Until 1980, Ahrens Trade High School was a proud part of the old Louisville Board of Education. Its students graduated with the same approximate competence in basic skills like Math and English, but instead of preparing the next generation of physicists, surgeons and attorneys for college, Ahrens provided top-notch training in the skilled trades – like carpentry, plumbing and electrical design.
Kids didn't go to Ahrens because they were slow learners, but because this was a school that matched their ambitions. After graduation, they were already setting out in secure and rewarding careers.
Unfortunately, high school trade schools like this are now virtually gone. And that's crazy, because while America's thousands of Art and Sociology majors are lucky to find low-paying jobs after graduation, the world is begging -- and paying handsomely -- for more people who can fix toilets or rewire their home.
Ahrens stood for the idea that “blue collar” is in no way inferior to “white collar,” and that students should be able to explore the entire range of knowledge instead of being shoehorned into a single path determined by the academic elite. If America wants to continue being the land of opportunity, it needs more schools like that -- not fewer.