I graduated from high school in 1975 (36 years ago). The school I attended was located in a rural area of Peoria County. Most of the students in the school were from families in which at least one of the parents worked in a blue collar job, such as manufacturing or the building trades. I came from one of those families. While I was growing up, my dad was a carpenter. Although he eventually ended up owning his own construction company, he always remained a member of the Carpenters’ Union.
One of the classes I took during my freshman year in high school was Beginning Shop. During the school year, all of the students in Beginning Shop rotated every 6 weeks to different classrooms. In each classroom we learned the basics of a different trade or occupation, such as woodworking, electrical wiring, metal (fundamentals of spot welding and working with metal), photography (which included developing film), auto mechanics, and drafting.
After taking Beginning Shop, if a student was interested in learning more about a particular trade or occupation, he was encouraged to continue on with more advanced classes. During my sophomore and junior years, I enrolled in advanced woodworking classes. In those classes, I learned how to draw and read plans, build frames, cabinets, clocks, and anything else that could be made out of wood. I also became proficient at operating various machines, such as the Lathe, Table Saw, Plainer, Jointer, Miter Saw, and Band Saw.
After graduating from high school, I considered signing up for the local carpenter apprenticeship program, but decided on college. If I didn’t like college, I could always go the carpenter route. Although I decided to continue on with my education, most of my friends used the knowledge and skills they developed in high school to land jobs. Some went into the construction trades, while others chose manufacturing.
I thought about the trades and occupations program at my high school recently when I read some statistics concerning the prison system in the United States.
Take a look at the chart on this page. As you can see, over the past 30 years there has been a massive increase in our prison population. When I initially saw the chart, I was stunned. Why such a dramatic increase? Who are all of these people who are locked up in the concrete and steel-reinforced buildings that are spread out throughout our country?
Most people are not aware of this, but the overwhelming majority of prisoners in the United States have never committed a violent crime. In the federal prison system alone, only 7.9% of prisoners are violent offenders.
Roughly 92% of our prison population is male, while approximately 70% is “nonwhite.” For every 11 African American men in the U.S., at least one of those men is either in jail or on parole. The number of individuals who are in prison because of drug-related crimes has increased 12-fold since 1980.
So what’s really going on behind all of these disturbing statistics?
As Americans, we do not think of ourselves as violent people. There is a good reason for this. From the time of the founding of our nation, we have always sought to be masters of our own destiny, and to be left alone – left alone by our neighbors, and left alone by our government.
During the first 150 years of our existence as a nation, we minded our own business and stayed out of foreign conflicts. Then came World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and more recently, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.
Although we are a representative republic, when it comes to foreign intervention, our federal government behaves in the same way that dictatorships and totalitarian governments behave. The U.S. has become quite adept at using violent force and coercion to get its way with other countries. We have the most powerful military in the world – a military that has continued to perfect its “skills” in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya for the past 20 years.
In addition to fighting aggressive foreign wars, the U.S. has also been getting a lot of practice fighting an aggressive domestic war. One commonality that the U.S. shares with repressive totalitarian regimes is its large penal system. Right now in the U.S. we have a total of 2.3 million inmates, which is roughly 743 out of every 100,000 residents. The most inmates the Soviet Union ever had in its penal (“gulag”) system was prior to World War II when approximately 800 out of every 100,000 residents were incarcerated. Today, the U.S. has the largest prison population in the world.
So what does all of this have to do with my high school days of taking shop classes?
When I graduated in 1975, every one of my friends who chose to work rather than attend college found a good paying job. Some of them went into the construction trades while others ended up working at CAT, Keystone, International Paper, Pabst Brewery, Hiram Walker, ADM, Kiefer Electric, and the TP&W Railroad. All of those local companies were thriving enterprises that offered good paying jobs with benefits that included family health insurance and a pension. The wages earned at those jobs were more than sufficient to support a family.
Now, 36 years later, if a high school graduate decides not to go to college, what are his chances of finding a job? If he’s lucky, he might get a job at Burger King, Target, or Wal-Mart. Or he may be able to land a $9 per hour manufacturing job (with no benefits) at one of those companies that does contract work for CAT.
What is the primary reason our economy has continued to contract rather than expand? The answer is: Birth Control.
It’s been 38 years since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized the most drastic of all forms of birth control: abortion. Since then, there’s been an estimated 57 million abortions in the U.S. (1.5 million abortions per year times 38 years = 57 million abortions). If we assume that an additional 1.5 million pregnancies have been avoided each year since 1960 as a result of sterilizations and the birth control pill (a low estimate), then another 75.5 million children were never given the chance to see the light of day (51 years times 1.5 million = 76.5 million). That’s a total of 133.5 million American citizens who, if God’s plan had been followed, would have been born and would have had a chance to grow up as American citizens.
We currently have approximately 310 million people in the U.S. What would have happened if those 133.5 million children would have been born between 1960 and 2011? It’s not hard to imagine. There would have been an ever growing economy with jobs available for the manufacture, sale and distribution of diapers, baby beds, food, shoes, clothes, bicycles, baseballs, electronic devices, cars, houses, caskets – the list is endless.
So what are we supposed to do with all of the young men in our country who aren’t properly trained for and/or can’t find good paying jobs? Men who have no self-worth and end up resorting to theft and the use (and selling) of illegal drugs? Go to war with them and lock them up in our prisons?
This is what happens when the people of a nation ignore the laws of their Creator.