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We regularly see sentiments pitting the Trades against the Professions, as much as reasonable people recognize they are both indispensable parts of the same body. Some memes are outright mean, while others are simply calls to de-normalize parents’ and individuals’ desire for higher education. Reading through some Albert Pike this evening, the gestation of ideas related to a short exchange on a friend’s Facebook wall a few days ago was rekindled. Mixed metaphors aside, I think any cause for disagreement or contrast in valuing trades versus degreed professions is null and void from what is perhaps a more acute angle. {pun intended} What if we stop thinking of education in terms of vocation and recognize it for its intrinsic value?

I wasn’t pushed into going to college to learn a profession. And I know tradesmen who have post-graduate degrees and nonetheless pursued and enjoy their necessary work. The question of higher learning should not be couched in terms of vocation alone. We have plenty of tradesmen and people who do the myriad tasks that do not require a degree. But we are most certainly short on those who can think well, that minority who know more than they are told in soundbites. Few even with a degree — especially if their educational goal and experience was purely vocational — have a real framework of understanding by which to seek out, evaluate, and catalog new information.

College isn’t for everyone, and for more than one good reason that does not require an apology or shame. But let’s admit that education by its nature most often makes people better human beings and more competent citizens in a free society. So how can we easily disregard it as “not necessary” simply because the mundane world still needs roads paved and pipes plumbed? Why would we NOT push everyone who is able or suited to do so?

Instead, like so many contradictions in our society, we pretend those with degrees look down their noses at those who do not, when it is more often those without education that hold in contempt the formally educated. Are we angered by the very reasonable assertion they may know and understand more than the rest of us? Work (or Labor as Hannah Arendt would call it in this context) has always been a virtue, but now it often is praised in a way that shames intellect and art rather than compliments it. It is abused as a tool to make a virtue of ignorance and democratize all people’s judgment as being equal in soundness. This does not mean that a professor has any street smarts or can change his own oil, but you’d be surprised how many can and do. On the other hand, the masses not concerned about geopolitics and economics in any serious way are expected to vote on the affairs of the state and its economic policies. They ought to have more than opinions borrowed from one television channel or another, or at least be inculcated with the skills to read tough books and research beyond YouTube.

This is why the intelligentsia are the first to the gallows in totalitarian schemes. And the gallows today are public opinion, with poorly educated pundits like Tucker Carlson literally discouraging people from higher education. He in particular goes so far as to fear his own children may get a degree — especially one in Liberal Arts that, by no coincidence, encourages one to challenge all fixed ideas, even the legitimacy of the State. On a personal level, we find ourselves trying to be smarter and brighter by blowing out other people’s intellectual candles that are bigger than ours. On a societal scale, we are socially defunding — one meme at a time — the bootcamp of the real first responders against tyranny, contagion, endless war, and possibly even global ecological disaster.

We don’t all have to have a degree. And I am even one of those people who say having a degree isn’t what it used to be, mainly because they have become training mills for specific jobs. But if we throw out the baby with the bathwater, we will all drown in each other’s ignorance. Worse yet, the few who remain will become an elite capable of much greater control that need not be benevolent or serve our interests. Do we want our country to be better? Do we want it to be free? Do we want it respected and competing soundly in the global marketplace? There is no way we can do more than just survive if we do not bring back education as a desired, worthy goal for as many of us as possible.