My Dad Always Told Me…

All this talk about a “higher education bubble” reminds me of my dad. Who managed to get a lot of lesson learning in between 1866 and 1953. He was a war baby, you know. The Civil War. As if there was such a thing as a civil war!

My dad always told me that every man needed at profession and at least two more trades. He was a chef by profession, but there was not much demand for chefs so he became a timber company’s camp cook.

The guy before him could not feed a gang of hungry loggers on a dollar a day each, while dad managed that feat on about sixty cents. Back when gold was sixteen dollars an ounce and everything else was priced in proportion.

He was also a tailor, and a tin smith. He could fit metal clerestory roofs on passenger cars where no one else could. And make Buick fenders look like they had grown to the metal work, before Billy Durant lost Buick to General Motors.

Of course, I have had an interesting assortment of jobs as well. Jobs that found me changing light bulbs at the 1,500 foot level with nothing between me and a a long drop but a really good safety belt and a couple of gorilla hooks. And changing water cooled transmitting tubes with 16,000 volts at 2 amps each on the plates. And some other things that give me the willies to think about.

Now, these boys that come around without a salable skill in the world, so undeducated they cannot polish a doorknob, and who demand fifteen bucks an hour, depress me. I have worked for fifteen bucks a week, and these guys, and some girls, demand fifteen bucks an hour to occupy space.

I don’t know who would pay them that for the jobs they are qualified for. Of course, they have a degree. Which might as well be in knitting bowling balls. Or art appreciation. OR something else that would do quite well as an avocation but there is little or less demand for as a profession.

It would not harm a potential surgeon to learn to rebuild automobile engines. Both professions call of concentration, and for attention to detail.

Flipping burgers? Teaches you punctuality, and if you pay attention, how to maintain on the job relationships. Which are valuable asserts to a busy professional. After all, genius is two percent inspiration, and 98 percent perspiration.

And that degree? A degree can be a good thing – or the most expensive investment you ever make. What demand will there be for people with the skills you are paying high dollars to acquire? What will the jobs pay? Where will those jobs be? Do you really want to go to Upper Lower Erewhon to make your degree in reindeer knuckle carving pay off?

It does you no good at all to spend time and money getting a degree that will pay less than a garbage collector earns. Or acquiring a profession there is no demand at all for.

Get an education, by all means. But a couple of years at a technical school may cost a fraction of the cots of a big famous institute of learning – and result in a job that is far more rewarding than an MBA will get you.


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