Trade schools have many pluses


DEAR JOYCE: My daughter, Tracy, who will graduate from high school in June, is reluctant to make a college commitment. She says she's not sure she wants to study another four years. Her mother and I were the first generation in our families to become college graduates and now she's going "backward." She wants to attend a trade school, if you can believe that. All her friends are going to college. How can we get her to see her stubbornness will cramp her lifestyle later in life? D.S.

Tracy may decide to seek higher education in the future, but for now you'll probably have to accept the fact that she's a different person with different aspirations from yours. But that does not mean being substandard.

Comedian Marty Ingels makes that point in a wise story in the book "Shirley & Marty." Here's the gist of it.

Conk a scientist on the head and, with his memory gone, stick him in the middle of a jungle. He sees thousands of monkeys swinging through the trees. He knows he isn't one of them, but he doesn't know he's superior.

Looking around he thinks he must be second-rate because he can't jump and swing like the monkeys. Even if he had a few swinging lessons, he'd still be a lousy monkey.

But if he knew what he was, a scientist, he would get to the high ground, build a fence and own all the monkeys. "Being different," Ingels explains, "doesn't mean you have to be inferior. You can be a scientist in a world of monkeys."

If you've been reading news reports, you know that next year's batch of college graduates, with some exceptions (such as health and engineering jobs), face a soft job market.

By contrast, learning a trade could benefit your daughter for several reasons.

* Vo-tech can be insurance for employment. College educates, but skills fill tills. Vo-tech programs enhance your teen-ager's lifelong earnings potential. Not all of us learn by "eyes on." Many of us are better able to master a subject with "hands-on" study, the essence of vo-tech education.

* Your teen-ager may change goals as the years roll on. Vo-tech programs can pre-test career interests before costly educational investments. A course in computer programming, machine trades or electronics can test an interest in engineering or computer science. A course in food service can test an interest in the hospitality industry; health occupations in the medical field; auto mechanics in auto technology and so forth.

* If college becomes a reality, vo-tech can help your son or daughter pay for it. Students can work part-time at higher paying jobs while attending college.

As a parent, certainly you should attempt to share the recommendations of your life experience with your child. But you may have to acknowledge your child's right to hold different ambitions.

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