We have lost our middle.
We have lost our common sense.
We have lost our understanding that, in order to function well, our nation needs all kinds of workers.
We have lost our respect for ALL people. The rich judge the poor, but the poor judge the rich as well.
It seems that somewhere along the line, we gave ourselves permission to disdain ANYONE whose life doesn't look like our own. We also insisted that everyone has to pick sides, and where does that leave us? With broad, empty space right in the middle.
And you know what? The middle is the sweet spot! It is where extremes meet, where crossover happens, where two disparate groups manage to learn from one another.
We can't let this happen to our kids with their education any longer. We are causing great harm when we intentionally abandon the great swath of youth in the middle. It has never been true that your only options are a college degree or the drive through window. It has never been true that the only way to a decent standard of living is through the gates of the Ivy League or you'll end up lined up at the Welfare Office. Yet this is what we have been telling our kids for over 20 years now. Public education has cut out the middle, left them hanging feeling inadequate and future-less.
We have lied to our youth, and we have failed them. We have let the divisions in the world around us bleed over into education. In 2012, our government cut funding by 20% for career and vocational training while increasing overall education spending by 11%. We devalued millions of learners and careers...typically middle class kids looking toward gaining skills in essential trades. We continue to tell an entire generation of students that it is OK to write off those whose aptitudes or heart's desires lend themselves to manual labor, technical careers, or work outdoors.
Why is it either or, rather than "and", as it used to be? Remember when Occupational Programs in high school were thriving, and kids could graduate with a skill that would allow them to earn far above minimum wage? We often use the analogy of the Walmart worker to typify retail sales and how "dead end" they are, but why is it that those who obtain a high school diploma and have no plans for college are told they are doomed to a life working a cash register? Do you recall all the auto body and mechanics that high schools used to graduate? Or the dental hygienists? The florists? Apprentice level plumbers and electricians? Hospitality Managers and EMT's and trained office personnel? Remember the work study programs that used to exist in almost every school?
Those wonderful careers are still available to kids...it is the TRAINING that is not!
These are the jobs in the middle. The rhetoric about the shrinking middle class is true, and you know what? It is our fault. We have stopped training kids for middle class careers, we continue to buy into the fact that ALL middle class jobs have been replaced by technology. Sure, some have, but health care workers will always be needed, construction tradespeople will not be out of work due to technological replacement, and auto body specialists will be needed as long as people continue to text and drive ;-)
The world may lie to your kids, but YOU don't have to. Expose your kids to all kinds of options, talk about various careers and trades as you encounter them, STOP knocking the idea of your son or daughter being a welder or working physically for a living! The average welder makes almost $18 an hour! Let's stop badmouthing valid options, and FORCING our kids into minimum wage jobs solely because we don't show them alternatives, or because we belittle certain careers that require manual labor.
And if your child has gifts and talents that lend themselves more to professional careers, then by all means, encourage them! Take them to see college campuses, walk them through the application process!
In other words, respect all options. Sort of like we ought to respect all people, right?