Before college, take ‘grownup training’

Postpone college for two years of “grownup training,” advises Brett Nelson on Forbes.

Specifically: six months spent working in a factory, six in a restaurant, six on a farm and six in the military or performing another public service such as building houses, teaching algebra or changing bedpans.

. . . I’d reckon that grownup training would put undergrads deeply in touch with 1) why they wanted to go college in the first place, 2) what a special opportunity college really  is, and 3) more than a vague notion of what — and better yet — who they wanted to be when they grew up.

Nelson isn’t proposing a government program. He wants selective colleges to require grownup training before they’ll consider an application.

However, it’s not practical:  Few employers want 18-year-old short-timers.

Today’s elites have little experience with the lives of ordinary Americans, argues Charles Murray in his new book, Coming Apart. I scored 24 out of 99 points on his 25-question quiz on mainstream culture.

We don’t want well-informed elites making decisions for the rest of us, writes Ilya Somin, who scored 37, on Volokh Conspiracy. Our goals should be “an elite whose power over those masses is more limited and decentralized.”

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  1. Yet another version of, “Even though I didn’t want to, didn’t have to, and personally did not do what I’m suggesting, in order for more people to grow up with my values I think all young people should have to spend a year or two of their lives jumping through hoops I will now arbitrarily define.” Public service, national service, military service, now menial jobs.

    This guy must have been pretty pampered during college – a big parental subsidy, perhaps? Some of us worked during college.

  2. Hell, why wait until college? Six months flipping burgers might give your average tenth-grader more perspective on why they should pay attention in high school, if they don’t want to flip burgers the rest of their lives.

  3. Michael E. Lopez says:

    Six months in the military?

    This Brett Nelson fellow has likely never even *thought* about going into the military. They just don’t do six month terms.

    It makes it hard to take his proposals seriously.

  4. Walter E Wallis says:

    Sounds like the wanderyar.

  5. I think there is a lot to be gained by having teenagers spend some time working in unglamorous, low-wage jobs. However, I think it’s a mistake to mandate specific types of those jobs. Working as a babysitter/nanny is very relevant to my life as an adult, but working on a farm or in a factory would not have been at all.

  6. This suggestion is NOT so you can have a “personally important and relevant” experience for your resume. This is to give you a long-enough look at the lives of the majority of the population – some of whom you might be managing later. You want kids to have this experience, so that won’t have to later on go on “Undercover Boss” to find out that the people they have working for them are pretty extraordinary.

    I think employers might bite – right now, for beginner jobs, they don’t necessarily want people for long term work, but expect to have turnover rather regularly.

    BTW, that quiz? GREAT! I took it, it nailed me exactly. I may buy that book.

    • The majority of people today work on farms or in factories? Today agriculture makes up only 2% of the total workers in the U.S. and manufacturing only makes up 9%. Those are shrinking parts of our economy.

      If the point is to provide a “wake-up” call to teenagers about what type of job they will probably have to settle for if they don’t take their education seriously, then we should have them work the type of unglamorous low-wage service sector jobs that most people today with little education hold. Food service, yes, but also child care, housecleaning/janitorial, retail cashier, etc.

  7. Speaking as an Algebra teacher, I find it demeaning that he thinks that any average high school graduate can “teach 6 months of Algebra.” Talk about turning the next generation off to the understanding and potential enjoyment of mathematics! Once again it demonstrates how some in our society think that any Tom, Dick, or Harry can walk in a classroom and do a job better than the licensed professionals…

    • Plenty of people would make decent tutors in a one-on-one setting. A tutor has a lot easier a job than a classroom teacher, which is why one often sees high school and college students working as tutors. The whole classroom management thing, which is such a big part of being a successful schoolteacher, isn’t a factor in tutoring.

      • Mark Roulo says:

        But close to 50% of college students take remedial math. I’ll make a wild guess that these kids don’t know algebra well enough to tutor it. I suspect that they don’t understand fractions and decimals well enough to tutor either.

        The suggestion reads like he isn’t too clued in to how industry, education *or* the military work…

  8. Well, I agree that this guy here seems a little out of touch in terms of the things he wants everyone to be in touch with, but I think every kid ought to have a job that makes them sweat at some point in time. Not a volunteer position that they can quit if it doesn’t work out, but a real show-up-on-time and responsibly do your work kind of job.

    I worked at physically demanding jobs out in the hot Texas sun for many summers in high school and college. I didn’t like it much at the time, but it certainly helped me (my first week surveying a new pipeline in south Texas, my boss told me, “son, this job will make you just as tough as dried bird sh*t.”). I learned that I could work a tough job and I could get by in the company of ordinary working men. I also picked up a good deal of self-confidence that a job at a fast food joint would not have given me. By the time college was getting tough, I was thinking, “just got to work hard and I’ll never have to work like that again.” I also learned to be slightly suspicious of a “college boy”, even while becoming one.

    To this day, I won’t sunbathe or do any other activity that consists of being out in the sun for its own sake.

  9. Cranberry says:

    As a woman, this is a nonsensical idea. Educated women are already postponing childbearing into their late 30s, at which time many will discover they’ve waited too long. Adding two years to the age one can finally enter a profession makes matters worse.

    The figures are quite clear; graduating college correlates with high rates of employment. More education correlates with better workers. There’s no need to try to sidetrack these kids with dead-end jobs. Modern jobs, especially in tech-heavy fields, call for more training than ever before. Let them get on with it.

    It seems the far right and far left meet on certain questions. The far left would recommend students take time off to travel, and “find themselves.” This essayist recommends high school graduates take “grownup training.” They are united in their disdain for a young person’s right to choose his own path.

  10. “Grownup training” used to happen in high school. Even the wealthiest kids I knew in the ’60’s had real summer jobs and most of us worked during the year too — babysitting, yard work, waitressing, agricultural work, etc.

  11. Interesting that in addition to the Forbes business writer, a Berkeley professor and Newt Gingrich have also recently advocated that young people need to work – to grow up, to learn the value of hard work, and to gain some direction in their lives. This idea has merit, although I’m not in favor of any new government mandates that would require it.

    • Mark Roulo says:

      There is a big difference between observing that spending some time in the “real world” has value and advocating that students delay college for two years.