Bypassing College

I managed to check off my entire list of work chores before 10:00am. Somedays, things go faster than others. So, what does that mean? Lots of time wasting on twitter and blogs today! Woot! First, let me tell you a story.

Steve and I went out for dinner with friends last Saturday night. Because our kids are all around the same age, we talked about colleges. One couple had decided to go the traditional route for their kids and was spending serious cash on a private college and an out-of-state college. That family will be paying back loans for thirty years.

The other couple of double lawyers was sending their Uber-smart son to the engineering program at an in-state college. The second son had decided that he didn’t want to go to college at all. The kid is also smart and in honors classes with a good GPA, but he just had no interest in higher education. He wants to go to automotive school. He just loves cars and that’s it.

So, the parents did the research, and they’re sending him to a for-profit automotive school, where he’ll commute from home. He’ll be done in two years and do what he loves most, which is to tinker with car engines.

Apparently being a car mechanic these days isn’t just lug nuts and oil changes. It’s very technical. It requires a lot of comfort with computers and high-end machinery. Car dealerships are having a hard time finding people with that sort of knowledge, so they are offering nice salaries and benefit packages.

When blue collar jobs become white collar jobs.

Middle class parents are slowly getting more savvy about these options. I expect to see more of this in the future. Are there downsides?

77 thoughts on “Bypassing College

  1. These days the risk is the same for most careers: is it going to last long enough to sustain your entire working life. That’s a problem for lots of white collar jobs that require education too. I know lawyers and financial professionals who never worked again in the careers they had worked for decades after the financial crisis. They all landed on their feet in the end – but after years of working to reinvent themselves.

    For the car maintenance I’m sure it is actually a job that requires very sophisticated knowledge these days. Have you ever really looked at how a modern car engine works? It’s practically black magic. But… electric cars are much less complex. They require far less maintenance. 20 years from now we might well all be buying electric cars and if that’s the case there are going to be a lot less car maintenance jobs.

    Like

    1. MichaelB said, “But… electric cars are much less complex. They require far less maintenance.”

      Yeah, that’s a fair point.

      Like

  2. My friend’s son did the same and has his own apartment, job with benefits, and enjoys his work.
    Will it last forever? Or will it morph into something else? Who knows. We actually talked about this. Coming from the Rust Belt he is one of those who never trusts that a paycheck coming today will come tomorrow. He’s always saving, planning, watching. What else can you do?

    Like

  3. Sure there are downsides — it always helps to have a BA, even if you use it mostly for Plan B. But compared to the thousands (millions?) who attempt a BA and then drop out, the career-focused car mechanic is making a good choice. The one player that experiences only downsides is the higher education industry, which has to cope with falling enrollments anyway due to demographics. And which is now desperately trying to figure out how to get more of the dwindling supply of 18-year olds to enroll, plus also trying to attract older students. A sharp kid who starts out as an auto mechanic could possibly, later on, take some business courses so he can open his own shop.

    The other downside is if a higher proportion of URM students choose technical or vocational education than white and Asian students. Considering our history, it will be hard for education bureaucracies to convince the world that they are not channeling those students to lower-paid occupations, even if on the whole the outcomes for those students are better than they would be if they enrolled in 4-year colleges but did not complete, or completed a degree that doesn’t enhance employment prospects.

    Like

  4. Our community college offers a degree in automotive technology, as do many of the CCs further away from St. Louis. Our program places every student who completes it, and the graduates appear competitive in the automotive workplace. Internal combustion cars are entirely dependent on computers, so it is highly technical work. I take one of my cars to a shop that employs our graduates, in fact.

    But like any other trade, the folks who enter it are subject to tough physical demands that may age them prematurely. And as other posters point out, they have to stay up to date as technology changes. Eventually, electric cars will start to wear out or require more repairs than they do now–remember that the majority of electric cars today are actually hybrids because they lack the necessary range. The hybrid part is an internal combustion engine. Of course, that is changing over time.

    We should start recognizing that there are many post-secondary pathways to a successful future, and stop using this dichotomous college/not college framework. Colleges are in fact a pathway to the trades–about a third of our total student population is pursuing an applied science degree–at our state technical community college, all are.

    40% of college students in the US attend a community college–folks who leave home and study and live at a four-year school are a minority, less than 25% of the total college population. There are actually more commuter students, those who live at home and attend a local college–than there are folks like me (and I think you) who attended college and lived in a dorm (far) away from home.

    I didn’t know or understand any of this until I began teaching at a community college 17 years ago. I made the same kinds of assumptions many do about what is “normal” until I found out just how limited my perspective was.

    Like

    1. Very good point. The only think that surprised me about Laura’s friend’s story is that the student is going to a for-profit instead of a CC.

      Like

    2. “But like any other trade, the folks who enter it are subject to tough physical demands that may age them prematurely.”

      Everyone I worked with in construction, even the welders (kings of the site) and the foremen, was looking for a way to eventually get out.

