October 11, 2011

PHOTO ESSAY: The People of OWS: like the people of Wal-Mart, only not as smart. Kinda mean, really. “A political science degree? Isn’t that special! And still you can’t figure out why you can’t find a job? Here’s a little hint that might help you out on that 128th job app: spend less time on your demands, more time on how you might be of some use to your potential employer. You know, because they’ll be paying you, not the other way around?” But don’t be dissing Botswana. It’s pretty nice, actually.

And this is mostly an advertisement for the bursting of the higher education bubble. “Did greedy capitalists convince these hapless kids to spend a king’s ransom for a BA in World Politics? Did Exxon Mobil make them sign a contract to borrow $110K in exchange of a Masters in Global Social and Sustainable Enterprises? Did Bank of America trick the kids into borrowing more money than their useless degree is likely to generate in net worth in a lifetime?”

Once again, Republicans should be piling on the higher-ed bubble / student loan issue. Make fun of these people all you want — no, really, make fun of these people all you want — but underlying this are practices that in any other industry would be universally denounced as predatory.

UPDATE: Reader Jonathan Card emails: “I’m a consultant travelling to Kentucky for a contract. I was watching the local news last night and a local machinist shop was being interviewed about not being able to find enough workers. The money quote, that I thought you’d be interested in, was ‘You can buy gas from a college graduate, but I can’t fill a $70,000/year machinist position.’”

ANOTHER UPDATE: #OWSPickupLines. “You must be Wall Street, ’cause I’d sure like to occupy you.”

MORE: Did I bury the lede? A reader emails:

I should prefer this not be attributed to me. However, in your recent post on OWS and the higher ed bubble, you touched what seems to me to be the core of the issue — in the last paragraph.

“UPDATE: Reader Jonathan Card emails: 的知 a consultant travelling to Kentucky for a contract. I was watching the local news last night and a local machinist shop was being interviewed about not being able to find enough workers. The money quote, that I thought you壇 be interested in, was ‘You can buy gas from a college graduate, but I can’t fill a $70,000/year machinist position.'”

First: This is also my experience as an employer. I have more college graduates wanting to work for me than I can employ — but good machinists, good mechanics, good technicians are hard to find.

Second: When I was growing up, there was shop class with real tools, there were trade schools, vocational education, apprenticeships, any number of ways to train for what used to be called “the trades”. The need for these people HAS NOT GONE AWAY. What has gone away is the belief that they are viable career paths or respectable occupations.

Third: As Jerry Pournelle is fond of pointing out, not everyone enjoys the abstract and symbol-oriented thinking that university education is designed to train. Therefore, whether our objective is having a viable economy OR maximizing people’s happiness, it is simply not true that “everyone should go to college”. For some professions, college is (or should be, see below) incredibly valuable — for some, not so much.

Fourth: The way we distinguish among college graduates is, in part, whether they have developed “hands on” skills, shown signs of being able to complete real projects, built things, and so on. Once upon a time, people would do these as summer jobs or as hobbies before going to college or during college. That is rarer now. Many schools do offer good opportunities for various kinds of projects, competitions, and so forth that demonstrate these things. And of course hobbies and internship jobs still present such paths. The important thing is that these are all things people do VOLUNTARILY — you can get through your college experience and never have actually done any work in your field of study. Such people may be “educated” in some sense but are not often the kind of people we look to hire.

Indeed.

MORE: Jackson Toby: From The Middle East To America: Revenge Of The Unemployed Graduates. “A great many young graduates had struggled to earn degrees, occasionally in demanding curricula like engineering or information technology. Government and university officials had routinely made speeches assuring them that education would result in well-paid jobs in private companies or in the bloated bureaucracies of their governments. Instead, many found themselves unemployed or forced to take menial jobs. Universities had turned into unemployment factories. To get the few good jobs, outstanding academic qualifications were of some help but not enough. Graduates had to be lucky and also pay bribes or have family connections.”

ALSO: Portraits of Occupy Chicago Protesters.

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