Many paths to a job

On Community Spotlight: Students think they need a four-year college degree to get a decent job, but it ain’t necessarily so.

Also: A Manpower report sees a global shortage of skilled trades workers.

Jobs, jobs, jobs

Preparing students for jobs “should be front and center in the thinking of educators,” writes Camille Paglia in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The idea that college is a contemplative realm of humanistic inquiry, removed from vulgar material needs, is nonsense. The humanities have been gutted by four decades of pretentious postmodernist theory and insular identity politics.

Paglia is a professor of humanities and media studies at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where students can work with their hands as “ceramicists, weavers, woodworkers, metal smiths, jazz drummers.” They’re a lot happier than students with “trendy, word-centered educations,” she writes.

Jobs, jobs, jobs: We need a sweeping revalorization of the trades. The pressuring of middle-class young people into officebound, paper-pushing jobs is cruelly shortsighted. Concrete manual skills, once gained through the master-apprentice alliance in guilds, build a secure identity. Our present educational system defers credentialing and maturity for too long. When middle-class graduates in their mid-20s are just stepping on the bottom rung of the professional career ladder, many of their working-class peers are already self-supporting and married with young children.

. . .  educators whose salaries are paid by hopeful parents have an obligation to think in practical terms about the destinies of their charges. That may mean a radical stripping down of course offerings, with all teachers responsible for a core curriculum. But every four-year college or university should forge a reciprocal relationship with regional trade schools.

A word-centered education worked fine for me. My only manual skill is touch-typing. But many young people are wasting a lot of time and money in college because their real goal is not to get an education but to get job credentials. Often they end up with a lot of debt and no degree.

Walter Russell Mead predicts tough times ahead, even for the college-educated, but advises a traditional liberal arts education.