Over the course of this year, just as with the 2016 election cycle, it seems that the national press, pollsters, and pundits take too much delight in classifying certain sectors of our population as “non-college educated” or “uneducated.”
Rather than being used, and only sparingly, as a demographic category, it instead has become a common and dismissive qualifier, a way of looking at the 60 percent of all Americans who don’t hold a college degree.
You could read between the lines – that is, if you weren’t smacked in the face by the outright accusations – that the uneducated were dupes and rubes and, because they lacked a diploma, were unable to make sound decisions about who should represent them in Washington.
Well, I hate to break it to those who think four years in a university grants them unprecedented knowledge and understanding, but those who don’t have a degree can be, in many, cases smarter, better off and better people than those who do.
I can say this unequivocally because almost all of the people in my life are “uneducated.”
I work at a business of 180 people where maybe a half-dozen of us graduated from college. Yet, somehow, despite being an “uneducated” environment, the company and those families are succeeding. That’s because our ranks are filled by men and women who understand the physical and mental work and ingenuity needed to make the things that consumers desire. They do magic, using science, technology, skill, brain and brawns to transform plastic into products. We have general laborers, technical personnel and tradesmen here whose breadth of knowledge, intelligence and critical thinking skills would shame most people with degrees.
I am friends with electricians, plumbers, repairmen and first responders who never went to college but still possess incredible amounts of skills – whether learned by experience or via certificate programs (which the elite still consider to show a lack of education). They bring much-need and complex services and safety to those who hold doctorates yet can’t repair a faucet, replace an outlet, or change their oil save their lives.
I live in a community the economy of which is driven by agriculture. Most of the farmers don’t have degrees, but like my guys and gals at the plant, they have a Renaissance Man’s understanding – they have incredible depth of knowledge of a variety of topics, from equipment to plant science to animal husbandry to marketing and economics. They know what it takes to transform seeds into a healthy harvest, or how to grow calves into living, breathing milk machines, and, they know how to get them to market and balance their books. They are working 24/7, in the barn, in the tractor, and in the office, lovingly running their farms better than most people run their businesses and lives.
My extended family, for the most part, don’t have or didn’t have college degrees. Somehow, those “uneducated” mothers, grandparents, aunts and uncles raised wonderful high-character families, held excellent jobs, and made an impact in their communities. I am who I am because of who they are and I’m grateful for that and how I’ve turned out.
So, remember, dear media folk and political observers, before going off blasting the “uneducated,” throw away your vicious, ugly, stereotyping and consider who they are.
They are your families, friends, neighbors and coworkers, people who despite their alleged lack of knowledge have the brains that we as an advanced society need to put food in our markets, produce the goods we want and need, fix and build our homes and cars, save our lives, raise our families and serve our communities.
The “educated” sure could learn a lot from them.
Bob Confer is a Daily News columnist and president of Confer Plastics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter @bobconfer.