Thursday, September 06, 2012


My thanks to Malcolm for linking to this open letter to Mitt Romney by Mike Rowe (he of "Dirty Jobs" fame), which emphasizes the need, in America, for people willing to forgo college education in favor of pursuing careers in skilled labor. To be clear, Rowe's appeal to the governor isn't consonant with a disturbingly anti-intellectual trend among conservative pundits over the past few years; he's not saying that a college education has no value. Rowe's agenda is more in line with what Malcolm says here:

One of the absurdities of modern political life is the assumption that everyone, regardless of innate qualifications, should have a college education (indeed the assumption, at least on the Democratic side, seems to be not only that everyone belongs in college, but that every citizen person within our borders also has an inalienable right to a government-subsidized degree).

This is ridiculous, of course — but to admit that not everyone is endowed by Nature with the capacity for college-level intellectual work would be to discriminate, and thereby would violate the Prime Directive of modern liberal thought. Instead, the result of this obsessive and hallucinatory fixation on non-discrimination has been to flood colleges with unqualified students who have been indoctrinated to believe that they are capable of things they aren’t.

I teach at a tutoring center that preaches the college myth. Everyone who comes through our doors is told that college is their focus and their goal. We've got two or three students who would obviously do better in a vocational school; they're not so good with books and figures, but they're very good with their hands. I'm not always sure that what we do at YB is all that helpful for such kids. Are they wasting their time with us?



Charles said...

What I find interesting about all this is that we have this rampant anti-intellectualism coupled with a disdain for technical professions (i.e., skilled labor). Those two attitudes would seem to be mutually exclusive, or at the very least quite at odds with each other. If kids are supposed to shun intellectualism but at the same time avoid skilled labor, what the heck are they supposed to do? Flip burgers at the local Mickey D's?

Granted, I am an outsider when it comes to the American situation, and everything I get is from the media/internet. So it is possible that the prevalence of both of these positions has been blown out of proportion--in other words, I'm not necessarily hearing the majority of voices, just the ones that should the loudest.

(Latest unrelated rant on CAPTCHA: there is something perverse about a computer program asking me to prove that I'm not a robot. Screw you, Blogger.)

John from Daejeon said...

"I'm not always sure that what we do at YB is all that helpful for such kids."

Substitute "YB" for any public school and private school for so many youngsters who fall through the cracks due to unrealistic/uncaring parents and school systems more worried about making money than "really" helping the world's future with always trying to force these square pegs into round holes instead of just finding a way of helping these squares prepare for a society any way possible before they are too lost in the current system and become drop-outs, drug users, homeless, criminals, etc.

Prisons are full of those who wasted their time with us. When are we going to become proactive and find (and implement) answers to this problem?

Kevin Kim said...


"When are we going to become proactive and find (and implement) answers to this problem?"

Suggestions welcome.


America's a mixed-up country.

John from Daejeon said...

I actually tried implementing my suggestions in the Texas educational system which is one of the reasons I am now in South Korea.

I tried getting my district to quit forcing all the students into the same peg and start a three-tiered system of helping the "fast" students move along at a brisker pace and not be frustrated by being kept in low gear by the majority of "average" students, the average students would stay in the current system, and the slower students would be move a full-year (no major breaks/vacations) system to help them catch up to the majority of average students (Summer school is a joke and isn't cutting it for these students).

No one wanted to deal with actually helping the students as "politics" and money trump kids' best interests.

The ironic thing is that now I am wanted back by my old district when years' ago they did their best to break and discourage me at every turn.

Nathan B. said...

I've been thinking a lot about this, and about the unhappy lot of people who have a university education--and especially those of us with M.A. degrees. We're saddled with impossibly high debt loads right from the beginning. I see a lot of people around me with only high school education, and they can afford to invest in precious metals, houses, and cars. They buy these things because they were never saddled with so much debt. I think forcing everyone to go to university is hurting the ones who actually do go to university, thus depriving many other sectors of the economy of intelligent people. (I don't, of course, mean to say that "book intelligence" is the be all and end all of intelligence, nor do I mean to say that those without degrees are unintelligent.)

I think the situation is unsustainable. If I were advising someone on the cusp of finishing high school now, I would strongly recommend a vocational program in a technical school or a community college.

Charles said...

Just reread my post above, and of course "should" at the end should be "shout."

padaajoshi said...

I recently attended an orientation, labled "Weesaeng Kyoyook," or better yet, Restaurant Management in English. The "Teachers," who basically screamed at the students (40 and 50's ages men and women) to do the dishes and clean the cutting boards had never worked in kitchens before. They were all lecturers at university, with no hands on experience at all.

Kevin Kim said...


Point taken, and I agree the status quo is unsustainable.

Pada Ajosi,

Yikes! Sounds like a nightmare.


Always a shame when the villagers don't listen.

Bratfink said...

Here's the thing: A college education should be attainable for those who desire to go to college.

This country also needs the people that Mike Rowe talks about; the ditch diggers and the burger flippers and the trash collectors.

And what parent is there out there who wants to think their child wouldn't do well in college? I know mine wouldn't--but she's doing well working in a bank. We need people like her, too.

My son-in-law owns his own business and it's doing well. He never went to college and didn't want to.

And we all know the college educated people who cannot find jobs.

College isn't always the answer.

John from Daejeon said...

I don't know if you've seen this, or this, but unbending unions are probably the worst problem affecting public education today.

John from Daejeon said...

I rest my case.

"Chicago teachers make an average of between $69,470 and $76,000 per year, second highest to New York City. The deal CPS put on the table includes a 16 percent average salary increase, Chicago School Board President David Vitale said."

And I thought Illinois was broke. Seems like the teachers need to head back to the classroom to study simple math.