generation limbo: 20-somethings today, debt, unemployment, the questionable value of a college education

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This feels like a...strange thing to say. Or at least a pre-judged thing? I mean, how did our population GET so "incurious"? Americans aren't stupider than other (what other?) populations, I'm p sure.

― brb recalibrating my check engine light (Laurel), Saturday, September 3, 2011 11:13 AM (8 seconds ago) Bookmark

I am always wary about talking about things like these, but for one thing, education isn't as highly valued by our culture (or certain segments of our population) as it is by other cultures

dayo, Saturday, 3 September 2011 15:14 (eight years ago) link

also cards on the table i am a liberal weenie type who would like everyone to go to college for the sake of going to college, what is the point of living in the richest and most technologically complex society on the planet if were not at least making the effort to give everyone the tools to talk about good books

i feel like this is kinda projection or s.thing, like if were talking techno-utopias then a system that got 'most ppl' into and out of school earlier wld be the ideal, with college being open to the ppl who 'really want it'

Lamp, Saturday, 3 September 2011 15:17 (eight years ago) link

I am always wary about talking about things like these, but for one thing, education isn't as highly valued by our culture (or certain segments of our population) as it is by other cultures

― dayo, Saturday, September 3, 2011 8:14 AM (3 minutes ago)

Teachers especially. There's still some sort of respect (at least in the form of paycheck, often) for professors, and a ramping-up of respect as age-level of students progresses, but damned if I don't believe that teaching kindergarten (well) in failing district is a far sight harder than teaching 10th grade history in a wealthy independent. But we esteem the high school history teacher as an intellect, and passively denigrate the kindergarten teacher as basically a kid technician

remy bean, Saturday, 3 September 2011 15:21 (eight years ago) link

I am always kind of shocked to see how little respect teachers get in this culture until you reach the professor level - "those who can't do, teach" etc.

dayo, Saturday, 3 September 2011 15:22 (eight years ago) link

hmm i guess i dont have particularly well-formed opinions on this subject im just kind of suspicious of a lot of the discourse that springs up when we talk about reform or whatever; im wary of the idea that "college just isnt for everyone" in the current state of things, i.e. huge wealth gap, increasingly stratified society and so forth. just seems like another way to reify those distinctions

max, Saturday, 3 September 2011 15:24 (eight years ago) link

that was xp to lamp

max, Saturday, 3 September 2011 15:24 (eight years ago) link

and the underlying assumption is that anybody could teach, given the opportunity and necessity. It's the only job in the world that everybody thinks they know how to do! Nearly everybody has had 13 years exposure to hundreds of different teachers, many of them terribly poor in quality - and because so much of the job is invisible/off-stage, especially for good teachers, it even looks like an easy job. (xp to dy)

remy bean, Saturday, 3 September 2011 15:26 (eight years ago) link

for someone who ends up w/ serious debt from a for-profit university, "college" has only served to increase the wealth gap

and you can also argue that various institutions are key players in the huge wealth gap + increasingly stratified society

xp

iatee, Saturday, 3 September 2011 15:27 (eight years ago) link

well yeah

max, Saturday, 3 September 2011 15:30 (eight years ago) link

yeah remy my only experience w/ how other cultures perceive teachers is in china, but there if you tell someone you're a teacher it's an automatic +1 - respect for teachers is baked into the culture, there are loads of teacher training colleges (even if the methods they learn are questionable), a lot of students want to become teachers. I'm sure there are other cultures out there w/ similar views

like if there was more inherent respect for teaching as a profession, it would siphon off some of the brain drain that's going into finance, it would make it easier for teachers to get better compensation, more benefits, make it a much more attractive profession as a whole

dayo, Saturday, 3 September 2011 15:32 (eight years ago) link

i struggle with this q, will universal (or graeatly expanded) university opportunities lead to better wealth distribution? or will it simply debase the signaling power of a degree and leave a lot of ppl with debt and few technical skills (4 those who dont pursue professional degrees)? i don't know, i guess i'm a fence sitter, i don't know what to tell a student other than "go, it's the best option" but i also want 2 live in a world where not going to college is not a death sentence for your career prospects.

