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[xmca] From Mike Rose on academic-vocational divide

Dear Helena and Everyone, This is such a good exchange. I wanted to respond
quickly to a few issues Helena raises in her two posts. (And, as David
notes, she raises them "sublimely.")

1. The academic/vocational divide is bridged when economics--and with
economics, history, sociology, politics--is brought into a discussion of
work. I give some treatment to this point in The Mind at Work (especially
in the chapter on American Vocational Education in high school), but,
sadly, not adequately in the current article. Helena provides that much
fuller elaboration.

2. In her first post, Helena asks if the student welders I write about
"learn why there are no old welders." Actually, they do, and in a way that
is worth describing briefly, for it leads to another point. Both of the
lead instructors continually urge their students to stay in school to get
an Associates of Sciences degree as well as their welding certificate
because it opens the door to teach or to gain further education to become a
welding inspector or other related work. They drive home the hazards of
welding and why students need to think beyond their initial welding jobs.
They also support joining the union and the American Welding Society, a
trade group. Not all students can stay in school that long, for the
immediate demands on some of them are immense, but the message is driven
home continually.

  Clearly this is not the same kind of thing Helena describes, it is not
oriented toward a political analysis of work and the labor market. But it
does alert students to the hazards of the work and tries to provide some
options for protection and advancement. So given local history, the
backgrounds of particular participants, etc., various kinds of broader
treatments of work and working conditions can emerge.

3. This is not directly related to Helena's or anyone's particular
comments, but I want to raise it again, for I don't want us to lose sight
of it. We all use the word "skills" as a kind of shorthand for techniques,
and, in common usage, "skills" tends to be contrasted with the conceptual,
the analytical, etc. But ultimately, I think, we want to affirm a richer
meshing of "technique" and "concept," for their separation in discourse
contributes to the academic/vocational divide.
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