My kids are fortunate to have been educated in the Glendale school district. So am I, for that matter. It’s not for nothing that parents from across the nation move here to enroll their children in our school system.
With the end of the school year approaching, however, the talk of post high school plans hangs heavy in the air. It seems, to me at least, that the only guidance our students get is to attend a four year college or university. Want to go into the trades? Sorry, can’t help. The arts? Nope. Retail? The military? Nothing.
Listen to students discuss the one-sided guidance they receive — it’s all college, all the time. And not just any college, mind you. Heaven forbid you plan on attending a lowly state university or — gasp — junior college. No. According to the counselors, if you want any hope of cashing in on the great American dream, the only serious option is taking on a frightening amount of long-term debt to attend a top-tier college or university.
I’m not kidding. Here’s what one educator actually said to my son’s class recently: “If you’re considering attending any college that isn’t at least in the UC system, you might as well plan on selling fries at McDonald’s.” I see; so we either send our kid to Harvard, Yale, or Princeton, or doom him to a lifetime of squalor and servitude.
When my son told this particular teacher that he hoped to attend the Art Center School of Design in Pasadena to study photography, he was met with overt skepticism. “You can’t make a living taking pictures,” his teacher harrumphed. My son, bless his heart, picked up the large, glossy color textbook used in the teacher’s classroom, crammed full of professionally shot photos. “Who took these?” he asked. I would have also mentioned our city’s own Bronson photography, picture taker of nearly every student head shot in every local school every year since Moses was in kindergarten. Trust me, having paid for several senior high portrait sittings and “gallery quality” prints over the years, I promise you the folks at Bronson are not doing this as a hobby.
During our mandatory parent-student session with our son’s guidance counselor this semester, I interrupted her in mid-college-entrance-requirements-spiel to ask about requirements for Art Center — a school renowned the world over for its record of producing successful artists, auto designers, photographers and film makers. A school 10 minutes away from La Crescenta. Her response was — nothing. The prestigious school wasn’t even on her radar.
A guy with whom I graduated from CV became an excellent carpenter without ever stepping foot on a college campus. Years ago as I was signing a painfully large check to him for some custom cabinetry he’d built for us, he commented about the scarcity of craftsmen coming from our educational system. “Where will the carpenters come from to replace me?” he pondered.
I don’t have the answer to that, but I do know the world isn’t clamoring for yet another attorney or investment banker.
Granted, I could be hypersensitive when it comes to getting too little guidance. Despite obvious inclinations toward music, art and creative writing throughout my school years, the only career pursuit ever suggested to me was the ubiquitous “business administration” degree. It wasn’t until almost 10 years after leaving college that I stumbled into an occupation where I could use all of my creative interests and earn a decent paycheck, too. Better late than never, I guess.
If I was a conspiracy nut, I’d swear there was a cabal of plumbers, electricians, carpenters, seamstresses, house painters, truck drivers, welders, auto mechanics, restaurateurs, photographers, artists, bakers, studio musicians and other professionals paying big money to keep high school guidance counselors from leaking the secret about these often lucrative career options. Then again, the people I’ve known in these professions have been too busy making a living to worry about limiting the competition.
See you ’round town.
JIM CHASE is a freelance writer and longtime Crescenta Valley resident. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.