Alternative Paths

Last night, I went to a presentation at school for parents about post high school plans that aren’t necessarily four-year colleges. It was a packed room. The speakers hadn’t expected so many people and had to run out to make more hand-outs for the parents.

Like most middle class parents, I know how to get my kid on the right road to middle class, if not upper middle class, life. I know what colleges are the best. I know how to help a kid construct an amusing, thoughtful college essay. I know how many times a kid should take the SATs to get the best score. I know which majors are best to choose at these schools that funnel kids into careers that will provide them with the means to afford a comfortable lifestyle.

I have no idea what kids, who can’t handle college, should do. What’s the difference between a vocational school and a community college? What careers are possible? Do any of these careers lead to a real job with benefits? How successful are vocational college in preparing kids for jobs that still exist today?

I’m embarrassed to say that I know very few people who did not attend a four-year college. I have no role models. There seems to be very few books on the topic.

While Ian is very gifted at music and computers, a liberal arts college would make him miserable. He would hate campus life. He would hate classwork that was outside his strengths. He would hate the lack of structure. He just wants to sit in front of a computer or a keyboard for fifteen hours a day and just do his stuff.

So, I’m figuring it out and relying, as always, on MY strengths, which are research and networking. I’m actually having a lot of fun, because it’s terra incognita. Exploration is exciting.

That packed room of parents was fascinating. I wonder if there is growing acceptance in parents like myself to look beyond college for options for their kids. I wonder if they are hearing stories about kids who are forced to go to college, because everybody does it, but then end up back in the parents’ house after a year of F’s. Lots of food for thought.

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70 thoughts on “Alternative Paths

  1. We are currently entering that discussion with our oldest. Not for the same reasons as Ian’s, but she has other compelling reasons why heading straight off to a 4 year degree would not be advisable. One option we are really considering is our local vocational program at a high school in our district. In this school, 3 periods a day (mornings or afternoon) are in the vocation program, and the remaining hours are spent at their home school doing academic subjects typically in a dual enrollment class with the community college. In an ideal situation, the kids graduate with technical skills and a year of community college under their belt for free. Never thought we would be here, but here we are…

  2. Related:

    I’m finishing up reading Marie Kondo’s now classic “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying” up and I’ve been thinking virtually from page 1 that MK sounds very, very, very autistic. She sounds like a very odd duck (she’s been obsessively tidying since earliest childhood), and yet she’s made what has to be an extraordinarily lucrative non-white collar career for herself that is ideally suited to her particular gifts and interests, while at the same time greatly improving the quality of life of hundreds of people.

    Laura, here’s a book idea: a book with a dozen or so chapters, each devoted to profiling a professionally successful autistic person and describing their career path.

    I haven’t looked at their full list of titles, but Jessica Kingsley might be a good publisher for something like that.

    https://www.jkp.com/

  3. I second the Jessica Kingsley suggestion. They are an excellent source for autism positive books, and they have a wide selection of titles on young adult issues such as identifying a career path, managing college, dating, what it takes to find and keep a job, and so forth.

    I also like Susan Senator’s book on autism adulthood. She presents very vivid real-life examples from all levels of (dreadful word ahead) functioning.

  4. Our #3 has informed us that she truly hates school and she has no intention of going to college. Since her parents, all of her grandparents, and most of her great grandparents went to college, this has caught our attention! So far what she is getting out of it is a very relaxed senior year.
    We think she will figure it out in a while, but meanwhile, there is a lot of tongue-biting going on.

    1. Right now she is defining herself more by what she is against than what she is for. My guess is she will play video games in the basement and work retail for a while, and then notice that she needs to do something else. I’m trying to be relaxed about it.

    2. Ooh, a girl who plays video games. Will you have some sort of “plan”, like the Chicago post high school idea?

      I know of kids (each high achieving, so not in the hates school variety, though maybe in the fed up with school state) who are considering delaying college to travel the world taking photos and leading safaris, dancing professionally, and, seriously being considered for the MLB draft*. There’s a fair amount of angst to the non traditional path for these parents so I admire your even keel.

