Thank you so very much for today's broadcast on "Meaning of Intelligence" where Michael R. defined, so well, the vocational vs "college" track in school.
Your broadcast hit home so hard, I just had to offer congratulations to you for this topic.
As the son of a man whose mother was white, and father was Mexican, I grew up on a small, poor, rurual East Texas farm.
On that farm, survival meant turning manual labor into money. As a teenager I became adept both in school, graduating as salutatorian in my class, and on the farm. I mastered all tools, all farm equipment, took on a business contracting out to bale hay, and generally worked, hard, every day to make a better farm make more money.
In my farming work I learned manual dexterity, work, but, also, how to plan, schedule, adapt, meet people, sell, and work. I learned how to use tools for applications nobody ever even thought of. How to use trees and ropes to lift tractor tires, how to back up a gooseneck trailer a mile, how to feel good about loading 90lb bales of hay all day.
In farming, I learned how to stand in awe of my father, who, every day invented something new for our farm. A new way to feed the livestock automatically, a new blend of grass seed or corn, a modified tool, or a simple idea that made work easier.
My father, I now understand, is the modern genius nobody knows.
At school, I learned how to convert binary to decimal, how to write, how to excel and study. How to revel in the meaning of a word, or a phrase. English, my father said, is your key to success.
I was on BOTH vocational track (at home) and College track (at school).
As my senior year progressed, my father asked me which way I would go: 1) To college, since everyone in my community was aware of my academic excellence by the time I was 17, or 2) stay on the farm.
Not knowing the answer.....
I applied and was accepted to the dream school, Texas A&M at College Station. (nobody ever even heard of Harvard in that part of the world).
I struggled with my choice. I did not want to leave the farm, or my father. But, he encouraged me to get educated, leave, become someone valuable. He never felt he was.
In the end, I chose college and graduated from A&M number at or near the top of the class in Chemical Engineering and number 14 out of 3500 or so students in 1982. I went on to UT Austin to get a Ph.D in Chemical Engineering, but, could have gone to Med School or law school or anything I wanted to do - in academia. By then, the farm had vanished from my mind.
Now, these many years later, I am a senior engineer, with a nice house, nice life, at a big American corporation. This was thought to be a valid path for engineering education....I am supposed to be, now, successful.
I look back at the fork in my road and often wonder if I should have, could have, taken the vocational, farming route. But, at the time, nobody valued that route. Everyone valued "education".
My father sold his small farm to put his three children through the inexpensive, but excellent, public university system in Texas.
I took my kids back and stood outside the gate of that farm looking at the old pine farmhouse this past summer. It is painted a different color now, and has air conditioning, but, miraculously, is otherwise the same. But, it is not mine.
My father remains proud, today, that his kids are educated.
He still arises at 6 am and works in his tiny back yard in Houston, Texas, outside, all day. He works no matter how hot. He is 80 now. His tiny yard grows more food than most grocery stores sell.
I completely understand the two pathways you described with Michael R. today.
All these years I have listened to you and your topics.
Today, I cried.
Dr. Michael SanchezRochester, NY
Thank you again.
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