      Like

  5. Universal Basic Income needs to be part of this discussion. Right now, we clearly prioritize certain choices over others (i.e. student loans, . . . .). If a person doesn’t like formal education and wants to start a cookie shop, channeling them to school, especially straight out of high school, when they are 18, which is practically a baby in the modern age isn’t necessarily right for anyone.

    I think those who teach those 18 year olds are aware of this — as those of you in this comentariat who teach those students seem to be well aware.

    There’s another elite who see the path that worked so well for them (education, and lots of it) and don’t see the other “normal”.

    I’ve been reading last years issue on “Liberalism” by the Economist (in celebration of their 175 anniversary). Their stated goal is to answer the critics of liberalism. They bring up UBC as one of the potential solutions.

    Like

    1. bj said, “If a person doesn’t like formal education and wants to start a cookie shop, channeling them to school, especially straight out of high school, when they are 18, which is practically a baby in the modern age isn’t necessarily right for anyone.”

      There is a certain level of book knowledge that every would-be entrepreneur needs to have. They need to know if they are actually making money, they need to keep the health department happy if they handle food, they need to understand the tax system and local law as it relates to them, and they need to understand their legal obligations toward employees.

      Independent entrepreneurship requires a whole separate skillset, as opposed to just doing the work within the business. Note, also, that about half of the obstacles to entrepreneurship involve interactions with local, state and federal government, and that this is a bigger obstacle for kids from non-UMC families or who do not have good connections to their industry.

      (My sister went to business school–in Germany–and runs a cafe and a gift shop in the US.)

      Like

      1. Agree but I don’t think a four year college is the place to learn all that. In my experience (MBA here) American colleges teach business with an expectation that their students will work for medium to large companies or will create big money startups. Most successful small business owners I know learned by first working for someone else who was doing what they wanted to do, then taking classes at college extensions, at small business training programs run by non profits, or one off classes at community college.
        I see way too many entrepreneurs getting MBAs to start a small business. Don’t! Take individual classes that answer questions you have, don’t pay big bucks for the degree.

        Like

      2. Marianne wrote, “Agree but I don’t think a four year college is the place to learn all that.”

        Yeah, a 2-year community college would be able to provide a lot of basics.

        “I see way too many entrepreneurs getting MBAs to start a small business.”

        Yikes! That is very bad!

        Like

  6. The primary downside is that lack of a higher education produces an adult who will never know the best that has been thought and said, and whose entire life will be diminished thereby. But it’s not clear that most college programs produce such adults, plus it might not be worth $300,000, the cost of a four year degree at a private college.

    Like

    1. y81 said, “The primary downside is that lack of a higher education produces an adult who will never know the best that has been thought and said, and whose entire life will be diminished thereby.”

      It is possible to a) get a solid high school education and/or b) do personal reading.

      Also, a lot of people just aren’t interested in what you have in mind by “the best that has been thought and said.”

      Like

      1. I would really defy anyone to master quantum mechanics or medieval French by “personal reading.” And even things that might seem more feasible, like reading John Locke, can be much improved by guidance from a knowledgeable professor and discussion with one’s peers.

        Like

      2. Our #3 is looking for a path other than college, and I worry she may lack wide knowledge – partly because I just think life with wide knowledge is richer, and partly because I fear she will lack a bullshit filter. On the other hand, a lot of college these days looks like a constant drip of lefty propaganda rather than an honest encounter with the best knowledge one can find. The Gramscian Long March Through The Institutions is largely accomplished, which I regret. #1 and #2 have gone to four year schools and I think been reasonably well served.

        Like

      3. y81 said,

        “I would really defy anyone to master quantum mechanics or medieval French by “personal reading.””

        But how many students cover that in their general requirements? Those are subjects that students who are majoring in physics or French will probably study, but very, very few others will. (And I wonder how much medieval French French majors study. I didn’t study medieval Russian until graduate school.)

        “And even things that might seem more feasible, like reading John Locke, can be much improved by guidance from a knowledgeable professor and discussion with one’s peers.””

        Now, that’s a much fairer point.

        Like

      4. dave s wrote, “Our #3 is looking for a path other than college, and I worry she may lack wide knowledge – partly because I just think life with wide knowledge is richer, and partly because I fear she will lack a bullshit filter.”

        Case in point, David Hogg (the Parkland survivor / Harvard freshman) recently tweeted:

        “This is a tweet for for the founders of the gun violence prevention movement started centuries ago by almost entirely black, brown and indigenous lgbtq women and non binary people that never got on the news or in most history books. We may not know all your names but thank you.”

        Maybe someday he’ll have a chance to acquire the sort of broad general knowledge that would allow him to realize that he was committing a horrific anachronism, but I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

        Like

  7. The downside we’re seeing here is that upper and middle class parents are figuring this out and sending their kids to vocational high schools. Which is 100% fine. But that means that some of the more marginal students are being pushed out of voc – so they not only miss out on college but also on a good opportunity for a middle class job. Our local voc school uses grades, attendance, and behavior in the application process, so a middle school kid who is alienated by traditional schooling doesn’t stand a chance of getting in – even if he or she is not into traditional school because they’re into cars or the like.

