Our Opinion: The business of exploring education

Education or vocation?

The timeless question never has been more timely.

It resurfaced this week at Jefferson City High School when a group of business professionals joined with educators to discuss the “academy” concept.

Public school officials have committed to the academy approach, designed to channel students in smaller learning environments consistent with their interests. The model includes seven learning categories including, for example: business, management and technology; arts and communication; health services; and industrial and engineering technology.

Input from business leaders was both general and specific.

Needed skills they identified included math and science aptitude, a reliable work ethic, an ability to troubleshoot problems and management capability.

Specifics included familiarity with programmable logic controllers, the “Six Sigma” management strategy and project management.

The conversation prompted David Ganey, a high school science teacher, to wonder aloud if a role still exists for a broad, liberal arts education at the high school level.

It’s a good question — and it led Jeanie Abbett, a senior manager at Scholastic, to focus on today’s topic. She observed: “The problem is, are you trying to educate or vocate?”

Knowledge is increasing and spreading exponentially in the modern era, largely as a result of rapid advances in technology and communications.

How do today’s students keep up? Can they keep up?

If vast, yet detailed knowledge and skill is necessary to pursue a specific career, is attaining a broad, liberal arts education feasible?

Educators and business professionals generally agree the time has come to improve and update education. And consensus exists regarding general skills.

Exercises like the gathering this week are useful to work out the devilish details.

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