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[Susan notes: Walt Gardner makes a point that must be repeated over and over: good vocational programs are both necessary and important.]

Published in Christian Science Monitor

To the editor

It's about time vocational education came back in style

Regarding the Oct. 12 article, "Suddenly, vocational training back in vogue": It's about time that the US gets real about career and technical education. Not all students have the ability or desire to pursue a traditional academic course of study. Other countries around the world have long recognized that fact and taken steps to provide alternatives.

The damage done to young people in America by this rigidity is incalculable. It's altogether possible that the appalling dropout rate, in large part, is the direct result of the failure of schools to provide students with courses in line with their needs and interests. This is particularly the case in inner cities and rural communities.

That's why the recent reauthorization through 2012 of the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act is welcome news. But it needs to be accompanied by a change in America's attitude toward students who do not fit into the college-prep template. They deserve the same respect that their peers receive.

Walt Gardner

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