Practical knowledge trumps class learning

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons LEARNING A trade was once the primary education that a person received, however, going to college is now becoming the standard. DeFrenza claims that learning a trade is vital art.

PHOTO COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / LEARNING A trade was once the primary education that a person received, however, going to college is now becoming the standard. DeFrenza claims that learning a trade is vital art.

Published: October 30, 2015

Commentary by
MATTHEW DEFRENZA

The millennial generation will send more of its population to pursue college-level academic degrees than any generation to precede us, but is that a good thing?

More millennials are attending college simply because a high school degree does not mean what it once did.

A college degree is the new standard for attaining most jobs, according to conceived societal notions, but even that does not guarantee employment post-graduation, let alone employment in your field of study.

The “Washington Post” published an article in 2013 finding that only 62 percent of college graduates in 2010 were working in a field that required a college degree and, of that percentage, only 27 percent of college graduates found employment in a field that relates to their field of study. That is an appalling stat.

Now, the article has faults, in that some jobs do not require a specific field of study, it does not take into account master or doctoral graduates and it does not take into account graduates looking for work in small towns versus large metropolitan cities.

Though the research must be taken with a grain of salt, it brings to light a major problem with societal notions, that a college degree does not guarantee a job and that a specific field of study certainly does ensure a job in that field.

A college degree is in a specific field of study and can even have a concentration within the major, but it does not prepare you for a job, in most cases. A four-year degree can run a student up to $200,000 in debt, without giving the student a sense of what he or she actually wants to do for a career and without the slightest work experience.

If a student cannot find a job in the field that he or she has a degree, his or her schooling has provided next-to-nothing for the student to fall back on.

It is undoubtedly a societal step of progress to have an increased number of college graduates, but to flood the world with college students and college degrees does society a disservice.

For starters, the more necessary a college degree becomes, the more demand there is for students to attend college. Colleges and universities are, most fundamentally, businesses. Viewing colleges and universities as such, it is easy to understand that they are marketing their product, an academic degree, in much the same way as any other product is marketed, as having a level of necessity. Like the new FIFA or 2K16 that you feel you must have, colleges and universities advertise degrees. This feeling of want for their product, along with the societally created necessity of a college degree, allows college tuition rates to continually rise to astronomical heights.

A further complication caused by sending more students to school is that flooding the job market with an influx of college degrees creates problems that go unaddressed.

The demand for college degrees in the workplace has not increased at the same rate that college degrees have been supplied, allowing for a surplus of college graduates to devalue the worth of a college diploma. The issue becomes more complex when considering that college degrees are an investment for most graduates, meaning that they expect to find a job, and to find a job with a salary that is reflective of the academic degree earned.

Simply, more people are qualified for around the same amount of positions, rendering the college degree meaningless in distinguishing most applicants from one another.

A simple solution to this problem is to close the floodgate. Society needs to stop degrading manual labor to the connotation of failure. You are not a failure if you do not have a bachelor’s degree. The world needs carpenters, city workers, construction workers, electricians, subway operators and web developers.

The age old adage of “the world needs grave diggers” should not be a derogatory statement hurled at those who do not want to pursue a college degree.

College should be a recommended route, but not a requirement.

Philip Levine, a poet of much esteem, feared this changing emphasis. He was of the working generation, the men and women of post-WWII who had a trade and got their hands dirty. In his collection of poems, titled “What Work Is,” he alludes to the fact that America does not fundamentally know what work is and that it has lost its sense of pride in the worker.

Although Levine was himself a college graduate and later a college professor, he emphasizes the importance of the working-class men and women.

Higher education is a wonderful advancement of our generation, but it is not necessarily teaching students skills necessary for a job.

I am not suggesting that students drop out of college at colossal rates, I am only suggesting that students develop skills to fall back on. It is alarming that some students do not have the slightest work experience and have their entire future riding on a piece of paper received on graduation.

For 27 percent of the 20-plus million college students in the United States, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, a degree will mean a job in their field of study. For the remaining 14.6 million of us, I pray that you have a skill or trade to fall back on.

Contact the writer: matthew.defrenza@scranton.edu

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