shop class. The same for students on a skilled-trade track. If they have interest in another subject – history, for example – they should be able to cross over and take more history classes. Switching to a different track for some classes gives the students a chance to meet different groups of people.

JC: “And a chance for the groups to get to know one another. Remember when I dated a guy who was more skilled trades than college track? My parents were upset but that guy had skills that none of us have. I still marvel at how he could fix things.”

Jordan: “And where is your ex-boyfriend today?”

JC: “You know, Jordan. He a very successful business repairing complex machinery. He has clients worldwide.”

Greenie: “We also need to bring back the arts. I know all the testing in basic skills has merit. However, lots of kids who are really creative do not do well on standardized tests. Forcing standardized tests is not fair to them and frankly discourages them from trying to learn more.”

Jordan: “I know a number of people and parents who share that frustration.”

Greenie: “The frustration is not just among artists and those good in skilled trades.”

Jordan: “Tell me about it. Some of the best design engineers I know struggled to make it through school. Ironically, most of the really good designer engineers seem to be dyslexic. They seem to be great at visualizing solutions but lousy at spelling, reading and taking standardized tests.”

JC: “How did they become engineers without going to college?”

Jordan: “Some never make it to college. While they are good at design, because of lack of certain book learning, they do not know how to solve certain problems.”

JC: “So what do we do about it?”

Jordan: “Let me give you an example. One of the best engineers I know is also one of the most dyslexic people I know. He is also a Carnegie Mellon grad.”

Greenie: “How did he get in Carnegie Mellon?”

Jordan: “He and a couple of buddies won several national science awards in high school. He lived in the Pittsburgh area so the dean of engineering at Carnegie Mellon was aware of the awards. The problem for him getting into Carnegie was his SAT’s. He maxed the quantitative portion of the SAT’s but failed miserably on the qualitative portion. The dean recruited him and told him Carnegie Mellon would help him with the qualitative classes.”

JC: “Smart move by Carnegie Mellon. We need more of that kind of thinking. Teach the students the way they learn the best and not just to some standardized test.”

Jordan: “You guys realize you are talking yourselves into a job heading up the education program. And, yes, you can stay on the idea side and not get involved with day-to-day management. We need brains and ideas, not more bureaucrats.”

Greenie: “OK Jordan, but give us a couple of weeks to get back to you. The concept does not seem all that complicated. We just need to keep it simple and understandable. The politics might be a completely different story.”

JC: “My fear is the school boards and some of the whackos at the state level – starting with North Carolina followed closely by Texas – will put the kabash on these ideas. Instead the school boards will continue to mandate religious beliefs rather than science and continue to insist that low pay for teachers in public education does not affect quality. What are these folks thinking?”

Jordan: “I hear you about the politics, especially at the state level. A major open issue once the revolution gets resolved is restoring a reasonable balance of power among federal, state and local authorities. To me, if we are to have quality primary and secondary education system for all residents, then we need to have federal oversight and a core curriculum for multiple tracks. Anyway, that’s your job to figure out the basics. I’ll work on the implementation.”

Greenie: “OK, we’ll develop more details.”

Jordan: “One more item to think about. The US has a huge prison population. My bet is many of those incarcerated have not done well on standardized tests. So the question is how can we use education to teach them a skill and get them out of prison, working and then paying taxes?”

Greenie: “Any contacts we can talk to for ideas?”

Jordan: “Yes, I have a friend with a PhD whose specialty and field experience is a good match for this problem. And I know she is interested. I’ll contact her and then you all can get together or have a Skype call.”

JC: “OK. Greenie, now let’s get out of here before we get another assignment. Say goodbye Jordan.”

Jordan: “Goodbye Jordan.”

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