      *even the potential MLB player, though they are the most even keeled.
      Everyone in this contingent is not worried about paying for college, though.

      1. bj said,

        “I know of kids (each high achieving, so not in the hates school variety, though maybe in the fed up with school state) who are considering delaying college to travel the world taking photos and leading safaris, dancing professionally, and, seriously being considered for the MLB draft*. There’s a fair amount of angst to the non traditional path for these parents so I admire your even keel.”

        They’re DOING stuff, though.

        That’s way different from not doing stuff.

      2. Sometimes just holding a job is enough. I truly had no idea what I was doing when I went to college. How many 18 year olds really know what they want from life? As long as she’s paying rent and board (if she lives with you) I wouldn’t jump to conclusions that her future is ruined. There are several people in their mid 20s who have started working at the financial institution where I work who took their time about starting college. They are doing fine now. Now if depression or something else was a problem that’s another story.

      3. What Marianne said, with the additional comment that if the child is depressed, going to college is a very bad idea. When my daughter was unhappy (not clinically depressed, just unhappy at the place she was attending), I told her, “You can come back and live at home and get a job; that’s no problem.” Going to college and doing badly or flunking out is the worst possible use of time and money, and probably more of an academic and professional setback than taking time off.

      4. “They’re DOING stuff, though.”

        Totally true, and yet the parents have a fair amount of angst. My point is that we’ve become very wedded to college, at 18, as nearly a right of passage, like a walkabout. Sometimes parents seem to remain attached to the right of passage, in spite of other alternatives, bad fits, or the benefits of delay.

        My own kids seem to love formal academic settings — they don’t — at least right now, dream of a year spent in a coffee shop writing their novel or a year spent campaigning for office or acting in a musical or recording demo albums in Nashville. Or indeed, working while they figure out what they want to do. I’d like to imagine that I’d be supportive though, within the bounds of what they (and we) can afford.

  5. My kind kiddo’s biology teacher went to community college, transferred to a 4 year college, worked in the hotel industry and then construction, before getting her masters and teaching. My kiddo reported the apprenticeship for construction that she described and said his bio teacher tells kids that they should consider other choices if they are getting C’s in community college. I lack knowledge to assess the quality of this advice and am looking forward to the results of your research.

    I’m convinced that college isn’t the right path for everyone, but less sure that there is a sustainable place in the economy for other paths (Mind you I’m not sure of college, either, and would be a lot less confident about your list of what you do know. I for example, don’t know the right number of times to take the SAT or the right majors).

    I do appreciate stories like the bio teacher’s, which show changes of path. It’s a reminder that not going straight to a path doesn’t mean not going to college and that 17 year olds can change their minds.

    1. Hmm, my wife dropped out (flunked out, actually) of college, bummed around the country working odd jobs for four years, then the boss at her receptionist job persuaded her to enroll in the BU extension school, whence she transferred to the full-time program. (You need good grades to do that part.) Then she worked as a reporter for a few years, got bored, got a job as an adjunct at BU so she could attend law school, then she got a job at Skadden Arps. Then she met me.

      1. And my grandfather flunked out of Knox College (this requires serious goofing off), got a job as a legal secretary/paralegal (those were not different jobs in that day), and enrolled in a training program for legal secretaries at University of Chicago. (What would nowadays be a certificate program in the extension school, though I don’t know the terminology back then.) The instructor took note of his aptitude, and told him that she should enroll in law school. Upon being informed that my grandfather did not have a college degree, the instructor arranged for him to meet the dean, who reviewed his high school transcript, determined that some of his courses were “at the college level,” awarded him credit for those courses plus the training program, gave him a Ph.B. degree, and arranged for him to enroll in the law school, whence he launched a successful career. Those were different times, however.

