Postsecondary Thoughts

The other day, I asked one of my students what they wanted to do when they “grew up.” He answered “I want to have a well-paying job.”

I thought it was a brilliantly honest answer for a 12-year-old, as most kids that age would name some concrete profession like doctor, lawyer, vet, teacher, etc. He followed up with saying that going to a good university would secure a well-paying job for his future.

Of course I was completely unsurprised to hear that, but I couldn’t resist noting that a university education was neither sufficient nor necessary to be gainfully employed. I gave him some examples, saying that a mechanic, plumber, or HVAC technician could make more money than a recent university graduate in pretty much any degree. Of course I knew that his parents would be less than thrilled if they knew the sort of advice I was giving their impressionable son.

I was convicted when I realized that although I seemed to be giving enlightened advice to my student, I wouldn’t want my own child to become a skilled tradesperson. I felt horribly hypocritical, but I couldn’t set aside my irrationality.

Instead, I thought about why I didn’t want my children entering the skilled trades market. I think somehow I have convinced myself that college is a lesser university, even though in my mind I know this isn’t true. I don’t have noble hopes like wanting my kids to have comfortable lives, it’s really just about the perception that college is for students who can’t get into university.

I don’t think that my feeling this way makes me a bad person; I think that it’s something I picked up from the general public. The sensible part of me knows that I’m wrong and I want to overcome this emotion. Unfortunately, it seems like something that gets passed on from generation to generation. I hope that I can break the chain and support my kids regardless of what they want to do.


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