The Public Interest

"Career education"- reforming school through work

David K. Cohen & Eleanor Farrar McGowan

Winter 1977

AMERICANS have tried to solve a number of problems with public education. A recurrent worry has been that primary institutions-family, church, and community-were so weakened by modernization that they could no longer transmit a common culture. Since the 1840s, it has been hoped that schools could do the job instead. If children seemed to be the hapless victims of their familiespoverty, nationality, criminality, or bad manners, schools would save them. If the decline of apprenticeship, the growth of large-scale industry, and the development of technology seemed to leave adolescents with no way of learning a trade or finding a iob, schools seemed the obvious answer. They would teach vocational skills, test aptitudes, sort students into programs, and counsel them into careers. For more than a century, American educators and school reformers have sounded the alarm: The “natural learning” adequate for a simpler society could no longer be trusted. Formal schooling would have to replace informal education if Americans were to enter the modem age.

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