Wednesday, October 17, 2012

An Aside: On Those Unemployed College Grads

At the risk of being insensitive and just not very nice, I want to take a little exception to all this concern about unemployed college grads and the seemingly boundless pandering to them. This popped into my mind, again, watching that college student ask his question at last night's presidential debate. He basically wanted a guarantee that he would have a job when he graduated in 2014.

I have written before about my VERY low opinion of higher education in the Western world. Let me be frank: Universities as a rule are giant frauds perpetrated on the public by well-paid university staff and their leftist political allies. In my view, the average graduate knows next to nothing, at least, next to nothing useful. He or she generally emerges from these hugely overpriced, vastly overfunded, and heavily subsidized institutions with a phony cynicism, a derisive attitude towards capitalism and patriotism, an insufferable arrogance, a numbing ignorance about the history and culture of the West, and--to top it off--a sense of entitlement. We all have been brainwashed--myself included--that our kids must have that university degree, and employers go along with the gag even when the job does not require one.

There are good schools, but they teach real stuff that is not considered sexy or cool. Right now, despite the horrible Obama economy, good students with degrees in accounting, mechanical engineering, computer sciences, mining, and chemical and petroleum engineering can get very good and high-paying jobs right off the bat. This is not scientific but I will say it anyhow: The students I have met in the US going into those sort of degree programs tend to be serious, family oriented, often immigrants or first generation Americans, and--surprise!--politically and socially conservative.

Back to that first questioner in the debate. According to the press, he is studying "exercise science." I am not sure but is that what we used to call physical education? How much is that costing his parents? Does he really have the right to demand that the President (translation: society) provide him a job? Did he think of checking the level of demand for that "skill"?

Students in universities worried about their futures might want to revisit what they are studying. If you want a degree in Modern African Art or Gender Studies because you love that topic, fine, but don't assume that the rest of us have an obligation to fund your life in the undoubtedly exciting world of Modern African Art or Gender Studies. Let your knowledge of Modern African Art or Gender Studies console and empower you as you swing that mop after hours at the Luby's, or as you lie in your parents' basement wondering how you will pay back $100,000 in student loans.

Don't come knocking on my door with your hand out. I've got my own kids to fund.



27 comments:

  1. People who are not like us II,
    or Stupid is as stupid does. Probably aren't smart enough to keep the rinse water fresh.

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  2. Hey, don't knock gender studies; some of my favorite bartenders have degrees in Gender studies and anthropology. I'm not just trying to be funny either, its true.

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    1. Check to see if my daughter is one of them . . .

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  3. I got out of college with a degree in a subject that I loved, but I never had any illusions that it would entitle me to anything but an entry-level position in something that required basic literacy and a flare for writing.(I went into the military and spent twenty years there.) Thank god I did not even consider taking out student loans for two years at a community college, and two years in a state uni.
    My daughter got out of the military with her education benefits ... but she is waiting for the higher ed bubble to burst before she does any farther than two years at the community college ... where they kept changing the requirements and charging her an arm and a leg for textbooks.

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    1. You have exactly the right attitude.

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    2. Wierdly enough, now I am doing exactly what I want to be doing - writing, blogging and ghost-writing as a freelance, and working as a partner in a Tiny Publishing Bidness, editing and publishing other people's books. It's an erratic way to make a living ... but something always turns up, and my own books are gaining a following.

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    3. "a flare for writing"
      Shame you didn't have a flair for it.......

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  4. I'm so thankful that my elder child, in 11th grade now, is interested in engineering/computer science. Now if I can just get her interested in South Dakota (she doesn't like cold weather much), where you can get an excellent BSEng in computer engineering for under $20K a year (including room and board) at the school of mines. Her current high school program at the local community college should net her nearly a year's worth of college credit, most of which is transferable, even outside the state university system.

    The other one wants to do physical anthropology, but up through the BS degree, it's basically pre-med, so she'll still have a lot of options.

    I on the other hand have a BA, MA in medieval history, a BFA in music, and then went back for an MLS since the other three are totally useless if you don't want to teach college. At least I didn't have tons of student loan debt because of them.

    Part of me wishes I had gone into engineering, but I'd have had my father over my shoulder my whole life. This is the man who informed me that my GRE scores in 1984 of 750/720/800 weren't as good as his......

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    1. We never found out how he got a better than perfect score on a section that didn't exist when he took the exam. 8)

      I love the man, but he has some competition issues.

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  5. Thank goodness I found a job that matches my liberal arts degree... a generalist. When my parents found such a job existed they were flabbergasted.

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    1. Congratulations.
      I'm flabbergasted too.
      What is the job?

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    2. Anon's talking about the Foreign Service "generalist" job. It's what the DiploMad used to be (and we are much much poorer for his loss...) and a lot of us who read the blog still are.

      In many ways, it's the perfect gig for lib arts majors. You're basically required to know a little bit about everything. If you're really knowledgable in some areas...hey that's great!...but it's not required.

      If you've ever been characterized as a "Jack of all trades, master of none", this is the job for you.

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    3. You have given away our little secret!!

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    4. (I was the first anon)

      It's a bit strange coming into the Foreign Service (I'm on my first tour) from a flyover state without any Ivy League experience and without significant time spent with an NGO; I didn't have time or money to waste doing that.

      I also don't have any college debt, but it seems like the State Dept is filled with folks that want to wring every penny out of the govt when it comes to repaying their immense student loans. It makes me wonder if they're really interested in this for the long-term or if they will get out for something else once their education is paid for.

