“As the material of industry has changed, and as processes have become automated, the greatest resource of any individual, organization, state or nation is the trained mind.”
More than half century ago, Dr. Kenneth E. Carl — one of the authors of the Pennsylvania Community College Act — underscored the human aspect of technological advancement in his statement that acknowledged the connection between successful industrial automation and the education of people who are required to do the work of industry.
As we celebrate the many ways that technology improves our lives, we must not lose sight of the fact that human intelligence is the foundation for innovation. Training minds to adapt to change and to lead future advancements in our society is a significant challenge in education today.
Education that trains minds through the practical application of mathematics, science, language and the humanities is a basic requirement for success in a world driven by innovation. It is crucial that all students – those who will fill entry-level positions in the workplace and those who will seek advancement into leadership positions – have access to hands-on, applied technology education.
Dr. Carl’s description of the trained mind as our “greatest resource” emphasizes the value of education in a modern workforce. His commitment to helping all students secure opportunities for career success influenced generations of educators, in Pennsylvania and around the world.
Two books that I wrote for Pennsylvania College of Technology — Legacy of Leaders and Working Class: 100 Years of Hands-on Education — chronicle Dr. Carl’s career. He championed education that changed the lives of many individuals — from students and teachers in his local community … to physically challenged individuals (including disabled coal miners) across the United States … to vocational educators in developing countries around the globe.
The Carl legacy also influenced his own grandson, Drew Seeling, a Wellsboro Area High School teacher featured in Working Class: Dream and Do.
Last year, when I met Drew in his high school shop, I was immediately impressed by his confident interaction with students. He was clearly in command of the class and yet, his students were visibly comfortable and relaxed in his presence. They were open to receiving instruction and eager to ask questions.
I asked Drew how much his grandfather’s legacy as a compassionate educator had impacted his own career.
“In my early years of teaching, it wasn’t as meaningful to me; but later, once I started to find out about kids and the situations and lifestyles they come from … it made me think a lot about my grandfather and how he made a big difference in people’s lives.”
Drew’s grandfather saw a need for educators to encourage all students — including those who faced physical and academic challenges — to achieve their full potential. In 1951, he developed the nation’s first comprehensive Vocational Diagnostic Program at Williamsport Technical Institute (now Pennsylvania College of Technology) to assess skill levels and provide education and training to fit specific, individual needs.
Dr. Carl, who began his career as a Lycoming Engines’ draftsman, became acquainted with the needs of physically challenged students as a drafting instructor in the 1930s. Even before accessibility was enhanced through computer technology, he saw the potential for those with physical disabilities to forge successful careers in drafting and design.
In 1966, he earned the National Rehabilitation Association’s Bell Greve Award for his work with more than 10,000 physically challenged adults. The award acknowledged, “Dr. Carl’s persistent attempts at the untried … broke down the even more rigid barriers against training programs for those of limited educational and cultural backgrounds.”
“Dr. Carl’s persistent attempts at the untried … broke down the even more rigid barriers against training programs for those of limited educational and cultural backgrounds.”
Vocational assessment tools that are routinely used in education today were influenced by Dr. Carl’s early work. His legacy of compassion and commitment continues to influence teachers today.
“It’s really been a model of where I’ve aspired to go with impacting my students,” Drew said. “I try to impact them as much as I can, set examples for them, show them what I’d like to see them do, encourage them in where they can go.”
Like his grandfather, Drew reaches out to students and goes the extra mile to help them discover their potential and learn to work toward achieving satisfying careers and lives after graduation.
“So oftentimes they come in here with such heaviness on them,” he said. “I want to take those blinders off and show them the world.”
Career education is more than pushing buttons and letting machines do the work. It is learning to use brains to master the thoughts behind the technology, so that one can adapt to change and advance throughout his or her career.
Dr. Carl said it best many years ago, “A career program must not become a dead-end road. It should be planned as a career ladder allowing all to aspire to his highest ambition according to his aptitude and motivation.”
Take the opportunity to help a young person discover a passion for pursuing his or her career interests, and you will help to continue Dr. Carl’s “education for all” philosophy for the next generation.