Time to Create the Future: Continuing the Dialog
Jeffrey W. Flesher
Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
In Volume 31, Number 4, of the Journal of Industrial Teacher Education, Thomas Walker invited the membership of NAITTE to continue a dialog on the future of vocational education and the role NAITTE will play in shaping that future. The intent of this RAt IssueS is to contribute to that dialog. This piece reflects a point of view mentioned only briefly in the special feature, REducation and Work for the Year 2000: The Choices We Face,S that of a teacher of current and prospective trainers.
The contributions by Wirth (1994) and the reactors to his article focus on change: change in the workplace, in society, and in the preparation of individuals for productive and personally satisfying education and work-based experiences. A recurrent theme in Frank Pratzner's introduction to the special issue is that these changes are creating opportunities for those of us willing to take a proactive role in shaping the future. The central question for the membership of NAITTE is, "What role will this organization play in facilitating change and shaping the future of education for work?"
Walker (1994) points out that the membership of NAITTE is declining and that "the Association is at risk of becoming diffuse to the point where our program of work fails to address our mission, becoming merely a patchwork of separate activities" (p. 7). The implication is that NAITTE must choose to focus its activities if it is to remain a viable organization. Therefore the operational question becomes, "What focus should NAITTE adopt to remain of value to its current and future members?"
Before adopting a specific new focus it is appropriate to review the current mission of NAITTE and evaluate its congruence with the activities of the organization.
The Association serves as a catalyst for excellence in the industrial and technical teacher education profession. The organization accomplishes this mission of stimulating and promoting positive change by (a) providing opportunities for professional improvement, (b) promoting cooperation among related client groups in the field, and (c) serving as an authority and advocate in the preparation of professionals in industrial technical teacher education and industrial and military trainer training. (Evans, 1988, p. 36)
The current mission does appear to address the central themes of facilitating change and preparation for work. The challenge to NAITTE may not be to develop a more restrictive focus, but instead to embrace the diversity included within the organization's existing mission. A review of the member submissions for the special issue provides a clue to the current organizational focus. The contributing members of NAITTE reflect a predominate interest in secondary teacher education from the point of view of collegiate-level programs.
There is no doubt that secondary vocational, industrial, technical, or technology education programs are a part of the field that prepares individuals for work. They are, however, only a fraction of that field, and as Walker (1994) points out, collegiate-level secondary teacher preparation programs are declining. The continued focus on secondary programs may have contributed to the questioning of the organization's mission and the steady decline in membership.
The strength and future of the organization may lie in its promise of diversity. There is little question that the task of preparing the workforce of the future is a critical endeavor--one which has gained the attention of a broad audience. NAITTE's unique and valuable contribution may be the integration of the combined efforts of its diverse audience to the future of education for work.
The adoption of a broader perspective does not lessen the importance of secondary teacher preparation programs. Instead it provides a bridge for dialog and understanding between groups with a common goal. In order to facilitate an effective dialog, however, the organization must actively reach out to those individuals in the field whose voices are currently under-represented.
In the upcoming months the Executive Board will consider the future of NAITTE and formulate a new agenda for the organization (Walker, 1994). Pratzner (1994) warns that vocational education programs often ignore the opportunities created by change. The field of workforce preparation is changing, and NAITTE must embrace the opportunities created by these changes if it is to assume an effective leadership role in Education for Work for the next century.