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Helping High School Kids Move Up the Ladder

October 24, 2015

I was recently contacted by a reporter from the Chronicle of Higher Education who wanted to  interview me and some other folks who had expertise about education and social marketing.  I am always nervous with these types of situations because I was trained as a PR man to stay in the background and make my client look good.  As long as you did that, you could never get in trouble trying to hog the limelight.  However, for the past three decades I have been the spokesman for our company, so I decided to participate.

I will not delve into the details of the interview, because you can read them at: https://shar.es/1uxpmb. These interviews, particularly when there are multiple people being asked to comment, never give one the chance to fully respond.

Looking back on the experience, here is what I would like to have said:

First, not all kids are college material. My dad was a tradesman who earned a good living for the family as a tool and die machinist. Just because a young person does not score well on the SAT, he or she should not give up hope for self improvement.  There are excellent trade schools who help young people learn a trade or craft, and maybe that is their passion, so why should we force them to go to college when they want to be an auto mechanic? I actually adopted a “VoTech” school in my home town and started a scholarship in my dad’s name to provide stipends for students to continue their technical education.  You can check it out at www.paulenafoundation.com.

Secondly, in my world, kids going off to college should earn some of the money themselves, which avoids more student debt, and the kid will appreciate it more. When you are flipping burgers and digging ditches to earn your way through college, I guarantee you will work harder to stay in school. The kids who have rich parents have no incentive to work hard at all, and that is why so many kids are taking 6 years to get through four year schools.

My third point should be first, in that it is a win-win-win solution. Join the U.S. military before going to college. I know this sounds totally “old school…”  that anyone should do anything to help the country instead of helping themselves, but believe it or not, that is the way it used to be.  That is what got us through two World Wars as victors; that is what has kept our country strong; and that is what we are lacking today.  Would it surprise you to know that in Israel every young man and woman has to serve their country?

Would it surprise you that, according to a story in the New York Times, less than .5 (five tenths of a percent) of the population serve in the armed forces today, compared with more than 12 percent during World War II? Even fewer of the privileged and powerful shoulder arms. In 1975, 70 percent of members of Congress had some military service; today, just 20 percent do, and only a handful of their children are in uniform. There is no way they are going to send their kids off to war when the less fortunate and minorities can shoulder the burden to keep them safe. This is hypocrisy at the highest level!

In my world, young people coming out of high school would have only one vocational choice to make – am I going to spend the next several years of my life in the U.S. Army, Air Force, Marines, Navy or Coast Guard? Once they make that choice, then they can decide what trade they want to learn while they mature, get to meet people from all other cultures, work together as a team and earn money for college while doing it. Is there anything wrong with this picture?

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