Words Matter: A Response to President Trump

Tana Black 2018-02-9



Our partners at Advance CTE are celebrating CTE Month with a reconfirmation on why Career and Technical Education (CTE) is so important. This fantastic message comes as a response to President Trump’s remarks about CTE during his first State of the Union address last week and during a meeting with other political leaders.

They write:

“Twice last week, President Trump praised Career Technical Education (CTE) and called for its expansion – at the State of the Union and during a meeting of Republican leaders in West Virginia.

Unfortunately, his support was muted by the way he described CTE, which was both off-base and off-message. Our friends at ACTE responded from a substantive stand point, laying out the many ways CTE has evolved into high-quality pathways that ALL learners can and should benefit from. We obviously agree – as we articulate in Putting Learner Success First: A Shared Vision for the Future of Career Technical Education – and remain committed to making this vision a reality through advocacy and policy support for our members and the field.

Given the extensive work we’ve done over the last year to identify the best way to talk about CTE, we wanted to take this opportunity to focus on why it’s so important that we use the right words and messages with respect to CTE.

Last year, we conducted focus groups and a national survey of current and prospective CTE parents and students, and found that, across the board, high school CTE programs are most valued for their ability to provide real-world skills within the education system. Prospective parents and students are hungry for these types of opportunities, including gaining real-world skills, engaging employers through internships or networking and earning college credit while in high school.

At the same time, the vast majority of parents and students (85 percent) continue to value college as the post-high school aspiration.

Bringing us to my point: any message about CTE must emphasize that CTE is a pathway to careers AND college.

When parents and students hear descriptions that focus on CTE being for those who aren’t the “greatest” students or not “college material,” it’s immediately positioned as a lesser track rather than a pathway to success (as the data very much supports) – and is in direct conflict with parents’ and students’ aspirations.

Similarly, when CTE is pigeon-holed into a few blue collar fields, it deemphasizes the vast opportunities available in a variety of industries and sectors – from culinology to architecture – and can turn off students who want to explore their options.

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