26 Years to Learn a Trade?

In today’s world, we are going to school for longer and longer all the time.  Back when my parents were younger, a high school diploma was considered the status quo for education documentation as far as the majority of the job market is concerned.  Nowadays, that document is the college degree.  For now, the overwhelming majority seem to be pursuing undergraduate bachelors degrees, but for how long?  An increasing number of jobs have competitive markets that require Grad School, Law School, Med School, or any other form of extra schooling.  Some professions even require another 8 years after the completion of your undergrad.  That means that you’ll be 30 years old, having been going to school for 26 years (if you started in pre-school) just to gain enough knowledge and experience to be a specialized surgeon or orthodontist.

With the technology of today’s world expanding at rate faster than ever, how will the amount of necessary schooling look 25 years ago for my kids?  Is the typical college student in my children’s generation going to have to go to school until they’re 26 just to have a chance in a dog eat dog job market for high skill/high paying jobs?  I don’t know where it’s going to end.  Already, the demand for high-skill jobs in engineering is greater than the number of adequately skilled Americans to fill the positions.  Large numbers of highly skilled workers from foreign countries come to the United States to fill these positions.  What happens when this is the case across the board because the majority of Americans don’t have the time, money, or intellect to pursue high skill degrees?  I think what will happen is a higher unemployment rate.  Eventually, we need to realize that fast-advancing technology may not be an entirely positive change in society.

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  1. #1 by Ben Tiggelaar on March 7, 2011 - 3:53 pm

    Technology is the use of knowledge and tools to help an individual or group of people to solve a problem or serve a purpose. Technology isn’t an end-all, but it can sure improve education. We are now able to connect with people and ideas all the way across the globe, ushering in a what I like to call the new global perspective. Through technology, we can begin to understand other cultures and new ideas by presenting it in a common platform. How many wars have been started by misunderstanding? Too many to count. Technology isn’t necessarily bad, as we have access to more information and services than we can even possibly comprehend.
    Our education system is certainly time intensive for high skilled jobs, but that’s exactly the point. High skilled jobs are not considered high skill if everyone can do the job themselves. Specialization means that people can focus on what they’re good at to help contribute the most to society. I want my doctor to have a thorough education and be a qualified expert so that when he’s cutting me open, he’ll know what to do and what not to do.

    • #2 by passionatefreedom on March 8, 2011 - 3:26 am

      I appreciate your reply, and you make some very valid points. I do feel, however, that much of technology today is made with the intention of helping people, and succeeds in many ways, but also has negative side effects or potential future consequences that are easy to overlook or not consider.

      The nuclear bomb development “helped” the United States win an arms race but also killed hundreds of thousands of people in Japan and has put very deadly weapons in the hands of unpredictable dictators. Televisions, gaming consoles, and other home entertainment equipment have helped people to not be bored for decades but have also increased obesity and sedentary lifestyles, cut down on appreciation for nature, reduced actual human interaction, and most distressingly planted some very distorted world views in the minds of millions of American youth. The “new global perspective,” as you call it, is definitely helping people interact with and better understand other cultures, but at the same time gives hateful people a chance to spread racism and discrimination to a larger audience with no consequences or accountability. Specialization, as you mention, “helps” people contribute the most to society in one specialized area, that is if everything goes according to plan. It also often qualifies people for a short list of actual careers that they end up performing inadequately, hating, or never even finding. When this happens, people are either unhappy in their work or cut their losses, settling for a lower-skill job and realizing they sacrificed the better part of their 20s and a lot of money pursuing a degree.

      Technology is the ultimate double-edged sword, in my opinion. I can see the great benefits and good results that have come from the boom of technology in the last 20 years. However, it is very easy for people to allow themselves to automatically associate all of technology with a better lifestyle and a more hip and modern society. This, I think, is a very dangerous fallacy of reasoning, but I’m afraid that its surprisingly natural for many people. With all of the movies, TV shows, magazines, newspapers, internet advertisements, commercials, celebrity endorsements, and product labels depicting smiling, happy people using cool-looking technology, it’s easy to subconsciously give the word a very positive connotation and develop the mindset that increasingly powerful, affordable, widely available, and easy-to-use technology in all aspects of life is an inherently good idea. Many people never stop to consider the consequences of letting their 7-year old boy kill people on a TV for 5 hours a day or allowing their 14-year old daughter to have a more emotional relationship with her phone than her sister.

      In my life, I have come to see definite pros but also very real cons of the technology we now have in all facets of life. As I feel about most practices in life, exercising moderation is key. This is especially true of practices that are easy to abuse. The use of technology can certainly be taken too far, so I feel it is wise to proceed with caution. I humbly suggest that in practicing the use of technology, people would be wise to consider the motives of its advocates and distributer, as well as its positive and negative effects on the health and happiness of people before further integrating it into their everyday lives.

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