HOME page>                  NEW STUFF page> 
          WRITING CONTENT page>       GUEST ARTISTS page>Home_1.htmlNew_Stuff.htmlEssays.htmlGuest_Artists.htmlshapeimage_1_link_0shapeimage_1_link_1shapeimage_1_link_2shapeimage_1_link_3

College Degrees:

Look Before You Leap

John W. Pinkerton


I was part of the last generation of college graduates who were convinced a college degree was a ticket to a better life.  I graduated from LSU with a BA in English in January of 1965.  It was assumed that any college degree would elevate one financially and socially. 

After returning from a little time in the service, I realized that my assumption about the elevations was an illusion.  Not even close.

Oh, I could have gotten a job with greater renumeration than teaching in a poor school district, but teaching seemed to suit me.

Through my years of teaching in a public high school, I watched young people make many mistakes, not the least of which was striving to go to college, striving to be “someone.”

As I watched more and more young people, rich and poor, get into colleges and the colleges gobbling up their money and their parents' money, I concluded that the whole system was out of whack.

Stop! Turn Back!  Rethink!

First of all, not everyone is capable of doing well in college classes.  Some should work on being pleasant because no one is going to mistake them for smart.    Secondly, the colleges lowered their standards and offered more and more classes and more and more degrees that aren't worth a bucket of warm spit, and many of the graduates are dumber than a bag of bricks.  Thirdly, the greed of colleges caused the cost of education to rapidly move up causing students to assume big student loans or drain their parents' bank rolls.  Now I'm not for giving everyone a free education.  Then it would be worth even less than nothing.

Of course, there are some degrees worth pursuing through a college.

Something else I found disheartening through my years in education was that I noticed that kids who couldn't or didn't go to college seemed to develop low self-esteem.  In other words, they felt inferior to the college graduates.  This is ridiculous.  Oh, and by the way, a lot of college graduates feel superior to folks who don't have these pieces of paper.

I am old enough to know the members of the greatest generation.  They were not lacking in intellect, not lacking in education, and very few had college degrees.

College degrees for this generation mostly came after WWII supported by the GI Bill.  This was a good thing, but like most well-intended things, it had unintended consequences.

My dad, Jim, was a member of this generation.  He was a plumber and then a plumbing contractor.  He had a brilliant mind, not always well-managed, but brilliant, and a good education from public education, reading, and keeping up with current events.

Although he never expressed it, I think he was a little jealous of the formally educated.  I suspect he was even a little resentful of my education.

My brother was wilder than the wind in typhoon season.  Although he had a good mind, he showed little interest in going to college.  He followed his dad into plumbing: in spite of the fact that it was his decision, I still think he resented not having a degree.

Recently, I had a need for a plumber for a couple of minor problems at our home.  The kinds of things I would have taken care of myself in the past, but now seem like a lot of uncomfortable and uncertain work.

On the recommendation of my nephew, my brother's son, fine fellow, I called a plumber.  I've used other fellows through the years, but I've never thought much of their work.

I mentioned that Dad was a plumber and plumbing contractor and I worked for him on occasion.  Through the years, I became familiar with many other plumbers.

Now, I know a lot of you fellows out there aren't going to like this, and, I suppose, I could be mistaken, but I'm not.  Most of you fellows have been walking disasters.  Alcoholism seems to be the defining problem.  Each trade in my experience has had its own personal and personality problems.  Underlying these problems is that lack of self-esteem because they work with their hands and don't have “college” degrees.

When the recommended young plumber arrived, I first noticed that he was nicely attired, clean, and clear-eyed.  He first solved a leak under our house.  It wasn't cheap, but he told me the cost and got on with it.  Then there was a more difficult problem in one of our bathrooms.  It took a couple of trips to Bryan for parts.  But the problem was solved and in a manner which suited me.

We chatted a little from time to time.  When the time came for the billing, I used the time involved to tell him I was quite familiar with plumbers and that I appreciated the fact that he wasn't an alcoholic.  He chuckled a bit and indicated he understood the origin of my comment.  I asked him how he had gotten into plumbing.  He had left home when quite young and his brother got him into plumbing.  He liked it.  I complimented him on his intelligence and winning personality.  There is no reason for him to feel inferior to college graduates.

He seemed to me to be the perfect model of a blue collar worker.

Okay, what's my point?

Well, after WWII, Americans began to believe that the only path to a success, financially and personally, was via a college degree.  Today I think it's inscribed on bronze plaques at the entry to most colleges “Enter here or perish.”  Of course this is to the colleges' advantage and by dumbing down their product and offering products which no one really needs, they've become money machines.  In the meantime, the non-college graduates have begun to think less of themselves.

We all need to get a grip.  Education is important…all education, but it must have value.  Plumbing, carpentry, factory working, mechanics---have value to society equal to any college-degreed skill.  Lifestyle is a matter of choice.  You non-college guys need to get over your low self-esteem and realize that you have a major roll in making our country a shining light on a hill.  You college fellows need to get over yourselves and realize you're probably not all you've been cracked up to be.

Just saying.