Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Wall Street Hippies (Part 2)

In my last blog entry, I linked to this We Are the 99 Percent site.

Since then, I've spent some more time looking at the photos of self-pitying and whining over there, and one clear theme is:  Massive student loan debt with a degree which does not guarantee employment.

I will propose to you that this is due in large part, not to corporate greed, but to the self-centeredness of these people with the wrong degrees.  I, too, might have gone to art school:

But I chose to major in Mechanical Engineering, partially because I felt that there was a greater market for that skill.  When you choose to major in something you "just really, really like", it may be that you are being selfish.

The free market is there to provide you information about what degree to take, and in what field.  I will propose to you that those who major in fields other than their most beloved ones are not being greedy.  Quite the contrary, they have the hearts of servants, being willing to subjugate their own selfish desires in order that they may serve where they are really needed, not merely where it is groovy and fun!

This woman, for example, had the chance to make a mid-course correction between her tow degrees and listen carefully to what the market was telling her:

I have to admire this guy, though,because he accepts at least partial blame:


Castanea_d said...

When I graduated from college at the height of the 1970's stagflation, at one point I visited the state employment office. I completed the application, noting my newly-minted magna cum laude degree in music from a prestigious university. The old fellow across the table from me scanned my application, took his pencil, and carefully wrote “UNSKILLED” in large capital letters across the top. I think he enjoyed that.

Then he give me a list of places that were hiring. I spent the next couple of years carrying out trash and cleaning rest rooms at McDonald's for minimum wage.

These days, I am in fact making a living at music, a fact for which I am grateful to God. Not many people do, not nearly so many as the colleges send out into the world. It did not come right away, easily, or in any way that I could have anticipated.

At least for music, there is much to be said for being in the right place at the right time with the right set of skills, and then doing good and reliable work with the gig. Even if (as is likely) it is not exactly a dream gig. Better situations may come from it if you establish a reputation as someone who can do the work.

All this is to say that these young people might someday make a living (or part of their living) with their art skills, or drama, or whatever. But it will not come easily, and may never come at all in any form that carries a middle-class income.

I think the universities are somewhat culpable for encouraging too many people into fields where only a tiny percentage of them will find employment. And the society continues to feed young people the message “Go to college. It is the ticket to a good-paying job,” even though the fine print has some serious caveats. In some fields, it is indeed the ticket; my niece completed a three-year nursing course at a community college a couple of years ago, living at home and working part-time. She found an immediate job upon graduation, making good money.

But it doesn't work that way for degrees in the liberal arts or fine arts.

In this university town, the Monday newspaper always has a police blotter that fills a half-page or more with the students who were ticketed or arrested for various alcohol-and-drug related violations over the weekend. This is part of it, too; don't they realize that a half-dozen drunk-and-disorderly or public urination or DUI citations are not going to impress potential employers? No, they probably don't. Or more likely (in line with what you wrote about “subjugating selfish desires”), they don't care. Better to live in the moment regardless of consequences. For many of them, college is a four or five year fantasy camp.

Tmes are hard, very hard indeed. I wish these people well, and hope that they are paying attention to the wake-up call that life is handing them.

Anglican Beach Party said...

Thanks for sharing your experiences, Castanea_d! I think it would be a good idea if universities gave prospective students a picture of the supply versus demand for the fields they are considering.

I think only those who reasonably believe that they can excel in an oversubscribed field (where supply exceeds demand) should bother enrolling in that course of study. Unless, of course, they are independently wealthy and are doing it as a hobby. That's how a Liberal Arts degree strikes me: someone who just wants to go and gain general knowledge without regard for how he/she is later going to serve others lucratively with the knowledge gained.

When I was a sophomore in engineering school (Fall of 1981), some engineers actually picketed in front of our school, urging us to change majors. They felt that there were too many engineers, and that we would push them out of their jobs. Fortunately, I didn't listen to them. I get calls all the time from recruiters nowadays, because there is a shortage of engineers (similar to the shortage in nursing).

Some of the most courageous folks I know were those who made mid-life career changes on the fly, while raising a bunch of kids. That takes a LOT of courage.