Our Future is Not Written in a Text Book

President Obama’s 2011 State of the Union address contained language that was often missing from George W.’s speeches: a call for citizens to act (beyond just “suspect your neighbor is a terrorist and go to Disney World anyway”). Obama reminds us that we are all responsible for the betterment of America. It’s not up to the government; it’s up to us.

I want a leader that will point us in a positive direction, not just clear a path of his or her liking and tell everyone to “follow me.” A leader can encourage, but the followers must put in the hard work to chop out the route.

In all the inspiration, however, I fear Obama’s persistent message to out-educate the world may leave some of the hardest working followers in the ditch. Frankly, one college education does not a contributing citizen make.

I’m not belittling the virtuous message that every individual should have the opportunity to pursue a degree, nor am I saying the graduate doesn’t deserve our respect.

Books

I’m concerned that an education-for-all message may sour into nothing more than college loans for all, just as the health-care-for-all intention turned into health insurance for all.

I’m concerned that we will continue to devalue old-fashioned hard work and entrepreneurial spriit. What about the farmer who grew up on the land, his entire life spent learning how to feed people? Should he lower his head in public because he did not go to college? What about the hospitality staff member who cleans the hotel room for the visiting diplomat? Is he not important? What about your garbage man?  What’s your impression of Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple who did not complete college or the 99 other people on Young Entrepreneur’s list of Top 100 who succeeded without a degree?

There are multiple ways to rebuild this country. We can start by regaining our manufacturing jobs. These went overseas where labor is cheap. Now we have toys filled with lead. But if we bring back the jobs, what US citizen will take one? An assembly job won’t pay a college loan. Immigration officials struggle with the fact that we import cheap labor to farm our fields since Americans won’t do the work for such low pay. Will college help feed the country? It is said that a child’s personality is defined in his first five years. What happens to the ingenuity of our population if we groom kids for college before they’ve had their chance to imagine and create and play?

I realize the unpopularity of speaking out against collegiate pursuits. In his #2 reason why college promotes liberal thinking, fellow National Writers Union member Jimmy Zuma blogs, “Increasingly, ‘sweat-collar workers’ are willing to accept the fantastical notion that poor people have a powerful political lobby in Washington. Looking for an excuse for failure has made them terminally gullible.”

However, I refuse to disregard the value in sweat … or our natural talents … or our individual contributions. A fellow blogger, Sven, from the West Coast furthers my environmental concern in the first few paragraphs of his recent post “How Sitting in Windows is Making the Planet Cooler.”  Sven writes, “I can’t help but wonder whether stepping on the proverbial gas (or electric) pedal and getting busier than we already are is going to have the desired result of a more ecologically-balanced and livable planet Earth.”

Our leader’s intention is prosperity for all, and we must now compete with the world. The weight of this task is not lost on me. However, neither are the day-to-day tasks that keep our streets clean, our ditches dug, our homes constructed, and our crops picked. If we devalue these lower middle-class tasks even further, their eventual absence will be to the demise of Americans at every level. And if we squash the likes of people like Steve Wozniak, we will all lose.

Text books teach what we already know or have experienced, but the possibilities for this country reach farther than that. Every one of us has a role in its development, whether college is in our cards or not.