As I was saying…

I haven’t been blogging much or as passionately lately; I guess it’s because, although there are subjects that I am keenly interested in, such as healthcare reform,  I’m just holding my breath.  In the case of healthcare reform, every new report on its progress seems to be countered by a conflicting report, and it’s too hard to make enough sense of anything to blog about it.  It’s almost as if you have to sort out the news filters first, and I just can’t anymore.  (For instance, last night I saw a headline announcing that the public option was dead; today I found out it is not really that dead, but just sort of, or maybe not at all.  Try to blog about that.)

And so lately, if it wasn’t about Pit Bull Barbie — always an easy target — I haven’t written much.  But today I just ran into an old subject that I used to write about, and I’m not happy to say “I told you so.”  The subject is U.S. higher education — or rather, the meaninglessness of it for U.S. citizens in today’s job market.  Read this link.  (Update: link is broken, and of course I can’t find the article.)

Okay, in spite of the lack of satisfaction, I can once again say I told you so.  Of course I tied it into the fact that U.S. corporations are overlooking qualified U.S. college and trade-school grads and importing foreign workers, and/or recruiting immigrant students from U.S. college classes rather than U.S.-born or naturalized people with the same degrees and qualifications.  Trouble is, if you notice that and remark on it these days, you’re automatically branded a racist and a teabagger.

I’m here to say that I am neither, and to point out that in this case, the facts are a bit inconvenient for the pro-mass-immigration crowd.  But they are too damaging to be ignored for much longer — particularly with the economy the way it is.  The U.S. just doesn’t have enough jobs for everybody in the world, particularly not when we’ve been so incredibly busy shipping so many jobs abroad for the past few decades.  As in healthcare, the status quo makes absolutely no sense and there’s no use defending it.

As a result of the status quo, college degrees have become largely meaningless.  When I hear crap about there being such a thing as a Ph.D. in hotel/motel management…well, there’ s my proof that this shit has gone too far.  What’s next — college degrees in crossing streets successfully on foot?  And if so, will they lead to jobs?

Fact is, college degrees don’t lead to anything anymore, particularly not when you’re in a job market filled with employers who are looking past you because you had the misfortune to be born here.  I’ve read so many articles claiming that the problem is the U.S. education system — but really, why is it that the world seems to be clamoring to get into our universities if they are so bad?  And why is it that a U.S. citizen who graduates often seems to get caught up trying to prove he or she is perfect to a potential employer who is scrambling just as hard to find a reason not to hire U.S. citizens who are grads?  Inevitably the educational system gets blamed by commentators; it’s the catch-all they use to get credit for thinking when they’re actually not.  Let’s not talk about the fact that we don’t really want to hire our fellow citizens!  We need more and better education!   Yes!  Education is the problem!  No worries that the U.S. has one of the most “educated” populations in the world, at least in terms of (very) basic literacy!  We need more education to be competitive in the global workforce, a good part of which is even less educated than we. Note the emphasis on the last phrases, and note that even with all that education, we are not competitive.  Fact is there are a lot of factors at play here, and education is only a small part of the problem (and that’s mostly the issue of resistance to education as displayed in a few communities and a lot of wingnut circles; certainly higher education itself is widely available to those who want and can afford it).

And so I ask, we need more education for what?

I used to work as a secretary.  When I started working, this was the career path for a female who never completed college (hand in air here; there was nothing in it for me and I recognized that outright).  Initially it was okay.  But then through the years, I started seeing a strange thing happening in the want ads: suddenly they were demanding that secretaries have at least two-year college degrees.

A secretary with a college degree? That makes as much sense as a Ph.D in hotel/motel management, which is to say that it’s just fucking stupid.  It devalues education and creates a needless barrier to being self-sufficient, especially since they wanted college degrees for jobs that paid just-barely living wages (and if you didn’t have a degree and got the job anyway, you got paid even less).  In a way, it is the updated continuation of the ancient problem of female college graduates being placed at typewriters, where they had to prove themselves as “girl Fridays” before they got the jobs they actually studied to do, while their male counterparts went straight from college into those jobs.  The difference is, of course, that these days female college graduates are not rare, and they have been placed into competition for the same low-paying jobs as women who do not have degrees, pushing the non-degreed women’s pay even lower.  It’s double on the “unfair” part, and not only to the non-degreed.  As an example, just under a decade ago I saw a multiple-degreed young woman get placed behind a receptionist’s desk — by a female business owner.

But that’s what’s happened in this country generally: the college degree has become so common that it has no meaning whatsoever for the majority of graduates.  In the desperate bid to link college degrees to something, anything, subjects are being studied in colleges that have no business being studied in colleges.  (Trade schools, maybe.)  And too often, there are few or no jobs for the graduates.  As for the traditional college degrees — those in liberal arts and sciences — they have been so devalued that, as the joke goes, they lead to lifelong employment at fast-food restaurants, or maybe as taxi drivers.

It may be good for a quick laugh.  But really, it isn’t a joke anymore.