    There are large disparities in the racial/ethnic composition of our voc school and the urbanish area it draws from, and they are taking more and more students from our suburban district instead of students from the urban area. For me, it’s just another example of upper and middle class parents who are opportunity hoarding

    Like

    1. slnoonanj said, “There are large disparities in the racial/ethnic composition of our voc school and the urbanish area it draws from, and they are taking more and more students from our suburban district instead of students from the urban area. For me, it’s just another example of upper and middle class parents who are opportunity hoarding”

      Are they taking 4 or 5 slots and then not using them?

      The term “opportunity hoarding” is kind of silly, if we’re talking about taking one (1.00) seat in an academic program and using it.

      You can’t “hoard” by taking one of an item.

      Like

      1. The term “opportunity hoarding” is kind of silly, if we’re talking about taking one (1.00) seat in an academic program and using it.

        You can’t “hoard” by taking one of an item.

        Except that this is not what is meant by the term. The term, the way slnoonanj uses it, refers to the practice of people with more wealth and social capital using this power to set up rules or otherwise influence the system to direct resources and opportunities towards their kids at the expense of people who have less money and influence. Which is totally a thing that manifests itself in many places and not a “silly” concept at all.

        Like

      2. Jay said,

        “Except that this is not what is meant by the term. The term, the way slnoonanj uses it, refers to the practice of people with more wealth and social capital using this power to set up rules or otherwise influence the system to direct resources and opportunities towards their kids at the expense of people who have less money and influence.”

        But does that make sense, as directed at the rank-and-file UMC parent whose kid is doing a program in auto repair? It’s very, very unlikely that that parent set up the rules or personally influenced the system. If they were so good at pulling strings and so influential, surely they would have aimed higher? Like a no-show Eastern European corporate board membership, for example…

        ZipRecruiter says that NJ mechanics make $19 an hour.

        https://www.ziprecruiter.com/Salaries/What-Is-the-Average-Auto-Mechanic-Salary-by-State

        https://money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/auto-mechanic/salary

        “Auto Mechanics made a median salary of $40,710 in 2018. The best-paid 25 percent made $54,720 that year, while the lowest-paid 25 percent made $30,220.”

        On the other hand, I admit that I do have rather dark suspicions about the people who are trying to set up “holistic” college admissions that de-emphasize test scores and focus on soft-skill achievements like running (possibly completely fictitious) non-profits. That emphasis greatly benefits kids who have mom and dad behind the scenes, toting and hauling and writing checks. In a time with potentially millions of Asian kids with great test scores, it seems very convenient for elite colleges to suddenly pivot to emphasizing exactly the skill set that is easiest to simulate with lots of parental elbow grease and funding.

        Like

      3. But does that make sense, as directed at the rank-and-file UMC parent whose kid is doing a program in auto repair? It’s very, very unlikely that that parent set up the rules or personally influenced the system.

        Set up the rules, no. Solely influenced, no. But UMC parents in suburban school districts lobbying to have things set up to go their way. Totally.

        And UMC parents wanting to set up a path for their kids to be mechanics. Apparently a thing, as Laura’s one anecdote attests to. It’s not the greatest career, but it pays as well as high school teaching or social work or public defense law (for instance) and if you are a student like the hapless naif that Laura wrote about a while ago who didn’t really belong in college and majored in psychology even though she wasn’t interested because that was the major that fit best with the frat party schedule this is the sort of career option that one should be giving serious consideration to.

        What slnoonanj was saying (if I am reading correctly) is that students who are having trouble in a traditional college-prep curriculum are also having trouble getting access to voc-ed education because UMC parents who want their kids to go that direction are competing for places and so the people who really need access to these places are being crowded out through admissions criteria that reward people who are *already* successful in school and punish the people who aren’t (and therefore are most in need of an alternative track). To the extent that the school district is catering to the UMC parents’ needs and wants by setting up admission to the programs in this way (rather than, say, by lottery), this is what is being referred to as “opportunity hoarding”

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I worry about calling the use of a common resource hoarding. I do think that behaviors associated with accessing the common resource could be hoarding. For example, campaigning to use SAT scores as the admissions criterion for a vocational education program could be hoarding — selecting a criterion that UMC parents know their children will win and then presuming or arguing that it is a good criterion. Using vocational programs as a CV builder for college might also be hoarding.

        But using that common resource because a child wants to be an auto mechanic? or an airplane mechanic? I don’t see that as hoarding.

        What about using it as a backup skill? I know a child who is getting a theater tech degree. But, they’ve already qualified to be an EMT. This is their backup skill set (and, with the theater tech degree I think most will agree that having a backup is a good plan).

        To guard against hoarding, it’s worth defining what we mean by it and encouraging families to share resources, be fair about the criterion for allocation, and to work to increase the common resource.

