It’s the Pitts 10-18-10
October 18, 2010
Did you see where two Princeton sociologists conducted a study at eight “elite” universities and found that while most extracurricular activities increased a prospective student’s chances of admission, it actually worked against them if they were leaders, and or, won awards in 4-H, the FFA and ROTC? I can only assume that these “elite” colleges were Ivy League schools where professors and grad students hold teas to discuss Plato and Aristotle and eat food they’d have no idea how to grow.
In our society there is a stigma attached to anyone who gets their hands dirty or is a vocational student. When I was a vo ag student 40 years ago our ag classrooms were separated far from the main campus and most of the teachers likewise felt that vo-ag kids dwelled on the outskirts of civilization. We were second class citizens and I was expected to go to law school or to follow my brother to West Point. While I had the grades to go to an Ivy League school I had neither the money nor the desire. Instead I went to a college whose motto was “Learn By Doing” and it has served me well.
I have a chip on my shoulder about your average white-collar worker looking down their nose at vocational education and then complaining when there is no one to work on their Mercedes. That chip on my shoulder flared up again when I offered to help a lost soul who was stranded by the road with his hood up and his engine sputtering. He was staring at the motor but it might as well have been the trunk for all he knew.
“Hi, got a problem?” I asked, trying to be friendly. “Whoa, first thing I’d suggest, is that you back away from the engine or else take off your jacket and that necktie.”
“Why do you say that?” asked the uppity Mr. Smarty Pants.
“Because your tie could get tangled in a belt or fan and could snap your neck.”
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He jumped back as if a firecracker went off in his shorts. “What do you do?” he said in a way that implied I was inferior because I had calluses instead of a cum laude.
“Mostly I make my living as a writer,” I replied.
“You must have had a very good liberal arts education then.”
“Nope. I was a vocational agriculture student. What do you do?”
“After graduating from Yale,” he made a point of telling me, “I taught art appreciation at the local university. Needless to say, vocational students didn’t enroll in my classes. I often wonder how people like you can fully appreciate art, literature and music if you have not been ‘enlightened’ on these subjects.”
“Oh, we muddle along in the dark the best we can, I suppose.”
“I can’t understand why students would waste their education on learning how to feed a cow or turn a wrench. These skills can be learned on the most menial of jobs.”
“You should take better care of your car,” I said, growing more irritable.
“Oh, I’ll have a mechanic take care of all that. Can you see what’s wrong?”
“Well, I’m just a vocational student but I’d say that frayed wire that is arcing to that piece of metal and throwing off sparks might be a clue.” (Mr. Smarty Pants reminded me of the old saying about a fellow who was so smart he could name a cow in nine different languages, but so stupid that he bought a cow to ride on.)
“Can you fix it?” the Ivy Leaguer begged the vocational student.
“I already did but you’d better get your old wiring harness replaced.”
“Yes, yes. How much do I owe you?” the condescending Yale man asked.
I should have just disconnected a spark plug wire or two, so that down the road the Yale grad might come to more fully appreciate the complexities of the “infernal” combustion engine and the many benefits of a vocational education. Instead I merely “enlightened” him of 20 bucks. I considered it his downpayment on a tuition in hopes that one day he too might become truly educated.