My grandfather was a World War II veteran, a father of three, and a carpenter. Whenever I smell the residue of sawdust or turpentine, memories of him cover me like a warm quilted blanket. He was not considered an educated man, but he was a jack of all trade.
For most of his life after the war, he built and made cabinets. He made cabinets all over Indiana and other states, and his work can still be found and recognized because some of his products were distinguished by his unique carvings. Later on in life, he did maintenance in the apartment that he and my grandmother lived, and that was what he considered retirement. He loved to work with his hands and he was good at it.
Recently, I watched Mike Rowe, host of the show “Dirty Jobs,” appear before congress to address the importance of skill related jobs and how these jobs are starting to die out. Before Congress, Rowe stated that manufacturers in the United States can’t fill 200,000 jobs, and that “there are 450,000 openings in the trades, transportation and utilities.”
He went on to say, “In high schools, the vocational arts have all but vanished. We’ve elevated the importance of ‘higher education’ to such a lofty perch that all other forms of knowledge are now labeled ‘alternative.’ Millions of parents and kids see apprenticeships and on-the-job-training opportunities as ‘vocational consolation prizes,’ best suited for those not cut out for a four-year degree.”
The overemphasis on higher education has left this nation with a dire need for workers that can reconstruct and repair infrastructures throughout United States, and has also left individuals coming out of college jobless and in debt. Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe all should seek out an education. Any kind of education is something that belongs to that person forever, and something that is not taken away. However, our definition of education has strayed to how many degrees can be hung on the wall and not how we can apply our knowledge to the real world.