        Like

      5. @bj,

        you know, I’ve never encountered an upper middle class/upper class parent who’s sent a child to a voc/tech school as a means of getting a leg up in college admissions. I know voc/tech schools take great pains to stress that some of their graduates go on to 4 year colleges, but if you know the families and kids, the picture looks different.

        The UMC kids who have thrived in voc/tech programs in our area generally have some sort of social challenge, in which doing a college-prep curriculum heavy on humanities and grading on social skills (which is what class participation is) would not be a good fit. Boys who are Aspergery-engineer types, who would rather read technical manuals than novels. Girls who are being pecked to death in middle school, who want to become hairdressers or dental techs. Sometimes the kids are late bloomers, who change dramatically, and are ready for college sometime in their 20s.

        Our system as a whole, in my opinion, is far too invested in the one-size-fits-all, generalist, college prep curriculum. The end result of that education is the liberal arts graduate with no marketable skills, who doesn’t know what he wants to do, but has significant student debt. That’s not a good result, on the whole. If anything is to change, there has to be a recognition that studying for the trades is not signing up for a life of manual labor. It is rather funny, as liberal arts graduates are more likely to end up as baristas for a time than culinary program graduates.

        There used to be more tolerance for late bloomers. If you look at child development books written in earlier years, there’s a whole bunch of arguments made for different trajectories. Somehow, with the huge push into standardized testing en masse, we’ve forgotten that we aren’t widgets.

        Like

      6. Jay wrote, “UMC parents who want their kids to go that direction are competing for places and so the people who really need access to these places are being crowded out through admissions criteria that reward people who are *already* successful in school”

        But would a kid who was a) good at school and b) not actually that really into the vocational path go to vocational school?

        A kid who is a) good at school AND b) into the subject is going to trump a kid who is just b) into the subject. I get that you might want to weigh interest and talent higher, so that a more interested / more talented kid would beat a merely interested/talented kid with good grades, but if there’s equal talent and interest, it’s quite fair for good grades / good behavior to tip the scales. (And regarding behavior, do you really want a rowdy, careless kid handling a blow torch or a drill press in your class? There’s an argument to be made that you need a higher level of behavior in a vocational classroom, just for safety reasons.)

        Like

      7. Cranberry said, “you know, I’ve never encountered an upper middle class/upper class parent who’s sent a child to a voc/tech school as a means of getting a leg up in college admissions.”

        Somewhat related: my nephew in college in Germany reports that the German industrial apprenticeships do seem to help students perform better in their engineering program.

        (I believe the German apprenticeships have a classroom component, so the apprentices are able to keep up their academic skills.)

        “The UMC kids who have thrived in voc/tech programs in our area generally have some sort of social challenge, in which doing a college-prep curriculum heavy on humanities and grading on social skills (which is what class participation is) would not be a good fit. Boys who are Aspergery-engineer types, who would rather read technical manuals than novels. Girls who are being pecked to death in middle school, who want to become hairdressers or dental techs. Sometimes the kids are late bloomers, who change dramatically, and are ready for college sometime in their 20s.”

        That’s interesting.

        Like

      8. A kid who is a) good at school AND b) into the subject is going to trump a kid who is just b) into the subject. I get that you might want to weigh interest and talent higher, so that a more interested / more talented kid would beat a merely interested/talented kid with good grades, but if there’s equal talent and interest, it’s quite fair for good grades / good behavior to tip the scales.

        Why is this the case. It does not follow at all and it is deficient logic and reasoning to automatically draw this conclusion.

        Let me illustrate with another example. My kid’s school, and all the other schools in the district, provide individualized instruction to students who are not at grade level in reading and math. The reason why they do this should be obvious. My kids do not have this individual attention because they are two years ahead of grade level in all subjects (including the ASD kid with the 504). But I would love to have them have individual tutorials! Think of the independent research that could happen and the advanced study they could do in history and math and science. They are good in school *and* interested in individual instruction so by your (flawed) argument they should get priority over the kids who aren’t good in school but want (and need) this desirable but expensive program. To draw this conclusion is just crazy talk.

        And the same with vocational education. If there is more interest in the programs than resources available then the correct thing to do is (a) increase the size of these programs but also (b) prioritize them for kids who might succeed and do well in these programs but also not succeed and do well in the traditional pre-college curriculum. If there is not room in them for everyone but some kids would do equally well in both tracks then clearly kids should be placed where everyone has a chance to succeed rather than giving the best kids the pick of everything even if it means the others are misplaced. (This is what was referred to as “opportunity hoarding.”)

        . (And regarding behavior, do you really want a rowdy, careless kid handling a blow torch or a drill press in your class? There’s an argument to be made that you need a higher level of behavior in a vocational classroom, just for safety reasons.)

        Why do you automatically draw the conclusion that kids who are apathetic about pre-college curricula are discipline problems that would preclude vocational ed. One does not follow from the other.

        Like

  8. “The primary downside is that lack of a higher education produces an adult who will never know the best that has been thought and said, and whose entire life will be diminished thereby.”