ima.tumblr.com (@imsothin) (m bison), Saturday, 3 September 2011 15:34 (eight years ago) link

and a lot of it has to do, v. simply, w/ shitty pay. highly qualified young people (male, especially) don't want to enter into a low-regarded profession in which finding employment is difficult, where the salary is capped at 70,000 after 20 years of work.

remy bean, Saturday, 3 September 2011 15:35 (eight years ago) link

i guess i should stress that the ideal "lets all go to college and discuss great books" world is unachievable so long as college costs so darn much

max, Saturday, 3 September 2011 15:42 (eight years ago) link

like, in comparison to other careers which require (or at least privilege) post-secondary ed, teaching is lower on the totem pole, but in a lot of communities, it might be one of the better paying jobs there. i worry more about plumbing and electricians and sewage and waste management and etc being considered "beneath" middle class kids (thus flooding the available college spots with those who can afford it).

ima.tumblr.com (@imsothin) (m bison), Saturday, 3 September 2011 15:43 (eight years ago) link

yeah max i think its hard, i mean i dont want a return to pre-50s college system either but increased access hasnt seemed to do all that much for income equality either. obv its a completely subjective argument but my ~feeling~ is that if we had some kind of system wherein ppl could leave school @ 15/16 for apprenticeships/job-training/a career the # of ppl who wld want to pursue post-secondary education wld drastically decrease, and that many people who currently spend 4 years and X dollars on a communications/business degree wld be a lot happier?

i mean its sort of a pointless opinion to have @ the moment since no1 really needs an apprenticeship to learn how to work at wal-mart but in an america that had actual jobs i guess its worth thinking abt ways to 'de-credentialize' some careers?

Lamp, Saturday, 3 September 2011 15:47 (eight years ago) link

^^^
i guess my line of thinking right now is basically pining for "true" meritocracy (obv a term fraught w complication). in that, if you are an excellent student, u get the k-12 education you deserve to help prepare u for the rigors of university ed regardless of your background. if u fuck around in lib arts type classes bc it doesnt interest u, there are other things u can do and support yrself/family as an adult. from my own exp, i see middle (the upperish side of that) class kids go to college whether or not it interests them bc they feel they "have to", frequently getting the degree that still serves as a signal of employability. and i see poorer kids who were the top students in their respective high schools getting to college without the skills to be successful (not just academic, but for lack of a better descriptor "professional" skills, parents didnt come from privlege, dont know how interview for professional positions or the jargon of higher ed or whatever), dropping out more frequently (w debt).

ima.tumblr.com (@imsothin) (m bison), Saturday, 3 September 2011 16:10 (eight years ago) link

if we had some kind of system wherein ppl could leave school @ 15/16 for apprenticeships/job-training/a career the # of ppl who wld want to pursue post-secondary education wld drastically decrease, and that many people who currently spend 4 years and X dollars on a communications/business degree wld be a lot happier?

right but what worries me is that those numbers would decrease largely out of the pool of lower-income, underrepresented students. if i thought that people from all different backgrounds would forgo a liberal arts education in favor of apprenticeships i would be more in favor of it, but the way things "work" right now i think you end up stacking the deck.

if i am king i probably nationalize higher education and make it free for everyone who wants to go

max, Saturday, 3 September 2011 16:14 (eight years ago) link

my other idea is to make all kids between the ages of 13 and 20 go work on farms year-round without tv, the internet, or video games

max, Saturday, 3 September 2011 16:15 (eight years ago) link

^^^feelin this

D-40, Saturday, 3 September 2011 16:20 (eight years ago) link

they get to use facebook though right

D-40, Saturday, 3 September 2011 16:21 (eight years ago) link

I think a lot of this goes back to 'in an america that had actual jobs' - I mean when times were good this country could get away w/ a lot of things that were pretty inefficient (health care system, 4 years of college to 'find yourself', *cough* urban sprawl etc.) that I don't think will be possible in the longer term

xp to lamp

iatee, Saturday, 3 September 2011 16:25 (eight years ago) link

like if there was more inherent respect for teaching as a profession, it would siphon off some of the brain drain that's going into finance, it would make it easier for teachers to get better compensation, more benefits, make it a much more attractive profession as a whole

more respect and compensation would be nice for teachers, but do you know what would also be awesome? hiring people who would be fantastic teachers but who don't want to go through the horrible, utter bullshit that is the process of getting certified.

