The Sept. 7 news article outlining what our the Baton Rouge Area Chamber thinks our state must do to comply with another new federal law, Every Student Succeeds Act, which succeeded a previous federal law, No Child Left Behind, which, by the way, succeeded the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act signed by President Lyndon Johnson, reminds me of the old adage, "What goes around comes around."
Those of us old enough who attended public schools in Jefferson Parish will remember that the high school tracks were divided into two significant areas: college prep and distributed education. The second track specifically prepared students not necessarily wanting to go to college after high school by focusing on distributive education training. For students at these high schools, this meant various business and workplace skill courses. Seniors were allowed to go to school for about half the day with the remainder of the day devoted to interning at local businesses. Many early 1970s seniors may likely remember interning at a local business.
In March 1973, the Public Affairs Council of Louisiana in Baton Rouge published a report entitled "Meeting Louisiana's Need for Career and Vocational-Technical Education." The scope of that report stated "a new and vital dimension of education is emerging, called 'career education'. This concept entails a refocusing of the entire educational system, from kindergarten through post secondary and adult education." It also noted that "career education is not another name for vocational-technical education."
Additionally, there is an excellent published study done in 1972 entitled "A Study of Curricula Innovations in Trade and Industrial Arts, Distributive and Business Education in Jefferson, Orleans and St. Bernard Parish Public Schools." This excellent study documented the successes and also weaknesses of the Distributive Education program done in these parishes. Authors included two Orleans Parish public teachers and two members of the LSUNO faculty. Lead author was Silas Connor. The report is comprehensive; but of particular note was the forward thinking language used by the authors: a "systems approach to course offerings," the curriculum reflecting a "likeness to the 'real office' or business situation which a student encounters as he adapts as an employee." The report offered examples of "Individualized Instruction" including use of "teaching packets, content units, performance -based measurement, individual progress, ability grouping and paired learning." These are terms still offered up today as forward and "new" thinking.
The report also noted from an historical sense that much of vocational training emerged in the mid-1930s and that Louisiana was actually leading the nation in this new type of education in 1937.
Going back further in our history, the real old timers will note that Warren Easton High School was overflowing with college prep students in the mid-1920s and that the new "vocational" high school was instituted. Some folks nicknamed the new school Commie High because of its focus on Commerce.
My point is that all of this was looked at, reviewed studied and implemented and our state was actually a leader in many of these areas.
The Baton Rouge Area Chamber would benefit from some research before instituting a "new" program.
My second point is that much of this was done by Louisiana before there even existed a Department of Education at the federal level.
John S. White
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