In his article “Rhyme or Reason” [Comment, May/June], Thomas J. Hanson makes a big point. We in education have missed an important part of teaching students today; they need to be taught why it matters whether they learn what we are teaching. As a lackluster high school student, I performed well below my capabilities because I thought it was a waste of time to sit in class. Probably the only reason that I did not drop out was fear of punishment from my parents. If we begin to connect what we want students to learn with the “real world,” then students will work with us, rather than against us.
A part of this process points to the importance of providing educational settings that afford connections to the real world. The best option for this already exists: career technology. Unfortunately, in our zeal to improve “academics,” we seem to have the mistaken notion that it should be at the expense of career technology programs. The current plan is to cut roughly 25 percent from Perkins vocational funding, one of the main financial supports for these programs.
I agree with Mr. Hanson that “making the material relevant” is one of the biggest challenges facing educational thinking today. Making good on standardized test scores is only “relevant” to a small minority of students.
A version of this article appeared in the October 02, 2004 edition of Teacher as Get Real