Rob Friedman “learned very little” in high school — except in “small engines” and “auto shop” classes, he writes in Education and the Art of Minibike Maintenance in the Wall Street Journal.
Many of his vocational classmates quit high school, he writes. They were being “force-fed” college-prep courses.
His parents — a doctor and a teacher — pushed him to earn a college degree. Friedman enrolled in junior college, but dropped out to run his car-repair business.
He promises to go back to school when business slowed down, but it never did.
Half our students want an academic education leading to a university degree, Friedman writes. But his auto-shop classmates — and many others — do not.
In many other countries, ninth graders can choose to pursue an academic high-school diploma or a technical/vocational high-school diploma, he writes.
Imagine what would happen in the U.S. if young men and women were offered interesting, real-life curricula that appealed to them, such as auto shop, computer repair and fashion design. Not only would they learn real-life skills, but along the way they would be taught real-life math. I’m talking about merchant math and accounting, balancing a check book and insurance practices.
Many skilled blue-collar workers can make a better living than the average university graduate, Friedman writes. He’d like to let students choose whether to attend a college-prep-for-all high school or a school that blends academic and vocational courses.