Fandango’s Provocative Question #59

What does it mean to you in the 21st century
to be well-educated?

When I was growing up, you had to get good grades in school. You needed them so you’d be better positioned to get good grades and maybe a scholarship in high school so you could go to college. Because if you didn’t go to college, you would never get into heaven. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I knew that college was my destiny. As sure as the rising of the sun in the east, I would go to college.

I went to college. I even graduated and got a degree and everything. My B.A. in Speech and Drama had absolutely nothing to do with any work I did in my life, though some of it came in useful at odd times along the way. I have all but 1 credit to a degree in Music and 1 degree in Philosophy. I didn’t intend to graduate. I was trying to stay in school and get a philosophy degree and go into full-time academics. I wanted to stay forever in school and spend my life thinking.

Instead, I erred and completed a major. They made me graduate. It was stupid because I’d have been a good thinker, but I was also a good writer and that wasn’t a bad second choice.

Nonetheless, all things considered, I’d have made a lot more money if I’d been a plumber. People can easily do without thinkers, but when you need a plumber, you really need a plumber and usually, immediately.

Installation! The bathtub is already gone.

To put this another way, we should be seriously rethinking education. Unless you actually need a college degree, there are a lot of good-paying positions that urgently need people. Electricians, IT guys, developers, people who run those cool machines in hospitals.

We need masons and stonecutters, painters, roofers, and carpenters. We need teachers and teaching assistants. We need nurses and nurse’s aides. Veterinarians and vet techs. Hairdressers and barbers. We need auto mechanics. And we are going to need an awful lot of people to make the world green again after the current desecration.

We need to consider training a lot more people to do a lot more things. And we should do it soon because a lot of the jobs people do now will be done by AI robots in the future and if we don’t start training people now, there will be a lot of unemployed and desperately poor people. Which, by the way, is why I supported Yang. Pity no one took him seriously.

He was right and five years from now, everyone will know it.

Meanwhile, it would help if more people would read books. The more we read, the better educated we get. Not reading is making us stupid.

Categories: #FPQ, Daily Prompt, Education, Marilyn Armstrong, Provocative Questions, Work

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39 replies

  1. I agree with everything you say Marilyn. Although I did go to university (and hung around long enough to get a couple of Masters degrees), I left school without real qualifications and actually applied for and was offered a plumbing apprenticeship. I now know I was crazy not to take it!!!!
    But when I first went to university, tertiary study was only really available to the smallish portion of the population who passed the entrance exams. The government paid about 90% of our fees, and we were expected to use our learning to become leaders as well as (although somehow I missed that memo) high-earning professionals. These days, tertiary education has been dumbed down to attract large numbers of students paying high fees and many degrees seem hardly worth the paper they’re written on. And it seems that the disciplines that produced the sort of creative, wide-ranging thinkers who could actually help fix the mess we’re in, aren’t funded any more because they’re not vocational enough.
    As I’ve got older, I’ve begun to learn (or relearn) practical skills and am encouraging my son and his girlfriend to do so as well. I figure that I can’t fix the world but I can at least spend my dotage tending a food-producing garden and baking my own bread (which luckily takes ages and leaves plenty of time for reading).


    • I think I didn’t know I had a choice. I WAS going to college. I had three scholarships which I never received because (are you ready?) — my FATHER earned too much money. Not my husband (I was married young.) My FATHER earned too much. The assumption was that obviously my father was going to pay my bills. He didn’t. I did. So it took me five years to graduate because I didn’t have enough money to go more than 9 credits a semester.

      If I were going to school now, I would want to get into the medical devices they use to test for all kinds of things in hospitals. I’m a bit of a geek anyway and that’s wonderfully geeky work. I could always write on the side.

      In Israel, because the country is Jewish and has a cultural tendency to become doctors and lawyers, they urge people to NOT become doctors and lawyers. They have more doctors than they need (imagine that!) and WAY more lawyers than anyone needs. They strongly encourage people to become electricians and carpenters and plumbers. Or police or landscapers. Anything hands-on.

      We’ve never done that here and it shows. Contractors of all kinds get rich and most college grads wind up working well below their abilities. We really need to re-evaluate the importance of the work we do. Because anyone who has to get up at 4 in the morning to empty the garbage should get paid. Nurses should be paid much better as should teachers. And the millions of women and men who care for others and are paid nothing or next to nothing deserve a whole lot better. If I had stayed in school, I’d have wound up with a Ph.D. in a useless profession. In the end, being forced into the job market probably saved my soul.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I was never a contender. No dexterity with hands on stuff. Used to drive my Dad nuts. Now it’s my family rolling their eyeballs at me.


  2. Marilyn–did you have a plumber do your bathroom–remove the tub and install the shower? Yours look really pretty and I would like to do this in my bathroom, but not sure to go to our local big box store or just search online. Thank you.


    • Find someone LOCAL who has done a lot of work in your area. Get references and if you can, see the work they have done. Do NOT go to your local big box store or search online, except maybe a list to give you local references and always get at least two or three references. The woman whose business did our bathroom sent someone back to repair work that was incorrectly done. I think it is the ONLY time I’ve heard of a contractor coming back to correct a problem.

      But you absolutely want someone independent AND local who will also help you finance. It costs between $8,000 and $10,000 to get the bathtub/shower turned into a room like we have. It’s a vast improvement over what was there before. On every level! If you live in Massachusetts I’d give you a referral.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Marilyn, thanks so much for this. Great info. I’m done here in Florida so will check in my area. I really like how yours turned out. We haven’t used our tub for years!