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  6. The problem with mainstream education (and government) is that it is measured by inputs, not outputs.

    No one asks what practical difference the input of four years of classes (at $100-$200,000 cost) makes to the student's ability to produce something. Even if the output is supposed to be "satisfaction with your understanding of life", that output is not measured.

    Like an expensive wristwatch, the quality of the education is supposed to be its cost. Mainstream education vigorously opposes cheaper methods of learning and any detailed measure of improved output.

    Mainstream schools know that they must promise something. They spread the misleading fact that a college degree increases average lifetime earnings by a million dollars, at first glance a 5-10 times return on the investment. This is fraud, averaging results for the most succesful lawyers, doctors, businessmen, engineers, and billionaires into the results for liberal arts majors.

    College is an expensive IQ test

    Colleges use a misleading advertising trick. The claimed financial return from college does not count the costs in tuition, board, and lost earnings to attend college. They also do not count the students who attend and pay for one or more years without graduating. This is like claiming that the average lottery winner receives $1,000 without counting the ticket costs and the people who don't win anything.

    The law says that a company cannot give an employment test unless it has been shown to be non-discriminatory in effect, that it doesn't screen out people of color at a different rate than white people.

    So, employers don't create their own tests or use standardized tests. Interviewers talk randomly about whatever they want, using personal judgment to decide if the candidate is "a good match". This is supposed to be less discriminatory!

    Schools are conveniently exempt from testing restrictions, because supposedly they are altruistic and not connected to the filthy pursuit of money. So, they administer tests to determine who gets in and what grades they receive.

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  7. It took me 15 years to get my 2 year degree. College was a hobby, just taking a course that looked interesting. Never did PhysEd so the school could never shove a paper on me. Did weird things like taking a US Govt course twice at the same time. The Tue-Thurs course was taught be a Conservative retired Army Colonel. The Mon-Wed class was taught by a Berkley hippy. Quite the eye-opener to see how the exact same course with the same book taught at the same time could be so different based on the bias of the prof. Finally submitted my DD214 (retired Navy) to account for the PhysEd reqs and got a piece of paper to put in the closet with all the other slips of paper for doing stuff. I miss school. Well, OK, I miss the cute girls who always seemed to need help with the assignments and projects. My team always got 'A' grades and I always got.....did I mention I miss school?

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    1. As they say, it can take years to become an overnight sensation . . .

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  8. Last July, I wrote, "Want a janitor's job? Get a degree."

    "Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that as many as one out of three college graduates today are in jobs that previously or historically have been filled by people with lesser educations or none. The U.S. now has 115,000 janitors with college degrees, along with 83,000 bartenders, 80,000 heavy-duty truck drivers, and 323,000 waiters and waitresses."

    If you think that colleges are turning out under-qualified grads, it's worse than you think:

    "The problem is that high school grads - as many as three-fourths! -are increasingly unprepared for even the ever-lowering standards of undergraduate work. Most college graduates are similarly unprepared for "the real world" and so half of college grads are unemployed or underemployed, a figure no doubt amplified by the very bad economy."

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    1. Excellent. I wish I had seen your piece before I wrote mine.

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  9. Well, I'm glad I have a B.A. in Chinese language and literature. I moonlight as a document translator, and I'd do it ful-time if there was demand. It also helped when I joined the Foreign Service. I was a five-day wonder when I got off language probation with 3-3 in Chinese.

    Alas, I never was all that good in creative brwon-nosing and other more important skills.

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  10. Well, I'm also going to gripe about the growing insistence on "practicality" in education.

    I suspect that one reason why American foreign policy fumbles and bumbles its way through every issue is that our "hard-headed" presidents who've cut their teeth in the world of business don't have a clue about what goes on in the head of someone from a different culture; while our soft-headed ones neither have a clue about what goes on in the head of someone from a different culture, but also expect everyone to abide by general rules of civility. It was why Bush ended up winning a war but losing an insurgency, and why Obama's losing everything.

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  11. I am not surprised that most of my EE colleagues were reality-based in their political and economic outlooks. Engineering is not a subjective area, either your circuit works or it does not. Your software does not care about your feelings or that you were raised by a one-legged, Hispanic-surnamed, Vietnam verteran, black, transgendered mother. The program works or it does not. In my materials classes, the steel rod failed each time by applying the correct amount of tension regardless of the ethnicity of the person doing the experiment. There is no place for feelings in engineering.

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  12. Well, I agree that the value of a degree has gone down. I also like to see my political positions (well to the right of center) as "reality based". But, too often, I've found that "practical" is often a euphemism for shortsighted, provincial, unimaginative, and intellectually limited. One of the things that caused me to reconsider the democratic socialist tradition in which I was raised was extensive reading in the literature of antiquity. It taught me that people didn't have to have electricity to be able to think (although I'm a great fan of electricity!). Further, one of the big problems with Marxism is that Karl Krab-face took the 19th century materialistic worldview far too seriously and neglected to consider that man is more than a belly in search of food.

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    1. I agree with you that people should have a well-rounded education with lots of cross-cultural knowledge. The problem we face, however, is that increasingly college grads have no core skill or practical knowledge that will get them through daily life. Nothing says one cannot be an engineer and know what's happening in China, but it helps to have the career and money that enables you to buy the books and do the travel to learn about China.

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