To the editor:
There are several misconceptions and downright prejudices associated with the words “trade school” that have led to considering redirections in admission policy. By the way, some of the same fuzzy thinking also shows up with admission to the exam schools.
First and foremost all the titles (trade, vocational, technical, etc.) don’t capture the concept of a different style of learning! The fancy name for it is “tactile learning” or just plain old-fashioned “hands-on learning” that was initially intended to develop practical skills for the building trades. Don’t think there is nothing cerebral about it. Just try to learn how to meet and apply the ever-evolving electrical code. My father, who got his electrical license by going to trade school nights, used to dazzle me with Wye (Y) and Delta three phase wiring connections.
With the introduction of assembly robots, 3D printing (additive manufacturing) on top of computer numerically controlled machining, students are being prepared for well-paying and much more challenging manufacturing environment.
As I have written before, if I hadn’t developed and interest in math I would have most like gone to a trade school to be a machinist. As it turned out I ended up with three trade school degrees. Which leads into the second misunderstanding: criticizing students who go on to college from a tech school. Without the hands-on experience of playing with the hardware, there are too many designs that look good on paper but are not practical to make or produce. Also students get the taste of reality that could either reinforce their commitment to their chosen field or point them in a new direction. Think of the wealth of experience a college-bound potential veterinarian could get at Essex (Aggie) Tech!
The overemphasis on Smart America has led to what historian Peter Turchin called “elite overproduction” or in the common lingo; paying off enormous student loans while saying "do you want fries with that!"
Substituting a lottery for achievement is a major disincentive! Why work hard and keep your nose clean if it doesn’t make any difference? Would you trust your car, with all the electronic safety features, to a mechanic that goofed off through school and won a slot and continued with the same lackluster ways that got him into program and coasted through to graduation?
The real solution isn’t turning admission into a zero-sum game to achieve “equity” by arbitrarily assigning openings. We need a bigger pie so more people can get a piece. In Beverly it means bring back the Claude H Patten Vocational High School and put in the floors to get the four technology Llbs the Middle School should have had in the first place. More STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) with emphasis on biology and life science! Plan Beverly and Cell Signaling’s expansion point the way to lots of local opportunities in biotech!