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Stigma Burdens Vocational Education

Our nation is currently in the unpleasant position of transitioning out of a period of industrialized factory work into an era in which people are learning to be free thinking entrepreneurs. Such a drastic change is almost always accompanied by a wave of stigma and an increased divide in the changing generations. A hostility towards liberal education can be felt across the country, however, in the Bay Area this has been overcorrected to the point where a stigma of the opposite has become apparent.

When deciding on an educational path, students must make a choice in the education they use to lead into their career. Mostly, they have two options: a vocational or liberal education. Definitions for both of these categories vary greatly, but generally, a vocational education is a set of courses that teach you about one specific field, which is often valued for supplying students with a job fairly quickly out of college. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, people with a vocational education have an approximated four percent higher employment rate. Yet these careers are critiqued for not being very intellectually challenging. Contrarily, a liberal education is meant to teach students how to think for themselves through a variety of different types of classes. It is praised for teaching young people to be creative, and to form their own opinions on issues and topics, while making it a bit more difficult to earn a living.

Across the nation, liberal education has not been recognized as being equal to other academic choices. This is mostly due to the technological advances in society, which have led to a divide between older generations, who disregard any form of education that does not offer an immediate addition to the economy, and younger generations, which have increasingly begun to value education that will teach them to broaden their mindsets rather than how to make money and to benefit the economy. This has led to a large stigma against classes that could be considered liberal arts classes, such as literature, sociology, and philosophy, as many believe them to be pointless.

However, as is often the case, the “Berkeley Bubble” has once again managed to overcompensate on an issue its citizens see in the world, to the point where one could argue that discrimination of the opposite side has become a problem. Locally, many pride themselves on being “woke,” or intellectually superior to others. This has led to the stigmatization of the type of education that is admired in the rest of the country. Now, when hearing that somebody chose a wood shop class over a more liberal social science class, people immediately make assumptions about that person, such as that they are not capable of anything more academic.

If we truly want to end the negative light in which people’s personal career choices are viewed, we have to start empowering all of the choices, instead of stigmatizing a certain few. For many, the prospect of graduating college without a specific skill is daunting. Employment post-college is often not an option for students. Additionally, according to the Association of American Colleges and Universities, around 84 percent of employers believe that knowledge of multiple academic fields are required to succeed in a long term career. Therefore, ultimately, no society would be able to function with only one type of workforce, and it is pointless to stigmatize one form of education, when a mixture is required to create well rounded individuals.