    Well, I agree. But, I think someone might say that about something I know nothing about. I do think the modern world requires the capacity to learn challenging new material.

    Yesterday, I threw up my hands about the remote control that works with our tivo/streaming/apple tv/smart tv system and my son said to me that I seem like an old person. And, I said, maybe I am, a bit. Then he said, maybe you can’t learn to use the remote and questioned whether I was learning and still knew how to learn (he was being foolish. In his defense, he is in the middle of studying for final exams in his classes and is acutely aware that I have no exams to study for). I noted that I do still know how to learn and that I had just yesterday figured out how to effectively use masks in Photoshop. He then admitted that my computer skills still outpace his, even though I am an oldie.

    I think that capacity to learn and adapt is going to be ever more necessary.

    Like

  9. “The primary downside is that lack of a higher education produces an adult who will never know the best that has been thought and said, and whose entire life will be diminished thereby.”

    What, people who don’t have a BA are unable to read? They don’t know how to find a library? They can’t figure out YouTube?

    We live in an age where it is possible to experience entire college lecture series on demand, anywhere.

    I think you’ve lost touch with the current state of college education. I know some recent college graduates who managed to escape “the best that has been thought and said,” despite attending well-known colleges.

    Like

    1. “I know some recent college graduates who managed to escape “the best that has been thought and said,” despite attending well-known colleges.”

      It is possible that the entire structure of American higher education is so rotten that it should be thrown away. Another possibility are that this characterization only applies to humanities, so that those who study quantum mechanics and linear algebra are still exposed to the highest achievements of the human mind, while those who study humanities learn of two centuries by lgbtq women of color to combat gun violence–LOL! A third possibility is that the crazies attract attention, while the real work is done by others. I’ve been thinking of going to grad school when I retire, so maybe I’ll have some informed thoughts in ten years.

      Like

      1. “I know some recent college graduates who managed to escape ‘the best that has been thought and said,’ despite attending well-known colleges.”

        George W. Bush rather famously went to Yale, though, to be fair, not recently.

        Like

      2. I agree with the “best that has been said and thought” argument, though I would include some of the things some conservatives might leave out in that category (for example, I am teaching a great anthology, Sennett’s African American Religious History: A Documentary Witness, this semester, and taught another one, Freedman’s The Essential Feminist Reader, last year, along with a great book on the history of HBCU’s, Shelter in a Time of Storm.) (This is what happens when you’re at a directional state u that experiences a ton of cutbacks – you wind up teaching everything.) I also teach Aristotle and Tolstoy in my occasional grad humanities survey, so I do think there is such a thing as a classic, contrary to some people in the profession.

        Depending on the nature of the work, a smart kid/young adult (regardless of class/economic background/etc.) might be happy being an auto mechanic his whole life, or at least for 5-10 years. But if it winds up being mostly manual labor – in addition to the physical issues listed above – it might be appealing in theory but boring in practice, or appealing as a part-time hobby but boring as a full-time job. I’d also be curious about whether it’s a predominantly male program and industry, and how that affects his way of thinking and the ways his fellow mechanics think.

        Like

      3. Hmm, maybe I’ll check out “The Essential Feminist Reader” at the library this weekend and see how much of it I have read, and whether I agree with the editor’s selections.

        Like

  10. Kiddo sends unsolicited texts about her classes — yesterdays was “I am taking the best classes!” (followed up by a reading in which she said everything she has ever talked about (practically) was included). She is definitely enjoying the “best that has been said and thought”.

    My other kiddo comes home with lectures about what he’s learned — from language trees to migration to grammatical structures in different languages and we recently realized that he’s picked those foci of interest because he gets to lecture us.

    I have only reluctantly understood that not every person feels that way about learning — that they want to have more practical reasons to learn, that they consider a run or a video game to be more enjoyable. For those people, the college experience my kiddo is having is probably not the best years of their lives.

    Like

    1. bj said, “My other kiddo comes home with lectures about what he’s learned — from language trees to migration to grammatical structures in different languages and we recently realized that he’s picked those foci of interest because he gets to lecture us.”

      Hee!

      “I have only reluctantly understood that not every person feels that way about learning — that they want to have more practical reasons to learn, that they consider a run or a video game to be more enjoyable. For those people, the college experience my kiddo is having is probably not the best years of their lives.”

      Right.

      Case in point: I did a Russian major and ate that all up with a spoon. My sister studied some German, but wasn’t interested in German literature–it would have bored her to tears. She did a business degree, owns a couple of businesses, makes a LOT of money, and is an interesting, fun person.

      We don’t all have to be the same person.

      Like

  11. ” But if it winds up being mostly manual labor – in addition to the physical issues listed above – it might be appealing in theory but boring in practice, ”

    Maybe, but also maybe not and I am working harder to listen rather than presume that what I find joyful is similarly joyful for everyone. Someone recently said to me that she loves analyzing financial reports. She likes seeing all the numbers and putting them together. How wonderful, if that can actually bring someone joy.

