At Monday’s Lewiston School Committee meeting, Committee member Ronella Paradis asked — in all seriousness — the district’s curriculum director to stop using the word “college” when referring to lifelong continuing education. Because, Paradis said, not every child is going to college so “let’s get away from (the word) college.”
Paradis’ direction to Curriculum Director Janice Plourde could have been in response to the district’s new program introducing college to 4-year-olds, expanding on an existing philosophy to introduce college to elementary school students as a way to inspire them to aspire. And it works by getting students used to the idea that education continues after high school.
Four-year-olds fantasize about what they want to be when they grow up, so why not plant the idea of college in that mix so they can think about what they need to do — between the ages of 4 and 17 — to go to college and become the astronauts, nurses and teachers they want to be.
Paradis makes the point that not all professions require college degrees, including police officers, plumbers and electricians.
She’s right, but tradesmen who do not have two or four-year degrees may spend as many as six years learning the trade before becoming journeymen electricians and licensed plumbers.
According to Mitch DeBlois of DeBlois Electric in Lewiston, electricians don’t need a college education, but they do need intensive trade-specific education before they become licensed, and college classes short-cut the time it takes to earn that license.
“They’re constantly going to school,” DeBlois said, to stay current on building codes and emerging technology. “You can’t just walk in the door and say ... ‘I want to be an electrician.’” It takes a four-year bachelor’s degree and 4,000 hours of job training, or a two-year associate’s degree plus 8,000 hours of job training, or up to six years of job training to progress from being an electrician’s helper to becoming a journeyman electrician.
And, in Lewiston, while the minimum educational requirement to be hired as a police officer is a high school diploma or equivalent, the officers who have college degrees are the ones who are promoted through the ranks of detectives and on upward.
The others often remain patrolmen for their entire careers, which are noble and important jobs, but are jobs that are matched with smaller paychecks than those cashed among the upper ranks.
College equals earning power, which equates to purchasing power. It’s that simple.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over an adult’s working life, a high school graduate can expect to earn $1.2 million (if they remain consistently employed), a 4-year bachelor’s degree-holder can expect to earn $2.1 million. And, as you might expect, those with professional degrees such as attorneys and doctors, earn substantially more over a lifetime at close to $4.4 million.
Going to college gives students greater opportunities to ensure their own financial security and personal success. It’s no guarantee, but it’s a solid edge up.
We understand Paradis promoting lifelong learning to “be any kind of learning,” and she’s right. She’s also right in valuing trade school education just the same as degreed-professionals.
But educators cannot seriously consider any request to diminish the importance of a college education or the need to introduce the concept to youngsters at an early age if we are serious about wanting children to succeed.
Paradis’ suggestion to confuse that concept is baffling.
Maybe that’s because the college-educated Paradis represents Ward 6, the geographically largest ward encompassing much of suburban Lewiston — arguably a wealthier section of the city where children are more likely to go to college.
Shouldn’t Paradis want that for the entire city? Shouldn’t we all?