Time has come: Restore high school vo-tech courses

Posted: April 19, 2017 at 1:52 a.m.

During my sophomore year at Proviso West High School in Hillside, Ill., my guidance counselor, Mr. Gusloff, refused my request to take auto shop because I was, he said, college-bound and my presence in a vocational program would take space needed by a student who was not so destined. I was disappointed, and I felt then, as I still do, that he was wrong to pigeonhole me and limit my options, but I had no choice but to accept his decision. I never even told my parents, both of whom held doctorates. They would have only shrugged their shoulders anyway. This was long before parents were "involved" with their kids.

Back then (the 1960s), nearly every high school in America and especially those, like my high school, that served lots of kids from blue collar households, offered vocational education. In addition to auto shop, Proviso offered machine shop, woodworking, plumbing and other trades. Today, despite the fact that America still needs mechanics, machinists, plumbers and so on, and despite the fact that some kids, for various reasons, simply are not college material, it is the rare high school that offers vocational education.

This is one reason why the outstanding bill for government-issued college loans currently stands at, in round numbers, $1 trillion, a good amount of which will never be repaid. It also goes a long way toward explaining why, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 5 million jobs are currently open in the United States.

My solution to this would be to require high school guidance counselors to assume half the college loan debt of former students whom they should have told, "Sorry, but you aren't college material," but didn't. If their bad advice cost them something, perhaps they'd think twice before doling it out.

Parents want their kids to go to college for two reasons: a) They like to brag about their kids, and (b) they believe college equates to success. High school guidance counselors also are incentivized to encourage college and help kids obtain acceptance letters. School administrators like to brag, too. They like to talk about how many of their graduates go to college. They never talk about the number who don't finish, finish with crippling debt or can't find jobs after graduation.

The high school dropout rate has declined in recent years to about 7 percent, but the number is misleading because, let's face it, a good number of students drop out but still occupy desks. Vocational-tech would promote student motivation, increase literacy and significantly reduce dropout rates. Reducing dropout rates would reduce crime, drug use and various other social ills.

Then there's the matter of the jobs that are waiting for the kids in question. Employment opportunities in skilled trades for high school graduates who aren't college material are the best possible antidote to poverty. Employment further reduces crime, drug use, etc. and also fosters the formation of families, thus promoting responsible child-rearing. In short, the societal benefits of vo-tech are numerous and far-reaching.

Every American, regardless of political persuasion, should get behind a plan to reinstate vocational education in America's high schools. I'm fairly certain that if he was still alive, Mr. Gusloff would.

John Rosemond is a family psychologist and the author of several books on rearing children. Write to him at The Leadership Parenting Institute, 1391-A E. Garrison Blvd., Gastonia, N.C. 28054; or see his website at

rosemond.com

Family on 04/19/2017