    2. Those are great stories. I do think that 2 generations go were different, but I think there are still on ramps for people like — as you describe your wife — and my kiddo’s bio teacher. The bio teacher certainly doesn’t hate school (I don’t know about your wife), so for her it was just a branched path. I think there’s another group of people who don’t *like* school, though they are fully capable of it, who just need to get accredited so that they can move on. But, there are also a group of people who hate school, who may hate the kind of learning it requires, might have big differentials in abilities, and I think we have less of a path for them than we used to.

      i was recently reading articles about cheating in the Chronicle of Higher Ed, and one story, in particular, stuck out in my mind. A person, in the armed forces, who reported a “cheating company” to the better business bureau, because they had prepared an inadequate PhD thesis proposal! To anyone with a PhD (i.e. almost everyone in academia), this is just bizarre. But, I realized through the lens of someone who has been told that the path to increasing their salary (potentially while doing the same work they currently do, or to get a promotion they know they could get) is to get a degree, it might make some kind of weird alternative universe sense.

      1. “A person, in the armed forces, who reported a “cheating company” to the better business bureau, because they had prepared an inadequate PhD thesis proposal!”

        Oh, man!

    3. bj said,

      “My kiddo reported the apprenticeship for construction that she described and said his bio teacher tells kids that they should consider other choices if they are getting C’s in community college. I lack knowledge to assess the quality of this advice and am looking forward to the results of your research.”

      I think that’s reasonable, although I’d add that there are young people who initially do poorly in formal education, take a break (for example, military), and then sail right through college.

      In certain cases, the neurological hardware probably isn’t ready to do college until the early/mid-20s. I have a relative by marriage who worked in blue collar jobs (not in the US) until his mid-20s and then went did college and a technical certification and has done extremely well for the last 20 years.

      The fact that college isn’t the right choice for an individual at 18 doesn’t mean that it will never be the right choice.

      1. AmyP this is really true. As for those who don’t end up in 4 year college at all, I have one friend whose son just finished an automotive training program from a technical college and has a full time job with benefits. He’s 21 and doing fine. Another friend has a son who makes good money waiting tables at a high end restaurant. He scrapped his plan to go to culinary school when he saw the reality of the restaurant business but is finding it hard to consider college and the loss of that income.

  6. Also, I think community colleges are very different in different places, since they depend on what the state’s vision for them is. In WA, there’s a path to transfer to 4 year schools after a good community college stint. And, community colleges are open admissions.

    I think we need more “certificate” programs, but I think that businesses should pay for them. The model of encouraging certificate programs generated by institutions, and supported by student loans is a flawed business model. The businesses should be better capable of defining the learning they want to see, and the best way of refining that program should be to have the business pay/promise jobs upon successful completion.

    1. bj said,

      “I think we need more “certificate” programs, but I think that businesses should pay for them.”

      There is the potential for certificate programs being very scammy, and there seem to be a number of pretty scammy vocational training programs.

      1. That’s part of why I think the business that will be employing the certificated individual pay for it — in some form of apprenticeship model. It seems like businesses with bottom lines might be better prepared to avoid scams.

      2. I would not be in favor of that model. It is open to exploitation. We know some people from India who became effectively bond servants tied to their employer, due to the employer’s investment in their education in a technical field.

        It is less expensive and more efficient for employers to raise wages and benefits for the right people than to branch out into education. It’s not their field. It’s like demanding that employers grow their own food for the company cafeteria.

      3. It would be exploitative, if it were a permanent apprenticeship, but I don’t see it’s exploitativeness if it’s done along the military model. I think the expectation that individuals will pay educational institutions to provide the precise education that a company desires is the exploitative model. That model requires an investment that might of limited utility without any commitment. I am thinking of a specific model I see being developed in which companies weigh in on the curriculum, structure, and topics of degrees/certificate programs in online programs and at colleges needing students.

      4. The military model includes the requirement to repay tuition invested if, say, a candidate drops out of West Point. Some people have pointed out that ROTC does as good a job as Annapolis. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/why-we-dont-need-west-point/2015/01/23/fa1e1488-a1ef-11e4-9f89-561284a573f8_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.60e34518ff1e

        Also, the era of long-term companies is passing by, isn’t it? I can think of many companies that have been acquired, spun off, merged or moved operations overseas. It’s a rarity now to find a long-term, stable, established company that will last long enough to be able to employ a student educated to their specifications.

