OK, I will admit

OK, I will admit that the tone of Shawna Gale's essay on post-college unemployment could at times come across as "whiney", but I am surprised to see how strongly people have come down on her for it. What many take for a petulant whine of a spoiled college kid, I see as a cry of justified frustration.

I first came across the article on the Dreaded Purple Master, where he (and some of his readers) responded with a smug put down of her arguments. He wasn't alone. I am certain that a bit of searching would find even more criticism. Ouch!

I have read her essay several times, and I don't get the sense that she feels "entitled" to a job, and certainly not that she should get one just because she spent a lot of money on a fancy degree. What she does seem to say is that she has worked very hard through 17 years of school, is bright and driven, and has a degree to back that up. I am in a similar situation, and I feel for her.

So, she has an english degree. Her detractors like to claim that she should have gotten a "more practical" degree, like marketing, or at least a practical minor. To this I respond, why? An english degree is a degree that requires just as much work to obtain as a marketing degree. An english degree shows that you have critical thinking skills, an ability to read and understand what you are reading, and writing and communication skills. Are those not good to have? An english degree is flexible. With a marketing degree, you can go into marketing...what else? She states that she has applied for jobs in marketing, advertising, and publishing.I can see the skills behind and english degree being suited to any of those field, and more. I guess there is a flip flop that happens in schooling. For a number of years, students will be encouraged to get specific, business related degrees. Those degrees, they are told, are important to have to get ahea in the world. Suddenly, that changes. Get a liberal arts degree, say the guidance counselors. Employers want to hire people who are flexible and have critical thinking and writing skills. Then they go back to hawking the business and tech degrees. It is all a matter of when you went to college.

(Besides which, how many innovations would be made in business and industry is everyone in them came with exactly the same degrees?)

Others say, well she should just go into teaching. Admirable notion, and lord knows we need qualified teachers in this country. However, as I am discovering, teaching is *not* for everyone. You need to like kids. You need the patience of a saint. You need nerves of steel. You need to be good at the art of instruction. You need to be able to put up with administrative bullsh*it and parents who want you to work miracles, but won't do their own part. I wonder how many of the people suggesting that she should teach have ever tried it themselves. (Some have, but probably not all of them.)

Some are offended that she "looks down on real work." She says that she could be hired rightaway in food service or retail, without her degree. Yup. There is nothing wrong working in with food service or retail. I have held jobs in both fields. Most everyone I know has, at one time or another. That doesn't change the fact that those jobs tend to have long hours (usually standing) for little pay and no benefits. That doesn't change the fact that while there are nice and reasonable customers, there are also hordes of horses' asses that make the job hell on wheels. That doesn't change the fact that few people seem to understand the proper way to tip, and that some things are just out of the waitstaff's hands. Working in retail and food service and pay the bills, but it is certainly draining. To make it even more draining, come home from that draining, mind numbing, underpaying job for which you don't even need a degree and then write out a check to pay for the student loans that will be with you for at least the next 10 years.

(For those of you who are about to say, "Student loans? Bah! I *worked* my way through school." I worked during school, too. I usually worked several jobs at a time. I still needed loans to be able to pay for it.)

Is she saying that she deserves a job for no other reason than that she went to Yale? I don't think so. Does she acknowledge that the economy has made it difficult for everyone? Yes she does. So want is her point?

I think her point is that our country has a screwed up view of education and college degrees. On one hand, they over value them. In my high school, if you were "bright" you were supposed to take all the academic classes and then go on to a 4 year college. If you weren't they encouraged you to take shop, and then go to the army or a tech school. I got a lot out of college as an experience, but in some ways I would have been better off if I had taken more art classes, and then gone to the area tech school for an associate's degree in commercial art and photography. (Of course, without that 4 year degree, joining the peace corps or getting a job teaching in Korea would be out of my league, along with a whole slew of jobs that require a bachelor's degree, any field.)

On the other hand, our country undervalues liberal arts degrees, and the amount of work that is involved in obtaining them. Sure, some majors may seem less relevant than others. I almost got my BA in musicology before I realized that there was little future in that as a field-specific career. That doesn't change the fact that even the most "blow-off" classes that I ever took in school involved serious work. I may not remember all of the facts that I memorized in school, but certainly carried a heap of skills away with me.I can research,I can think clearly,I can present my thoughts in an organized manner,I can work my butt off to meet deadlines,I can organize my time.... Don't employers want that?

Of course, I am not looking for the same sort of work as Ms. Gale. I decided long ago that I don't want an office job, any more than I want retail. I haven't hit on exactly what I will do with myself, and I am working to pay the rent until then. I am doing things to add to my skills, and I am keeping my eyes open for jobs which meet my interest as well as my abilities. When I find that job, I just have to hope that they are willing to hire me. Like Ms. GaleI can state that being unemployed is no fun.

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This page contains a single entry by Kayjayoh published on March 25, 2002 7:12 PM.

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