Today we are going to hear from Charles (Charley) Bobo. Charley is a close and respected friend. More important to the Revolution 2.0™ audience, Mr. Bobo has well researched, strongly held and thoughtfully delivered thoughts about a recent COVID-induced debate: nonessential vs essential work and workers.
That is the subject of today’s hour-long interview.
“I recently heard an interview with Mike Rowe, the host of the TV show Dirty Jobs, discussing his thoughts on the COVID shutdowns. He stated something very interesting when he said, ‘In regards to an economy, every job is essential.’ How incredibly true that is.
Medical workers are essential and the spotlight has been on them for the past several months during COVID. However, without the electricians to keep the power flowing in the ER — without the sanitation workers to keep the hospitals clean — without the steel fabricator who repairs the bed frames — without the assembly worker who sews bed sheets — without the carpenter who expands the need for cabinet and storage space in the ER… where would we be?
For an economy to truly succeed, every person and every job is essential. Not a single person is expendable and the inconsistency of such classifications by the government over the past few months is just laughable. Dog grooming classified as essential but dentistry not? Abortion essential but cardiology not?
College’s Contribution to this Problem:
For more than fifty years, our educational system has promoted the greatness of a college education. However, the pendulum has swung too far in a direction that has brainwashed society into thinking that without college, you’re somehow a failure and will be relegated to the ranks of the uneducated to be an electrician, sanitation worker, steel fabricator, assembly worker, or carpenter (all the positions I just mentioned in the second paragraph). The mantra has become, if you can’t ‘make it’ in college, then you can become a tradesman or skill worker; as if somehow that’s the consolation prize for one’s failure of not going to college.
And I lay this problem at the feet of the governmental education system for two reasons:
First. When the government took over managing the college loan programs in the 1990s, the money became too easy to borrow. Colleges saw this opportunity and have taken advantage of it. Tuition has increased at a rate 200% faster than inflation. Colleges have increased administrators at a rate double that of teachers/instructors between 1987 and 2012. So now these colleges have become very top heavy with fat salary administrators who really don’t educate anyone, but sit in their ivory towers spouting theory and complaining about social injustices.
As a result, with federal loans accounting for much of the $1.5 trillion in outstanding student loan debt and more than a million people defaulting on their loans, taxpayers are paying the bill for a broken system.
Second is the false sense of security kids are promised by going to college. Forty years ago, only about 26% of middle class workers had a degree. Today almost everyone has a college degree (if not a Master’s); meaning the value of a degree is decreasing and becoming a commodity rather than an asset.
As a result, the golden ticket kids are promised rarely leads to their desired job upon graduation. According to the U.S Department of Labor, 53.6% of college graduates under the age of 25 are unemployed or underemployed. And a lot of that has to do with degrees that produce nothing in an economy, such as gender studies and social justice. There are actually Bachelor and Masters Degrees in these subjects. But what does that produce in an economy? Strife and guilt? I didn’t realize promoting strife and guilt produced anything other than more strife and guilt, but there are a lot of kids who have been somehow convinced it’s needed.
For a degree to be meaningful, it must promote a skill of some type that develops, creates, builds, manages, and ultimately fills a need for something. And it’s no coincidence when the vast majority of the unemployed graduates have degrees in liberal arts and humanities, since such degrees don’t really teach a skill (sans the music major or dancer whose focus is to teach or entertain). I was a pianist and played trumpet, but went to college for a business degree.
Even a meaningful college education must teach a skill. There’s that word… skill. But somehow the skill of being an electrician is somehow less important than the skill of being a doctor or engineer. And the young person who chooses that perceived lessor path is the one in high school who may have struggled in chemistry or algebra 2. The school counselor pulls him aside, acknowledging his “struggles” and urges him to accept the consolation prize of a skilled worker. The counselor states, “Send him to the vocational center and remove him from the AP section of the school” — so as not to pollute the truly talented kids who are heading to college. What a smug and arrogant attitude many in our education system have developed.