      5. I hadn’t thought of the problem of “the runaway apprentice.”

        As a comparison, states are gradually reducing the bite of non compete clauses for employees. Those employees are adults who signed binding contracts. If I were an employer, would I be able to rely upon the state enforcing non compete contracts for the apprentices I’ve paid to train?

  7. While your research isn’t starting here, what Marianne said above – “if depressions isn’t a problem.” For when it is and your kid comes home from college (with or without a degree, at this point I’m not sure it matters), and can’t get through a day of Americorps. And has to spend 3-4 days a week in therapy of one kind or another. And you’re just glad that bar-backing weekend nights is something he looks forward to. So if you find any career paths for math-degree’d twenty-somethings, where the damn days do not start at 9am, let me know. Or write a chapter about this in your book.

  8. I actually think that this is my new book proposal. I’m going to spend the next month working on an outline. Not College Material (And That’s Just Fine): Alternative Education Pathways After High School

    1. laura wrote:

      “I actually think that this is my new book proposal. I’m going to spend the next month working on an outline. Not College Material (And That’s Just Fine): Alternative Education Pathways After High School”

      That is a really good book idea.

      1. You know, you can do the traditional approach of doing a big magazine article as a sort of teaser for the book, and then do the book.

        I know I see a lot of complaints about people doing that and then padding the book, but this strikes me as being an area where if you did the work, you could get a lot of material.

  9. Laura, this is a fine idea for a book. My other half is a high-school teacher who didn’t get her college degree until she was 30, so we’re always interested in seeing what her students do if they delay college or choose not to go at all. The fact that these kids need to be thoughtful and mature enough to map out their own futures makes them pretty darned interesting people, but it’s a shame they don’t have more role models within the school system.

    Just anecdotally, in the past couple years I’ve noticed an increase in the number of upper-middle-class, college-educated parents who express enthusiasm on social media for “the trades” as an option for their own kids. Some of them may be trying to convey a sense of openmindedness, which is nice, but it makes me wonder: If families with lots of options add “the trades” to their list of possible career paths, what impact might that have on less privileged families for whom “the trades” are their only option?

    1. Yeah, I’m wondering the same thing. I might have an opportunity to take a year off to write a book or a series of articles (and get paid). This topic is a the front runner among a short list of other options.

    2. My son’s schools made time for their teachers to talk about their paths a couple of weeks ago. He came home fascinated by his biology teacher’s circuitous path (she’s also a good teacher, popular in school, and has a son who is a D1 rower, so, she was an interesting subject). He also told the story of his student teacher in his English class, who he said told a story that sounded like a TED talk, of failure in HS and being told he wasn’t going to amount to much, to being a graduate student at a local university and teaching their class.

      I do worry about the message for the children who aren’t being told about a “alternative” path, like mine, but those for whom a path away from college is the default or only path. When my child hears about the biology teacher who surfed for years in community college, his mind is being opened. The child with fewer on ramps? or fewer coping skills? they might be given a false fantasy that is a trap.

      My hope is that we work harder to provide more ramps into different alternatives (college for the person who doesn’t see it as their path until their 30’s, as well as “trades” for others).

  10. “…Some of them may be trying to convey a sense of openmindedness, which is nice, but it makes me wonder: If families with lots of options add “the trades” to their list of possible career paths,..” There’ve been a number of decades – since the mid 40s of the last century – when many many middle to upper income families could reasonable expect that their children would do better than they had. Since we are now working quite hard, as a society, to enable a wide open entry gate to the top fifth – pretty clearly a large number of the children of the top fifth will not retain their family position. Downwardly mobile! It’s got a ring to it…

    1. I have to say, my recent interest in our family’s history has made it clear that it has never been smooth sailing for everyone. We tend to forget the branches of the family who move to other states or become handymen, but that has always happened.

