This Is Our Fault

A conversation yesterday about a relative I dearly love reminded me once again of one of the major mistakes we make in educating our youth. We rob our society of a lot of potential and punish many young people through this.

The young man I’m speaking of has an I.Q. well above average, but he always struggled in school. He made decent grades through high school, but he had to work so hard in his subjects it was never enjoyable to him.

Trying to live up to what he perceived to be expected of him, he enrolled in college after he graduated, but his first semester showed him he didn’t really belong there. He tried to transfer to a different college, but some bureaucratic snag kept his transcript from getting to the second college, and he ended up missing the semester.

Back home and out of school for the first time since he was five years old, he had time on his hands and wanted something to do. After considering several possibilities, he found a job with a plumbing company as an apprentice.

Although his intention was to work at this company to bring in an income while he figured out what he wanted to do next, he made a some important discoveries. He found that he enjoyed what he was doing and that he was good at it. More importantly, he discovered that doing this job made him feel good about himself, a feeling college didn’t give him at all.

Almost from the first day, his employer was impressed with his work. It’s a large enough company that there are several difference crews which work different projects, and the leaders of all the crews ask the owner to assign this young man to them, because he is such a good worker and does his job so well. And the owner is paying his tuition to attend school to become a journeyman, and ultimately a master plumber.

He will earn the journeyman designation in a year and the master three years later. While he’s working on these designations, he can earn anywhere from $20 to $27 an hours, depending on the job—while a lot of people who graduate from college with BA degrees end up working at McDonald’s or Wal-Mart starting at minimum wage.

He has learned something else about himself in the process. He struggled and made mediocre grades in school because a learning deficiency keeps him from being able to grasp intangible things. Whether it’s the Pythagorean Theorem or the War of 1812, it wasn’t something he could see, and he just couldn’t quite get his mind around it.

Plumbing pipes, on the other hand, are very tangible. When an instructor at his school discusses them, his mind’s eye sees a clear picture of what’s being discussed. It makes sense to him, and the results are there. He has had one exam so far, and he made 97 on it—a score he never achieved going to school.

Our society places a high level of importance on a college degree, in the process placing a tremendous pressure on a lot of kids who would be better served pursuing something else. I’ve thought for a long time we hurt both our kids and our economy by pushing so many to undertake college, where they end up either in failure or frustration, when we have a desperate need for skilled craftsmen.

Wouldn’t we better serve the needs of our youth, as well as those of our society by identifying these potential craftsmen in junior high or high school and encouraging them to pursue trade schools to prepare them for successful careers instead of pushing so many of them into college experiences where they will likely fail? What do you think about this? I’d love to hear your ideas.


We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.


For more information about David N. Walker, click the “About” tab above.

For more information about his books, click on “Books” above.

Contact him at dnwalkertx (at) gmail (dot) com or tweet him at @davidnwalkertx.


About David N. Walker

David N. Walker is a Christian husband, father and grandfather, a grounded pilot and a near-scratch golfer who had to give up the game because of shoulder problems. A graduate of Duke University, he spent 42 years in the health insurance industry, during which time he traveled much of the United States. He started writing about 20 years ago and has been a member and leader in several writers' groups. Christianity 101: The Simplified Christian Life, the devotional Heaven Sent and the novella series, Fancy, are now available in paperback and in Kindle and Nook formats, as well as through Smashwords and Kobo. See information about both of these by clicking "Books" above.
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12 Responses to This Is Our Fault

  1. Sharon K. Walker says:

    As an educator of almost 50 years, I have long deplored the push for all children to go to college. That is forcing one into a mold that does not benefit everyone. This world requires people of many diverse talents and aptitudes. I definitely believe in the great importance of a high school diploma or GED, but, for heaven’s sake, let’s encourage our youth to venture onto pathways that will both fulfill them and make this world of ours a better functioning place.


  2. Steve Trout says:

    Good post. Same thing with one of my grandsons.

    Steve Sent from my iPhone



  3. Jessica says:

    Thank you for writing this blog. I truly feel this resonates with the younger people especially those in their senior year of high school. Most high school administrations try to encourage the students by implying each will make a mark on the world; destined for “great” things. There is always that singular option to attend a college of some sort, whether it be a two or four year. Now with a sluggish economy and baby-boomers unable to retire, the jobs are limited to those graduating with undergrad and graduate degrees. No one hardly talks about the benefits of attending a vocational/trade school and how one can enter the work force two years earlier with less debt than those enrolled at a 4 year college obtaining an undergraduate degree. I believe this is the “smarter” route. Young people must be ingenious in his/her thinking and create a market of jobs for their generation. I believe it is also time that our culture stops dictating what we should/not become as people. With the increase of technology, statistics prove we are further and further away from actually cultivating and nourishing relationships. Our culture has this overpowering irrational fear of poverty, which is paralyzing and dangerous thinking. If we are to encourage our children and youth to great things, we must show them what greatness looks like from our own behavior. We can live comfortably on just enough by demonstrating a grateful, humble heart. We can demonstrate work ethic and hard work by instilling values such as building relationships with our families and communities. Our young people NEED a sense of purpose. We WANT direction. We lead by example.


  4. I concur one hundred percent. My dad only has a 7th grade education, but you give him any small engine (or some larger engines) and he can take it apart and completely rebuild it and make it better that it originally was. He’s good at stuff like that. He doesn’t even need to read instructions because he just “gets” how it all works together. He can fix just about anything. He’s my hero that way. If something’s broke, chances are, my dad can fix it. Ask him to balance his checkbook and he gets physically ill. That’s where I come in. We all have our “thing.”

    Great post.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt


  5. Barb Estinson says:

    I like this blog a lot, David. I am so happy that this young man is doing so well in his career journey. Hug him for me when you see him next, please. Though my college degree (especially the mid life one) was essential in my career, that is certainly not always the case. Our educational needs are as different as we are.


  6. I have long believed that college isn’t the only answer. We need to get out of this rut that says the only experience that is valid is college. Colleges have become another way for capitalists to profit and I don’t agree with that. Greed is hurting this country because an education while valuable diminishes real world experience. Great post David!


    • Thanks, Charity. I’ve never served fast-food or worked in a big box store, but my degree has never been of any value to me other than stopping a mother and a mother-in-law from nagging me to get it.


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