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Paul Beston joins Steven Malanga to talk about the history of the American high school and making high-quality career training central in today’s high schools. This Ten Blocks episode is the second based on City Journal’s special issue, The Shape of Work to Come.
In 1910, less than 20 percent of America’s 15-to-18-year-olds were enrolled in high school. By 1940, that figure had reached nearly 75 percent. The phenomenon became known as the American high school movement, and the impetus for it came from local communities, not from federal, or even state, government.
Today, however, high school diplomas poorly prepare students for finding good jobs. Despite automation and competition from overseas, surveys of businesses consistently show that hundreds of thousands of positions in manufacturing firms go unfilled.
One thing is abundantly clear: career and technical training in the U.S. hasn’t evolved to keep up with the transformation of the modern economy—and many schools have even slashed funding for vocational education.
Paul Beston is managing editor of City Journal and author of the forthcoming book, The Boxing Kings: When American Heavyweights Rule the Ring. His story “When High Schools Shaped America’s Destiny” appeared in City Journal‘s special issue.
Steven Malanga is the George M. Yeager Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and senior editor of City Journal. His story “Vocational Ed, Reborn” also appeared in the special issue.
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