      I’m also not sure that “the trades” are as easy to complete as they once were. I remember an electrician noting that the state had increased the length of time of an electrician’s apprenticeship, and looking online, it’s a four year course to become a plumber in our state. So whether your kid’s working with abstract thought or building useful things, somehow four years of education and living expenses have to be covered.

      1. Cranberry said,

        “I’m also not sure that “the trades” are as easy to complete as they once were. I remember an electrician noting that the state had increased the length of time of an electrician’s apprenticeship, and looking online, it’s a four year course to become a plumber in our state.”

        OH MY GOODNESS!

      2. Plumbing and being an electrician have a long training period but in certain cases there is pay during the apprenticeship. People are often shocked by the long training for plumbing but forget that plumbing includes all the complexity of both residential and commercial construction.

      3. “The trades” covers a lot of territory. Some of them (like electrician and plumber) have long apprenticeships. Several require demonstration of pretty good math skills just in order to gain access to apprentice training — math skills that some college students don’t have. You can flunk out of an apprenticeship program if you don’t work hard or can’t learn the finer points. I think many kids who are “not college material” are also not trades material. That’s not to say that they don’t need some sort of post-secondary education, just that being a carpenter is not so easy.

    2. This demand for more abstract thought, analytic reasoning, associational thinking is becoming more and more a part of our interaction in society. This growing practice is the theory behind the Flynn effect, the steady upward trend on IQ tests that requires them to be renormalized every couple of years or so.

  11. “I’m also not sure that “the trades” are as easy to complete as they once were.”

    Yes, quite right. Becoming an elevator mechanic, for example, requires courses in electricity, electronics, physics, and geometry, among other subjects, plus (if I remember correctly) a five-year apprenticeship. Aside from the cost of the training, a kid who wants to take on a skilled trade is going to have to be as studious and as detail-oriented as his peer who goes to college—probably more so.

    A few years ago, a friend of mine who was the safety foreman for a commercial construction firm here in Maryland told me that his company would pay for the coursework for an 18-year-old kid who wanted to enter the construction trades, but that he was having a hard time finding young people who were willing to do the entry-level crap work on construction sites that went along with the deal.

    1. What do they pay? Because just as a summer job when I was in college, I was getting what is the equivalent of $13/hour now. And that was in a very low cost of living place.

  12. Jeff S. said,

    “Aside from the cost of the training, a kid who wants to take on a skilled trade is going to have to be as studious and as detail-oriented as his peer who goes to college—probably more so.”

    That’s an interesting point–and fair given the organizational burdens of self-employment/managing a small business.

    1. And the Internet of Things is invading HVAC and mass-market appliances: https://www.phcppros.com/articles/2315-internet-of-things

      So the person who installs your refrigerator may need to be able to link it to your home wireless network, then to the internet, and debug software glitches along the way.

      The “Family Hub” refrigerator: https://www.samsung.com/us/explore/family-hub-refrigerator/overview/

      The wifi enabled washers and driers: https://www.homedepot.com/b/Smart-Home-Smart-Appliances-Smart-Washers-Dryers/Wi-Fi/N-5yc1vZch9iZ1z0kb2s

      Wifi enabled hot tubs “control your hot tub from anywhere in the world (No idea why, but I suppose it would be good to drive your ex-wife’s electricity bill through the roof.) https://www.hottubworks.com/blog/wi-fi-app-control-for-spas-hot-tubs/

      All these things will require people to install them and keep them running. On the other hand, if you’re able to debug a home wireless network, do you really need to learn how to unclog a neglected septic system? So how easy will it be to persuade tech people to become HVAC installers, rather than corporate network IT staff?

      1. I don’t really like the term, “the trades.” It’s so condescending, right? It’s like the downstairs staff of the manor. But I’m not sure what the new terms are.

        There are going to be tons of white-blue collar workers very soon, if not already. The guys who put in my kitchen last spring were pretty much traditional plumbers, electricians, tilers, and all that. But there are a whole lotta workers that weren’t hear in my house this spring, more tech-heavy, everything from NEST installers to home internet installers to Apple Geniuses to office programmers — none of those jobs require a college BA.

