Getting education right.

Photo: Associated Press

Photo: Associated Press

Listen To You Tell Me Texas Friday 11/13/15


During Tuesday’s GOP debate in Milwaukee, Marco Rubio got off one of the more enthusiastically received lines of the night. He said,

For the life of me, I don’t know why we have stigmatized vocational education. Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers.”

(Let’s give a pass on the grammatical error. I believe that he knows that he meant “fewer” philosophers.)

The left has been busy “fact checking” Rubio’s assertion – saying in various ways something to the effect that a tenured philosophy professor at a good university makes two or three times what a welder makes.

Maybe so.

But there are probably about a hundred thousand welders spread out across the American continent earning a good living. The entire cohort of tenured philosophy professors, on the other hand, could likely be accommodated in a good sized hotel ballroom somewhere.

The entirely valid point that Rubio was making is that our national educational goal should be to create self-sufficient, wage-earning, tax-paying adults. To meet this goal, it means that our children will, at the conclusion of their adolescence, need to be capable of doing something or creating something for which their fellow citizens are willing to voluntarily pay.

Evidence suggests that some of our elite four year universities might not be getting us to this goal. As we hear more and more of college graduates unable to find work commensurate with their expensive degrees – and thus back living at home with mommy and daddy – we begin to legitimately examine what has, over a period of several decades, become dogma regarding college.

We wonder about the priorities of college administrators that busy themselves creating “safe zones,” so that our precious flowers won’t suffer the risk of being offended by something that someone says. (Whatever happened to, “Sticks and stones…?”) Never mind that there aren’t any “safe zones” in the rough and tumble world for which these students are purportedly being prepared.

Very nearly every high school graduate needs some sort of post-secondary education. But that does not mean that every high school graduate needs a four year degree. The world in fact needs far more welders, auto mechanics and air conditioning contractors than it will ever need lawyers and investment bankers. I know plenty of unemployed and underemployed lawyers. But every air conditioning guy I know has more work than he can get to.

And for the life of me I can see no market demand whatsoever for Gender Studies experts.

The goal of education should be to help kids figure out the career path best suited for their intellect and aptitudes and educate them accordingly. If that’s a four year degree toward a career in the professions or behind a corporate desk, God bless.

But God bless the tradesman, too. Rubio was right. It’s time for elite liberals and policy makers to stop looking down their noses at the skilled tradesmen who do nothing less than keep the country running.

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Paul Gleiser

Paul L. Gleiser is president of ATW Media, LLC, licensee of radio stations KTBB 97.5 FM/AM600, 92.1 The TEAM FM in Tyler-Longview, Texas.

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6 Responses

  1. Glad to see someone else noticed Rubio should have used “fewer” rather than “less.” Both my wife and I noticed the error. But Rubio is correct in his thinking. And your column, as always, is right on the money.

  2. Michael Gauthier says:

    Amen Paul, Amen

  3. Robert Nelson says:

    Rubio is correct, of course, but about 60 years late. In the old days, when I was in High School, a kid could go to an academic high school where he/she could prepare for college or to a vocational high school where he/she would study shop, auto mechanics, cooking, etc and prepare for work in the real world without attending college. If I recall, that was before the Department of Education existed. Let’s go back to those days by first eliminating that extraordinarily expense Department.

  4. Linda E Montrose says:

    A degree doesn’t mean squat when there is nothing out there you got the degree in for you to make a living! A degree doesn’t put food in your mouth or a roof over your head when no jobs are out there for you in that field. Some of the degrees people study for are truly absurd. We need to go back to basics. Back to what made this Country great…the get down and dirty jobs of welders, farmers, auto mechanics, etc. Jobs that are out there and ready to fill. Not pie in the sky ones.

  5. Stan Drake says:

    My Dad taught me to weld when I was 15, and said many times “you may not be a welder all your life, but if you learn to weld and do it well, you’ll always have a job.” I worked after school and summers in construction. I retired this year after 45 years working all over the country and other parts of the world repairing refineries and chemical plants. While I welded (and made 6 figure income) I studied weld engineering and metallurgy in my spare time. This propelled me to management where I spent 27 years of my career.
    What my dad did is actually against the labor laws today. We claim our teens won’t work when in reality if you read the labor laws (federal and state), we’ve allowed lawmakers to open the door for immigrants to “take the jobs Americans won’t do” via labor laws restricting what our teens are allowed by law to do.

  6. Randy Steelman says:

    Paul, I for the life of me don’t understand why vocational education is not considered important. I realize that the federal gubment is in bed with the colleges. But here in Texas they adopted the same attitude. College is more important. I took auto mechanics in high school (early 70’s) and have never had to pay for someone else to fix my car. I even opened my own shop for 12 years. I now work for a local ISD in the technology dept and am stationed in the Career Tech bldg (used to be called vocational bldg). We teach automotive, welding, graphic design, cosmetology, nursing, plumbing, culinary, meat cutting, and others. Out of the 2200 students at our high school, 1800 pass thru our CTE dept. And yet, going to college and passing the state mandated test are emphasized.
    The powers that be haven’t been in the real world. They don’t realize that, not only do we need future mechanics, plumbers, hair stylists, etc., they can make as much or more than a college grad. I am not at all against higher ed. But even tradesmen have to continually update their knowledge to keep up with the job requirements.
    It is time for the people to get involved and rectify this. We have marvelous facilities here in east texas for vocational training. Kids can leave high school and hire in at $15 hour immediately. Or, like Stan said, even if you don’t choose to make a career out of your vocational experience, at the very least you will not have to pay someone else to fix your stuff.

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