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Trade school shouldn’t be frowned upon

One student’s thoughts on trade school versus a university degree, and why we should have a choice

Since elementary school, my parents have always told me that in order to be successful, I would need a university degree, and that I would amount to nothing without it. Whenever I failed a math test, I was threatened with the possibility of working at Walmart for the rest of my life––because somehow failing grade 7 math means that the furthest I’ll get in this world is being a cashier in a blue vest.

A university degree is considered the best thing you can have. While it can be, university isn’t for everybody—and that’s okay. We aren’t all built for university life. Some of us prefer to work manual jobs as mechanics or plumbers. Some of us want to use our creativity to become makeup artists and hairdressers. But some of us will be happier spending four years and thousands of dollars in school for our dream job.

There is nothing wrong with pursuing a trade. If we want to spend our lives working a manual job where we’ll inevitably have a bad back then that’s okay—we’ll be happy with our career choice and broken back.

In April 2018, the pressure to attend a four-year college remained so strong in American society that many high-paying jobs in the trade were currently sitting empty, according to NPR. In an article by VICE, Queens Tech principal Melissa Burg said, “I think those [trade] jobs go unfilled because skilled labor is looked down upon, even though those skilled labor people make more money than I do.”

Yes, a university degree is regarded highly in today’s society. Yet, while a degree is important in the eyes of employers, not everyone is built for academic life and no one should be forced into it.

Going to trade school should be encouraged instead of looked down upon. We need electricians, plumbers, hairdressers and makeup artists. It is ridiculous to expect everyone to be happy in academics––and it’s time to realize that and promote pursuing a trade as a valid career path.

While having a university degree may make it easier to get a job, it doesn’t mean that job will be in your field of study. You can have a degree in neuroscience and still be working at McDonald’s because there are no jobs in your field.

VICE’s article also touched upon how people often associate going to college with earning more money—an idea that isn’t necessarily true, since sometimes people waste more money going to college than they get out of it.

That being said, both university and trade school can bring someone amazing opportunities. If you’re studying what you love and what you see yourself doing for the next 40 years of your life, then the essays, tests and hard work put into your degree is worth it. Yet, only one type of schooling is stigmatized, seen as less than the other, and that’s not right.

Society should not be putting so much pressure on young adults to spend thousands of dollars on a piece of paper if they want to pursue a trade. A bachelor’s degree does not equal happiness; you can be successful and happy while pursuing a trade.

Spend money on something you actually like instead of something that will make you miserable. Comedian John Mulaney said in his Netflix comedy show, John Mulaney: Kid Wonder, “I paid $120,000 for someone to tell me to go read Jane Austen and then I didn’t.”

Archive Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth

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The food industry is trying to kill me

Those who are physically unable to eat gluten can’t rely on incomplete and false labels

In July 2018, I was given two choices by my doctor: either I join high-profile celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Lay Gaga in their gluten-free diet fad, or I continue eating gluten and destroy my small intestine. I was diagnosed with celiac disease, meaning that whenever I consume any food product that contains gluten, my immune system is triggered and begins to attack my small intestine, causing physical pain, and the inability to absorb nutrients, leading to vitamin deficiencies and anemia.

Following a gluten-free diet, whether to lose weight or to “live a healthier lifestyle,” has become popular. With high-profile celebrities praising their gluten-free diet, which is aimed at reducing the chance my intestine turns into a balloon, gluten-free foods have become much more common in the aisles of your local grocery store.

While the increasing amounts of gluten-free options in stores may seem like a good thing––especially for those of us who suffer from wheat-related allergies––it really isn’t. I believe food companies aren’t taking the risks of cross contamination seriously enough. Food products labelled “gluten-free” still contain traces of gluten, which won’t affect someone who is only gluten-free to lose weight but will have negative effects for celiac patients.

Since my diagnosis, I have tried my best to stay as gluten-free as I can in order to live my life as pain-free as possible. However, the gluten-free culture that we’re living in is leading me to accidentally consume gluten at least once a week––and it’s causing me extreme physical pain.

In the six months following my diagnosis, it’s happened too often that I’ve eaten something labelled gluten-free only to later read the ingredients and discover that the product may contain wheat. The food industry doesn’t seem to understand that gluten-free food is not just for people who want to be healthier and lose weight––some of us need to be gluten-free in order to live a normal life.

According to the Government of Canada, in order to be able to label a food item as gluten-free, the product must contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten, which is equivalent to 20 grains of sand. While 20 parts per million of gluten seems like nothing, Very Well Health notes that gluten consumption as low as 50 milligrams per day––which is equivalent to around 1/70th of a slice of bread––can cause intestinal damage to those with celiac disease.

This idea that gluten-free is nothing more than a fad is harmful to those of us who suffer from celiac disease. Food industries are trying to hit a new market, and while they may have good intentions, they aren’t being careful enough to ensure that their “safe” products don’t actually contain gluten.

In a perfect world, gluten-free foods would only be produced in purely gluten-free facilities to ensure that there are no risks of cross contamination. However, no matter how much I would love for this to happen, expecting companies to be willing to spend the time and resources needed to create products that are 100 per cent gluten-free is just wishful thinking. Instead, when producing gluten-free items, the food industry should label how many gluten parts per million the product contains.That way, those of us with celiac disease can decide if it is worth the risk.

Graphic by Ana Bilokin

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