        I did an article on computer education a couple of years ago. I came across tons of good research that said that there are thousands and thousands of computer jobs that are open, because there’s nobody with the right training. You do not need a college degree to program computers. A good online bootcamp can do the trick. That’s why all the Silicone Valley dudes are poo-pooing college education.

        I’ve been camped out in Barnes and Noble all afternoon reading anti-college books. They were very inspirational.

      2. But for a while now, the problem has been that jobs that don’t “need” college degrees are requiring them anyway, because they can, and because it is one of the few out outsourced credentials out there.

        I don’t know if I believe “You do not need a college degree to program computers”. There’s lots of different forms of programming and I’m sure there are some that don’t require a college level degree. I don’t know if this comes from college, but, there is knowledge on logic and algorithms and code organization and optimization that are “college level” topics. Some kids might be able to teach themselves and then apply the skills. There is a form of “coding” that is pretty routine — of the form that was required to fix the Y2K bugs and to fix code in general. But that low level coding is being outsourced (as, for example, document discovery, both to lower paid workers, and to computers, that correct code themselves).

      3. Connecting those smart appliances to the network is pretty much plug and play these days. I don’t think there will be significant skills required in installing those versus installing standard appliances.

        We have philips hue lights & alexa and have pretty much forgotten how to turn our lights on and off. We love it, being able to say “turn office off” and having the lights turn off. And, the lights are on timers so that they turn on in the morning and turn off at night.

        I would guess the hot tub control would be similar. Home hot tubs are often turned on before use (instead of keeping them on all the time). With wifi/smart control, you’d turn on the hot tub 30 minutes before arriving at home and be able to get in it right away. And, it would automatically turn off at night. Not needs, but something you get very used to.

        We are discussing in our family whether the new Amazon wifi microwave has any utility. I think it does, even if just for avoiding the buttons to press to start the timer. The kids think I’m silly. But, I bet if it worked smoothly, it would become standard.

      4. “…news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average…” even the children who install magic unicorn refrigerators. Out here in the actual United States, though, half the children are below average. I think I have played this tape before, but the Army has discovered that it cannot make an artilleryman out of a recruit with an IQ below 94. “Currently in low initial rate production, the Excalibur shells are coming in at around US$140,000 each, but once full production begins, the new Excalibur XM982 rounds will cost roughly 30 times more than existing unguided artillery shells which costs around US$1000 each, but are only accurate with 200 metres.” You cannot put someone on a cannon who is going to waste those things. Nor can you hire somebody to install magic unicorn fridges if you are going to have to send a back up crew to make it work half the time.
        So we still have the problem of, what will the stupid children go on to?

  13. I don’t really like the term, “the trades.” It’s so condescending, right? It’s like the downstairs staff of the manor.

    I don’t find it condescending. I have come to appreciate the value of knowing a trade, and being independent. When I attended my 25th college reunion, it struck me that many of my classmates had bet on the “sure thing,” only to find that the world had changed. Someone who’s an HVAC installer can move with a spouse to another state. A lawyer can be chained to her firm. If that firm goes broke, she might see her retirement savings disappear. Mid-level executives have had their careers disrupted continually.

    I find the image of stable social classes to be a fantasy. We give status to the people who are best able to progress through a system designed to rank and wash out people. Pre-med and pre-law students are hyper-sensitive to the status of different colleges, and often so worried about their GPAs they won’t dare take an interesting course with a hard grader. (And I’m not saying they’re wrong, given their career path.)

    On the other hand, I’m old enough now to have seen doctors and lawyers self-destruct, or have their professional trajectory be disrupted through no fault of their own. Both professions are now much more likely to be constrained through paperwork and legal restrictions. Doctors and lawyers now routinely qualify for need-based financial aid at private schools.

    The happiest kids I know of the younger adults so far chose business or vocational paths. The graduate students are not a happy lot. The saddest story I know is a graduate student who died “unexpectedly.”

