Tuesday, July 03, 2007

the great middle class scam...



...has led to this. whoever sold us the idea that more education is better should be tarred and feathered. the culprits include institutions of higher learning, our teachers, our parents, the student loan industry, and the pervasive middle class ideal that we must "get into a good school and work in a 'respectable' profession." coupled with the hair-brained p.c. concept of "you should do what you love and everything will magically fall into place!", this is a dangerous combination.

more education is better only if you graduate with a useful degree (such as economics, accounting, computer science and applied math). otherwise, you will graduate without employment options. one must also be able to afford tuition and have that investment realize a return. schools like swarthmore and grinnell are wonderful institutions where you can get a great education, but they are expensive and don't really give you real world skills. these schools are for the independently wealthy, who are concerned with perpetuating their pedigree. go to a state school, or get a scholarship.

(perhaps things were different back in the 70s and 80s when tuitions were lower, and the job market wasn't as glutted, but i'm talking about how things exist now.)

i don't know what has gotten into the collective psyche of the middle class, but if you behave and live as if you are a wealthy blue-blood preppie, you're going to ruin yourself financially.

you can't make 1 and 1 add up to 5. you just can't.

when i have kids, i'm going to march them to the suffolk county police academy (amazing salaries, and the worst crimes involve lizzie grubman running people over in her SUV in the hamptons) or suggest that they become highly paid skilled workers like plumbers, electricians or auto mechanics. if they can get on the UAW (united auto workers) teat, that would be great too. and yes, they will be using their minds. with all the fancy doodads that come with current automobiles, the kids will have to continue learning and keeping up with technology.

they will make more than me, they will have pensions and health insurance, and they will have no debt.

all right, i'm done venting.

10 comments:

emily1 said...

yeah, you don't have time to vent. you need to pay those loans!

i might have endured hell and more over the last 2 years working full time and attending school, but I didn't incur any additional debt.

if post-secondary education is crucial for belonging to the middle class, and, by extension, crucial to the competitiveness of american industry, it's time to go all socialist and start subsidizing the cost for most people to attend. at least in crucial subject areas where we aren't graduating enough people.

emily2 said...

i think we need to kill the stupid distinction between "white collar" and "blue collar" work, when there really isn't any difference as to salaries. this snobbery by white collar folks needs to be stamped out.

we need to put more emphasis on trade schools and less on attaining a fluffy liberal arts education. we need to stop obsessing about credentialism. we need to go back to an apprenticeship model, rather than a "sit in class and study theory instead of practice" model. what a waste! law school is three years of theory, and when you graduate, you've never seen a single contract, and you've never even drafted a complaint! what an utter waste of time!

and don't even get me started on the crap we "learn" in college. "heroes for zeroes" and the rest of the "core curriculum" may be great for cocktail party conversation, but it sure as hell doesn't prepare you for the real world. who needs fluffy courses at thousands of dollars a pop when you have wikipedia and the public library. wikipedia and the public library are free!

college should be three years. the first year should be a survey year for people to pick a major. the second should be learning skills in that major. the third should be pure apprenticeship.

teaching real world skills is how we will remain competitive.

we can't go all socialist, because the burden will be put on the middle class. what we can do is cut middle class taxes and allow unlimited deduction of student loan interest.

emily2 said...

also the snobbery factor regarding public versus private schools needs to be eliminated. you're not going to be better off at a private school. there are people i know who went to horace mann and exeter who are currently working for a pittance. horace mann and exeter mean jack shit nowadays.

why is private school so desired? keeping up with the joneses and saving face for your peers? an honest to god belief that your kid will end up retarded after going to public school? what gives?

my sister went to private school, and i went to public school. i ended up going to a higher ranked college. and now we're both in the same (sinking) boat of loan indebtedness. i can at least know, in the back of my mind, that i cost my parents less money.

kusala said...

Great topic. This is all exactly why I (thank goodness) put off grad school (in social sciences/humanities) indefinitely. The additional debt would have been ridiculously unwise.

I'm reminded of your post a few months ago about how these things are supposed to go. I totally screwed up and went against the practical, "natural" social order of things: As a member of the first generation of my family to attend college, I should have become a doctor, accountant, bond trader, or other "professional". Then, my kids (as if I'll ever have any) could have frittered away all the cash I earned on getting "fluff" degrees in the arts & humanities and worrying about self-actualization.

I do still believe in studying "what you love"... but at some point you need to confront real-world realities. For me, skipping a generation and getting a "non-useful" undergrad degree in Anthropology is ok because I guess I'm ok with being a single gay guy in a studio apartment and still having debt in my late 30s. If I were going to have a family, it would be a big mess. That's why I decided to draw the line at grad school unless I finally decided to get an MBA or something that would justify the debt. Then there's one of my best friends who got a J.D. (is that a "useful", moneymaking degree? bwahaha) from a bullshit school and, while he doesn't exactly regret it, his debt is of suicide proportions.

emily2 said...

