As he worked side by side with some of America's silent heroes, Mike gained insight and respect for the jobs others were eschewing...those "Dirty Jobs" that make a country run well. He eventually put together a web site (Mike Rowe Works) to celebrate and encourage others to consider entering various trades. He also has put together yet another web site and blog titled "Profoundly Disconnected", where he says "Profoundly Disconnected is the next phase of Mike’s effort to reinvigorate the skilled trades with the mission of challenging the absurd belief that an expensive four-year education is the best path for everyone."
I love reading what Mike has to say, and he is speaking to the majority of young people, did you realize that? The majority of young people will not attend college, and because there is a lack of adequate preparation for them and this fixation on "college for everyone", they leave high school untrained, unskilled, and unready to face the world through no fault of their own. Their high school education was, in many ways, useless for them...and worse, they knew it all along but were powerless to do anything. Even more profound, they leave high school feeling as if they are failures, because they are not headed off to college, and they have been made to feel as if they will never succeed in life because of it.
Stumbling upon a short interview with Mike, which you can read here, I found myself wanting to shout out, Amen, Brother!". Here are just a couple of comments that I nodded my head as I read, but I urge you to read the entire short interview.:
“We’re lending money we don’t have, to kids who will never be able to pay it back, for jobs that no longer exist,”
“I’m not against a college education. I’m against debt,” he said. “That was the only four letter word in my family…”
What he’s against, Rowe added, is that we started promoting college “at the expense” of the vocational training that, in many cases, is what’s actually needed for the career.
“It’s not about, this is good or this is bad,” Rowe said. “It’s about, when did it make sense to say one size fits everybody? It never ever ever made sense to do that, and yet we’re still selling education the same way we sold it when you and I were in high school.”
I have found myself on the receiving end of rolled eyes and an arrogant comment or two about my own ignorance as I have tried to engage others in a conversation about the ridiculous high stakes focus college for everyone. Mike couldn't have put it better, we are promoting college at the expense of other very much needed coursework for kids. In fact, one might say we are sacrificing over 59% of our students with our constant push for college at all costs. As of 2012, 41% of Americans had a degree of some sort, that leaves 59% who were never truly taught to, whose ultimate fate was ignored, whose needs were pushed aside because we want to pretend that every child can...and should...go to college.
That is a hell of a sacrifice, and it causes one to wonder if that might not the cause, in part, of our high school drop out rate, which is almost 25%. By forcing every student to fit into a box that doesn't fit them, we are asking them to study information that they are well aware will have no bearing on their future. How many kids will really need a full scale Biology course, which has really been designed to prepare students for college even when it is not an AP course? Houston has figured out in a BIG way that teaching to the individual student and offering courses that apply to their lives produces a much lower drop out rate. I'll share an article in the next few days which backs this up.
Mike Rowe is shining his spotlight on a very real, very harmful gap in our educational system, and our entire country is suffering for it in higher unemployment rates, higher dropout rates, and much more. No one is saying to give up promoting college, as we will always have a need for doctors, lawyers (OK, we could probably use fewer of them!), psychologists, etc. But as Mike states, there are over three million jobs out there that companies are struggling to fill because of the dearth of trained trades people. Why is unemployment so high? Because we have failed to recognize that there is a need to promote vocational training right alongside college.
When we figure that out as a nation, we will all be better off for it.