CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Ask most kids what they want to be when they grow up, and they're likely to say professional athlete or entertainer or maybe a veterinarian. Ask parents what they want their children to be, and they're likely to answer a doctor or lawyer or another profession known for its high income.
Ask my kid, who contracted sarcasm at birth, and she's likely to say, "A taxidermist -- I like playing with dead things." Most anything to make a grown-up reconsider ever again asking the question.
It's hard to get a serious answer from her, but I suppose it's not that easy a question. When I was her age, deciding on a future career was much different. The emphasis seemed to be more on finding what your strengths and interests were than on how much you would make.
Back then, the division between those going to trade school and those going to college wasn't as off balance as it is today. Certainly, there was less condescension toward those choosing to learn a craft rather than to go on to college. Now, more than ever, it's all about going to college and chasing after the big paycheck.
In the book "Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work," author Matthew Crawford, who holds a doctorate in political philosophy, writes about his decision to quit his job at a Washington think tank to repair motorcycles -- a job that leaves him far more satisfied than cubicle work ever could.
According to Crawford, shop classes and vocational education began being phased out in the 1990s as students were instead prepared for the "knowledge revolution." Jobs requiring manual skills became something that were looked down upon as our society bought into the idea that only jobs requiring college educations were respectable or intellectual.
But "you can't hammer a nail over the Internet," writes Crawford. "The work of builders and mechanics is secure; it cannot be outsourced, and it cannot be made obsolete. Such work ties us to the local communities in which we live, and instills the pride that comes from doing work that is genuinely useful."