Archived Story

Letter: Too much business in education

Published 12:19pm Friday, April 5, 2013

To the editor:

It was both amusing and frustrating to read in The Daily Star about the “introduction” of career education classes for juniors and seniors at Niles High School this coming fall, presented like they had just invented the wheel! During the 16 years that I served on the Board of Education of Niles Community Schools (1980-1996), we had a full range of career classes, directed through the Intermediate School Districts of Berrien and Cass County, within a four or five school consortium. There was auto body shop, auto mechanics, building trades (which built many lovely homes, locally, that were purchased and added to the tax rolls), electronics, art, and a complete print shop, where most all of the system’s printing was done “in house.” There was a greenhouse then, too, and there were some agriculture classes and FFA. All of this was done, while also turning out academically talented students. Having served on Scholarship Selection Committees for many years, I experienced how difficult the decisions were to make some times because we had so many top-notch students.
In recent years, those programs have been systematically dismantled as academics, athletics and technology  have been pushed to the exclusion of courses that truly prepare students for life in the real world. The pendulum has now swung back somewhat and  it is apparent that not everyone is going to be able to afford to attend college. We’ve suddenly come to the realization that we have graduates without the work ethic or training to fit the jobs now available locally to support themselves.
Obviously, the large employers are gone from Niles and I believe the hospital and the school systems are the leaders in numbers of employees at this time. We are so blessed to have such an array of local colleges, for those who can, to earn two or four-year degrees without even leaving home.
It is my opinion that education has become too much of a “business,” and a yo-yo one at that, where things are in a constant state of change and confusion. Maybe that’s why the classified ads include schools “advertising” for students and it’s necessary to “hawk our wares” at the county fairs. It also troubles me to see bright, interested students hesitant to go into teaching because of the insecurity in education these days. Where are our priorities?
I realize that change is a part of growth and life, but let’s concentrate on what really works and quit jerking our students around with experiments. Not all change is negative, however, and, thankfully, many students graduate today with many college credits acquired already by participating in advanced placement classes through Andrews University, SMC, LMC, etc.

Eleanor D. Fisher

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