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Apodaca: NMUSD program can balance education needs

February 09, 2013|By Patrice Apodaca

Should our schools teach students the fundamentals of education — how to read and write, and to understand math and science concepts and the importance of history? Or should they nurture the workers of the future, focusing on the knowledge and skills our kids will need to compete in the worldwide marketplace?

The answer, of course, is that in a perfect world, schools would pursue both goals. But our world is far from perfect, and finding the proper balance between what we consider more highbrow academic pursuits and the practicality of future career needs is a difficult task.

When I was a kid — and I'm dating myself here — boys were offered so-called vocational classes such as wood shop beginning in middle school, while girls were funneled to "home economics" courses, such as cooking and sewing. In high school, some students gravitated toward college-prep instruction, while others treaded paths weighted more heavily with the likes of auto mechanics or typing classes.

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Today, in Newport-Mesa, efforts to offer students a taste of real-world know-how bear little resemblance to these impressions from my childhood.

Now called Career Technical Education, this district program isn't so much an either-or choice. College is still the goal of the vast majority of students. Rather, CTE is an attempt to broaden the knowledge base for students beyond the standard offerings, and provide opportunities to try out future career options.

CTE includes such curriculum as construction technology, digital media arts, health care, and hotel, hospitality and tourism at Estancia High School; and culinary arts, business, film and video production and visual imagery classes at Newport Harbor High School.

Also offered are business, environmental and digital media arts CTE classes at Costa Mesa High School, and digital media arts at Corona del Mar High School. Back Bay High School has a green technology academy, with courses in solar installation, energy auditing and sustainability.

"This is not just, 'Come in and have fun,'" said Steven Glyer, a former NMUSD administrator who now works as a consultant for the district's CTE program. "This is not traditional vocational education."

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