        • The older you get, the less you use your tub. The last time I tried to use it, I discovered I could get into it, but not out of it. It was really embarrassing. Then I started having trouble not tripping over the tub when I went to shower. I really love the rebuild. And I’m very glad we worked with someone who was independent, a woman, and HONEST.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. If I lived and voted in America, I would also vote for Yang. He is the future of the world. A great post, Marilyn.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. No Marilyn, we really need thinkers now.


  5. Orwell and Wells are chuckling.


    • But they were practical thinkers too. Sure they wrote fiction, but they had ideas and those ideas pushed us onward. I’m not sure we have time for philosophy right now. Maybe after we’ve dealt with the hard blows reality is giving us.


  6. We need people who are trained. I agree.


    • I think we also need to give the people who do the hard and often dirty work of the world more respect for their efforts. Those people work hard and we need them.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Those plumber guys in the 2nd photo can’t be any good.., there’s not one butt crack showing. Who can trust a plumber who wears the right size pants, or God forbid, pulls his up. Maybe the motto should be “No Cracky, No Fixie”.

        I also love the blue “Make America Intelligent Again” hat.., where can I get one?

        Liked by 1 person

      • I agree with that Marilyn. I’ve often felt that many jobs are looked down on. Take cleaners, they perform a vital task and there is a lot more to it than pushing a broom these days. The staff at the hospital Naomi works at have to take frequent courses in things like hand hygiene, manual handling, and other workplace-related subjects and update them every year. If they don’t do their jobs well the result could be fatal. Nobody wants to live in filth so it seems wrong to me that they get so little respect (and pay) I’m always reading about the shortage of good tradespeople too. Plumbers, electricians and builders. I think it is partly because parents don’t encourage their kids to think of a trade as a career. They want them all to go to college and become professional people in nice clean offices. Why is that better really?.


        • It’s time for our cultures and we as parents and just people to stop thinking that only a college degree is “an education.” As we’ve been having a lot of work done in the house, I’ve gotten to see a lot of men and women at work. They do amazing work. I have not been encouraging Kaitlin to go for a four-year degree. There’s a ton of work out there for people who have specialized training and maybe a year or two of training. And these jobs pay well. We all need to rethink education.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. Out on a ledge here, but one of my favorite essays…ever…was Barbara Kingsolver’s “Everybody’s Somebody’s Baby”. I loved hearing her read it. Her depth, vulnerability and compassion, especially in this essay from High Tide in Tuscon really moved me. I don’t know the best way to share it (like is it OK to copy and paste it into my blog??). But I found it here.

    Even though it’s not her voice…and it’s from 1992, I still love it!!


    Thanks Marilyn, for always making me think!


  8. Amen to that…. and on a side note: Our removal company ran out of book boxes because they only brought 90…. not enough for the roughly 1200 after HH culled some 600 by bringing them carload-wise to the incineration plant.


    • I worked for Doubleday & Co. for several years and we got all the free books we wanted. It’s amazing how many books you wind up owning in just a few years of working for a book company. And they were such beautiful books!


  9. make the world intelligent Marilyn, I think you found your calling after doing all that thinking, hope your day goes great, be blessed, and don’t forget, trades people can’t drink on the job


    • I don’t drink at all, but I think we owe our laborers of the many other hard workers a lot more respect than they get. The work they do is physically hard and so important to the world we live in. Imagine a world without garbage collectors and the guys who climb poles to fix high tension wires. Or who sit and watch the readouts on generators. We couldn’t survive without them.


  10. I like Garrison Keillor’s hat. Some of those occupations you mentioned do need college degrees, and a vet (animal doctor) needs a doctorate, just like a human doctor. But I get your point. We need to take education more seriously. We did push it for a few years to catch-up, get ahead, stay ahead of the Soviet’s after Sputnik. Perhaps we should do the same again but say that we need to catch up with the BRIC countries (Basil, Russia, India and China), since they are eating our lunch economically. I mean, we need to do it for ourselves, but it is impossible to convince some people that it is a good idea to invest in other people’s education, so you need to word it to make it about them…


    • I know teachers need college, but their assistants need maybe a two-year study program. Everything needs some kind of study, but a four-year BA or more isn’t always the answer. We need people who can fix things. We need to stop throwing everything away after a single use and get back to repairing what’s broken. We need a much broader view of education as not only being in college, but also learning trades.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I agree on all points, Marilyn… though I would suggest that many mothers have enough skills to get by in most of those professions already…if only through necessity 😉


    • I used to put “Mommy” on my resume. It included financial management, human resources, labor organizer, cook, purchasing agent, etc. It didn’t get me jobs, but it did get my resume noticed. Because we do so much work in their homes and then some dullard guy says “You don’t do anything all day” and I want to beat him with a stick, preferably during his two-hour boozy lunch.


      • May I join you in that worthy endeavour? I wrote a carer’s job description once, after I’d been told it was ‘not really working’…


        • Women — professional and unpaid carers — do some of the most important work in the world and we get little or no credit for it. And no money, either. Every time I hear someone say “But you didn’t do anything all day” I get mad all over again. I’d love to see some of these “hard-working men” take over running a family for a few weeks. Assuming the rest of the family could survive their efforts!


          • I doubt if the lines are neatly drawn. I know a good few men who are better at it than their partners… and, like many women, manage to hold down a full time job while running a home and family. Some of them are carers too. But anyone who thinks being a decent housewife, mote or carer is a sinecure needs to try it for a while…


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