Two ER physicians at Gabbert General Hospital in Gabbert, Arizona, huddled over the patient still strapped to a gurney. The white male, approximately Medicare age, had been brought in by ambulance just a few minutes earlier. He was unkempt and clearly in a distressed state. There were no signs of injury or trauma, and his vital signs were good, except for somewhat elevated BP. He had no ID, but he clutched a tattered, short manuscript in his left hand—authored by a Dr. Derik Hall from Southern Arizona College. As he was also wearing a ring on his pinkie finger with the initials D.H., the attending staff assumed he was indeed Dr. Hall.
Also, the staff got a clue to his identity from his incoherent utterances. He kept mumbling or muttering something like “vocational ed will save us from the barbarians,” and “please God not another meeting,” and “No no no—not another rejection!”
Dr. Martin, the attending physician, asked objectively, “Any patient background information”?
Dr. Forrester, the resident who helped paramedics wheel Hall in the exam room, replied. “He was seen wandering in an alley behind Dave and Brewster’s Arcade down at the mall on Greenfield. Someone called 911 and paramedics were sent immediately. By the time they arrived, he was flat on his back in a puddle making snow-angel motions.
They reported he was mumbling something about how ‘all the publication houses were closing now’ and that he had ‘killed them - killed all of them.’ The paramedic crew contacted Gabbert PD about a possible crime, but the authorities had no information about publication house murders, so the matter was dismissed. One of the paramedics told me the patient seemed quite delusional – a threat to both himself and society—so they picked him up and brought him here.”
Dr. Martin seemed only mildly concerned. He knew these academic cases were edgy, eccentric, fuzzy. “Well, I don’t know. Start a standard hydration IV, run a blood gas panel, and see if you can contact any of his relatives. Maybe there is a clue to his residence or contact information in the sheets of paper he is holding. Let me pry…them ….out of…those…fingers.”
(Even in his semi-conscious state, Dr. Hall resisted the manuscript’s departure—but he finally acquiesced.)
Martin, relieved, smoothed out the damp and muddy documents, sat down, and began reading. The paper is reprinted in its entirety below (in the interest of medical and psychological accuracy). Much of the text was mottled by brown water—and the edges were frayed and torn. But Martin quickly read the op-ed.
Practical Higher Education: Fostering Sustainable Student Workforce Skills Beyond the Academy
By Derik Hall, EdD, Adjunct English Faculty, Southern Arizona College
The Big Problem
Higher Education has created an increasingly recognizable subculture: The Broke and Underemployed. Many recent college graduates, especially those studying the liberal arts, have large amounts of debt and are frequently unprepared for entry into the American work-force.
Perhaps the American social fixation with Higher Ed ultimately contributes to the so-called wage gap—rather than to improve the economic situation of the American middle class. Too many people get degrees that don’t get them jobs.
My institution, like many other American community colleges, offers valuable applied science degrees to students. Briefly, for those of you who need a little “training,” the AAS is a vocation-specific degree. A student seeking an AAS in Welding at my school will take 42 credit hours of dedicated welding and technology courses. The degree also has a 10-23 credit hour academic requirement of traditional courses in social sciences, math, English, and communications. (The remaining credit hours are in computer competency, professional, and business-related classes.)
Yes, job training degrees at community colleges require an academic component.
Consider the “opposite.” What if all academic degrees required a job training component? Why not require all AA and BA degree recipients to take 18 or so hours of job training course work-- enough courses to earn a certificate or minor credential in medical transcription, or culinary arts, or spreadsheets, or Computer Aided Design, or some other job-ready field?
Graduates of such programs might find work, real work. Such occupations could support students while they complete their undergraduate careers, and finance them through graduate school, or med school, and maybe, just maybe, help many discover a professional pathway. Visualize the tangible results: Nonfictional diversity within degree plans! Measurable competencies! Industry partnerships! Happy students!
What if we stopped nourishing the self-fulfilling prophecy, the strange praxis of anger and victimization, by even partially reforming the culture of Higher Education? What if the secondary schools and the Department of Education stopped beating the drums for college readiness at the expense of specialized vocational skills? Let’s support, rather than diminish the trades, the craftspeople, and knowledge too often perceived as non-academic.
Maybe we can best alleviate social injustice by helping our students more fully participate in a society that increasingly requires specific work-related skills and a decent, sustainable income. Mandating degree-seeking students to take a few job-skills courses as part of their academic programs will create a better “place” for all Americans.
Dr. Martin was shocked. The silence was overpowering. Teetering as he stood up, he groaned. Then, a shriek. “What the h----!” Good God. You should read this. He is tearing the very fabric of our democracy. Make college students study something that would help them get a regular old job? Me—a truck driver? Are the nurses to be welders? The nerve!”
“That’s it, Dr. Forrester. There is nothing we can do for him here. Have him transported to the psych ward over on Van Buren. He truly is a threat to American society! Where would anybody get such crazy ideas?“
Hall suddenly sat up and shouted, “When I submit, no one replies—or I learn the website gets shut down. I’ve killed them all! I’ve killed them all!”
Pandemonium broke out in the ER. Lights flashed, horns honked. Then, soothing narcotics trickled down through Prof Hall’s IV—and he was calm once more. The health care professionals prepared him for his final submission.
Thinking outside the box has consequences.