Dynamist Blog

Mr. Blevins, Please Stay Out of School

Surely only the most determined readers made it to the very end of the very last article in the NYT series on class. Fortunately, Professor Postrel was one of those rare readers.

The story is on college dropouts, focusing on a Virginia man named Andy Blevins, who makes a decent living, including good benefits, as a supermarket produce buyer but feels insecure about the future. If you make it to the end of the article, you discover that Blevins, who got C's and D's when he attended college and disliked class, has decided to go back to school and pursue a new career. And what might that career be?

In the weeks afterward, his daydreaming about college and his conversations about it with his sister Leanna turned into serious research. He requested his transcripts from Radford and from Virginia Highlands Community College and figured out that he had about a year's worth of credits. He also talked to Leanna about how he could become an elementary school teacher. [Emphasis added.--vp] He always felt that he could relate to children, he said. The job would take up 180 days, not 280. Teachers do not usually get laid off or lose their pensions or have to take a big pay cut to find new work.

So the decision was made. On May 31, Andy Blevins says, he will return to Virginia Highlands, taking classes at night; the Gospel Gentlemen are no longer booking performances. After a year, he plans to take classes by video and on the Web that are offered at the community college but run by Old Dominion, a Norfolk, Va., university with a big group of working-class students.

"I don't like classes, but I've gotten so motivated to go back to school," Mr. Blevins said. "I don't want to, but, then again, I do."

Blevins sounds like a fine man, the kind of person who makes communities--and supermarkets--work. Too bad the Times won't honor him for his real accomplishments, including finding a demanding career he's good at. (Most of his buyer colleagues have college degrees.) Instead, he's portrayed as a victim and the "happy ending" is that he's going back to college so he can get a job he's totally unsuited for. A guy who hates school this much doesn't belong anywhere near a classroom, least of all in front of one.

On a related note, here's a column I wrote on why the best female students no longer become teachers. Bottom line: "In hiring teachers, we get what we pay for: average quality at average wages."

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