The Most Controversial Article I Ever Wrote


The following is reprinted exactly as it was published in my PlasticsToday.com blog in 2011. I received more feedback on this article, both positive AND negative, than any I had written prior, and any I’ve written since. Based on that experience, I’m sure you will have some reaction.

I’m not an historian or a sociologist, so feel free to jump in and comment if you think I’m off base here, but somewhere along the line we parents began to do a huge injustice to our children.

I think it started with a generation who were truly inspired to make a better life for their children and future generations. Sometimes called the WWII generation, in workforce terms they are called the Traditionalists. They worked hard, often in physically demanding and dangerous professions, sometimes working more than one job.

They were farmers, factory workers, construction workers, miners, and a thousand other jobs. For their children they sought safety, security, education, and the hope of a life better than their own. Now, entire books have been written on this, and I just have a few paragraphs, so let me get right to my point.

Having been raised by that generation, the baby boomer generation went a step further, and told their children to pursue what you love. Sounded good, but here’s what happened: the kids pursued what they loved in college, and often what they loved took a path of less resistance than the difficulties of a degree in science, mathematics, or engineering.

Now we have PLENTY of college graduates with degrees in journalism, advertising, fashion design, music, nutrition, theater, history, english, psychology, and literature. What we NEED are more college graduates with degrees in engineering, chemistry, computer sciences, accounting, and business administration.

Again, I’m not an expert. I just know what I see, and I am telling my children, other parents, grandparents, high school teachers, and anyone I can to encourage children to pursue a degree that involves science or mathematics. I talk to employers every day and not once have they said they are having trouble finding people with a communications degree.

Stop telling children to pursue what they love when it comes to education. Very few of us are born wanting to know how to solve a differential equation, balance a chemical reaction, or learn multi-variable non-linear regression analysis. It’s hard, but so is being 40 years old and realizing you really don’t have any skills that employers want to pay you a lot of money for.

Paul Sturgeon is business manager with KLA Industries (www.klaindustries.com) based in Cincinnati, OH, an executive search firm specializing in plastics and polymer technology. If you have a topic you’d like to see discussed, a company that is growing, or other ideas for his blog, e-mail Paul at paul@klaindustries.com.

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