Archive for October 2nd, 2017

What’s best for you?

Recently, I penned a piece about respect and dignity. Without rehashing the entire thing, it was about a time when I felt disrespected by a high school teacher who, in effect, told me to go get a full-time job in a grocery store because I’d never amount to anything. Thinking on it, she not only disrespected me but everyone who works in retail…across the board. Evidently, she didn’t think much of people who work in that field…and that’s wrong.

Disrespecting people because of what they do with their lives – other than people who are criminals – is disrespectful of all classes of people. In her case, the thinking was, “If you don’t go from high school to college, you will never amount to anything good.” Even many of the surveys that you see emphasize the importance of a college education. According to Market Watch, a college graduate will make $1 million more than someone with a high school diploma, and depending on the field, that amount may be as much as $3 million. Oh, those poor, lowly high school graduates. Oh, what bullshit are we selling today.

It may be true in some cases that some college graduates make more money over their lifetime than some high school graduates, but I firmly believe that this is just another case of statisticians skewing results to favor something that not even they know is a fact. That is a forty-seven-word sentence that means just about as much as some college degrees. I say that because there are fields where a high school diploma can earn you buckets of bucks. Unfortunately, too many people are choosing to go to college, graduate with anywhere from $37,000 in loans to pay back, and don’t begin to profit until they’re two-thirds of the way through their first year of work.

Our granddaughter went to college and graduated in the traditional four years. She went to work at a pretty decent salary and, after two years, decided that the business world was just not for her. Sure, she had been a great student, a terrific athlete, and obviously a qualified job applicant. Her decision was to go back to nursing school because she wanted to give back. When she came to this realization I haven’t a clue. She’s probably going to earn a hell of lot less money as a nurse than she would have as a business executive, but that’s beside the point. It’s just further ammunition for my argument that high school graduates very often don’t know what they want to do, but opt for college purely because it is the track du jour for today’s youth…and that’s the bullshit part of my thinking.

Not everyone belongs in college. People who wish to become doctors or dentists; people who are going into the family business; people who are certain that they would be great in the field of law, sure, these are people who belong in programs that will lead them to their goals. However, there are others, those who want to go into accounting, for example, who graduate and within five years ask themselves, “What the hell was I thinking?” I cannot tell you the number of young CPA’s who have come up to me in the gym and asked, “What do I do to get into some other area of business?” or “How did you get into public relations?” If you really want me to give you a number, I’d say it’s been around ten young college grads who have asked the questions. The sadist part is that each of them admitted that they still had college debt to pay.

A fellow I know was the headmaster at a vocational school. He gave me a tour of their facilities one day and proudly showed off the carpentry, auto mechanic, plumbing, electrician, and other “labs” that they featured. There was also a cosmetology studio, a kitchen for those wishing to pursue jobs in any area in that field, as well as classrooms to pursue the necessary studies that were integral to the field students were pursuing. These graduates would go from high school to some form of apprenticeship, without debt, and begin earning immediately. If you’ve ever needed a plumber, roofer, or electrician in an emergency, you know well what the cost is. Tell me that many of these people are making a million dollars less than some college graduates and I’ll laugh in your face.

The biggest problem right now is that people are not going into the trades. For every two people who are retiring from the building trades, less than one cardboard cutout figure is replacing them. If supply and demand economics holds true, I would venture to guess that many people who do enter these fields are going to be making a hell of a lot more money in the future. Perhaps advances in building, plumbing, electrical, and other materials are being made that will simplify some of these tasks but the key is still people who can do the jobs. The gentleman we hire to do things around the house that we can’t do is a college graduate. He considers himself a “handyman.” The fellow who mows and cares for our lawn and plows our driveway in the winter holds a master’s degree and owns his own landscaping business. Our underground sprinkler system is tended by a man who saw an opportunity and with his engineering background, jumped at it to begin a highly successful background. Did all have college debt when they began? I don’t have a clue. Did they feel a college degree was necessary? You’d have to ask them, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they didn’t feel the same thing that our granddaughter and those accountants felt…I just want to do something where I will feel better about what I’m doing.

There was a time when I said that no one should be allowed to attend college right out of high school. I believed then, and to some extent, believe today, that secondary school graduates should either work in retail for two years, join the military for a two-year stint, or perform a community service job for minimal pay for a couple of years. First, it will teach them what they probably don’t want to do for the rest of their lives. Second, it will give them a better focus about where their strengths can best be used. Third, they will not waste money by going to college with any idea of their future plans. Seems to me that if the first question a guidance counselor asks is, “What colleges are you thinking of,” they are not doing their students any favor. Perhaps the question should be, “Do you have a clue to what you wish to do for the rest of your life?” At 18, I was completely clueless, and had my mother not asked that question, well, I’ve always said while father may know best, mother knows the right questions to ask.

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