Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Trade school 

If you have not yet, please read the report and post below.

The two blanket statements that every parent in my age range will agree with are: College is not for everyone & My child should go to college. Why would otherwise rational individuals nod in agreement to two counterfactual statements? Simple. Because all of our social discourse and mindset is focused on college attendance as the gateway to a better future. Send your child to college (it is thought), and they can earn a better living. WRONG.

I am in my 10th year of college. If anyone would be categorically in favor of college attendance, it would be me. But, I will be the first to tell you that college attendance is not the life-altering experience that so many believe it is. There is more to life than knowledge. Experience, skill, talent, motivation, and character are as important as education if not more so.

Parents need to work with their children to develop into a whole person. Parents need to be a supportive resource for their children. Parents, also, need to be a grounding point to reality. Too often, some stranger in a small office at the university is the only person to look into the troubled eyes of a young adult and have to confirm the student's worst fear - he/she is not pursuing the correct career path. It is not a bad thing and could be quite therapeutic. But it should not be the responsibility of an academic advisor to change an undergraduate's lifepath. Parents, ministers, coaches, Sunday School teachers, and other concerned adults should be giving the adolescent guidance. I would not be pursuing a Ph.D. if a high school vo-tech teacher had not encouraged me to apply for college. In high school, all I wanted was a job that would let me leave home. I was an exceptional draftsman (a needed skill before computers) and could get a job the day after graduation. But my teacher recognized the potential in me and kept pushing me to apply. He even handed me the application packet.

It has to be parents and concerned adults. My high school had over 1,000 students and 1 guidance counselor. The school probably had never had a 10th grade vo-tech student score as high as I did on the ACT. I was called into his office once. He asked if I was planning to go to college. I said probably. He said there was plenty of information on the racks in the front office and wished me luck. Three minutes later, I was back in my English class. Not really a guiding moment in my life.

Yet, I see in my classes far too many young men and women who are waiting for the magical transformation to occur. One day in class, a mythical light will turn on in their minds and they will become whatever it is they have declared as their major. It must be a magical light because the other students who are studying the correct discipline have a light in their eyes. There is nothing so gratifying to a teacher than to teach a student who has a thirst for the information. Yet, there is nothing worse than teaching a student who is not certain why they enrolled in your course.

Parents, your child is not a failure if they do not go to college. College is great if a college experience is what your child needs. But we have to quit building college up to be something it could never be. College will not make your child a productive citizen. We need skilled technicians. Do you really care what books have been read by the electrician who fixes your breaker-box? The nurse who replaces your mother's IV, is she an LPN, RN, or BSRN? The brakes on your car are slipping. Do you care if the mechanic appreciates classical music? How much will you be paying to any of the skilled individuals I just mentioned.

Trade schools are good for learning skilled trades. Also, you child can earn a very comfortable living with a trade. Possibly earning more than you do.

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