    Like

    1. somebody said, “” But if it winds up being mostly manual labor – in addition to the physical issues listed above – it might be appealing in theory but boring in practice.”

      It happens the other way around, too.

      My dad, for example, has an MA in math and got a teaching degree. Theoretically, he should have taught math in school. In practice, he didn’t like K-12 classroom teaching at all. What makes him very, very happy is manual labor, particularly construction projects. There’s a caveat there, though, because even he decided that he wanted to leave one of his early gigs because it was physically too hard to do long term, but he’s always been happiest when he has a building project. (Being a farmer and a small businessman, building projects come fairly often.) There’s a combination of problem-solving, outdoor activity and manual work that he finds very fulfilling.

      (He did do a lot of community college teaching later on, but it was not all day, and it wasn’t little kids.)

      Like

    2. “Maybe, but also maybe not and I am working harder to listen rather than presume that what I find joyful is similarly joyful for everyone.” Sure, of course, but I think it’s important both to a) respect people who find full-time manual labor to be fulfilling and b) not romanticize what a full-time manual labor job would be like.

      Obviously “manual labor” varies. Working on construction or being an auto mechanic is different (and I imagine a lot more varied and interesting) than the summer job a friend had attaching plastic daisies to welcome mats – work that was mind-numbing. Maybe there are some people who like to have their minds numb during working hours – and that can happen in office jobs too – but that doesn’t sound like what Laura’s friends’ son was after. So maybe rather than “manual labor” and “not manual labor” I would distinguish between “mind numbing” and “mind engaging,” or something like that.

      Like

      1. Filing forms is mind numbing. Doing the same thing over and over is mind numbing, even if human resources requires a college degree to hire someone. There’s a high boredom factor in many jobs. Other advantages in not working in an office/working in the trades include:

        clothing–not everyone wants to wear suits. Many jobs require uniforms, but most jobs have dress codes. Check out bank dress codes, for example.

        ability to stay in hometown–everyone needs a plumber.

        ability to choose where to live–everyone needs a plumber.

        chance of opening your own business

        the satisfaction of making a difference, and working with one’s hands, i.e., if a carpenter passes away tomorrow, her work remains in the world.

        the ability not to talk to people if you don’t want to.

        working outside

        None of that is “romanticizing” manual labor. It is possible that for many people, working in an office shuffling paper is not the best fit for them. I know a number of people who’ve chosen to go into farming after working in offices, because they wanted a change.

        Like

  12. People are different? There’s nothing wrong with manual labor–and for many people, working in an office answering emails would be boring in practice.

    I once chatted with friends about their son, an auto mechanic. It turns out that car dealerships differ in their pay structures. If you’re a mechanic, you want to work for one that pays an hourly wage. You do not want to work for one that pays by the job, but expects you to be available, i.e. hanging out at the shop waiting for cars to come in. The son decided to change careers to become an electrician, which was not difficult, as he had covered many of the elements in his training to become an auto mechanic.

    Control over your own time is a good thing. Some people are happier working in a large company or organization. It’s also good if you are able to run your own business. The vice president in a midsize insurance company is not a more able person than the guy who runs a local tire shop.

    Vocational schools are more expensive to run than college-prep programs, as you need specialized equipment and teachers. I’ve witnessed the debate at local voc/tech schools about whether programs should change to keep up with the times. Any one school can’t teach everything. Hairdressing, culinary, auto mechanic, computer technical, welding, home health care–every program needs specialized support. Dropping dental assistant programs for a masonary program means drawing a different group of students.

    Like

    1. I just want to add, upper middle class parents seeking out voc/tech programs for their kids is not necessarily bad, if their interest translates into increased support for the voc/tech schools.

      I’ve witnessed different schools over the years. The best voc/tech in my parents’ town has a waiting list for spots. The area around the voc/tech is working and middle class, so there are lots of parents who value the trades. The middle class kids who attended the voc/tech did end up happily working in the trades.

      The voc/tech in our old town was perennially trying to get parents from our affluent town to send students to them. It was not nearly as well run, but in addition, the surrounding towns tended to push their special ed students to the school, but fight like heck to keep the kids with higher test scores in-district. If your child would have done well in the STEM program at the voc/tech school, the high school’s counselors would be calling with stories of how many services they had to offer. I know at least 2 parents who decided to stay in-district after assiduous courting.

      Like

  13. Someone claimed that college teaches people to detect bullshit. I disagree. It might help refine the arguments, but I’v never seen it help someone actually detect bullshit. That seems much more innate. It more often teaches people to create and spread bullshit. For example, https://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/02/climate-change-murder-rape/.

    It is absolutely bullshit. The claim is by 2099. How valid do you think predictions 80 years out are? There are many similar papers that get published like that stupid the ‘her’iccane vs ‘him’iccane paper.

