Before getting to today’s topic: I am a registered Independent voter and have been since 1995, long before it was fashionable. I am not affiliated with any political party and have voted in elections for 5 or 6 different party candidates in the last 20 years.

I vote as an Independent because I believe in keeping an open mind. I believe that no party is right all the time and that a good idea or a good candidate can come from anywhere.

Last night, however, a Republican got it right.

I was listening to the latest debate on my car radio when I heard candidate Marco Rubio say,

My work involves consulting with a variety of clients in order to help them grow their businesses. I have clients in finance, health care, printing, and constrution, to name a few. The involves a lot of research and interviews. What I have discovered recently is that there is a severe shortage of skilled construction labor, so much so, that construction companies are in bidding wars for the people they need.

I have asked two business owners in construction why this is so and both mentioned that one of the reasons is the push to have kids go to college.

In the recent past, the N-MUSD has moved away from the ridiculous “get all kids ready for college” mantra and is incorporating the term “career(s)” in some of their language, as in “college or career ready.”

I was thinking of all of this after a conversation with an elementary school teacher in an impoverished district here in Southern California. She said that the parents of nearly all of her students has never read to their kids, in English or in Spanish, and that she is forced to promote kids who are not ready for the next grade. She said that the notion of protecting a child’s self-esteem by not holding them back to repeat a grade is backward thinking and that their self-esteem suffers more when they are promoted before they are ready.

We have students in our district who are being promoted before they are ready for the next grade. Lots of them. And the vast majority are in Costa Mesa.

These kids are less likely to attend college, and that’s OK. The district has the language, but I am afraid it will take more than that to convince parents that college is just one option. That stigma, the one that Rubio mentioned, will take a long time to erase.

Steve Smith