jizz inside of your nose (the table is the table), Saturday, 3 September 2011 16:30 (eight years ago) link

if you live in Texas, you can get quickie certified (not necessarily a good policy tho)

ima.tumblr.com (@imsothin) (m bison), Saturday, 3 September 2011 16:40 (eight years ago) link

then i'd have to live in texas.

jizz inside of your nose (the table is the table), Saturday, 3 September 2011 16:41 (eight years ago) link

:-)

jizz inside of your nose (the table is the table), Saturday, 3 September 2011 16:41 (eight years ago) link

this is s.thing i think abt all the time but:

- i think 'college' in the spend four years studying s.thing that interests you sense, whether its books or european history or chemical engineering, has tremendous innate value both personally and for society and so im sympathetic to the 'everyone should go' argument

- but i think even assuming it was free and ignoring opportunity cost not everyone is going to be able to realize that value. and maybe even most people, this is hard to quantify tho. however as it stands college also has tremendous value in the 'i need this to get a job' sense and so young ppl dont really have the option to make a choice based on their own utility, so they spend a bunch of time and money on a shitty business degree or feel forced to take courses they not prepared for/cant get much out of

- so it makes sense imo that there should be more viable career paths that dont require a four year degree or even mb any degree, like realistically what skills do you need to work in corporate hr that you couldnt get from working a low level admin job for three/four years instead? outside of a few technical/engineering jobs most white collar jobs could just as easily be structured in the same way blue collar fields are now imo

Lamp, Saturday, 3 September 2011 16:43 (eight years ago) link

The system for creating and certifying public school teachers is partly sensible and partly grotesque. The primary assumption seems to be that the people entering the system in the hope of becoming teachers are a dog's breakfast of skills and aptitudes, who must be reduced to a smooth paste and extruded in the shape of teachers.

Aimless, Saturday, 3 September 2011 16:50 (eight years ago) link

like realistically what skills do you need to work in corporate hr that you couldnt get from working a low level admin job for three/four years instead? outside of a few technical/engineering jobs most white collar jobs could just as easily be structured in the same way blue collar fields are now imo

totally

iatee, Saturday, 3 September 2011 16:54 (eight years ago) link

Revive apprenticeships, but without as much indentured servitude involved.

Aimless, Saturday, 3 September 2011 17:13 (eight years ago) link

ok but those white collar jobs aren't gonna be around long I think---we'll automate or outsource them soon, next ten years top

maybe the most dispiriting thing about teaching where I do is how unambitious my students tend to be---those kids are gonna be fucked because they just wanna drift & then slide into some boring but ok paying office job, & the economy's just not gonna support that anymore

Euler, Saturday, 3 September 2011 17:25 (eight years ago) link

well i mean im p resigned to using my doctorate to sell five thousand dollar shoes to the wives of third world oligarchs or w/e jobs are still around in ten years, max and are both kinda arguing 'ideal worlds' here

Lamp, Saturday, 3 September 2011 17:33 (eight years ago) link

wait so how can I get a job as a third world oligarch

Do not go gentle into that good frogbs (silby), Saturday, 3 September 2011 17:42 (eight years ago) link

do I just move to Kyrgyzstan and start bribing public officials or what

Do not go gentle into that good frogbs (silby), Saturday, 3 September 2011 17:43 (eight years ago) link

step one guns

ima.tumblr.com (@imsothin) (m bison), Saturday, 3 September 2011 17:52 (eight years ago) link

step two tanks

Aimless, Saturday, 3 September 2011 17:53 (eight years ago) link

i think you just need to find a public co. in an industry w/ a high barrier-to-entry and a large captive market and then through a combination of blackmail, bribes, and empty promises purchase the company once it becomes privatized and then voila you own a co. that controls 80% of latin america's telephony and ur the richest person in the world

Lamp, Saturday, 3 September 2011 17:53 (eight years ago) link

slim shady

ima.tumblr.com (@imsothin) (m bison), Saturday, 3 September 2011 18:01 (eight years ago) link

