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Eric Douglas: Back to school is the happiest time of the year!


By Eric Douglas

I’m not a big fan of television commercials, but a memorable one from a couple years ago is the office supply store, showing happy parents skipping through the establishment singing, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” while sullen children follow behind.

It’s back-to-school season!

My daughters are old enough that they might not be thrilled about returning to school for the fall, but they accept it as inevitable and are looking forward to seeing their friends. As summer wraps up, they are also growing a bit bored.

I am all about learning and developing new interests, new skills and new passions. I love to learn things simply for the sake of learning. In their non-teen moments, I hope my girls would say they feel the same way. (In their teen moments, they are more likely to say “Whatever.”)

A 2013 report from Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University said there will be 55 million job openings in the United States through 2020. Of them, 24 million will be new jobs and 31 million will be openings created by baby boomers retiring. Thirty-five percent of those jobs will require a bachelor’s degree and another 30 percent will require some college or an associate’s degree. A little more than one-third of all new jobs will not require education beyond high school.

I don’t believe college is the only way to go, though. I am a huge fan of technical schools, vocational/trade schools, mentoring programs, serving as a journeyman to a master crafter, whatever -- pretty much anything that is post-secondary. High schools teach a little bit of everything, but they aren’t preparing our kids for the workforce, much less giving them life skills like basic cooking or balancing a checkbook.

So, now that it’s time for school to start back up again, a couple of reminders:

1) Support teachers. They have one of the hardest jobs out there and we should think of them as heroes. They work long hours for low pay.

2) Watch out for school buses. No, you are not allowed to pass that stopped school bus. I don’t care how big of a hurry you’re in.

3) Support learning, whatever the form.

Our primary focus should be on educating the younger generation for the jobs of tomorrow. None of the rest of us should stop learning, either. The world is changing and if we don’t take advantage of opportunities, we’ll get left behind.

I know it’s a hard sell, but we really should think about the time to get back to learning as the happiest time of the year.

(To read the report mentioned above, go to

Eric Douglas, of Pinch, is the author of “Return to Cayman,” “Heart of the Maya,” “Cayman Cowboys,” “River Town” and other novels. He is also a columnist for Scuba Diving Magazine and a former Charleston Newspapers Metro staff writer. For more information, visit or contact him at


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