Twenty Presidential Scholars, More than Technically Speaking

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVoss, three months ago in May, named 121 high school students “Presidential Scholars.”  Excellent.  Though unbeknownst to me at the time (probably my own fault it wasn’t knownst), 20 of the students were cited because of their stellar performance in Career and Technical Education.  (Twenty of the 121 young scholars were named because of their accomplishments in the arts.)

The basic awards program goes back 55 years, but the portion involving CTE students goes back only four years, when President Obama signed an Executive Order, after the Senate CTE Caucus urged him to do so.  In a virtuous act of lobbying, the Association for Career and Technical Education propelled things along.

The program’s expansion is another sign that growing numbers of Americans recognize the importance—personally, economically, and societally—of the kinds of jobs and careers my American Experiment colleagues and I have been advocating for almost three years under the heading “Great Jobs Without a Four-Year Degree.”

What “General Guiding Principles” apply to choosing recipients?  ED lists five: academic rigor; technical competence; employability skills; ingenuity and skills; and “application pool,” which refers to how “Students will represent the multiple sectors that are viewed as the pillars of our nation’s economic growth (i.e., health care, IT, advanced manufacturing, STEM, and transportation), as well as the socioeconomic characteristics of our nation’s high school graduates.”

I would like to report that a Minnesotan is among the 20 CTE honorees, but I’m afraid not, though two Iowans are: Jason Mullinnix from Lone Tree; and Megan Niewoehner from Hawkeye.  As well as two Wisconsinites: Katrina Eileen Pokorny from Waupun; and Matthew E. Ryherd from Reedsburg.  Students who wind up winning are first nominated by their state’s Department of Education.  I would like to think Minnesota forwarded several names to Washington for this year’s competition, but I haven’t heard back from officials in St. Paul.  I’m hoping they did.

If not, please join me in urging them to do so next time around.

Mitch Pearlstein’s newest book is Education Roads Less Traveled: Solving America’s Fixation on Four-Year Degrees.  Now out in paperback (Rowman & Littlefield).