One size fits all?

Remember Rick Santorum?

Doesn’t he seem like a distant memory?

Well, there are a couple of things Rick Santorum said that I remember.

First, that strong families are the best bulwark against poverty.

Second, that President Obama said everyone should go to college, and was therefore a snob.

It seems President Obama probably didn’t say that, but increasingly there is a debate as to whether a four-year college education is a sound recommendation for all the young people in this country.  About 30% of Americans over the age of 25 hold a BA.  And the statistics show that people with a BA make more money and are less likely to be unemployed than people who only have a high school diploma.  Which is about as surprising as the observation that if you walk in the rain without an umbrella you will get wet.  But given the high cost of higher education, many people are questioning the return on investment on a college education.

The Germans have an educational system that many Americans would frown on because German students fairly early on are tracked into a university v. non-university educational path.  But the German educational system is very proficient at providing workers well-trained to succeed in manufacturing employment.  German firms operating in the U.S. have been bringing that system to our shores.

What do you think?  While most parents dream of their kiddos attending university, the economics of that choice bear careful scrutiny.  I would be interested in your comments on whether we are utilizing a “one size fits all” approach to post secondary education.  Please chime in.


About John Briggs

I live in Seattle and love telling stories about Americans, the places where they work and the things that they make. I have just published a book, Simply American, encouraging Americans to purchase American made products; the book can be ordered at
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5 Responses to One size fits all?

  1. Pete from Baltimore says:

    I just had an online conversation about this on another internet site.And while i would agree with the idea of more kids getting vocational training, i dont think thats the main problem. I run a small construction company.And i can train kids myself. I do so every day.But they have to have a good atitude and WANT to learn. This year i hired a rather skinny girl that is the last person you would expect to see on a construction site[i do interior demolition.And its brutally hard hand work, with few machines]. She had taken courses like “Peace Studies” and ” Eco-Feminism” in college [ I swear im not making this up]. And she had no construction skills whatsoever.But she had a great atitude and was eager to learn.She ended up being one of my best, and most skilled employees.

    So i think that the responsibility needs to be shared. Ive worked construction for over 20 years.And i have to say that way too many construction companies refuse to take on people with no experience.They do not want to have to train anyone.And anyone that is hired as an unskilled labor, often stays that way. I find that to be a horrible way to run a business. Its clearly to my advantage to train my guys and have them be skilled. . Many of my competitors in the neighborhood [ I do interior demolitions on 100 year old rowhouses in a rapidly gentrifying area of Baltimore] hire crack heads and /or illegal immigrants for $6-8 an hour.So a highly skilled and well paid workforce is my main advantage.

    Schools do need to stop making blue collar jobs look bad. I remember my teachers telling me that if i didnt do well in school, i would end up digging ditches. I do dig out basements and dig out footers nowdays.and i dont see anything shameful about doing so

    Parents need to change thier aittudes about blue collar jobs as well. A lot of the kids who work with me are college graduates[ two have had Master’s Degrees]. they have all told me that they liked working construction.And have all complained about the heavy school loan payments that they have to pay off. College has become a bit of a scam in many ways.

    I would like to see more kids treat thier jobs as skilled jobs. I tell my guys that all of the time. I tell them that i can get someone that just sweeps up and picks up debri, for $8 an hour.In order to justify thier pay[my guys start at $10 and make $12 within two weeks ,and $15 within a year or so. I myself make around twenty thousand dollars a year. If i could make more, i would pay my guys even more]] that they have to look upon thier work as “skilled”. So instead of just “Doing what they are told”, they must “Think” . The vast majority respond well to this challenge.They often used to work for guys that treated them like dumb mules that just carried stuff. And they are constantly telling me ways in which they think our company can be more efficient.They do this because they know that when i make a good profit on a project, that i give out bonuses.Companies need to make sure that thier workers share in any successes.And then thier workers will be eager to succeed .

    So i think that training shouldnt just be a matter for schools
    thats just my two cents

    • tapirking says:

      Pete: Thanks for sharing your thoughts and God bless you for what you are doing. I couldn’t agree with you more; the media and other “elite” Americans need to get over this idea that unless you are working in an office you are throwing your life away. It is awesome the way you get your guys to understand that you are all in it together and that you welcome their ideas on how to do things better. Sounds like you don’t let your ego get in the way in your life as much as I do!
      All the best,


  2. Pete from Baltimore says:

    Btw, i tend to hire college graduates.This is not because they have more skills in construction[almost all are liberal arts majors] .Its because often they are intelligent and motivated[ im a high school drop out , myself]

    My point is that college graduates do often make more money and are more successful than high school graduates or drop outs.But i dont think its college that causes this.Its the fact that colleges attract motivated people.These guys would have been just as smart without a college education.But sadly, most white collar jobs nowdays require diplomas.Years ago, a guy could start as a file clerk and work his way up.Sadly, many companies nowdays just rely on diplomas

    • tapirking says:

      Pete: What you say is true. I think we need to get to young people earlier and present them with options aside from college where they can channel their energy and drive.

  3. Historically, we are much better today than we were as far as the number of people going to college. After World War II, the percentage of people that went to college was in the single digits. The GI Bill gave college a great boost. That being said, there a great number of jobs that do not require a college degree. Sometimes the college degree is a substitute for a person’s work experience, which seems to be less and less each generation. I think there should be a college path (certainly), but there should also be a viable non-college path – like vocational school, teaching real life skills. It would be nice if more people would learn a lesson from your first responder and would apprentice more people.

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