    Sorry, I’m waxing philosophical on a rainy day.

    1. Cranberry said,

      “The happiest kids I know of the younger adults so far chose business or vocational paths. The graduate students are not a happy lot. The saddest story I know is a graduate student who died “unexpectedly.”

      Graduate students have awful mental health:

      https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2018/03/06/new-study-says-graduate-students-mental-health-crisis

      “Several studies suggest that graduate students are at greater risk for mental health issues than those in the general population. This is largely due to social isolation, the often abstract nature of the work and feelings of inadequacy — not to mention the slim tenure-track job market. But a new study in Nature Biotechnology warns, in no uncertain terms, of a mental health “crisis” in graduate education.

      ““Our results show that graduate students are more than six times as likely to experience depression and anxiety as compared to the general population,” the study says, urging action on the part of institutions.”

      “Some 39 percent of respondents scored in the moderate-to-severe depression range, as compared to 6 percent of the general population measured previously with the same scale.”

      (This study covered a bunch of different countries, not just US.)

      “Consistent with other research on nonstudent populations, transgender and gender-nonconforming graduate students, along with women, were significantly more likely to experience anxiety and depression than their cisgender male counterparts: the prevalence of anxiety and depression in transgender or gender-nonconforming graduate students was 55 percent and 57 percent, respectively. Among cis students, 43 percent of women had anxiety and 41 percent were depressed. That’s compared to 34 percent of cis men reporting symptoms of anxiety and 35 percent showing signs of depression.”

      1. Wendy said,

        “I still call grad school “The Therapy Years.””

        Apparently, humanities grad students are even more depressed than other grad students.

        https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2015/04/22/berkeley-study-finds-high-levels-depression-among-graduate-students

        “Among the Ph.D. students [at Berkeley], the highest rate of apparent depression was in arts and humanities fields — 64 percent. That’s much higher than the rates found in the biological or physical sciences and engineering (all in the 43-46 percent range), the social sciences (34 percent) and business (28 percent).”

        Interestingly, “”Inadequate sleep is the top predictor of depression among graduate students.”

        Huh. That makes sense, but I would not have guessed it.

  14. Oh, totally agree. I would love to see greater freedom for people of all social classes to seek out their own happiness. It’s just as much of a tragedy when middle class kids refuse to consider careers that would sync up best with their interests, as it is when working class and poor kids aren’t given the tools to sync up best with their interests and abilities. Some rich kids would be happiest as cops or contractors, but their parents refuse to let them pursue that career because it’s considered below them.

    A few years back, we needed a retaining wall built along one side of our yard that would sometimes flood. I called in a local landscaper and we ended up talking for a long while. He used to be on Wall Street. He said he made about 300K per year, but he hated the work. So, he quit and started his own landscaping business. He was a really hands-on owner and was out there spreading the dirt with the workers. He must be doing extremely well, because he buys up investment properties on the Jersey shore. That’s a happy, but rare, story.

    I’ve been talking with a lot of people and hearing a greater awareness of other options out there and a much greater silliness to step away for a traditional liberal arts education. It’s been happening gradually over the past ten years. The massive move towards business majors in colleges started the trend. Also, there are so many stories of kids flunking out their first year and starting over at community colleges.

    My only worry about the move away from the 4-year college route is whether or not there are jobs waiting for the kids who go on alternative routes. I hear stories about plumbers without health insurance and busted knees. But I also hear stories about six figure salaries from people who read EKG machines in hospitals.

    Another worry is that some of the alternative schools are unregulated and lead to lots of student loan debt. Anyway, that’s what I’m working on right now. I’m not sure what the answers are. I’m making phone calls and talking to people.

    1. I assume “silliness” = willingness? (A Freudian slip, perhaps.)

      Well, maybe every community has different ideas of what represents social status? I know very successful parents who are happy that their children are happy and employed.

