Published Date

June 1, 1945

Resource Type

GI Roundtable Series, Primary Source

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

The soldier who goes to school after demobilization is naturally anxious to prepare for a job and to start earning his own living as soon as possible. He may feel that the only worth-while education is the kind that has a direct and immediate bearing on a certain type of job. He may be impatient with what he regards as “frills and fancies.” Before he plunges into a program of intensive job training, however, he might well think over his plans on a long-time basis. He might remind himself that a long-term approach is a sound way of preparing for his future. The general who plans his strategy for the long pull to final victory is the one who wins the war, not the general who centers all his efforts on winning a single engagement.

One reason a soldier ought not to concentrate too narrowly on job training is that job opportunities are constantly changing. New inventions and new processes sometimes make certain jobs out of date while at the same time they create new ones. Many people were afraid that the automobile, the radio, and the sound motion picture, for instance, would put many workers out of jobs. Actually the development of these industries made jobs for millions.

Some people, however, were put out of their jobs by these and other industrial developments. Those who lost their jobs were for the most part men who could not or would not realize the significance of the charges, or whose training and skills were so specialized that they could not adjust to the changing work requirements. The fellow who can only put a lacquer finish on auto bodies is going to lose his job if a plastic auto body is developed that needs no finishing.

He has only one specialty.

No one can tell even a few years in advance what changes in jobs and job methods may come. No one can predict how many men and women will have to change their occupations in middle life if they want to continue supporting themselves and their families adequately. But it is generally agreed that those who have had broader training or a general education will find it easier to change. They will not be left without a foundation on which to develop new skills. They will have more than one string for their bow.


When haste makes waste

After the last war many returned soldiers rushed into jobs requiring very brief training in order to earn money as quickly as possible. But when things began to get tight, the employers began laying men off. Who were usually thefirst ones to get laid off? Who were the ones who had the toughest time getting another job? Employees whose training was incomplete and inadequate were the first to go. In promoting the best welfare of his company the employer naturally laid off first the men whose background for the job was insufficient, unless they had seniority rights.

Lots of soldiers will want to change over to a different kind of job from what they had before entering service. This is not surprising in view of the great variety of experiences, including work experience, they have had in the Army. Many of these men, however, have very little sound knowledge about the sort of occupation to which they would like to change. Many of them think that they can be trained for a completely new kind of employment in a few months.

It is probably true that they could learn certain minimum skills in a relatively short time. But they might be so narrowly trained that there would be little opportunity for advancement. They might even lose their jobs later if the particular skills they had learned should no longer be in demand.

Broad training takes more time and effort at the beginning than preparation for a particular job (except for the professions). But many educators and counselors believe that other things being anywhere near equal, general education would be a wise investment in the long run.

What else besides the job?

Important as it is, a job is not the whole of a man’s life interest and activities. Besides being a worker, the soldier will be a citizen in his community; a member of a family group, and a person with individual needs and interests.

Every soldier has probably said to himself thousands of times something like this: “I never want to go through this sort of thing again, and I don’t want my kids to, have to go through it, either. When I get back I’m going to do my damnedest to see that this job is done once and for all.”

That’s one of the things we’ve all been fighting for. But how is the soldier-citizen going to do it? It may seem relatively simple. This is a democracy. Every man has the right to vote. Let’s vote for the man who will see that we have a lasting peace.

It would be fine if it were that easy. But how are we going to make a wise decision about such complex matters as foreign policy, farm policy, taxation, and social security unless we know something about the underlying issues and their relationship to the making of national policy? Are we going to rely solely on the newspapers, the radio, and political speeches for our information? How can we distinguish truth from falsehood in what we read and hear? If the voter knows little about economic, political, and social forces, how can he make intelligent choices in matters which affect his well-being?

Next section: Who Will Make up Our Minds?