College or Vocational School? (EP.115)

College or Vocational School?

Summary

If you ask someone why they want to go to college and the answer is, “To get a  job.” they intend to treat college as a vocational school. If the answer is something along the lines of learning from the great minds that went before them, to learn about our shared history and to learn how to think, then they are going to college. In either case, partying and other non-academic pursuits will be involved (more in the former case), but that is where the similarity ends.

Individually and as a society, we benefit from both a broad liberal arts education and vocational training. Everyone should have some foundation in history, science, philosophy, languages, the arts and have some command of numbers. That’s a liberal arts education. And we all need specific skills, vocational skills, whether used in the home, professionally or both. You don’t need to go to college to give yourself a good liberal arts education; libraries are everywhere, and you can find/start a book club. You are more likely to need formal training to acquire good vocational skills.

Vocational schools are not at all always blue collar. Examples of vocational training range everywhere from welding school to undergraduate science and engineering schools to medical school. My liberal arts degree was a BA in Philosophy from the University of Colorado; my vocational degree was an MBA from Harvard Business School.

For the next 10 minutes, we will talk about college and vocational training; the differences and how to choose.

Transcript

If you ask someone why they want to go to college and the answer is, “To get a  job.” they intend to treat college as a vocational school. If the answer is something along the lines of learning from the great minds that went before them, to learn about our shared history and to learn how to think, then they are going to college. In either case, partying and other non-academic pursuits will be involved (more in the former case), but that is where the similarity ends.

Individually and as a society, we benefit from both a broad liberal arts education and vocational training. Everyone should have some foundation in history, science, philosophy, languages, the arts and have some command of numbers. That’s a liberal arts education. And we all need specific skills, vocational skills, whether used in the home, professionally or both. You don’t need to go to college to give yourself a good liberal arts education; libraries are everywhere, and you can find/start a book club. You are more likely to need formal training to acquire good vocational skills.

Vocational schools are not at all always blue collar. Examples of vocational training range everywhere from welding school to undergraduate science and engineering schools to medical school. My liberal arts degree was a BA in Philosophy from the University of Colorado; my vocational degree was an MBA from Harvard Business School.

For the next 10 minutes, we will talk about college and vocational training; the differences and how to choose.

Let’s start with something that I hope is becoming increasingly clear: college is not intended to be for everyone. In the main, college has become a cross between something that is expected after high school, a fun time, and fiercely expensive. It is a waste of time and money if the desired result is producing thoughtful citizens who are well equipped in terms of a solid fact base with the ability to apply those facts to whatever issue is at hand.

Today’s Key Point: The best combination is layering vocational training and skills on top of a solid liberal arts foundation. Both pursuits are opportunities for lifelong learning. And while learning is occasionally hard work, remember to jump in feet first. When you learn, just as when you live (learning being a key part of living), get it all over you. Roll around in Socrates and Martin Luther King. Dig deep into welding school or dental school. Demand excellence from your teachers, and reward them with your best in return. The excellence I am urging you to require of your instructors has nothing to do with teaching what to think; it has everything to do with teaching how to think. Your teachers may very well have developed their own viewpoints in areas like politics and international relations. However–however–it is their job to help their students develop the skills to come to their own conclusions–not–not to infuse those politics, philosophies and ways of thinking in others. It is a teacher’s job to develop thinking skills, not to indoctrinate.

BTW, speaking of education, when pairing SAT scores and selected majors, education majors ranked 26th out of 38.

Go learn until you are exhausted. Then forget about all of it as you rest and do fun, relaxing things. Make friends. Argue with them. Test each other. Grow together. Repeat.

And be a lifelong learner.

In many ways, vocational schools are a better value than college. With vocational schools, you can pretty accurately measure the learning. There are objective measurement standards, for example, how equipped a recent electrical engineering grad is to do a job that requires electrical engineering skills. You can watch a welding graduate work, and in less than 15 minutes know if that person has it or not. But how do you measure how much a graduate with a degree in, say, sociology, can contribute to your business or workplace? They have a degree, but how do you connect that certificate to the needs of the job? You don’t; you give them mental credit for finishing a task, then use other measures to determine if they are a good fit.

And there is mounting and troubling information about what–if anything–that Bachelor’s degree means. The Bureau of Labor Statistics tell us that while 70% of white high school grads enrolled in college, only 37% were college ready; 58% of blacks enrolled in college, and only 17% tested as college ready. About 40% of Freshmen take at least one remedial course. In response to the number of not-ready-for-prime time students, colleges are dumbing down traditional courses, and adding more soft courses; studies, e.g., ethnic and cultural studies, gender studies and “American” studies. All of this while college costs are soaring well past the rate of inflation–driven mainly by the abundance of cash coming from student loans.