    Like

    1. College *tries* to teach students to detect bullshit. But yeah, I hear you. I am teaching persuasive writing this term and I often wonder if I’m actually teaching students to learn how to be bad actors in argumentation. Damn Aristotle. On the other hand, I find myself writing comments like “how do you know this?” or “is this source credible?” I also have a student who has been writing pro-Trump papers that are ridiculously non-argued. I would work with the argument as written if there was one, but there isn’t. (For the record, I also tore apart some poorly argued pro-abortion-rights papers as well. But at least, those had arguments, just flawed ones.)

      Like

      1. College only teaches how to detect bullshit to the extent that it teaches domain knowledge and the analytical tools within that domain. Now, lots of domain knowledge is already known by students before they get to college — they know that the moon is not made of green cheese and they know that Lyndon LaRouche was a crackpot (I hope). At college, they should be learning to extend that knowledge to more areas and more sophisticated arguments.

        Like

  14. It’s not even writing bad arguments. It’s that they accept patently ridiculous things without ANY question. Right now there is an article in the NYT stating that a taste for Indian food correlates with Bernie support. And NO ONE questions it. There’s another article that claims that stores (CVS, Duane Reed) are selling out of filter masks and because of that hospitals may not have enough. And NO ONE questions it.

    Like

    1. You made me look up the Bernie/Indian food correlation. What are you questioning? Multivariate regression analysis in the whole? or something specific about how its been applied in that NY Times article? The article doesn’t suggest that eating Indian food *causes* Bernie support (as the article says, that would be “silly”). And the argument that the likelihood of eating Indian food and Bernie support might have underlying factors in common isn’t silly. On the other hand the article’s conclusion:, that eating indian food is a way to measure whether people are “more connected: to those around them locally or to people further afield” which then “causes” Bernie support isn’t silly, but also isn’t proven.
      “https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/30/upshot/bernie-sanders-indian-food.html”

      Like

      1. Hmh, what do we do with the internal 11D poll in which I am also for Warren, but like Indian food a lot? Also, in the interest of specificity, the question was whether “they been out for Indian food” rather than whether they liked it. Also, based on my presumption about your Indian food statement, you have to be for Biden, for the sake of science.

        Like

      2. The obviously detectable flaw in the article, which captions the picture of Indian food with “There’s something about going to an Indian restaurant that correlates with candidate vote choice.” is that it ignores correlation as a result of coincidence.

        Like

      3. bj said, “Hmh, what do we do with the internal 11D poll in which I am also for Warren, but like Indian food a lot? Also, in the interest of specificity, the question was whether “they been out for Indian food” rather than whether they liked it.”

        Oooh, that makes a big difference!

        I like Indian food a lot and our family does a lot of quasi-Indian cooking at home, but we can’t really afford our downtown Indian place. I’ve never eaten there, but I’d love it if we got a cheaper Indian buffet. We used to make special trips to an Indian buffet about 45 minutes away.

        I’m not voting for Bernie.

        Like

      4. BJ, I do think that eating Indian food as a way to measure whether people are more connected and that that (whatever connected means here – not defined) leads to Bernie support IS silly. Arguing that a taste for a cuisine means you share attributes with particular political supporters IS silly.

        This is before we get into other reasons this is just bad (selection effects, etc.) . This reads to me as a project by someone who maybe took one stats course, found some software and doesn’t actually understand what they are doing.

        Like

      5. You can do statistics badly for good questions or exactly correctly for stupid questions. You can’t tell from that.

        Like

      6. @Tulip, They’re probably looking for the psychological trait, “openness to experience,” rather than a taste for turmeric and lentils.

        It probably aligns too closely with age & rural/urban status to be useful. I know my parents felt no need to experiment with new foods after a certain age. They still think Mexican food is mostly beans, and won’t try it.

        Like

      7. Tulip said, “@Tulip, They’re probably looking for the psychological trait, “openness to experience,” rather than a taste for turmeric and lentils. It probably aligns too closely with age & rural/urban status to be useful. I know my parents felt no need to experiment with new foods after a certain age.”

        Yeah. And disposable income.

        Like

      8. AmyP, that was I, not Tulip.

        Is Indian food expensive where you are? The restaurants near us offer really cheap, luxurious all-you-can-eat buffets for ~$8. There are a lot of Bernie voters in the area, so maybe there’s enough demand to make it profitable for the restaurant.

        By the way, please send me an email at CB 2020 @ nym.hush.com (remove the spaces) I have a few questions for you about Texas.

        Like

      9. Cranberry said,

        “Is Indian food expensive where you are? The restaurants near us offer really cheap, luxurious all-you-can-eat buffets for ~$8. There are a lot of Bernie voters in the area, so maybe there’s enough demand to make it profitable for the restaurant.”

        We are sadly lacking an Indian lunch buffet in our area. All we have is a fancy downtown place that is a lot more expensive than I am used to paying for ethnic dining.

        I will get in touch!

        Like

      10. ” Arguing that a taste for a cuisine means you share attributes with particular political supporters IS silly.” I don’t agree that it’s silly, though I agree that it is certainly not proven, and that coincidence is a pretty plausible explanation.