      As an aside, there seems to be a trickle of children of the very successful in this area who head West to Colorado and don’t come back. They seem to be able to support themselves as artists, carpenters, wilderness guides. Perhaps they have to leave the area to get away from the snobs? (This is a theme in _Succession_; the eldest son is out West, being inconsequential far away from his family.)

      I think it is a shame that children’s education is by and large entrusted to people who never left the classroom. I have talked to many people for whom spending time cooped up in a room being judged for years on end was pure hell. That doesn’t mean that they’re stupid, just that they aren’t compliant.

      If I could, I would insert classes in practical skills into high school and college. How to balance a checkbook. Personal finance. How to apply for a job. How to give notice. How to run a business. Business etiquette. But then again, someone who could teach that doesn’t have to put up with school administrators.

      1. “How to balance a checkbook.” Does anyone write checks any more?

        (Says the person who just wrote two checks, but I often go weeks between writing checks.I’m even Venmo-ing the person I have driving E home from math team practice.)

      2. Don’t schools teach most of that stuff anyway? I’m pretty sure high school was where I learned to write a business letter and that kind of stuff.

      3. I don’t think it’s in the Common Core Standards. It’s not in the AP standards. Do high schools still have business courses? I know my high school did, but that was forever ago.

        You can look up all these skills online, but do people do that as a matter of course?

        I write checks. It seems Quicken can charge people yearly subscriptions for their app.

      4. We had it in English class, I think. I never took a business class (unless typing counts and that was required for all). Also, I guess it’s been 30 years ago.

        I don’t see why you’d need to pay Quicken as an alternative to writing checks. I never used it in my life.

      5. Given my lousy handwriting, printing checks is marvelous.

        I switched to a cheaper app once Quicken moved to the cloud. It is great to be able to pull out reports on your spending patterns.

    2. Laura said,

      “It’s just as much of a tragedy when middle class kids refuse to consider careers that would sync up best with their interests, as it is when working class and poor kids aren’t given the tools to sync up best with their interests and abilities.”

      There seem to be a lot of unhappy lawyers out there, as well as a lot of cheerful ex-lawyers.

  15. Sometimes people try to make excuses or point out that politics has always been rough, but after everything that happened the past couple of days, going on Fox and saying the State Department is controlled by Soros is just a remarkable new low, even compared the president ranting about “globalists” and how you shouldn’t have an unarmed religious service if you don’t want to die.

    1. The cruelty and the impunity are the points.

      Spending too much time on German and Central European history is looking more and more relevant. Unfortunately.

    1. My neighborhood also. It was unsettling. It also marks the 7th Pittsburgh police officer shot by a white supremacist in less than ten years.

  16. I was talking to a local mom today and she mentioned this program:

    https://www.depts.ttu.edu/burkhartcenter/services/transition-academy.php

    “The Transition Academy works to fill the need of young adults 18 to 30 years of age who are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and aspire to be competitively employed. The Transition Academy is a non-residential program that emphasizes job and social skills that lead to productive, dignified employment as well as life skills that enrich the overall lifetime experience. Students attend classes Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and follow the Texas Tech University academic calendar.”

    The people who run that might be a good interview for Laura.

    They literally have their own Quiznos in their building that is a sort of vocational lab for their students.

  17. This is college-oriented, but still interesting.

    https://www.depts.ttu.edu/burkhartcenter/case/

    “The CASE program assists students with Autism and other developmental disabilities to navigate college and empower them to reach their postsecondary academic goals and to find competitive employment after graduation. Many students with Autism have no problem meeting the academic standards for acceptance into college; however, once they arrive on campus they may have extreme difficulty in balancing the academic and social complexities that are fundamental to college life.”

    “Faculty and staff of the CASE program use the Wraparound Planning Process and the Birkman Method Assessment to build an individualized support network, which pairs each student with a Learning Specialist who provides mentoring and navigational support.”

    1. There are lots of colleges with life and work skills programs for young people on the spectrum and/or with intellectual disability all over the country.

      The Think College site is a good place to start, though I am not sure they haven’t missed a few programs.

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