Comment: This obsession of sending all children to college must stop
Over the years we have all wondered at the German economic miracle and how it continues to be miraculous. There is no magic involved, but there are a number of key elements to the German system, not least among them a strong system of vocational training and apprenticeship.
The traditional trades along with other occupations and skills are valued and supported by a structured system of vocational education that delivers. Meanwhile, in this country, we have been scrambling around the woolly heights of academia looking for ways to upskill our young population.
We are a nation of educational snobs. The problem with snobbery is that it is one directional, it is only interested in vertical movement and is obsessed with ladders, lifts and hot air balloons. Snobbery blinds us to what is around us.
The first step on this sky-road is a good Leaving Cert with perfect points; the next is a college course in some ivy-covered Victorian institution. As for the third step, well, we don't care really. We often don't mind what our offspring do with their years of academic pursuit: "Oh, he has degrees coming out his ears but look at him, at home minding the children". The important bit, as far as we are concerned, is that he has the degrees coming out his ears.
According to reliable figures, over 7,000 first years drop out of third-level colleges in Ireland every year. This is not to mention the thousands of others that are hanging in there, convinced they have no alternative.
Others feel too guilty to tell their hard-pressed parents they are unhappy, while more- already cynical and hard - have decided that grinning and bearing are essential coping mechanisms in the face of the human condition. It has to be said that a great number find their feet, find a course they like and a decent career.
Our obsession with going to college and with sending ALL our children to college is narrowing rather than broadening our sense of what we value in terms of life choices. It is also narrowing the field of life opportunities for our young people. Photographs of oneself decked out in a mortarboard, fancy gown and holding a scroll are not essential for a contented and fulfilled life.
I've had occasion of late to peruse the background material for a publication to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Castlelyons Co-op in East Cork. The material consists almost entirely of the recollections of people associated with the Co-op as employees or farmers.