The Value Of A College Education?

Some kids want to become doctors, others mechanics. Certain professions are glorified in school: lawyers, doctors, professors, all professions that seem to have an academic or scholarly emphasis. But what about the jobs that make our lives easy and comfortable?

We’re speaking of the trades and the people in those trades that build our homes, fix our cars, unclog our toilets, protect us from crime and fire, and perform countless other related and equally important tasks.

In today’s age too many kids run off to college to extend their scholastic experience (sometimes more fun is had than work) for five or more years. For those that continue on to become lawyers, doctors, or professors, even more schooling is required.

Many college students leave school in serious debt, looking for jobs in their fields of study. Some find work, many don’t, but one thing they have in common is the expectation of higher wages because of their college “education.” While that may have been true in the past, today’s reality is there are so many kids graduating college that those degrees have been devalued.

In the context of the above, we should ask: are we being fair to those who want to fix cars, build houses, fight fires or crime?

Last month (Issue # 13/7) Montecito Journal outlined Santa Barbara School Board trustee Dr. Bob Noël’s Charter School proposal that seeks to grant students that are not necessarily college-bound an opportunity to get a head start in a chosen non-academic avocation.

Dr. Noël’s proposed American Charter High School will consist of a Liberal Arts Program and “two self-contained, career technical schools,” assuming approval is granted by the Santa Barbara School District. The two schools are a School of Construction Technology and Design and a School of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

The mission is as follows…

American Charter High School seeks to provide students a challenging and nurturing environment that is designed to help each realize his or her potential, regardless of career goals. It seeks to foster personal dispositions, such as a strong work ethic, self-discipline, responsibility and a sense of efficacy. Students will learn to define problems and to utilize appropriate information technologies and methodologies in search of solutions.

Three Cheers For Tradesmen (and Women)

Along with its trade programs, ACHS will adhere to California educational standards and require students to enroll in core classes such as English and math.

I do not recall a high school teacher or a program that ever pushed me in a non-collegiate direction. If construction is something a child seeks to explore, why not help him by allowing him to enter the workforce as a skilled laborer? Although he wouldn’t be a journeyman, he might graduate high school being able to read a blueprint and construct a plumb wall, giving him a leg up on the competition and added value to a potential employer.

If such an academy were available to me during my years at Santa Barbara High School, I would gladly have enrolled in the construction program. Unfortunately, this did not exist, nor did anything similar.

Attending SBHS was not an unpleasant experience, but it was hardly an academic one. There were so many kids packed into each class, so many were ill-behaved and counting the seconds on the clock for the bell to ring. Hands-on schools, like the one proposed, may prove to be an attractive alternative to the traditional college-bound education track.

I felt pressure as a student that in order to be successful I had to attend a good university. Often teachers, beginning in junior high, spout things like, “if you don’t go to school and get good grades, you won’t get into college and you won’t be able to find a good job.” I’m not so sure such maxims still apply.

Many trades pay competitive salaries and, more importantly, are absolutely vital to society. Your typical college graduate may be able to lecture on the social ramifications of Eurocentric ideology, but would likely have extreme difficulty changing a spark plug.

Most schools seem to devalue the desirability and importance of experienced tradesmen, even in this technologically advanced age, so we applaud Dr. Noel’s effort to create a new school that promotes a change in that mentality.

On Tuesday, March 20, the Santa Barbara School Board will hold a public hearing on the petition to create the American Charter High School. The meeting is located at 720 Santa Barbara Street and begins at 7 pm. We urge you to attend.