April 22

What is the First Purpose of Education?

There should be only one question, namely whether all individuals – not an exclusive, but inclusive approach – graduating from school or leaving school are prepared for productive employment. In my perspective, the whole dialectic about college-bound and non-college bound and work bound is entirely wrong.

The only way to really close the gap between what schools are providing and what the employer community needs is far-reaching structural reform – a change in priorities, a change in philosophy – that goes well beyond individual programs, that goes far beyond individual tax credits.

In 1989, the Charlottesville Education Summit participants put out a statement that declared that purposes of education are threefold. First, responsible citizenship; second, further learning; and third; productive employment. In the 25 years, since we have experienced Outcome-Based Education, NO Child Left Behind and Common Core – with each “reform” test scores continue to fall and the “skills gap” remains.

I submit that education priorities should be reversed, that productive employment should be put to the head of the class. Without a good job, it is very difficult to discharge the responsibilities of citizenship, or to afford further education. A much greater emphasis on beginning career awareness and preparation should begin at a much earlier stage in a student’s development. Begin even in the primary grades to get people used to developing some of the skills they need in the workplace, and to begin to think at a much earlier age about future career directions.

I welcome your feedback on my comments as well as an opportunity to keep you up to date on the nationwide industry certification movement.

Leo Reddy, Chairman and CEO
Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC)


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