Vocational schools must deliver a measurable product, a product that can steer you into a career with fairly well know economics and career progression. Will your college experience do that? If not, then ask yourself three questions: 1. Is it worth it? 2. How will I develop needed vocational skills? And 3. Where will I get the liberal arts learning, the overall learning, that is critical to my understanding of the world around me–and how to contribute to it?

Now, armed with this new information about education, let’s counter a Biblical urging with this advice. “Go forth and don’t multiply. Al least until you have a good, full-time job and you’re married.”

Segueing from the specifics of today’s topic to overall principles, the core, driving principles at Revolution 2.0, are:

  1. Personal Responsibility; take it, teach it and,
  2. Be Your Brother’s Keeper. The answer to the biblical question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” is a ringing, unequivocal “Yes.” There is no other answer.

And do it all in love; without love, these are empty gestures, destined to go nowhere and mean nothing

If we apply those two core principles, personal responsibility and brother’s keepers, simultaneously, never only one or the other, we will always be on the right path. Depending upon what we face, one principle or the other may appropriately be given more emphasis, but they are always acted upon together.

The Founders, Revolution 1.0, were declared traitors by the British Crown, and their lives were forfeit if caught. We risk very little by stepping up and participating in Revolution 2.0™. In fact, we risk our futures if we don’t. I am inviting you, recruiting you, to join Revolution 2.0™ today. Join with me in using what we know how to do–what we know we must do–to everyone’s advantage. Let’s practice thinking well of others as we seek common goals, research the facts that apply to those goals, and use non agenda-based reasoning to achieve those goals together. Practice personal responsibility and be your brother’s keeper.

Let’s continue to build on the revolutionary vision that we inherited. Read the blog, listen to the podcast, subscribe, recruit, act. Here’s what I mean by “acting.”

  • Read the blogs and/or listen to the podcasts.
  • Comment in the blogs. Let others know that you are thinking.
  • Subscribe and recommend that others subscribe as well.
  • Attach links from blogs into your social media feeds. Share your thoughts about the link.
  • From time-to-time, attach links to blogs in emails that mention related subjects. Or just send the links to family and friends.

Revolution 1.0 in 1776 was built by people talking to other people, agreeing and disagreeing, but always finding ways to stay united and going forward. Revolution 2.0 will be built the same way.

Join me. Join the others. Think about what we are talking about and share these thoughts and principles with others. Subscribe, encourage others to subscribe. Act. Let’s grow this together.

And visit the store. Fun stuff, including hats, mugs and t-shirts. Recommend other items that you’d like to see.

Links and References

Thomas Jefferson Education

Expensive Now? Wait Until It’s Free! (EP. 100

Contact

As we get ready to wrap up, please do respond in the blog with comments or questions about this podcast or anything that comes to mind, or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. And you can subscribe to the podcast on your favorite device through Apple Podcasts, Google, or Stitcher.

Now it is time for our usual parting thought. It is not enough to be informed. It is not enough to be a well informed voter. We need to act. And if we, you and I, don’t do something, then the others who are doing something, will continue to run the show.

Know your stuff, then act on it. Knowing your stuff without acting is empty; acting without knowing is dangerous.

Will Luden, writing to you from my home office at 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.

Will Luden
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Will Luden

I am your host, Will Luden, former long-time high-tech CEO and Board Chair. I had no idea when I started this podcast that it would become the highest calling of my professional career. Lincoln famously hoped that a government, “…of the people, by the people and for the people…”, would not perish from this earth. My hope, the reason for Revolution 2.0 ”A Booster Shot”, is that a government based on common goals, achieved by applying non agenda-based reasoning to core facts, will allow us to continue to build on our mutual inheritance of a legacy of dedication to seemingly impossible ideals, a legacy that also includes a history of achieving them.
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2 Responses

  1. Charles Reply

    Kids are almost made to feel guilty if they don’t go to college. We’ve swung the pendulum back too far from the days when most kids did not attend college. As such, we now have a shortage in the basic trades. I have a friend who went to work for a trucking company in high school, repairing tires on semi rigs. He never went to college, but today is now a VP for that same company. I do believe that a strong work ethic over powers education and IQ by a long shot.

    • Will Luden Reply

      Charley, exactly; what do four of the most successful and wealthiest tech entrepreneurs have in common? Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Steve Jobs and Larry Ellison never graduated college.

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