        Like

      11. I love Indian food, but the closest Indian buffet is 75 miles away. Most of the people I know here, Bernie supporters and others, would give their right arm for an Indian buffet. Last night I tried to make a version of tandoori chicken from a cookbook – it’s fine, but it’s not really tandoori chicken. I can make a few other Indian dishes, which are also tasty, but there’s nothing like having that whole buffet stretched out in front of you, from naan, samosas, and raita all the way through to kheer and gulab jamun (I didn’t know the name so I looked it up – these are the doughnut balls).

        It is not literally true that I would give my right arm, but the thought of an Indian buffet just now made me almost tear up.

        Like

    2. Upshot articles usually aren’t written by people who took “one” stats course (where one means they don’t understand it). Lynn Vavreck probably has a basic understanding of stats. I think the problem with Upshot articles and their ilk is that they favor those who are willing to draw stronger conclusions than those who are more measured. And I do feel this problem is getting worse because of greater spread of complicated theories in the popular press and greater competition (and, maybe, greater rewards — do people doing this analysis get hired for marketing?)

      Like

  15. That’s the thing about big data correlations. It just observes patterns, rather than deduces consequences. Although 584 caucus goers is hardly a large data set.

    Like

  16. Sorry I abandoned y’all for a couple of days. I had a paid gig that needed attention.

    Just want to say that this conversation was so helpful. I’m thinking about putting together a book proposal based on these comments. More later.

    Got a couple of chores to knock off this morning, and then I’ll throw up some posts. Got lots to discuss.

    Like

    1. Laura wrote, “Just want to say that this conversation was so helpful. I’m thinking about putting together a book proposal based on these comments.”

      Wow!

      Another thing about the hoarding discussion–a kid cannot simultaneously occupy both a vocational high school seat AND a seat in a fancy pants suburban public high school with a squillion APs and extracurriculars. Insofar as the suburban UMC kid is at the vocational school, he’s freeing up a spot at the fancy pants public high school, so shouldn’t we applaud that family?

      Likewise, the same principle suggests that if it’s “hoarding” for UMC families to send their kids to flagship state colleges, then it’s praiseworthy for them to send their kids to private colleges and free up spaces at the flagship state colleges.

      You can’t make it blameworthy to a) send a kid to a fancy suburban school and also blameworthy to b) send the kid to a vocational school where she’s going to train as a hairdresser, just as it can’t be blameworthy to a) send a kid to a good state college and also to b) send the kid to an expensive private college. This is CRAZYPANTS thinking. See also the belief that it’s wicked for white people to leave city neighborhoods (white flight) and also wicked for white people to move back into those exact same city neighborhoods (gentrification).

      Hello, double-bind!

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double_bind

      “Double binds are often utilized as a form of control without open coercion—the use of confusion makes them both difficult to respond to as well as to resist.”

      At some point it starts being transparent that there is no “right” move and that there’s no point in attempting to please people who think like this. It’s motivated reasoning, where the motive is “I want excuses to hate people and try to make them feel bad.”

      Like

      1. You know, the extended strawmen circularity argued here don’t really address opportunity hoarding. To avoid opportunity “hoarding” one needs to be aware of the ways in which we have choices that others don’t have and to avoid as best we can gatekeeping, choices, and decisions that keep others off the ladder and take choices away from those with less than us. Sharing limited opportunities equitably is the goal not self immolation.

        Like

      2. bj said, “To avoid opportunity “hoarding” one needs to be aware of the ways in which we have choices that others don’t have and to avoid as best we can gatekeeping, choices, and decisions that keep others off the ladder and take choices away from those with less than us. Sharing limited opportunities equitably is the goal not self immolation.”

        It should be, but I don’t think that everybody got that memo.

        At least in the “very online” demo, being hateful (as opposed to doing anything concrete that benefits anybody) is clearly the primary goal. You know how people say of Trump that “the cruelty is the point”? There’s a left version of the same thing.

        Like

      3. These double binds tend to show up when individual actions are set up as responses to systemic problems. Redlining, and a lack of attention to facilitating homeownership during urban renewal contributed to low levels of homeownership in inner city communities. Telling people “don’t move there” doesn’t fix anything. These are policy issues.

        Like

  17. Just wanted to share this IHE article about a book studying what factors lead to universities/colleges closing:

    https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2020/01/31/new-book-examines-market-stress-bearing-down-colleges-and-universities

    “Their findings suggest college closings won’t be as frequent as some soothsayers have predicted. No more than one out of 10 of the country’s colleges and universities face “substantial market risk,” and closings are likely to affect “relatively few students.” Six in 10 institutions face little to no risk.”

    “The best predictor of market risk or stress was a combination: declining first-year enrollments and increasing market prices over the last 10 years. In short, if an institution is both increasing its discount rate and still having ever-smaller classes of new students, then it is in real trouble.”

    Like

Comments are closed.