Labor Day meditation: Plumbers and Philosophers

 

My name is Jack Hope and I own Hope Plumbing. I also have a master's degree in philosophy from IU. In honor of Labor Day, I offer some thoughts on student loans, schools, higher education and the notion of the over-qualified workforce.

I challenge the notion that everyone should go to college.

Ask yourself a set of questions: How many college-educated people do you know that work in a job that requires substantially less education? How many college-educated people do you know that can't find jobs at all? How many college-educated people do you know that can't afford their student loan payments? If you are at all like me, you know plenty.

Now, ask yourself another set of questions: How many skilled tradespeople do you know that work in a job that requires substantially less education? How many skilled tradespeople do you know that can't find jobs at all? How many skilled tradespeople do you know that cannot afford their student loans? It you are at all like me, you do not know any.

We need to again start telling people that it is okay (and even admirable) to get their hands dirty. Manual labor is not evil. John W. Gardner says that "the society which scorns excellence in plumbing as a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy: neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water."

The average starting salary for a licensed plumber in our shop is $45,000 per year with full health benefits, life insurance, paid cell phone, a take home vehicle and matched retirement savings. A new report from National Association of Colleges and Employers finds that three liberal arts majors had average starting salaries that topped $40,000 in 2012.

One of the largest problems that Hope Plumbing has is finding qualified tradespeople. Find me a person with a few years of experience, a little bit of personality and a plumbing license and I will find them a job. Find me a person with little to no experience, massive amounts of personality and a Liberal Arts degree and I will have an engaging conversation with them about the "original position" most recently espoused by John Rawls in Justice as Fairness and the irony of mentioning it here.

Stop being lazy, back away from the computer screen, pick up a hammer and learn how to make something.

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