We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Thursday, February 16. 2012
I have been posting about the value of a rigorous high school education, and the frequently minimal value-added of college for many kids. I forget the average number of study hours of American college kids these days, but it is low. High school can prepare anybody for a lifetime of learning. Maybe you can't take a class with Jacques Barzun, but anybody can read his books.
So here's my question for my readers: Let's hear about people you have known who have led interesting and challenging lives without a college degree, including yourselves if applicable.
I'll start with a few:
- The omniscient, cynical, whiskey-breathed City Editor of an urban newspaper where I worked summers during college
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My father rose from junior draftsmen to Senior Mechanical Designer with zero college. He truly enjoyed his work every day. His name is on a couple of patents.
My twenty year old son is an EMT, drives an ambulance. This required a high school diploma, an EMT course which results in a certificate, and the passing of a few tests.
No college degree. He is getting decently paid and enjoys his job.
Friend of mine who has run a very successful insurance agency for many years.
Two successful machinists and design engineers, both with their names on patents. Once in a while, they ask me to make some calculation, but usually, they do just fine by themselves.
My father also, he worked up in BASF chemicals to a supervisor position and a 6 figure income with a high school diploma. To be fair the world was a bit more open to that sort of thing in his day.
Todd ___ in Boise, Id. Dropped out of his first year of college to take care of his alcoholic mother. Then started a finance company with a friend that loaned money to people wanting to start McDonalds. He sold the company for 10 million 5 years ago. Turned around and started an auditing firm to evaluate fortune 500 companies for investors.
He has homes in Idaho, Montana and Virginia. The most giving man you can meet. Every year he all the Make a Wish requests that are not met with the normal givers. I met him at a charity event flipping burgers. I was bored and started talking to the "help" who turned out to be the owner of the building we were in. The most unpretentious hard working guy I have known.
Not sure if this counts, but a local gent studied accounting and got his CPA (w/o a BA). He started working as an accountant and ended up owning several lumber yards, among other businesses.
Several airline pilots also come to mind, although of the three I know best, two went back and got degrees via correspondence courses because their companies started requiring them.
1. My son, a senior weapons sergeant on a SFODA team in Afghanistan.
2. My cousins who have for decades designed and built enormous metal machines in the hills of N. GA that engineers and geniuses said couldn't be built or wouldn't work.
3. My friend Andrew: a master plumber, builder, horseman, hunter, chef, philosopher, and decent human.
4. My cousin, lawyer Bobby Lee Cook, who never went to law school and got his license by "reading the law" under the aegis of a licensed lawyer over half-a-century ago. He was the inspiration for Andy Griffith's Matlock tv series.
My Dad who after WWII, rising up through the ranks to eventually command a DE in the S. Pacific, went on to work for Allis Chalmers as an advertising copy writer up to editor then Hearst newspapers eventually becoming a syndicated business columnist.
From a different perspective, my father's plumber holds a PhD in Philosophy. After teaching for a bit, he realized he'd make more as a plumber, and opened his own business.
My fitness instructor and sons' Lacrosse coach. Dropped out of college after two years, became a Staff Sargeant in the Marines, served 2 tours in Iraq (one in Fallujah during the not-so-good times) and came home, started a fitness business.
One of the first salespeople I worked with in the media industry, now retired. Served in Vietnam as a tunnel rat, came home and started out at a TV station, worked his way up and eventually became a national salesman.
My stepfather. Born to money, in the Social Register in Philly and walked away from it. Fought in Italy during WWII. Came home, raised a family during the 50's and early 60's. Wife died, he married my mom and raised a second family in the 70's and 80's. Stubborn, demanding, but totally devoted. Great salesman.
My point in mentioning the plumber is that he constantly says he took the expensive route to plumbing. I realize it doesn't fit in with the question, but it does add perspective.
Along those lines, a friend of mine married a woman who had been a professor of psychology, decided it wasn't for her, and proceeded to get a cdl and drive a semi.
