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The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

July 23, 2018

Goethe’s 1797 poem, “Der Zauberlehrling,” is a tale about a sorcerer’s apprentice whose white magic turns black. Another sorcerer today, President Donald Trump, has decided to take charge lest his federal apprentices get into deep doo-doo.

Jim Puzzanghera on July 10 explains in the Los Angeles Times about President Trump’s “apprenticeship” initiative. This initiative is backed by Ivanka Trump, so it may have “legs.”  Three events will be held this week to promote apprenticeship programs.

Puzzanghera notes that there “43 job training programs spread across 13 agencies.” And  Kevin Hassett, chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors, explained to MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhl today that President Trump’s proposal will coordinate or organize all these federal programs under a single directorate.

All this sounds like a good idea since a time-proven way to start a career of gainful employment is to apprentice with someone. Switzerland and Germany do this quite well, but the United States does not.

What is interesting about Trump’s initiative is that it ignores the U.S. Department of Education and calls for a “top-down” approach that promotes apprenticeships from the federal government down to employers and the States.

Yet, the U.S. Department of Education subsidizes student tuition in Title IV student loan and grant programs. Why not focus some of those funds for development of apprenticeship programs by the education authorities in the States.

The Higher Education Act reauthorization called “the PROSPER Act” which is now before the House of Representatives is the legislation where apprenticeship programs should be front and center. The National Association of Scholars recommends that one way to do that is for  Congress to transfer 50% of the current Title IV allotment to the states over the next ten years—5% a year—and start in two years.”

“Education” is not a word found in the Constitution of the United States because education is a State responsibility. Who knows better what apprenticeship programs will fit the needs of the States than the States themselves.

Not including the States in any initiative to foster apprenticeship programs is a failure of the Trump Administration’s Department of Education. Betsy DeVos and her Deputy, Michael Zais, have no experience in this area, nor does the President who has run away from formal education as a consequence of his “Trump University” scandal.

Somewhere in the U.S. Department of Education, there must be someone–anyone–who can make a case for funding the States–not the federal government–to develop apprenticeship programs.

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