Then there's one of my best friends who got a J.D. (is that a "useful", moneymaking degree? bwahaha) from a bullshit school and, while he doesn't exactly regret it, his debt is of suicide proportions.

the debt is what kills you. but for the debt, a law school graduate from any law school could earn a living wage. unfortunately, many are stuck doing temp doc review to pay off those loans. also, the debt prevents those who aspire to be do-gooders (like championing the rights of the otherwise defenseless) from actually doing good.

emily2 said...

again, there are public law schools out there. once you're in the second tier, you might as well go to a public law school. less debt = more choices.

emily1 said...

i think we need to kill the stupid distinction between "white collar" and "blue collar" work, when there really isn't any difference as to salaries. this snobbery by white collar folks needs to be stamped out.

i think the best jobs in most of the new industries will require college educations -- engineers, computer scientists, and biotech workers can't be trained in high school. they need higher level mathematics and science courses that just don't get offered in most high schools.

i was being tongue in cheek about going all 'socialist', so don't get your knickers all in a twist over it. public support for higher education has been declining for years. it's one of the big reasons for rising tuitions and fees which is the reason for all those loans.

we could cut some things from the federal budget and have well enough money to pay for students to get college educations that provide crucial skills for high salary jobs with a real future. the iraq war and our bloated military budget come to mind.

i'm with you on snobbery of the white collar/blue collar distinction, but the traditional liberal arts education is not useless and it is not snobbery to think it is worthwhile. it's not a zero sum issue -- more funding for trade educations doesn't have to mean less money for liberal arts educations.

there is value in the 'less practical' disciplines and i think education is good in and of itself. sorry if that is too snobbish and fluffy-minded for you, but i come from a blue collar background and i've seen what the lack of learning and lack of love for learning does to people and it's not pretty.

emily2 said...

i guess i have a problem with the fact that a four year liberal arts education doesn't even prepare you for white collar work. everything you learn is on the job.

additionally, the "do what you love - everything will fall into place" idea is dangerous - it gives people a sense of entitlement and sets them up for disappointment. i know people who are so in over their heads with loans (and are enrolled in a "fluffy" grad program - master in queer studies or something to that effect), that i'm truly afraid for them when they graduate. i hope they marry into money, or else they're never going to pay off their loans, much less have a family. sorry, but it's the truth. i have a friend in a do-gooder area of law that is sorely needed of willing and able bodies but her loans are kicking in, and she's switching to temp doc review. now THAT ain't pretty. in fact, it BLOOOOOOWS.

the problem with generation x and y is that we were fed lofty ideals and were taught to expect the world. we were also taught that higher education is the way to gain the world. we were not taught about risk.

i'm just calling for a lesson in reality for our nation's youth: if you do what you love, you may be risking financial stability down the road. some of you will make it. some of you won't. some of you may also want to marry and have a family. you can't have a family if you're broke. think about it. what DO you really want?

all i know is that my fiancee wants a kid in two years, i'm $130k in debt in loans, and we only have 1/3 of a downpayment for a condo.

clearly, i didn't "think about it," because i'm a moron. but i hope i can spare someone the stress by my rant.

kusala said...

However, the other side of the coin is this (and the analogy can't be equivalent for lots of reasons, but you'll get the gist): in the Post-WWII era many people chose careers and/or had studies funded by the GI-bill in "stable" and "lucrative" careers like engineering or accounting and maybe became "company men" (or rarely, "women"). Even most of the baby boomers, even if they didn't attend college, went in primarily for jobs that would allow them to pay a mortgage and raise kids in the suburbs. Those kids were raised to "expect" to be able to live in a house with a pool, 2+ cars, annual family vacations, etc.

However, oftentimes dad had a meltdown at 50, ran off with another woman, and decided that finally "doing what he loves" meant checking out and moving to Florida. Or mom and/or dad became alcoholics and maybe wondered if they had done anything "meaningful" with their lives.

"Our" generation learned that a career in "plastics" (a la The Graduate) and a split-level in Bergen County didn't necessarily mean happiness, so we figured we'd major in French and follow our bliss and avoid the nightmare of suburban drudgery. However, we were also raised in the age of ultra consumerism, so we felt entitled to "the good things in life" and "television-character lifestyles" (where retail clerks live in Manhattan luxury lofts with semi-witty roommates). And then we wonder how we got ourselves into this mess.

Don't get me wrong, I'm with you -- I think someone needs to talk some sense into high school seniors and college freshman. I'm not sure the answer is "become an accountant," but it's exactly that issue you point out: if you think you want a family, house, BMW, and bling someday, you can't just major in English and hope it's gonna fall from the sky. Sigh. I don't know what the answer is. Lowered expectations all around?

emily2 said...

However, we were also raised in the age of ultra consumerism, so we felt entitled to "the good things in life" and "television-character lifestyles" (where retail clerks live in Manhattan luxury lofts with semi-witty roommates). And then we wonder how we got ourselves into this mess.

Yes, this is definitely a problem. A coworker was mortified when she heard a 15 year old disparage someone's Coach bag, because "Coach bags are what parents give high school kids." Say what?

Ah yes, the Sex and the City disconnect - where freelance newspaper columnists can wear Manolo Blahniks and Jimmy Choos.

Don't get me wrong, I'm with you -- I think someone needs to talk some sense into high school seniors and college freshman. I'm not sure the answer is "become an accountant," but it's exactly that issue you point out: if you think you want a family, house, BMW, and bling someday, you can't just major in English and hope it's gonna fall from the sky. Sigh. I don't know what the answer is. Lowered expectations all around?

Yep, lowered expectations. Forget the bling. I just want a two bedroom condo or co-op (for me, honey and the eventual kid), money for public transportation, good health, a good relationship, and a retirement account.