It Takes More than a Degree

By Roy Douglas Malonson

“History shows that it does not matter who is in power or what revolutionary forces take over the government, those who have not learned to do for themselves and have to depend solely on others never obtain any more rights or privileges in the end than they had in the beginning.”
― Carter Godwin Woodson,

The Mis-Education of the Negro

I have to revisit this subject because it is an element that is constantly attacking our communities. When I see the state of Black America as it is, and when I speak to many mis-educated degreed folks; I can only shake my head. The mentality that a piece of paper can entitle a person to automatically demand respect and disregard others is a backwards way of thinking. For a person to think that they can rid themselves of hard work, just because they have passed tests is a thought process that has many of our youth completely ignorant of what it takes to make it in life.

As a result, many leave home from college to go and achieve their degrees, only to come back home to parents or grandparents who had nothing but a formal education or either none at all.  Back when I was coming up, we may not have had all of the luxuries that the modern-day society affords our youth, but, we were taught how to make a living. Even in our schooling, there were classes which equipped us to be able to leave school with some type of training. I often stress my discontent with the public-school system for removing electives and classes such as Home Economics, FFA, Woodshop and others like them.

We MUST Understand getting a proper education is one of the most valuable tools in life. With the same token, every student that enters preschool is not necessarily equipped to accomplish a degree at the university level. Therefore, I believe teaching our students other alternatives to help them create a career for themselves in formal educational years is imperative to survival. Carter G.Woodson described some of the key factors associated with this element in his book, The Mis-Education of Negro. In Chapter Five he gives the ramifications of Africans living in America who fail to learn to make a living.

            What Negroes are now being taught does not bring their minds into harmony with life as they must face it. When a Negro student works his way through college by polishing shoes he does not think of making a special study of the science underlying the production and distribution of leather and its products that he may some day figure in this sphere. The Negro boy sent to college by a mechanic seldom dreams of learning mechanical engineering to build upon the foundation his father has laid, that in years to come he may figure as a contractor or a consulting engineer. The Negro girl who goes to college hardly wants to return to her mother if she is a washerwoman, but this girl should come back with sufficient knowledge of physics and chemistry and business administration to use her mother’s work as a nucleus for a modern steam laundry. A white professor of a university recently resigned his position to become rich by running a laundry for Negroes in a Southern city. A Negro college instructor would have considered such a suggestion an insult. The so-called education of Negro college graduates leads them to throw away opportunities which they have and to go in quest of those which they do not find.”

I understand times have changed and the workforce has conformed to accommodate a tech-savvy generation, but there are still some areas that technology just cannot extend to. So, our children need to learn how to go to school to get more than a degree. Training children to learn year-round to pass a test is not equipping them with any substance. Our youth need to be educated on basic survival tools necessary for working and competing in a growing workforce. If you don’t believe me look at the statistics on the many who have degrees and remain unemployed. But, one thing about it, if a person has a trade, it will allow for the opportunity to provide for a family, even in the absence of a degree.

I see it all the time, young Blacks and even some old, will turn down their nose at jobs they feel are “beneath them” while holding on to the hope of a six-figure salary which may never come. One thing life has taught me that the value of a dollar does not matter where it comes from, it will still spend the same. Meaning whether you make a living mopping and sweeping floors or working for the White House, you can reach the same level as the next person and no one bank is going to ask you where you got the money from to pay your mortgage. They won’t turn down janitor’s mortgage and car note payments no more than they won’t turn down a CEO’s or a President’s.