The Bubble Reality

First, read this.

I’ve covered this subject before in this blog.  It never ceases to amaze me how the world catches up eventually.  Yes, I am patting myself on the back.

But there’s one problem in this case: the guy they’re quoting is a billionaire, and a billionaire’s contact with most people’s everyday realities is limited.  And one reality is this: if you’re U.S. born, try to get a job (most people are not born entrepreneurs), let alone one with a living wage, if you do not have a college degree — or these days, even if you do.  The majority of people are not born scholars, but college has become a requirement.  It follows that most of our colleges have degraded into career academies, and most college degrees are nothing more than career certificates.  And that’s a ridiculous waste of time and money.

Take my own former career, for instance.  I was a secretary for many years.  When I graduated from high school, this was one of many job opportunities for females who were not going on to college.  Yes, I said “many.”  There are fewer opportunities now.

Sometime during the acid (not LSD, just nasty) 1980’s, all this changed.  It was during the reign of that “nice man” Ronald Reagan.  And during the 1990’s, when the hippie-yuppie Clintons ruled, it became written in stone: if you were born in the U.S., you could not get a job that paid a living wage if you did not have a college degree.  Period.

Of course, that has graduated to “if you were born in the U.S., you cannot get a job.  Period.”

And so I found myself in the job market again and again, being pushed to the bottom of the barrel in spite of my long experience because I did not have a college degree.  You see, by the 1990’s, a secretary had to have a two-year degree; later they wanted a four-year degree.  It was and is, of course, ridiculous.  But the claim was (and is) that people who only had high-school educations lacked the skills necessary to do secretarial work.  The skills they were talking about were mainly grammar and writing skills, and as a person who spent part of the 1980’s correcting the grammar of a master-degreed English major who used hyphens to the point where entire paragraphs consisted of completely hyphenated sentences, you might say that my view on this was a little dim.  (This was also the era during which corporations, using their new-found might, attempted to alter the English language to suit the spelling deficiencies of their own college-degreed executives.)

Later they went to hiring British and other foreign secretaries, usually on the excuse that not only was their accented English better, but they worked cheaper and heck! a lot of them could speak second languages (not that they had to prove it with degrees, mind you — how racist!). But this was not before years of insisting on the bogus college requirement for the rest of us who were born in the U.S.

Fact is, the whole thing was and is bogus.  In spite of the requirement of a college degree, the average salary for a secretary sunk.  Considering that it was never good to start with, that’s pretty revealing.  See “cheap labor” comment above.

Here’s the absolute truth behind it all: once upon a time, women graduated from college and were made to prove themselves by becoming Girl Fridays.  Pretty often, they were Girl Fridays for good.  Women, you see, could not be relied upon to remain in the workforce and thus were bad bets as hires and/or career candidates.  And as a woman, you could forget the idea of earning a solid wage; if you were lucky, you might be able to live on your salary — just barely — after several years on the job.

Not surprisingly, most secretaries did not have degrees.  It was considered a waste of time.  And believe me, English skills in the days of yore were no better than the English skills of today.  And isn’t showing a college girl to the nearest word processing program just an update of the old “Girl Friday”situation?  Yes, it is.  So let’s add sexism into the mix.  It’s so fashionable right now, anyway.

Back to the point, however, the fact is that it was never about degrees.  It was about cheap labor.  That’s all this ever was about.  Anyone who told you otherwise, including Reagan, Bush, and the Clintons, was lying.

For the majority of people, college degrees have no value.  They are an expensive waste of money, rather like a luxury car.  Once upon a time, a college degree had a certain social status, and in a way it still does — but only as long as one has a master’s degree (in the job market, having a PhD is almost as bad as not having graduated from high school).  For a while, college degrees were like drugs for employers: first they required an AA or AAS, then a BA or BS, and then came the “must have” MBA, and after that, the MBA from a short list of choice colleges.  Clubs formed for the advanced-degreed only (of course, not too advanced).  The rest of us need not apply no matter what our experience.

But the thing is, college degrees are so ubiquitous nowadays that…get this…there’s even a degree for hotel/motel management.  Now that, folks, is carrying things to the nth degree for no reason.  It’s kind of like requiring a secretarial job candidate to have any sort of degree at all past high school.

And so I give you my story about secretaries.  They’re nearly extinct now, but the few you do see are usually degreed, foreign, or just damn lucky to have a job that pays a living wage (sort of, maybe, eventually).  And it was never about college.  It was always about cheap labor.

That’s why your degree is not getting you a job, friend.  My sympathy to you as you stand in the unemployment line, wondering how you will pay off your student loan.