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Posted on Tue, Mar 20, 2012 : 5 a.m.

Four years of college is not the only road to success

By Dear Abby


Do you think every American child should get a four-year college degree? I keep meeting students who have a real talent and passion for other jobs -- military, cosmetology or skilled trades, such as Internet technology and carpentry -- but whose parents are furious at the suggestion they might not graduate from a four-year college.

It's a little-known fact that there is actually a shortage of skilled tradespeople these days. IT jobs pay well and are constantly in demand. As my grandmother used to say, "Everyone needs a plumber when the toilet's clogged." It distresses me to see so many parents disregard their kids' instincts about their skills and desired careers in favor of the "more schooling is always better" philosophy.

Graduating from college has been part of what we envision as the "American dream," but not every kid is going to be fulfilled after getting one of those degrees when the jobs that go with it don't materialize. If a child wants to go into the military or become a skilled tradesperson, parents should at least consider what they're suggesting. Because someone chooses a career path that isn't what a parent hoped for doesn't mean he or she can't be successful. -- ANN ARBOR READER


I have had this discussion with many people over the years and I agree. While it is crucial that young people finish high school, not every child is intellectually inclined. Many have talents better-suited to the trades. A person with skill and drive can earn a good living as a plumber, electrician, tailor or in the food industry.

Some brilliant and successful people started but didn't finish college. Many of them are in the arts and technology fields. Economic realities being what they are today, parents should be flexible and sensitive to their children's aspirations on this subject.


For 20 years, my secret (to some, but not to others) involvement with a married man has kept me on an emotional roller coaster. We were both married at the time it began, and it was always understood that we would not leave our partners. However, since then my marriage has broken down.

Conventional wisdom -- expressed by friends, family and your column repeatedly -- has it that I should end this hopeless affair, get out and meet other men. I have made numerous attempts, but have accepted that he's the only man I feel comfortable being intimate with.

I don't want him to leave his marriage, from which he draws much respectability and desperately needed security. However, his obvious delight in our afternoon trysts does suggest that his so-called picture-perfect marriage doesn't meet his emotional and sexual needs. And that's what irks me!

This couple presents a happy profile in our community. The urge to burst his hypocritical bubble is growing within me with every passing year. Would it be morally reprehensible for me to let his wife know that she has been made a fool of for the last 20 years? -- SEETHING IN CANADA


Yes. Resist the urge. What makes you think his wife doesn't know? Once more than two people know this kind of "secret," word has a way of circulating. I see nothing positive to be gained by trying to hurt the wife. If your lover has to make a choice between the two of you, the person who will get the boot will be you. You knew this from the beginning. And you may find that it is not the wife who has been a fool for 20 years, but you.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. Shipping and handling are included in the price.



Sherry Murphy

Tue, Mar 20, 2012 : 2:29 p.m.

Rather than getting stuck on "four years of college" can we agree that everyone needs post secondary education? My son completed his course work at the Michigan College and Technical Institute. There are over twenty skilled trades for which to be trained. There is a dorm and students must live there. Two things occurred for my son who struggled in high school yet graduated from MCTI in Kalamazoo as a skilled tradesman, he found a girlfriend, graduated, immediately obtained a job in his trade and is independent. That's what we all want for our children, independence and a chance for them to have a life at least as good as their parents have had. Education is the way for this to happen. If you do not want to go to traditional academic college but want a trade and need to live away from home, (in a dorm meeting other young people) this is the route for you.