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
DEAR 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.
DEAR ABBY: 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
DEAR SEETHING: 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 www.DearAbby.com 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.
- DEAR ABBY