William H. Maher was the founder of Maher & Grosh Cutlery Company in Toledo, Ohio, a pioneer direct-mail retailer. In the 1878 edition of his best-selling book, On the Road to Riches; Practical Hints for Clerks and Young Business Men, Maher included these pearls of unlearning.
"... do you not see why it is that merchants select their book- keepers from the next lower position, rather than engage a graduate of a business college? Undoubtedly you have been surprised that so few of the thousands thus 'graduated' are... heard of in counting-rooms, and that so many of them return to their fathers' farms. The prospectuses of the colleges certainly promise a golden future to every young man who earns a 'diploma.' Is he not taught banking, insurance, actual business, even telegraphing? Do they not have and handle notes and bills till their business transactions run up into millions? Are they not taught not only how to write a good hand, but also to put flourishes to their signatures that drive common folks to despair with envy, and to make beasts and birds with their pens till they are able to start a menagerie with their own productions? But when the graduate asks for a situation, and announces with pardonable pride that he is a graduate of the Mildam Business College, he is wonderfully surprised to learn that the fact is a damage to him. If he ever secures a position, he finds that he must keep his 'diploma' to himself, and begin at the bottom step and work his way up. Actual business is so vastly different from theoretical business, that it is necessary to completely drop the latter from the mind before you can make much headway in learning to manage the former."

  Or as Herbert V. Prochnow wrote in 1942, "All that stands between the college graduate and the top of the ladder is the ladder."

On the ladder...

  Returning to Maher,

  "The young man who fancies that being a clerk in a dry goods store is more 'respectable' than being a farmer, a carpenter, a printer, a painter, or machinist, is not the young man to think of going into business for himself, even though he can command a goodly capital. To conduct business a man must be possessed of some small amount of brains, and this fact is a fatal obstacle to the young man just mentioned."

  "In this day and country, where education counts for so much, it seems at first sight as if the boy who is compelled to leave school at twelve or thirteen to begin life is much to be pitied, but I am not sure that such is the case. Our schools of today are graded even more than sugars are... The fault of our schools is that they are planned for rich men's sons, and there are no courses laid out for the boy who has to leave school at twelve and start out in the world.
   "But no boy need feel discouraged if he wants to get an education. The best taught men are not always those who graduate from the higher colleges."

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