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Requiring a college degree for a waitressing jobs at Applebee's ... and other idiocies of the 'Global Economy' attack on educational sanity

[Editor's Note: The following was Susan Ohanian's Christmas present to her readers, posted on December 25, 2009, at the "Outrage of the Day" at Susan's wbesite -- www.susanohanian.org (click on the Big Link on the right on the Substance Home Page].

Finding a Job in the 21st Century Global Economy

by Susan Ohanian

While thousands of college graduates are looking for jobs in Chicago, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (above left) and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley (above right) continue to preach the part line of corporate America: that the problem is the schools and the solution is education (not wage inequalities and the structure mess created by corporate America). Above, Duncan was announcing that the federal government was going to provide Chicago's public schools with $60 million to reduce "youth violence" by providing jobs for the city's 1,000 most dangerous teenagers while thousands of studious students — as well as high school and college graduates — go without jobs. Substance photo taken at the October 7, 2009 Chicago City Hall press conference by George N. Schmidt.Scene: Mr. Haycox, a farmer is talking to two real estate agents. They both have PhD's, as is normal for middle class people.

"Call yourself a doctor, too, do you? said Mr. Haycox.

"I think I can say without fear of contradiction that I earned that degree," said Doctor Pond cooly. "My thesis was the third longest in any field in the country that year--eight hundred and ninety-six pages, double-spaced, with narrow margins."

"Real-estate salesman," said Mr. Haycox. He looked back and forth between Paul and Doctor Pond, waiting for them to say something worth his attention. When they'd failed to rally after twenty seconds, he turned to go. "I'm doctor of cowshit, pigshit, and chickenshit," he said. "When you doctors figure out what you want, you'll find me out in the barn shoveling my thesis." --The Piano Player by Kurt Vonnegut, published in 1952.

Remember the premise of the Vonnegut book as you read on. Recap: In The Piano Player a tiny group of wealthy and powerful managers and engineers run things. Most people, stripped of good jobs, are powerless menials.

Stephen Krashen observes that the next step is to force farmers like Mr. Haycox to get PhDs. he could write a dissertation on, for example, "The symbolism of dairy farming in Thomas Hardy's Tess: Was Angel Clare a lacto-vegetarian?"

Now here's a news item from the New York Times:

"She was turned down for a waitress's job at an Applebee's restaurant because she had not finished college, she said, a rejection that still makes her shake her head. 'Can you believe they wanted a degree just to wait tables?'" (-- New York Times, Neediest Cases, Dec. 24, 2009).

Get that? "Some college," the President Obama/Arne Duncan mantra, is not enough. The fact of the matter is that no matter what today's worker does, it will never be enough.

Never.

That's how the elites have planned it.

Picking up where the inflammatory (and bogus) A Nation at Risk left off, today's Standardistos insist that the 21st Global Economy requires all students to have "some college." In Schools as Scapegoats, Lawrence Mishel and Richard Rothstein make this point:

The Tough Choices report bemoans the fact that "Indian engineers make $7,500 a year against $45,000 for an American engineer with the same qualifications" and concludes from this that we can compete with the Indian economy only if our engineers are smarter than theirs. This is silly: No matter how good our schools, American engineers won't be six times as smart as those in the rest of the world.

Nonetheless, Marc Tucker, author of Tough Choices (and president of [The National Center on Education and the Economy] the group that produced the 1990 report as well), asserts, "The fact is that education holds the key to personal and national economic well-being, more now than at any time in our history."

Mishell and Rothstein point out, as do many other people who bother to check the facts, that College graduates are, in fact, not in short supply. There's even a new term for what happens when they cannot find jobs in their chosen field: Mal-employment: recent college grads working low-skill jobs. Taking a job at Applebee's.

New monthly survey data from the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston finds that during the first four months of 2009, 49.9 percent of the nation's 4 million college graduates age 25 and under were working in jobs that required a college degree. That's down from 54 percent for same period last year.

Research has shown that college graduates who take jobs below their education level not only earn less, but also can take years to match the earnings of graduates who land career-track employment upon graduation.