I have two sons. The oldest at 42 has an engineering and economics degree from Waterloo U. in Ontario he helps design large instruments for oceanographers. At 39 my other son has a high school graduation and is VP of Customer Development for a Metal Detailing company which is a div. of one of the largest metal fabricators in Western Canada; this after selling his own large metal detailing company to his present employer. I find this interesting.
Most of them. i.e. Most of the people I know who are interesting, or have led interesting and challenging lives either do not have college degrees, or the fact that they do is irrelevant to who they are. Neither they nor I are superficial enough to think that they are defined by their degree. We gave up such conceits in our twenties.
Or perhaps it's just that I come from a part of the world where we don't judge people by the pieces of paper they have accumulated? We judge them by what they can do.
My pal's son, a Navy SEAL who has started up his own business on the side.
Barrister...wasn't your daughter going to become a stockbroker? I hope she is doing well.
My father retired as a senior electronic engineer. He has a few patents.
I don't believe he went to high school, but he did take some night courses.
I've met many. Dozens (Hundreds?) while in the Marine Corps.
I also worked a few years at a small community bank. Some to the customers, many with no education past high school, were incredible business people. People that stand out in my memory: the bingo parlor operator, he printed money; several very decent people in the used car business that dealt fairly with lower income people; the used piano guy that made a killing buying used pianos by the container full then selling them to churches and schools at very good prices; the are more.
My favorite though was the guy, about 40, who lived at home taking care of his aging mother. He bought leather goods in Thailand and sold them in Japan. He had never been to either place. This was in the days before the internet and e-mail. He was doing it with the USPS and fax machines! He required the most sophisticated services our little bank could perform.
My father used the money he saved as a junior clerk in a warehouse to pay his way through high school (evening classes...).
That gave him the promotion that allowed him to eventually (more evening classes and mail order courses) pay his way towards a college level education.
Which gave him the chance to get a job that eventually led him to an MBA and being CEO of a multinational corporation.
"Let's hear about people you have known who have led interesting and challenging lives without a college degree, including yourselves if applicable".
I would certainly qualify within the parameter described...an incomplete year in a Math (major) & Physics (minor) program at U of W (Waterloo). Early retired (in 2000) after a 29+ yr career in ATC (YYZ TWR). Currently a semi-retired Safety Training Instructor and enjoying every minute.
Want to take a Friday (or a Tues off)? No problem.
There two new tenure-track faculty in my department. One has multiple postgraduate degrees from the most elite foreign universities in this field. The other had been teaching as an adjunct because of his deep knowledge -- and was a dropout decades ago, never having completed a B.S.
I suspect I know which one the students prefer.
I bet I can help you sort through your suspicions!
At my old business school, the adjuncts were always the more popular lecturers. Students gravitate toward those that have done the work.
Mike Royko, the best American newspaper columnist of the last half of the 20th Century
David Hartwig and Skidboot http://youtu.be/P2BfzUIBy9A :-)
Almost forgot, my Michelin 4-star chef friend who has worked in Paris, London, and now NYC
My brother-in-law. Dropped out of High School, tried college, not for him. I suspect his father (who was a petty criminal and a big time failure) verbally and physically assaulting him led to his view that he was a "dummy" and an "idiot". He now works as a supervisor in a cleaning service. For someone who couldn't understand math and who can't read a book, he knows how to get stains out, mix chemicals safely and repair his equipment. Not only that, customers ask for him by name and will wait for him rather than have someone else do their carpets. His previous boss is still using him in a commercial, four years after he left the company. This may not make him successful in your eyes but knowing that the kid who came to live with me when he was sixteen is teaching Bible studies at the local prison every Tuesday, helps run a Christian substance abuse program and is preaching this Saturday at an extremely non-traditional church makes him more successful than most millionares to me. No, he isn't as interesting as a SEAL or a Marine but being married for ten years, raising two beautiful daughters, being debt free except for a mortgage and walking the walk surely qualifies as "unusual"!
A month later and I just saw this! I also cannot resist answering. I never met him but PG Wodehouse, whose family decided to send him to work rather than university, is one of our family's favorite writers and Patrick O'Brian, my own favorite modern writer (but also a translator, linguist, naturalist, and art historian), a man who never thought it necessary to go to university in order to live a life of the mind.