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February 16, 2010



For me, this whole topic requires a very complicated discussion. I wrestle with myself over whether people should go to college. On one hand, $40,000 of debt isn't worth a degree in sociology; and if your plan is to get a simple degree because "a diploma" will get you a better job, I say stay out. Find something better to do with your life, and money. On the other hand, we need MORE people to go into engineering and science. My field (electrical engineering) is struggling to find enough people to do the work. You need college to get into those fields.

The next difficulty is how we value manual labor vs mental labor. My work, for some reason, is much more valuable than the work of a car mechanic. Why? But it seems almost reality that the next version of the iphone is more important than quality car repair.

The last thing I wrestle with is our industrial technology. If I can build a robot to do the work of 30 people, what do we do with those 30 people? The general idea is that machines do the manual labor so humans can do more mental labor. So, how do we handle the fact that not all humans can do the mental labor? What does it mean that we continually push our machines to do more and more and subsequently remove the need for more and more people?

Rick Heltne

Love your initiative for 'emerging adults' and would like to know more. I have been noodling on the concept for years now.


Greetings Rick. I think there is a real interest in this concept especially right now in this current economy and the generational dynamics at play.


Hey Adam,

Good thoughts. $40,000 in debt never seems good. However, a degree in Sociology is important for the right people. Is a degree in Electrical Engineering best accomplished in current academic settings or a combination of classroom with more apprenticeship, vocational training contexts? I think there is a lot of dialogue that should happen concerning the categories and value of "Mental" vs. "Manual" labor. We need new categories and a deeper theological view of work, vocation and calling.



The answer to your question is kind of double edged. To be where I am, I had to attend a college and get very specific training in my field. And the price of that training was worth it. My school specifically, advertised more lab time and hands on training than your typically University, so that might suggest that the apprenticeship/vocational training is better. However, I have been discriminated against merely on the basis of my school of choice. Because of the "vocational" aspect of the school I attended some companies won't talk to me. In one particular instance, I knew the person that was hired instead of me, even though I had more experience and training. So, how do you read that? Was the vocational/esque schooling better because I perceived better education? Or would the traditional University be better to not face discrimination in the work force?

Mike King

Listening to your response Adam, I think the most important question is, "Are you fulfilled vocationally?" Do you love what you do? Do you see your self being trained well to do what you do? And, maybe most importantly, "Do you see the integration between what you do and God's Mission?" And I say that from a very broad and robust view of Creation Theology and a belief that we are created Imago Dei which means that we co-create with God, we steward, we design, we participate in the restoration of all things...


For me personally, I'm happy where I'm at. I lack in nothing that I could want and generally have more than I need. I mentioned the incident as a real example instead of a statistic. But it brings us to question the desired result. The article you refer to has another quote,

"But my heart resonates with columnist Paul Krugman, who observed, 'People can't eat information, wear it, live in it.' His point was that we still live in a world of tangible things, and as humans, we need food, clothing and shelter no less than our agrarian ancestors did."

The means by which I eat, wear, and live is through a university, and my example shows that even the kind of university has a significant impact. In broader terms, the university system appears to have a kind of strangle hold on how we eat, wear, and live. Or maybe that is the lie we are believing?

Steve Holt


Great stuff... your post and the article by Greusel reminded me of a kid in my last youth ministry who cam to me the spring of his senior year. He felt like a failure, he was just barely making it in High School and felt like he would never amount to anything because he did not want to go to college. As we talked I talked to him about all the things he was good at. Joey ran sound for us from the time he was in 7th grade, and loved going on mission trips where he could use his hands. So out of the blue I said, Joey why not go to a trade school to become a sound engineer. Believe it or not he took me up on it, enrolling in Omega Studios in DC. He is now a
Sound System Engineer and Operator at McLean Bible Church. Doing a very good job because he is doing the vocaion that God has called him too!


Thought this articulated the conversation.


Greusel's article was phenomenal. I love the idea of listening to one's own life to understand calling and vocation. The one thing that I'm still trying to process is the luxury and burden of choosing one's own vocation. Greusel touches on the fact that we need apprenticeships, but our hyper-individualized world still leaves young people wandering around alone trying to find the "one thing" that will consume their passions. They didn't grow up in a community of apprenticeship. It wasn't a given that I would carry on my father's business of buying and selling pigs. For better or for worse, I choose something different. A generation before his it was. If I grew up in a family of butchers, I would likely become a butcher unless for some reason something else truly captured my imagination and my butcher family recognized it through enough frustration with me that I was born for something else. The distancing that adolescents have from the vocational world of adults (and the fact that few of their careers capture the imaginations of their sons and daughters) seems to create more and more frustrated youth who are constantly searching for that one thing rather than being swept up in a community of apprenticeship since birth.

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