I think about this stuff all the time not only b/c of my job but because I have kids, & because of my egalitarian leanings I'm somewhat ambiguous about it but I think my kids are gonna do super well in this brave new jobless world b/c they've lived in other countries, speak multiple languages fluently, are super smart especially at math, & have a sense of how "wide" the world is: so that if what's needed is to open a business in say Malaysia they're just gonna do it---this is that whole "new global elite" thing that I posted about sometimes, & it's pretty much gonna rule to be those people, so I dunno

whereas for many of my students, they're hoping to find office-y work in Dallas & they have no real special skills to offer because they majored in psych or soc or heaven forbid business & they're not particularly worldly or quick on their feet & the world's just gonna eat them alive...but they're happy for now. I dunno, I worry about this "generation limbo", not for my family but because I work with these people & for better or for worse I ~care~

Euler, Saturday, 3 September 2011 18:13 (eight years ago) link

so that if what's needed is to open a business in say Malaysia they're just gonna do it

Uhh nothing from kindergarden on up teaches the on-the-fly skills you'd need to make yr way in the world in another country, without significant (family) assets behind you. My experience w education is exactly the opposite -- they rly don't want to have to deal with kids who have traits that wd suit them for quick thinking/acting or high levels of adventure/excitement/flexibility.

brb recalibrating my check engine light (Laurel), Saturday, 3 September 2011 18:16 (eight years ago) link

I mean if you want yr children to be world adventurers, take them out of school, move to Mozambique, and make them be friends with street kids who'll teach them how to pick pockets and lie convincingly.

brb recalibrating my check engine light (Laurel), Saturday, 3 September 2011 18:17 (eight years ago) link

nah but my kids have already made their way in another country, is all I mean

Euler, Saturday, 3 September 2011 18:17 (eight years ago) link

ok but those white collar jobs aren't gonna be around long I think---we'll automate or outsource them soon, next ten years top

who's the techno-utopian now?! (I pretty much agree.)

I think it's important to look at our college education system in the bigger economic context - the future of white collar labor and economic inequality has more to do w/ bigger political and economic processes than w/ what any given college can do.

maybe the most dispiriting thing about teaching where I do is how unambitious my students tend to be---those kids are gonna be fucked because they just wanna drift & then slide into some boring but ok paying office job, & the economy's just not gonna support that anymore

but it's hard to blame 18 y/o kids for not being able to predict these things - 'college' worked for americans for 50 years, and it still 'works' for almost every traditionally successful person you'll meet.

but I don't get how you can be so hard on these kids and still ultimately defend the bigger system - I mean atm your job is teaching these kids, which in turn depends on them wanting to purchase the college degree signal. how many 18 y/os in nebraska (I am just gonna pretend you live there) want to pay 7k (the bargain price, these days...) a year to learn about philosophy?

iatee, Saturday, 3 September 2011 18:18 (eight years ago) link

yeah it seems sort of unfair to call the students you teach "unambitious," Euler; it seems more like they're inheriting a really uncertain future that likely adults in their lives have not fully understood/been explicit with them about. i can understand head-in-the-sand-i'll-just-ratchet-down-my-expectations responses to that even if they're not the best response.

horseshoe, Saturday, 3 September 2011 18:19 (eight years ago) link

xp what iatee said

horseshoe, Saturday, 3 September 2011 18:19 (eight years ago) link

I'm an unambitious college student, but at least I'm an electrical engineering major and not a philosophy major.

Battlestar Gracián (crüt), Saturday, 3 September 2011 18:20 (eight years ago) link

I have lots of extremely smart multilingual friends who are good at math and the only ones who are abroad these days are teaching english, not starting the malaysian facebook

iatee, Saturday, 3 September 2011 18:21 (eight years ago) link

re. how many kids want to pay that much to learn say philo; a fair number! we get them jobs because they learn how to write well & how to reason well; other degrees besides math & maybe bio I'm inclined to agree about.

I don't think it's "our university system" that's failing these kids, I think it's our culture, our parenting, our cultivation, our attention, that's failing these kids

Euler, Saturday, 3 September 2011 18:22 (eight years ago) link

there is more student loan debt in america than credit card debt

that's a failed system

iatee, Saturday, 3 September 2011 18:24 (eight years ago) link

I know how to fix it
more credit cards for everyone

ima.tumblr.com (@imsothin) (m bison), Saturday, 3 September 2011 18:26 (eight years ago) link

BOOM

ima.tumblr.com (@imsothin) (m bison), Saturday, 3 September 2011 18:26 (eight years ago) link


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