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A Better Idea for Jamaica High School

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The bureaucrats in lower Manhattan want to close Jamaica High School and then reopen it with a new name. A teacher at this school has made a much more interesting suggestion. We hope the Department of Education is paying attention.

Marc Epstein writes in a letter that “manual education might be poised for a comeback.” “Manual education” is a fancy way of saying shop class. Epstein notes that he started teaching in the 1990s and that shop class was closed in most schools 10 years before that. At one point, he writes, shop class was part of a liberal education.

Epstein’s suggestion makes sense. At the moment only a few schools in the city offer shop class. That’s a mistake. There are all kinds of learning, just as there are all kinds of students. Some students have an affinity for the traditional liberal arts, including literature, math and history. Others are better suited for working with their hands.

Just as schools can prepare students for college, they can also help students prepare for careers where they will need mechanical skills. Every public high school in the city should offer shop classes that will help students becomes mechanics, plumbers, carpenters, electricians, medical technologists and other specialists. The two tracks are equal in value.

Since Jamaica HS is under the DOE microscope, this might be an ideal setting to reintroduce manual education.

A Few Livery Drivers Are a Little Safer

With great fanfare it was announced last week that 12 bullet-proof vests have been donated to livery cab drivers working in the city’s toughest neighborhoods. The donation was made just two weeks after a driver from Queens was shot and nearly killed by a robber.

The vests worth $430 each were provided by Security USA, a security consulting company. Two more vests were donated by retired cops. The 14 vests are a drop in the bucket. There are hundreds of drivers for whom $430 is a small fortune. It may be that the companies they work for will fork over the money for the vests, but we doubt it. Even for the companies this would be a major expense.

It is indeed sad that such protection now seems appropriate for the drivers who play such an important role in the outer-boroughs.

Updated 10:28 am, October 12, 2011
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