Bill Lee means a jolt for public education

Frank CagleFeature, Frank Talk

I’m trying to imagine the reaction of Farragut parents when they are told that between a class of AP Calculus and German II, their kids will have a class on welding.

Governor-in-waiting Bill Lee is right when he says our students need more real-world training to prepare them to be successful. But my point is that what we used to call vocational education is still here. Every student in Knox County has access to what we now call Career and Technical Education. Some schools, like Carter and Gibbs, have an entire separate building devoted to career classes.

If the courses are there, what do you do if the students won’t take them? Do we require every student to take one of these courses? Does one course do any good? Do we have enough instructors? (No.)

The definition of career training has expanded. It’s not just trades like welding and electrical work. It’s also computer coding. It’s health science that is prep for nursing school or to be a medical technician. Bearden has a course in car repair. There are pre-law courses. But is there still social pressure that favors college prep? Are students ready at a young age to make the decision to focus on welding and thus be a good employee for Lee’s company?

Will we have a university path and a technical path and make kids decide at 15-years-of-age what they intend to do with their life?

Philosophically, should the goal of public education be to provide already trained employees for Lee and other business owners? Or should it be to produce students who can read and write and think critically and are capable of being trained for the task at hand? If you talk with people in the business community, they aren’t demanding already trained. They complain that some of our high school graduates are untrainable – they can’t read the training manual.

Lee hasn’t served in the legislature or in Congress or been a big city mayor. These jobs, held by previous Tennessee governors, give you a perspective on how government works and what’s possible. Lee’s background running his business gives him a different perspective. That’s not a bad thing. But while he can talk from a business employer perspective, he knows very little about the nuts and bolts of the education system. Maybe he can hire people who do, set some goals and see what happens.

But Lee’s signature issue is changing the way we educate our children. It’s important and the devil is in the details. We’ve had career ladders and the BEP and an extensive testing program with mixed results. We’ll see whether being an outsider brings improvement or whether it produces a hot mess.

We can only hope for success.

Who are these people? There have been 22,000 people in Knox County who have registered to vote this year, over twice the number that registered in 2016 with a presidential election on the ballot. Who are these new people and what effect will they have on the mid-terms?

My first thought is that if these people were signed up in high school or asked to fill out a form in front of Walmart, then there is likely to be no big effect. Registering because somebody asked you to fill out a form does not guarantee that you will actually go to the polls and vote. You know, that whole lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink thing.

But if a large number of these new voters do go to the polls who are they voting for?

I wrote last week that election day started Wednesday and Republicans are still mad about the treatment of Justice Brett Kavanaugh. The early voting totals for the first day exceed that of 2016. Somebody is fired up to vote and I’m guessing it’s the Republicans. That’s good for U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn. If Phil Bredesen wins, he has to attract some Republicans and independents. If Blackburn is getting a big vote in Knox County those are votes Bredesen isn’t getting. Bredesen got a good vote in Knox County both times he ran for governor, winning the county the second time.

Early start: At city early voting sites you may have noticed that one set of candidate signs were for a candidate not on the ballot. Indya Kincannon is running for mayor of Knoxville, an election which occurs next year, but she has signs up at voting sites for this election.

Kincannon says people who early vote are definitely voters and her purpose is to increase her name identification. She said she won’t have her signs up throughout the next year, the early voting posting are a one-time thing for this election.

Other candidates for city mayor include attorney and member of the city council, Marshall Stair; business owner Eddie Manis; and restaurateur Mike Chase.


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