A couple of weeks ago, I attended the open house for McDonald County High School’s new construction trades facility.  Boy, was I impressed.  It is a great facility and is going to provide some much needed education and training for many of our students.

While at the open house, I had the opportunity to talk with some local educators about the need for more vocational education. Unfortunately, today’s society has placed way too much emphasis on a college education at the expense of vocational training. In my 50 plus years, I have ran across a lot of educated idiots and a lot of uneducated geniuses. That just shows that just because you have a degree doesn’t mean that you are smart.

I don’t mean to insult anyone who has a college education — that’s not my point. What I’m getting at is that society has placed so much value on a piece of paper called a college degree that they have turned their nose up at anyone who chooses a different path.

What would we as a society do without our skilled workforce? I’m talking about the mechanics, the carpenters, plumbers, electricians, etc. And then what about those that like to actually “make” things and make their living as production workers.  Have we forgotten that someone needs to produce the products that we need and want?

But, the days of people getting by without a good educational foundation is long gone. Almost every job that needs to be done in today’s society requires a solid grasp of basic skills and usually more.  But, too many times we are so worried about the “theoretical” world that we have forgotten that we live in the “real” world. Kind of like political leaders who have never worked a private job trying to tell the private sector what they need to do to improve.

I don’t know if you have noticed this, but a lot of elitists on the East and Left coasts try to tell those of us in the midsection of the country how things should be done. But, most of those giving advice have never even been in the heartland of the country. If the country was divided in three parts I can tell you who would survive and who wouldn’t.  

But, fortunately we do have diversity in this country and can build upon our differences and be stronger because of it. I just wish some of the elitists would understand that they don’t have all the answers. That would make things run a whole lot better for everyone.

Getting back to the original theme of the column.  I applaud the efforts of educators who realize that not everyone needs or wants a college degree — that a degree in and of itself doesn’t really mean anything if the person holding it isn’t “educated” in the needs of the “real” world.

While I’m on this soapbox I’m going to put a plug in for the best community college in the state of Missouri — Crowder College. I would put Crowder up against any other community college in this state for the job they do educating our community. Their mission focuses both on practical education and on providing that solid foundation for students that do want to get that bachelor’s degree.  Crowder is a true “community” college and we are fortunate to have them in this area.

While on the education theme, I guess I need to make some additional comments with regards to the controversy surrounding “common core.” As this begins to be implemented, it seems that more and more districts and states are saying that we should take another look at this standard and what it means in the long run. Setting common standards is not a bad thing in and of itself but there are some long term consequences that we need to consider.  I hope that it’s not too late to take another look at those consequences.

As we discuss the need for these common standards there has been much discussion regarding how our students perform when compared to other nations. Don’t believe everything you read and always understand that figures don’t lie but liars do figure. When someone starts talking about how poorly we stack up against the rest of the world, let’s make sure that we are comparing apples to apples.

In this country for the most part we make every student take certain tests whereas in some countries only certain select students even get the opportunity to attend school.  How would we rank with the other countries if we compared apples to apples and not to oranges?  Who knows because it isn’t always the same and most likely it never will be.  

Which, I guess brings me back to the beginning of the column — just because someone has a college degree doesn’t make them smart. Educated yes, but smart?  Not necessarily so. We as a society have to quit putting so much emphasis on a piece of paper and more emphasis on educating our students and preparing them for the “real” world that is life.  If we don’t then we might find ourselves with a lot of cars that won’t run and a lot of home repairs that we never get done.  

Kevin Wilson writes a weekly column for the Daily News.