PictureLeft to right: My sons, Brian and Matt.

I have long been a fan of child psychologist John Rosemond who espouse child-rearing advice based on “Grandma’s” wisdom from before 1955. In recent years, that admiration has extended to Mike Rowe, a no-nonsense American actor whose very public support of the trades recognizes that not everyone is suited to a college education–and that society needs people in the trades as much (if not more) than white collar workers. I also read Jesse Martin, a professor who writes about the science of learning and his frequent assertions that university education is failing students. While you may not care about the overwhelming emphasis on sending kids to college, I have some thoughts on the matter.

Not all that long ago, my younger son struggled in school. He’s a bright young man, but school just wasn’t his “thing.” When he was about 14, we had a frank discussion about expectations and his assumption that we, his parents, required him to go to college. I think we cleared that up, although I did emphasize that some post-high school education would be necessary regardless of what career he chose. He remained moody, volatile, and often and blatantly disrespectful.

Then he enlisted. When we traveled to San Antonio for his graduation from military basic training, the change in our boy astounded me. Who are you and what have you done with my son, because I like this version so much better. The boy who had stomped through the house filled with anger and resentment became respectful and steady. That volatile moodiness was nowhere to be seen.

I don’t think our kinder, gentler military beat the insolence from him, but I do think they imposed the discipline he needed. He now has purpose. In speaking to him a few days ago, I sensed that he’d found his place in the world. This angry boy who couldn’t figure where he fit in had found his place. And, no, he’s not bound for college. He’s training for a career in aircraft maintenance and finding that it’s something that interests him. Not only that, it’s a trade that can transfer to the civilian world if and when he discharges or retires from military service.

Rosemond and Rowe would approve, I’m sure. Martin probably would, too, because he seems to recognize that a university education doesn’t suit everyone.

Bringing this full circle is Rosemond’s weekly article in which a mother writes of her disappointment that her academically disinclined son had decided to pursue a career as a diesel mechanic. “All in all, I think your son has made a good decision,” Rosemond writes. “Let’s face it, college is not for everyone–a fact that seems to escape many parents and high school counselors. The world is always going to need plumbers, electricians, mechanics, carpenters, brick-masons, tailors, and so on.”

Brian has found his place and I’m utterly grateful. Our older son, Matthew, fits the desired student mold those high school counselors love to hold up as examples: he’s a university student and doing quite well.

They’re both smart young men, but intelligence expresses itself in more than one way. Matt will be a mechanical engineer. Brian will be an aircraft mechanic. And I’m still trying to find my way.

​Some of us are destined to wander.

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