Vocational Education

* George Ramos, in his May 23 column regarding educational goals and the motivation we establish for our schoolchildren, misses one critical point: Auto mechanics (today's technicians) are not grease monkeys. To succeed, they need a solid foundation in physics, chemistry, math, electronics and communication skills. In other words, they need similar courses (in high school) to those required for a career in the sciences.

There are no ethnic or economic background questions asked of prospective auto technician employees. The only question is: Can you diagnose and repair it efficiently? Schools should follow the same policy and encourage children to maximize their potential in the vocations as well as in the arts and sciences.

To make vocational training an ethnic issue in schools, or something to be avoided and looked down on, is a terrible disservice to the majority of students who must eventually earn their living in the vocations. The highly paid, stable vocational jobs are out there for those who prepare.

I happened to read the column while writing an article on aerospace-to-automotive repair skills-transfer for our trade association paper. How ironic that you mention that two Hughes engineers were among career day participants at Humphreys Avenue School. Ironic because my article described a pilot defense conversion program now training, as auto technicians, former Hughes aerospace technicians, engineers and one physicist. They are interested, challenged and enthusiastic students.

California is now drastically short of well-educated, skilled workers in all the vocations. Yet they are key to attracting a variety of businesses which will supply the well-paid jobs needed in this state. If the media and the educational Establishment fail to motivate and educate qualified students toward the vocations, we will continue our slide toward Third World status.


Automotive Diagnostic Consultant

Automotive Service Councils, Los Angeles

* I was both comforted and enraged when I read the column by Ramos. You see, I too was a victim of blind prejudice by a counselor. At the age of 11, I was transplanted from a very humble neighborhood in Mexico to Los Angeles. I was always the well-behaved kid sitting in the back of the room. I persevered and managed to survive the "you are bright, if only you weren't Mexican" syndrome.

I entered UCLA in 1968 to undertake pre-med studies. My "well-meaning" counselor called me in and told me to study a trade--like a car mechanic. He told me that statistics showed that I would eventually fail and leave UCLA. As I was leaving his office feeling empty and confused, he told me that "water will always seek its own level." Since that day, as I awaken from my sleep and rise, the very first thought that enters my mind is that my water level will always be where I set it.

Twenty-six years have passed. I am board-certified by both the American Board of Surgery and the American Board of Cardiothoracic Surgery. I am a cardiovascular surgeon with a very prestigious medical group in Los Angeles. I have taught heart surgery at the University of California. I am trained to perform adult and pediatric open-heart surgery, thoracic surgery, cancer surgery of the lung, cardiothoracic trauma, arrhythmia surgery, etc. I have been chief of surgery at various institutions.

School counselors are not always right. I am only sorry that school counselors--elementary school to universities--cannot discern the difference between stupidity, prejudice and well-meaning intentions.


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