The history of vocational education's role in educating the disadvantaged, 1800s to 1963

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Virginia Tech

The study examined the following questions in relation to federal policy and social practice in education which contributed to the disadvantagement of African-Americans:

  1. Did federal policy and social practice in education contribute to the conditions and struggles of the disadvantaged African-Americans?

  2. Why did vocational education become a part of public education?

  3. Did federal policy and practice play a role in maintaining the conditions of the disadvantaged in vocational education?

  4. How was the focus of vocational special needs education achieved leading to the 1963 Vocational Education Act?

Societal conditions and federal policies of the late 1800s and early twentieth century, produced adverse conditions which prevented Negroes from obtaining adequate education. During this period, the education system of the early 1900s could not adequately lend itself to the structure and practice of the economic system. This was realized by the leaders and policymakers and they called for the federal government to enter into partnership with the states in making vocational education a part of the public school system. Its manifest objective was to relieve those conditions conducive to poverty, economic stagnation and disadvantagement by training the youth. Because of the interpretation of the federal mandate, the Smith-Hughes Act (P. L. 64-347), by the policymakers, certain segments of the population did not prosper, the majority of whom were these African-Americans.

By late 1958, conditions brought about a change in philosophy relative to the concerns of the poor and the disadvantaged and a different emphasis in education began to emerge. The leaders and policymakers realized that it was necessary to focus their attention on the disadvantaged through vocational special needs education. This focus brought about the legislative process which produced the Vocational Education Act of 1963 (P. L. 88-210).