My future son-in-law dropped out of engineering school to become an electrician. He was tired of useless and non-relevant class requirements and shouldering the huge debt. I looked into the profession of an electrician and was impressed by what I found. To earn journeyman license certification requires more than 8,000 hours of on-the-job training and 200 hours of academic work, resulting in no less than a 4-year commitment. That sounds strangely like the same requirements as a traditional college bachelor’s degree. The key though is work. Electricians have to carry a full time job while learning through night classes. It’s not about theory. They are earning an education no different from a typical college student, but are also learning the value of work and how essential it is for success. A licensed journeyman electrician has an average annual salary of about $60,000. Become a master electrician and one can be launched into the six-figure income category. Open an electrical contracting company and it’s possible to become a millionaire. So, why would anyone thumb their nose at an electrician, as if it’s the lesser alternative route to college?
Even the ‘Least Among Us’ are Essential:
To provide another view on the essentialness of every job, we can take a look at my Down syndrome brother, Tim, who passed away recently at age 57. He was classified as severe on the Down’s scale for mental capacity. Talking with him was like talking in a foreign dialect. I could easily understand him, but a person just meeting Tim could not. He could write his name, address, and telephone number, but not much else. He couldn’t read, but somehow God communicated with Tim as he engaged for hours in his Bible, as you or I would do when intently reading a mystery novel.
Tim was the hardest working person I’v ever known. My parents did not shelter Tim. He could swim, ride a bicycle, and was a member of a bowling league. He could wash his clothes, helped with chores around the house, was impeccably clean, and arose every morning at 6:00 am sharp. He would be dressed and enjoying his breakfast by 7:00 and off to work on the bus by 7:30. He had poor eyesight, was only 5’3” and walked with a limp due to being born with clubfoot. He truly loved to work, and hated missing it. Our nickname for Tim was Chairman of the Cheerful Committee. He always had a smile, never met a stranger, and really lived life to the fullest.
He worked at a sheltered workshop that contracted with private companies to complete product fulfillment for packaging, labeling, and mailing merchandise to customers. Some of that work would, at times, include products for the medical industry such as packaging and shipping band-aids to medical facilities. With the recent COVID shut downs, the workshop where Tim once worked with about 40 other special needs adults was closed. I don’t know if the workshop was fulfilling any medical industry needs at the time; but had they been, imagine how suddenly essential that group of 40 or so mentally and physically challenged adults would have been in our society. A group of mentally depleted, often physically restricted, people who draw Social Security Disability Income suddenly becoming essential during such a critical time. Who could imagine?
After COVID, we will most likely see many shifts in our society. Some good and some bad. I fear the social distancing may become a long-term issue that will ultimately harm our interactions with others. That’s the bad, due to the over-promotion of the panic and fear. My brother Tim would have really struggled with social distancing, since he hugged everyone he met!
The good. I feel this will expose college and our public education system for being overpriced and poor on delivering results. It’s estimated that nearly 40% of parents nationwide have been looking into alternative educational methods for their children, and that college enrollments for the Fall semester 2020 have declined by nearly 20%. As such, we could see a “correction” in the educational market in the coming years marked by fewer students going the route of traditional public schools and suitcase colleges, and a growth in online education that costs much less, keeps students from being shouldered with overpriced debt, and gives parents more control of their children’s education. I recently read an article that the Florida public schools are slow-walking requests of parents to withdraw their kids from school, due to the reduction in school funding that will result. Ironic the schools’ concerns center on the money and not the value of the education.
My youngest daughter graduated high school this year with a 3.5 GPA and membership in the National Honor Society. She has decided not to attend college, after once having her sights set on Baylor. Recently, her mother asked her what she was going to do if she has a business and needs to better understand finance and accounting. Sydney’s response was, “I can find those classes online, pay a small fee, and I won’t be required to take other non-relevant courses just so the school can charge me more tuition and try to force me to learn something I may not agree with.” Her mother could not argue that point and just nodded in reluctant agreement.
In the larger picture, this COVID event has exposed the myth that only certain professions are essential in our society. For a society to truly function, succeed, and provide an economic benefit, all work and workers must be viewed as essential.”
As we get ready to wrap up, please do respond in the episodes with comments or questions about this episode or anything that comes to mind, or connect with me on Twitter, @willluden, Facebook, facebook.com/will.luden, and LinkedIn, www.linkedin.com/in/willluden/. And you can subscribe on your favorite device through Apple, Google, or Stitcher.
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Will Luden, coming to you from 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.
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