Letter to the editor: Options for grads changed in 50 years

Photo courtesy U.S. Air Force

To the editor:

For the sake of the students, I’m grateful for the GEAR UP event last Friday. Still, I’m reminded of when high school graduates had many more viable options than they do now.

When I was in high school back in the early 1970s, our school cafeteria would have four to six kiosks representing different universities competing for our attention towards the end of the school year.

Tuition was a fraction of what it is now and that as measured by the comparative costs of living. Grants and scholarships for academic prowess were much more numerous. Student loans from the government were much easier to qualify for and at much lower interest.

Young folks with good grades didn’t need to settle for trade schools unless they so opted. They didn’t necessarily need to join the workforce except for summer or part-time employment to augment their college funds.

Those who enlisted in the military after graduation did so as their own choice and not usually as their only remaining option to proceed to higher education.

Since the Reagan era, the powers that be have incrementally chipped away the opportunities for all but the wealthiest or most fortunate to acquire a university education.

Of course, if one can throw a football, wrestle or shoot hoops well enough, one’s family income or grade point average could wind up being a secondary consideration if considered at all. While student loans are not absolutely impossible to get, many young people are intimidated by the prospects of sacrificing their firstborn to pay them off.

It’s quite telling that military recruiters are known to single out high schools in relatively impoverished neighborhoods. Like it or not, those who excel at these schools despite the odds are forced to take one of three choices. They can cave in to a gang and sell dope on the street. They can sling burgers at three different places just to make ends meet. For most of them, the military is the only remaining option for these unfortunates.

Don’t get me wrong. If someone feels called to enlist, that’s great. It’s a big, bad and real world out there. No doubt about it, we need to have people on hand trained to blow things up and trained as killers.

Yes, I know there is a need for such people, but I’m not going to sugarcoat what they must do sometimes. Even though it must be done, I refuse to glorify state-sanctioned murder and butchery. War may occasionally be inescapable, but killing others in a war is no less organized murder. People kill and people die.

If you see the need to enlist, fine, but you shouldn’t need to volunteer as cannon fodder for six years just so you can go to school afterwards. One should only enlist when motivated by patriotic fervor and not as an act of desperation.

I fully understand that young people now must look at things in a positive manner. It’s imperative for them to do so. They must see that metaphorical glass as being half full. I have the perspective of age telling me something else. Not only do I see that glass as half empty, but it seems to me there’s filth in it, too.

I want better things for the young. I wish them better prospects for the future than what they’re offered now.

Nick l. Eakins


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