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Success at Work Isn't a Matter of Degrees

August 01, 1993

In "Skipping School" (July 4), Bettijane Levine reveals the closed doors and minds non-college-bound youth are up against when they converge with the working world.

Indeed, we cannot afford to write off an estimated 100,000 California high school graduates each year simply because they do not register for college classes. The economic futures of our youth and country hinge on our ability to bridge the widening gap between school and the workplace for those who do not go to college.

As the director of the California Conservation Corps, I take a dim view of companies that dismiss potential job candidates solely because they do not have college degrees. Every day I talk with young people who, like their college-educated peers, aspire to succeed in the workplace and in their communities. At the CCC we open doors for young people who may be out of school and work, but who resolutely want to better themselves, get jobs with a future and contribute to society.

We think it's time the state's business leaders tap the potential success of all young people, not just those with college degrees.


California Conservation Corps



Bettijane Levine's piece about our love affair with degrees hit the mark. In it, she quotes one successful person after another who somehow survived quite well despite the lack of a college degree.

I teach mostly economics at a high school in Chino Hills and have maintained for years that our public schools essentially ignore and belittle those who choose not to go to college. The same is true in our private schools. There's plenty of guilt to go around. I'm absolutely amazed at the lack of attention we in the public realm, however, give to those who won't--or can't--go to college.

One solution, and I really can't envision it being an expensive one, is to dismiss our students at about noon to work as apprentices in the community.

Our State Board of Education could lead the charge by starting with the California Teachers Assn. and superintendents and by jointly lobbying the Legislature with the PTA's clout. Together we can help our kids, many of whom rightly realize at about age 15 that what they study has little bearing on their future professional lives.




Thank you for your article on America's obsession with degrees. I agree that a person's job skills should be as highly regarded as his degree status. Unfortunately, it all comes down to the balance between control and chaos. The people with education want structure and control, and therefore they are more often in charge. The creative artisan is more interested in honing his skill, following his own muse instead of someone else's.

Education is much like religion. Some people choose to belong to a large institution, whereas others are more likely to worship alone in the forest. However, I have noticed, the ones who cling to institutions seem to have a lot of trouble valuing the individuals who choose to remain outside--because the existence of these individuals poses a fundamental question to the ones in the institution: "Wouldn't I be much happier out there pursuing my own interests instead of following a predetermined path?"

This question often feels like a threat; therefore the people in institutions try to suppress the people outside by devaluing their contributions, exporting their jobs and lowering their wages.

This is not to say education and structure are bad things. These are the pillars upon which society most often rests. It is rather to say the healthy society is the society that acknowledges an individual for his creative separateness as well as his ability to function within a structured environment.


Buena Park

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