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Prepare students for the real world

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As a retired teacher who once worked under the leadership of Superintendent Bart O’Brien, I would like to congratulate him on a career of sincere dedication to his ideals. I should mention that I also worked in charter programs which sometimes complemented and sometimes competed with his vision. I would like to respond to one of his farewell comments (Perspectives, Journal, May 10) on extending the school year to make us more competitive in a high-tech world. This only makes sense if what we teach is relevant to that world. State standards, often trivial and arbitrary, occupy the majority of instructional time and performance testing. Twenty more days a year of the same is an additional waste of tax revenue and students’ time. If we truly want to prepare students for the real world, just take a look at the vacuum the private sector fills in the area of career training. Yellow Page listings under educational headings reveal a host of technical programs focusing on work readiness, job placement and preparation for computer, mechanical, medical, business, etc., careers. These private programs openly solicit dropouts from our public system and turn them into successes. Why is not intense, systematic instruction in these areas in the mainstream of public high school curriculum? Why not revamp the standards to reflect real educational needs, determined by empirical study, and save already burdened parents and students the additional expense of private tuition? The majority of students are not university-bound. Our foreign competition knows that and often makes a much more realistic effort at dealing with that fact. Jim Beall, Sr., Auburn