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Working on an article about BOCES trades training, I had some interesting discussions about the stigma non-college paths have suffered.  BOCES used to have the reputation of a place to dump the dumb and/or difficult kids.  If that was ever true, it certainly isn't true today.  It is certainly a place that can help students who either don't fit the mold that the school districts use to shape their students.  And that attitude diminishes some very important people in our society.

I have a leaky faucet.  I am pretty sure I am not going to call a Cornell PhD to fix it.  The plumber (if I ever get around to remembering to call one who fixes it is going to be a lot more important in my life than a PhD in, for instance, psychology.  What would that person do?  As the sink how it feels about being a drip?

Society's attitude about hard working trades people brings up another issue.  Things break.  Remember that refrigerator from the 1960s that lasted 40 years?  How long do you think your 2020 fridge is going to last?  Five years?  Seven?  I think our stove was made in the late 1960s, and except for one burner that has given up the ghost -- it identifies as a cooling platform -- it is still working.  It could be better calibrated, but it doesn't take much to compensate for that, and the meals it produces are delicious (at least when my wife cooks them).

The general wisdom is that a college education will bring better paying jobs.  That may still be true, although you can make a pretty great living as a plumber or electrician as well.  These days a college education also brings a lifetime of debt.  Young people are asking themselves whether the debt is worth it to them, and a glut of college educated people in the workplace exacerbates the problem.  A job at Starbucks is not that unusual a steppingstone to finding a job, possibly in your field of study, or maybe not.

They say that young people entering the job market today can look forward to six careers in their lifetime.  That's not jobs -- it's careers.  With all the stress and retraining that brings.  I'm on my third or fourth career myself, so I can tell you it is stressful, and not necessarily a help to financial stability.

All this is to say that it is high time we examined our attitudes about what kind of person is most valuable to society.  College educated people are always going to be important.  But we may have gone too far in valuing that path over other paths that could benefit our country immensely by bringing quality workmanship and manufacturing back.

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