Katherine Kersten’s thought-provoking examination of job opportunities awaiting graduates of technical colleges and training programs (Opinion Exchange, July 16) happened to follow hard on the heels of a discussion I had with parents of a student enrolled in a four-year college degree program that promises to lead directly to long-term underemployment and extended occupancy of a corner in the basement of the family home.
As much as they despair over the bleak prospects of their child, whose only real misstep came in being lured into a glitzy, “fun” major, these parents are equally concerned about the student’s likely inability to repay taxpayers who provided the loans that are subsidizing this particular educational train wreck.
Unlike most conversations of this sort — and as a former high school teacher, I venture to say that they are not uncommon — our discussion involved kicking around an idea so worthy that I am now prepared to offer it for readers’ consideration.
How about conditioning schools’ participation in federal student loan programs on full disclosure of the employment rates and average beginning salaries — by major — of students who have graduated from that institution? For example, University of High Hopes would be required to present to prospective majors in electrical engineering, say, information revealing the percentage of its graduates in that major who are working as electrical engineers and at what average starting pay. Only after a prospective student has certified receiving and reviewing that information would he/she be eligible to apply for federal loan money.
Admittedly, this modest proposal isn’t a complete fix for the utterly bollixed up postsecondary education system that is too often failing our kids and our economy. But it would provide students making Really Important Choices a helpful dose of hard, cold facts. And that’s a pretty good place for the solution to begin.
Debra L. Kaczmarek, Northfield
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Kersten’s commentary was spot-on. I didn’t attend a four-year college and have no student debt, make a more than comfortable salary that I raised a family with, enjoy my current lake home in the ’burbs, drive a convertible, have no debt other than my mortgage, own a timeshare in Hawaii and have disposable income for my hobbies while maintaining a good credit rating. How, you ask?
I went to trade school over college and avoided getting socially “programmed” another four years. I chose a field of high demand and did my own homework instead of blindly following my initial passion (much to the dismay of my high school guidance counselor, who literally tried to push me into a four-year college) and learned to enjoy this field. This gave me a two- or three-year head start on my peers; I entered the job market and got established and networked before they did. And the people I know who got a general liberal arts degree are still looking for a decent job.
Moral: Do your own research. Don’t let teachers or parents push you into something that may not be a good fit for you. Independent thought is a good thing for me (and for you, too).
This is not meant to be like a holidays “brag” letter. We all know that success or money does not cure all ills, but it can definitely make the “suffering” a lot easier!
Phil Awker, Maple Grove
SICKNESS AND DYING
We do not go gently, do we?
After reading D.J. Tice’s July 16 column “Charlie Gard on freedom’s frontier,” concerning the “right to try” and “right to die,” I somehow turned to the obituary section of the paper. There I found more than 160 entries last Sunday. Most of the obituaries simply stated that someone had died or “passed away,” then gave a brief biography. A few provided more insight into these deaths by saying the deceased “passed unexpectedly or tragically.” Others said that death came after a “courageous” or “titanic” battle with cancer or an “arduous battle with respiratory illness and chronic pain.”
Of the 160 obituaries on July 16, only 33 noted that someone had “passed peacefully” or died in her/his sleep. This is what most of us would wish for. But this society urges us to courageously fight on — and, of course, no one wants to be a coward.
What a conundrum.
Today, even those who would like to live but who are terminally ill and whose suffering has become unbearable cannot receive medical aid in dying in Minnesota. This end-of-life option, however, is available for terminally ill residents of California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont and Colorado (Canada, too).
Oregon was the first (in 1997) to approve a “death with dignity” act. Over more than two decades, there have been no documented cases of abuse. In fact, about one-third of those who request the medication do not use it, suggesting, as Tice wrote, that “receiving the community’s blessing to choose for oneself [may be] comfort enough.”
Beth Molberg, Plymouth
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I’d like to comment on Tice’s assertion that “it would be naive to doubt that once the right to ‘aid-in-dying’ is established, some unwell Americans might receive wrongly motivated ‘aid-in-deciding’ that their time has come — and sometimes the line between counsel and manipulation will be crossed.” As a new Minnesotan, retired nurse-practitioner and resident of Oregon for 20-plus years, I would urge Tice to review Barbara Coombs Lee’s article in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, July 2014: “Oregon’s experience with aid in dying: findings from the death with dignity laboratory.” Coombs Lee concludes that after 16 years of data, the record has made clear that the risk of harm is small when the law authorizes terminally ill, mentally competent adults to access medication they may self-administer for peaceful dying. I want that option for myself here in Minnesota, not as a means of escape, but continuing the freedom to choose, for myself as I have throughout my life, when enough is enough.
Dawn McLean, South St. Paul
ADVICE FOR GRADUATES
Roberts hits the mark
Thank you for printing excerpts from the commencement speech recently delivered by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts (“I wish you bad luck, so that you may grow,” July 16). Some may quickly criticize Roberts’ opinions due to politics, or for being a white male and giving his speech to a privileged ninth-grade graduating class in an Eastern boarding school. His son is following the generation of the millennials — noted by some for their feelings of entitlement in many aspects of their life. What will the next generation become?
Roberts seemed to give advice to each graduate in order to develop the core personal characteristics needed to achieve “the” good life. Financial success was never mentioned.
Every reader can benefit from reading this address and passing it onto their family graduates.
Tim Diegel, Naples, Fla.
POLICE SHOOTING OF JUSTINE DAMOND
A message from Australia
I just wanted to write to the people of Minneapolis to say it’s OK. As an Australian who has watched the events of the death of Justine Damond, I, and I believe many Australians, while we are upset with this event, do not hold you, the people of Minneapolis, accountable for this most tragic occurrence. The world is not a perfect place, and I understand this was the result of the actions of one person, who obviously has made a huge error in judgment and will have to live with the consequences for the rest of his life. America and Australia hold a special relationship in the world, and we have supported and backed you in both good times and bad, and I don’t think any Australian would ever want that to change. Your processes may need to be looked at and changes made so that this never ever happens again, to anyone, be they foreign or American. Every life is precious, and as Australians grieve for the loss of one of our own, we realize that you, too, are grieving. Hold your heads up high; Minneapolis has a lot to be proud of. Australia loves you.
Rob Newitt, Moonah, Tasmania, Australia