A Case for Secondary School Polytechnic Education Erickson, Bryan
In the 21st century urban learning environment, where digital technology is relatively inexpensive and access to information virtually limitless, can shop class still be relevant? I believe the answer is yes, more so now than ever before. Newer curriculum emphasizes competencies over content. Memorization and standardized testing are becoming less consequential to universal skills. There is growing interest in Maker culture and STEM/STEAM educational tracts. However, urban secondary students are largely fixated on traditional academics, rote learning, and the easiest path to an “A” grade. Government educational policies and post-secondary schools are not dissuading this line of thinking. Polytechnic courses have traditionally been appreciated as an educational resource, providing practical vocational skills to benefit ‘weaker academic students’ in preparation for a potential future career in trades or factory work. These courses are typically viewed as merely hands-on classes where you get dirty and make stuff. Nothing could be further from the truth; these antiquated stereotypical perceptions conceal the benefits. When taught accordingly, polytechnic courses are rich in learning outcomes. Whether a project is assigned or more inquiry-driven, students are required to use creative thinking, critical thinking and problem solving skills. Polytechnic projects encourage students to be organized and able to manage necessary steps and sequences in a set timeframe, demanding the absolute attention of a student to be mindful and work safely in the organized chaos of the workshop classroom. Polytechnic courses are not a panacea to student cognitive skill development in education. They are and continue to be, however, under utilized venues for empowering students with individual agency, expanding various skills and minds to be better prepared for life and countless future career paths.
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