These so called "mal-employed" workers also compound the unemployment problem by taking jobs that non-college graduates and even high school students are often qualified to hold. The problem of "mal-employment" --working outside one's field of education, training and choice -- has increased sharply for college grads since the recession began, and all signs suggest the trend will continue for the foreseeable future. --Today@Colorado State University, June 26, 2009.

"I've never seen it this low and we've been analyzing this stuff for over 20 years," Center for Labor Market Studies director Andrew Sum told McClatchy Newspapers, June 29, 2009. When college graduates can't find jobs in the field for which they have a degree, then they take any work they can find, such as waitressing at Applebee's. This is the reality of the push by the Business Roundtable, the US Chamber of Commerce, and the Obama administration for "college for all." Job requirements in the 21st Century Global Marketplace have increased not because the skills required have changed but because college educated people are forced to take employment lower and lower in the employment hierarchy. In our 21st Century Global Economy, employers can hike the requirements as well as lower the pay and benefits.

Who knows? Today a B. A. to waitress at Applebee's. Tomorrow? Ph.D. anyone?

There's nothing especially unique about not finding employment in the field one expected after graduation. Decades ago, I found a job or Madison Avenue working for publishers of a glossy magazine, not because I had a Master's Degree in medieval literature but because I was an excellent typist. I never regarded my minimum wage job as evidence of the "failure" of my college education but rather as evidence that I'd made a choice. Who knows? Maybe it was the education--learning new things and expanding my horizons--that gave me the nerve to leave my farming community of 4000 and get on a plane for New York City, where I didn't know a soul. In any case, I took the job, not out of desperation, but because I wanted to work in publishing.

What's different about the situation these days is the corporate-politicos' heavy-handed marketing of college as job training. Nobody talks about college as a place to explore the universe, to learn things undreamt of in the corporate-politico philosophy.

And the corporate-politicos are tightening the screws or, as they like to say, raising the bar. A high school diploma used to be a job requirement, not for the skills attained in school but because it was a marker for certain desirable character traits: For starters, the prospective employee had shown the requisite discipline to stay the course for 13 years. Now that the Secretary of Education, echoing the Business Roundtable has declared the high school diploma worthless, time spent in college becomes the new employment prerequisite. As more and more jobs are shipped overseas to service corporate greed, expect more and more corporados to complain that college grads lack "the skills needed in the Global Economy."

Onward to the Ph.D.

Asked what he gained from philosophy, he answered, "To do without being commanded what others do from fear of the laws." --Diogenes Laertius

These days our schools are populated by fearful teachers who spread a message of fear to their students.

The game here is to make workers feel insecure and inadequate--and to be desperate enough to work for lower salaries and fewer benefits. Schools cooperate by declaring that pre-K is the place to get kids ready for kindergarten, which has become the training ground for a college degree. As the Ed Trust website long declared in a banner, "College begins in Kindergarten." No, kindergarten begins in kindergarten, and it should be a children's garden, not a conveyor belt of discrete skills sold my the publishing conglomerates and supervised by literacy and math coaches.

Our increasing inequality problems are huge, and they can't be laid at the door of our education system--except in the broad context of the fact we should be educating students for resistance and revolution, not fear and compliance. — Susan Ohanian

2009-12-25 



Comments:

December 27, 2009 at 11:55 AM

By: Al Korach

RETIRED

i BELIEVE THAT MUCH OF THE PUSH TO GET A COLLEGE DEGREE TODAY IS GOING TO PUT THOUSANDS OF STUDENTS INTO LIFE LONG DEBT. IT IS ALSO A WINDFALL FOR COMPANIES USED TO FINANCE THE LOANS. FOR MANY A B.S. DEGREE WILL TURN OUT TO BE JUST THAT BS.I ALSO HAVE A YOUG RELATIVE THAT IS WAITING ON TABLES AND HAPPY TO HAVE THE JOB.HE ALONG WITH THOUSANDS OF OTHERS HAS TO PAY BACK A LARGE LOAN THAT SO FAR HAS GOTTEN HIM NOWHERE. THE PROBLEM IS ALSO WITH THE CHOICES POTENTIAL STUDENTS MAKE WITHOUT LOOKING AT THE LOCAL AND WORLD ECONOMIES.LOOK AT ALL THE STUDENTS THAT TOOK COMPUTER SCIENCE ONLY TO FIND THAT COMPANIES CAN OBTAIN A GRADUATE FROM INDIA AT HALF THE PRICE OR ON LINE EVEN CHEAPER.WE HAVE BECOME THE VICTIMS OF GLOBAL AND LOCAL TECHNOLOGY. IT BEHOOVES PARENTS THAT FOR MANY WILL HAVE TO FINANCE THEIR CHILDRENS EDUCATION TO HELP THEM MAKE INTELLIGENT CHOICES. THIS IS ESPECIALLY TRUE IF THEY COSIGNED FOR THE LOANS. BE CAREFULL OF THE CHOICES YOU MAKE AS THEY WILL HAVE TO LAST YOU A LIFETIME.

December 27, 2009 at 4:53 PM

By: Margaret Wilson

Retired teacher/parent

I agree that there is too strong of a push for everyone to go to college. My oldest brother and I are the only ones out of 13 kids to graduate and get masters and we made less money than most of the other kids. I think we should encourage kids to find out what they like doing and what they are good at. If that requires a degree than those are the ones who should be encouraged to pursue it. If not, then that is fine too. One of he brightest people I know left school after 6th grade!!!!! She has always been able to take care of herself and her family.

December 28, 2009 at 5:53 PM

By: kugler

the point

is to make everyone go to college regardless of interest or skill level to enslave them with loans, non-essential knowledge and waste some of the most productive years (16-25) of a young persons life there having a disposable workforce not trained to be self-sufficient.

December 28, 2009 at 8:33 PM

By: Danny

Overqualified

When I first moved to the Chicago area during the 1991 recession, I applied for a front desk clerk position at a nearby hotel. It was something I thought I could do evenings and weekends while I looked for a more substantial "day job."

The manager chuckled when he saw that I had a Master's degree. Apparently he already had six front desk clerks with Master's degrees (a job for which any high school graduate should be qualified to perform).

His own qualifications? A 2-year hotel management degree from Harper College.

BTW, he never called me back.

December 28, 2009 at 9:45 PM

By: Margaret Wilson

Retired teacher/parent

Danny, your comments brought back memories. During my first two years of college, I worked at a factory making car advertisements

booklets. I went back my junior year and was told that I was over-qualified. They believed that the more educated you were, the more you would try and organize,

December 29, 2009 at 11:08 PM

By: kugler

No College Required for Congress

No College Degree for One of Every 20 in Congress

By JACQUES STEINBERG

December 24, 2009, 11:30 am

http://thechoice.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/24/congress/?pagemode=print

Among the jobs in this country that don’t require a college degree is that of a member of Congress. Which raises a question, at least as far as a recent article by Scripps Howard News Service is concerned: How many of those elected to the House and the Senate did not graduate from college?

The answer: 27 House members and 1 Senator, or 5 percent, according to the article, citing the Congressional Research Service.

One of them, Representative Solomon Ortiz, Democrat of Texas, is quoted by the news service as saying that he sees no difference between himself, a high school dropout who joined the Army to help his mother support his family, and his more credentialed colleagues. “They put their pants on the same way I put my pants on,” the article quotes him as saying.

Other representatives without degrees who are quoted in the article are Steve King, Republican of Iowa, who said he learned about the issues important to his constituents by running a small construction business, and Doc Hastings, Republican of Washington, who cites his experience in the United States Junior Chamber, or Jaycees.

The article also quotes Steven Taylor, professor of government at American University, as predicting that a college degree will be increasingly important to members of the House and Senate. (As recently as four decades ago, at least 54 in the House and Senate were not college graduates.)

“College degree credentials are becoming so much more relevant by the second,” he told Scripps. (As it stands now, the article says, 169 House members and 57 senators not only have college degrees, but law degrees as well.)

Do readers of The Choice have thoughts on whether a lawmaker without a college degree is at any inherent disadvantage in serving his or her constituents? Please use the comment box below to let us know.

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