Modern education, a recent topic of columnist Zaffie Hadiaris, could be analyzed from a number of different aspects. Having returned to college from Vietnam gave me one point of view. Having served more than 10 years in Europe gave me another.

Prior to my active duty in Vietnam, I worked 30 hours a week during school and 70 hours a week summers to pay for my education. I had no time to indulge in adolescent games during school.

Subsequent to Vietnam, I was a member of the veterans club at the University of Maryland, College Park, at that time 50,000 day students. There was a marked contrast between the immature adolescents sent to college by Mommy and Daddy and the members of the club, which included everyone from draftees to retirees and all services.

Those subsidized by Mom and Dad had no idea of what the big, wide world was like, who they were, or what they wanted to do with their lives. Dad was sending the money, so let’s party. The members of the veterans club, on the other hand, had been out in the world, had an idea of what it was, and, most importantly, knew why they were going to school.

It was the difference between night and day. Many of the children sat in class expecting the professor to uncap their little skulls and pour in the knowledge without their having to do any thinking. What a waste of a good professor’s time. I often thought that, were I in a position of power, I would pass a law that no one except certified geniuses could go immediately to college without first going out into the world to get their hands dirty and obtain a little maturity.

Then, having some knowledge of the higher education system in Europe, I understood that only B+ students or better were allowed into their colleges and universities. If Dad had enough money, you may be able to get in, but the academics were so demanding that few remained who did not have an above average IQ and a work ethic to match.

I did meet a number of people who had excellent educations from what we might refer to as vocational schools. To my surprise, I found that these vocational schools had academics exceeding many of our colleges. One owner of a welding shop in Bavaria had chemistry, metallurgy, mechanics and physics in his curriculum. Subsequent to high school, the Europeans guide their students into curricula that meet the needs of society. Those who have a certificate from a vocational school are recognized for their mastery of their trade.

Very unfortunately, it was the GI Bill that was the cause of the ruin of American higher education. Prior to that, our educational system ranked with the best in the world. Schools saw dollar signs in the GI Bill and had to lower standards to admit those students and then lower them again to keep them in school.

Today, any average high school student can get into college and receive a diploma from one of our diploma mills. Many of the curricula have little or no application in performing something constructive for society.

Maybe the colleges and universities will also have “no child left behind” so that no one’s tender, little ego is shattered by flunking.

-Frank Novotny, Biddeford