Published Date

June 1, 1945

Resource Type

GI Roundtable Series, Primary Source

From GI Roundtable 34: Shall I Go Back to School? (1945)

The question may be asked: Is it necessary to go to school to get an education—either general education or job training? Many very successful persons never went to school—or perhaps they went only for a short time. Lincoln was largely self-taught. But that was more than a hundred years ago, and few of us are Lincolns. Schools offer systematically planned programs of education. These permit the student to get a sound and helpful approach to an occupation or a broad general education or both. Schools help the student so that he will not waste time in useless study. They help him do his own thinking about classroom problems and, as much as possible, his own thinking about the pressing problems of American life.


Who pays the cost?

The GI Bill of Rights (Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944) provides financial assistance for veterans who wish to complete their training. We’ll get to the details a little later on. The Vocational Rehabilitation and Education Service of the United States Veterans Administration takes care of this and provides even more extensive service for disabled veterans. This agency offers advisory service as well as financial assistance. It will help soldiers find out what types of work or training are best suited to each individual’s needs, desires, and aptitudes. These services will be especially helpful to soldiers who are undecided as to what they should do after discharge. The Veterans Administration has set up offices in different parts of the country so that ex-servicemen may have complete facilities for in-formation and advisory and financial services not too far from their local community.

In these offices a veteran who chooses further training may secure, the assistance guaranteed by the GI Bill of Rights or other laws. This advisory aid also helps him to think out the question of whether it is desirable or necessary for him to get further schooling. If he decides to enroll in a training program, the local veterans office will make the necessary financial arrangements so that he can meet school and living expenses for at least one year-or more under special circumstances.

What about the old job?

Under what conditions should you seriously consider returning directly to your old job? Opinions may differ on this question. Some of the experts who have studied the problem would tell you to go back:

  • If you were securely established in your prewar employment and liked your job.
  • If you want to return to your job.
  • If you have family obligations or other personal considerations which make it necessary that you go to work as soon as possible.

But in many cases Army experiences may have taken a soldier away from the kind of work he used to do, and his old skills and knowledge will be rusty. He may need a “refresher” or “brush-up” course for a few weeks or months. Perhaps he can get such retraining in evening school while he works during the daytime.

Why more training?

Under what conditions should you seriously consider getting further training?

This is a question on which each soldier will have many ideas of his own. They may differ greatly for different individuals. Here are some of the conditions favoring more training as suggested by men who have given the problem special study:

  • If you had no work experience before entering the Army. If you cannot or do not wish to use your Army specialized training in a similar civilian job.
  • If your schooling was interrupted by Army service and you wish to complete unfinished courses.
  • If you want to change to another type of work.
  • If you have become interested through Army experience in a new type of work and wish to gain a wider and more thorough background in this field.
  • If you have become disabled to such an extent that you can no longer meet the physical requirements of your pre-war job.
  • If you want to bring yourself up to date and prepare for greater responsibilities in your old job.
  • If the work you used to do has become out of date, or if you must learn new skills for any other reason.

Are there jobs?

There will be many jobs available after the war and there will be many workers. But in either ease-whether jobs are easy to get or hard to get-soldiers willface the big question of long-range plans for a life career.

The best advisers on education believe that a soldier ought not to decide hastily to take a job just because it is easy at the moment to get one. They also say that he ought not to decide on school just because jobs are hard to get.

In a word, a man who has the stuff—the aptitude—for further training may want more study even if a dozen jobs are offered him at the moment. If he takes a job that does not use his interests and abilities to the best advantage, he may become dissatisfied and in the end fail.

On the other hand, the man who goes to school merely because he can’t find a job in a hurry may be heading for failure and unhappiness because he hasn’t the stuff to benefit from schooling.

So, before making a final decision on this question of school or job, the soldier should take careful thought in order to avoid either road to failure.

The experts, moreover, urge soldiers to consider also the questions: Is your former job something a machine can do? Is it making things that may go out of use? Will new methods or inventions knock it out? Is it a job that will not stand up for a fairly long period? Has it changed so much that you have to be retrained in order to handle it successfully? The answers to these questions may change a decision that had otherwise appeared sound.

Next section: What Will It Cost?