Mike Rowe, host of the Discovery Channel series Dirty Jobs chimes in on the US education system in an interview with Nick Gillespie on Reason.Com.

click on above link if video does not play

Rowe: If we are lending money that ostensibly we don’t have to kids who have no hope of making it back in order to train them for jobs that clearly don’t exist, I might suggest that we’ve gone around the bend a little bit.

Gillespie: We are doing everything we can to push every kid to go to a four-year college. What’s wrong with that?
Rowe: It’s not working. You have a trillion dollars in debt on the student loan side. You have a skills gap, something [interrupted by Gillespie]

Gillespie: What do you mean a skills gap?
Rowe: Right now you have about 3 million jobs in transportation, commerce, trades, that can’t be filled.  

Gillespie: Anything from carpentry to electricians, plumbers,
Rowe: [interjects] Heating, electric, truck drivers, welders is a big one, jobs that typically parents don’t sit down and say to their kids – look if all goes well, this is what you are going to do.

Rowe’s advice is summed up in the following clip I took from the video.

Get Ready to Get Dirty

The video is a lengthy 41 minutes but Reason.com provides this synopsis so you can skip to topics that interest you.

  • His bad experience with a high school guidance counselor (3:20)
  • Why he provides scholarships based on work ethic (6:57)
  • The problem with taxpayer-supported college loans (8:40)
  • Why America demonizes dirty jobs (11:32)
  • The happiest day of his life (13:14)
  • Why following your passion is terrible advice (17:05)
  • Why it’s so hard to hire good people (21:04)
  • The hidden cost of regulatory compliance (23:16)
  • The problem with Obama’s promise to create shovel ready jobs (33:05)
  • Efficiency versus effectiveness (34:17)
  • Life after Dirty Jobs (38:24)

Work Smart, Not Hard

The 3:20 mark discusses this higher education ad campaign thrust upon Rowe by Mr. Dunbar, high school guidance counselor

Picking up at the 7:50 mark …

Gillespie: When did the idea disappear that you should learn a skill that is actually useful or in need?
Rowe: That’s a good question for a real social anthropologist. My own opinion is there is a kind of inertia that most parents would agree that it exists. And it’s  a desire see something better for your kids than you had. The question of course is “what is better?” Is it better, right now today, to have $140,000 in debt but a degree from Georgetown, or is it better to be that kid I described in Butler.

It’s an excellent interview, please listen to at least a portion of it.

My Take

  1. At the right price, college may be a good choice, but it’s not always a good choice. 
  2. Government interference in education has so increased the cost of education, and so many kids are pushed into totally useless degrees, that college is an increasingly poor choice until costs come down. 
  3. Points one and two especially hold true for those in programs that qualify a person to do nothing but work as a retail clerk upon graduation.
  4. To help bring down education costs, we need more alternative courses, more two-year trade courses, more online courses, reduced administration costs, and termination of defined benefit pension plans for teachers. Simply put, we need more competition and reduced costs at every point in the system.
  5. The student loan program is an abysmal failure and should be abolished.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock