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Please help me, I'm falling
August 26, 2001 7:31 AM   Subscribe

Please help me, I'm falling I nearly cried into my breakfast when I read this article - because I thought it was about me. The usual path after university is into a well paid job and a fulfilling future. But a growing number are leaving university, even with high marks, with little idea of how life works and what to do next. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?
posted by feelinglistless (63 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
I wouldn't like to place to much emphasis on the 'anguish' of university students, but I think that the problems discussed in the article are representative of the UK's attitude to higher education. Many of the people who should benefit most from going to university simply can't afford it, or else scrape by with a mountain of debt and near-terminal exhaustion. I think education is like public transport: it is wrong to try and run it as a profit-making business.
posted by tobyslater at 8:44 AM on August 26, 2001


This is hardly a new phenomenon: the worst years of my life were university and a couple of years afterward. I basically lost all of my self-confidence, and have spent the last (not quite) fifteen years slowly trying to get it back.

At the same time, the article isn't very clear about what parents should do to help their children make the transition into adulthood. If the children are trying to protect them by not sharing their problems, how can they possibly know anything's wrong? Especially if they're separated by distance, as is generally the case.
Kind of a catch-22 situation.
posted by Superplin at 9:13 AM on August 26, 2001


it is wrong to try and run it as a profit-making business

Yeah, and food is too important to run for profit. And housing. And clothing.

In fact, we'd probably all be better off if we had the government control all the factors of production.

Oh wait, someone tried that already.

Anyhow.

The transition into the business world is hard. Always has been. Families need to support their kids through it.

When the company I work for is making hiring decisions, a University degree means almost nothing. We test programming applicants. So many don't know even the first few basic things. Sorry, we're a business, not a training center.

If someone tests well, and shows understanding of coding principles, they get a job. Even without a degree.
posted by marknau at 10:04 AM on August 26, 2001


Actually, marknau quite a few countries manage to successfully conduct education without any attempt at making it turn a profit. Let's start near the beginning of the alphabet....hmmm, Australia. Now I suggest you do some more research, I'm sure you'll find others if your prejudices will let you.
posted by Option1 at 10:43 AM on August 26, 2001


I guess I wonder what makes you think there's some automatic path from university to success. Life is hard, you have to work for what you want, and it doesn't always come automatically. This is nothing new, ask your parents, your grandparents, and anyone else over the age of 30 you can find.

I don't want to sound harsh, and I know I wouldn't have listened to some geezer like me when I was 21 or 22, but this is what "growing up" is all about.
posted by briank at 10:57 AM on August 26, 2001


Hardy hard har har.
posted by jaynesbit at 11:03 AM on August 26, 2001


In fact, we'd probably all be better off if we had the government control all the factors of production.

Nice staw man! The USSR failed = big fat loans for school are good. Thanks, I got my daily dose of vitamin Bs all in one post.
posted by skallas at 11:08 AM on August 26, 2001


Unfortunately, Australia's gradually turning to the dark side.

On topic, however, there's the logical theory of tremendous openings in the job market as the Boomers generation retires, and that makes sense. So if you're part of the Lost generation or gen. X, without any sense of career direction, etc, then it might just be a matter of hanging in there and being patient, until the dam walls begin to crumble. Then you can pick and choose to be whatever you want to be. Perhaps.

And as for the "toughen up, kid" style comments on this page - I disagree. Just so as you know there is (active) opposition to that kind of sentiment.
posted by kv at 11:12 AM on August 26, 2001


Actually, marknau quite a few countries manage to successfully conduct education without any attempt at making it turn a profit

Which is why we Yanks will continue to enjoy greater economic prosperity so long as we fend off socialist schemes as effectively as possible. We're almost 50% better than Great Britain now. 50 PERCENT better off than our Imperialist masters. Thank you, Madison.

"toughen up, kid" style comments

One doesn't simply want to say "Life is tough, too bad," but then again self-indulgent whining doesn't do anyone any good. I tried to share what the reality of who my particular company hires is based on. If you come out of college with no marketable skills and a degree in Sociology or Communication or some other fact-devoid line of "study", don't expect a high-paying job.

Seems logical.
posted by marknau at 11:24 AM on August 26, 2001


Marknau, your last post reads like something out of Dickens: "Girl number twenty possessed of no facts!"

And I wouldn't exactly trust The World Bank as a my guide to how a society is best run.
posted by tobyslater at 11:31 AM on August 26, 2001


Fabulous Dickens quote.

The intended scope of my comments was not entirely clear, which is mostly my fault.

The scope of my "here's some reality" comments is in the realm of obtaining a job. I have bothered to obtain lots of "useless" knowledge, and I spend plenty of time on "non-productive" pursuits like gaming and raising a little girl.

I am not, however, whining that no-one pays me well for knowing Xenophon or for knowing how to create a pleasing sonnet. And at the same time, I do not select my companions based on a cold assessment of their productive potential.

But I do use that basis in the selection of people who I want to do a job for me. And so does nearly everyone else, for that matter.

The World Bank pointer was just to show that Russia is currently poor, nothing else. I share your distrust of World Bank-proffered solutions.
posted by marknau at 11:43 AM on August 26, 2001


I basically lost all of my self-confidence, and have spent the last (not quite) fifteen years slowly trying to get it back.

Hope it doesn't take me that long.

The reason this story had resonance is because I'm 26 and I've only just started my first full time job. The job has little or no relevance to my life experience or qualifications. It's the ultimate means to an end - or a way to give my life direction. I am that 23-year-old in the back bedroom. My nickname has reason - it was where I was when I started on Mefi - slightly desolate - looking for direction. Now in the job I at least have structure. It's a start.

Finally I'm working my way to the third level of Maslow's Hierarchy.
posted by feelinglistless at 11:44 AM on August 26, 2001


I'm 27, nearly 28. about a week (I hope) from submitting my doctoral thesis, and so finally clawing myself away from student life.

Guess why I glanced at the story this morning -- early this morning, caffeinated and cross-referencing -- and decided not to read it properly?

What I know for sure is that, given the messiness of my life under the relative ease of graduate funding, I'd never have been able to cope with the current conditions for undergrads.

marknau: please to be fucking right off, yesno?
posted by holgate at 12:07 PM on August 26, 2001


People's despair is understandable. Students pay tens of thousands to flatter and humour students that they are somehow special, that their ideas matter and that they have a contribution to make. Finally cut yourself off from that tit and you are faced with forty years of toil manipulating utilitarian "factoids", highly likely to bore you to death (else someone would do it for free right?) the sole end purpose of which is ultimately the enrichment of your superiors.

Maturity is perhaps the slow process of resignation to this.
posted by dydecker at 12:31 PM on August 26, 2001


Actually, marknau quite a few countries manage to successfully conduct education without any attempt at making it turn a profit

Which is why we Yanks will continue to enjoy greater economic prosperity so long as we fend off socialist schemes as effectively as possible. We're almost 50% better than Great Britain now. 50 PERCENT better off than our Imperialist masters. Thank you, Madison.


Brilliant reasoning there. More money = better society. The American obsession with profitability in all pursuits, to the exclusion of general welfare astounds me.
America as a whole may have 50% more money, but who HAS that money? The rich. Wealth is very concentrated in the US. The rich/poor gap is wide here.

And the Netherlands is a good example of a healthy, Socialistic society. Free education, good public healthcare. About 30% of your income ends up going to taxes, from what I've heard, but people just are not pushed to the edge there. Literacy is at 100%.

Sounds good to me.
posted by SirNovember at 12:34 PM on August 26, 2001


too many bright/overeducated young people go straight through from school to school to school, w/out too much time in the "real world." seems to me that they/we either (a) have no idea what we want out of life or (b) think we know exactly what we want.

friend of mine, when she started college (10 yrs ago), said half the class was pre-med or pre-law, the other half undecided. (she was pre-med. graduated med school this spring - has never held a real job.)

so you ramble along, going to class 'cause you're supposed to. you graduate, either with a really screwy model of the world, or none at all.

then you have student loans, which suck away the ability to really goof around & experiment with life, unless you're comfortable with & can go to the 'rents.

maybe that's why the mandatory year-in-the-army, public service thing is a good idea - maybe even before going off to college. I sometimes wish I'd taken a year off to be in the world w/out school. (I was category (a), btw, thankfully my debt load wasn't too bad, and I had a good work-study job in college which led to full-time employment the instant I graduated, which wasn't in my major (english) and gradually, randomly, led me toward computers. I've been luckier than I deserve.)
posted by epersonae at 12:36 PM on August 26, 2001


feelinglistless, I empathize, honestly. There are a lot of parallels between recent grads now and in the late 80s, after we'd been brainwashed by Reagonomics into believing that we'd step out the door of our prestigious universities and right into a lucrative business career, the yuppie lifestyle waiting to envelop us in its warm embrace.

And yes, that's a gross simplification, but I think the pressures of a boom economy on students are generally ignored or underestimated. The expectations of the individual, family, society, institution of higher learning, etc., are very high. The pressure can be overwhelming, and when you find yourself a few months after graduation in a meaningless clerical job making barely enough to cover your rent and food, it's easy to feel like a huge failure.
Whom do you turn to when you're convinced that you've disappointed everyone in your primary support system? That's the kind of problem the article addresses, and it's very real.
posted by Superplin at 12:40 PM on August 26, 2001


Do you ever get the feeling that if schools and universities were doing their job properly, they would be giving career advise after their students have graduated?
posted by feelinglistless at 1:25 PM on August 26, 2001


How about we get the public schools to stop telling every child that they will go to college? I predict that within my lifetime there will be "super universities" that do the jobs that the universities we already have used to do, and a ph.D will mean about as much as a GED.
posted by kevspace at 1:41 PM on August 26, 2001


i recall back in college (read: high school) we were given a career planning form to fill out, where we had fill in the fields with what we wanted to be, where we wanted to be in so-so years, etc. i honestly didn't have a fucking clue, so i wrote nothing.

i was shortly sent to the office of a higher power in the school, and berated and belittled until i was in tears. i left school for good not too long after.

it seems there's very little room today for people who don't know where they're going. but paradoxically, we live in times where we're encouraged to take our time and make the best choices about what careers might be right, rather than just jumping in and becoming fine upstanding accountants and business types, whether that suits us or not.

no solutions from me, just more grumbles.
posted by titboy at 2:01 PM on August 26, 2001


"We're almost 50% better than Great Britain now. 50 PERCENT better off than our Imperialist masters. "

Not sure what metric you're using, but the US has a population four times larger than the UK.

Marknau is somewhat right about economics though. Even if not run for a profit, free systems are generally worse than paid systems. However, I believe that there should always be a free educational system available for those who can't afford a decent private education. After all, an educated nation is good for all of us. But.. that's got nothing to do with the main topic here.

The 18-24 period is, undoubtedly, a tough one. Success at this age, I feel, depends a lot on business acumen. A lot of kids have absolutely no business acumen, and these are the ones which often turn to drugs. Meanwhile, there are a lot of extremely successful businesspeople aged 18-24. But.. money doesn't solve every problem.

I feel that a general lack of philosophy or faith in this age group also contributes to the 'woe' of this time. I know that my faith has helped me a lot during this period, and gives me the willpower to do better. I still need my parents from time to time (it'd cost too much to rent a place to live alone - and being the type of person I am, I don't want to houseshare with non-family), but I'm optimistic and I'm getting there.
posted by wackybrit at 2:20 PM on August 26, 2001


I know that my faith has helped me a lot during this period, and gives me the willpower to do better.

Is that faith in a religious sense or faith in yourself and your abilities (the one I subscribe to)?
posted by feelinglistless at 2:23 PM on August 26, 2001


All I can say is that I have just graduated with First Class BSc Honours from the University of Bradford (UK), and I'm temping. And it's the Bank Holiday and I'm working all weekend, and life just sucks atm.

Roll on a proper IT job. Offers? (ahem)
posted by ajbattrick at 2:28 PM on August 26, 2001


This idea that we drive into students heads that college is naturally the next step after HS graduation is flawed. It's like committing to a marriage before you have played the field. Skip post k-12 education until you have gotten out in the world and found your true passion. Then either return to a college/university full time to pursue that or continue in your real world practice and tailor community college courses that fit around your schedule and compliment your talents. It may not work for everyone but it was by far the best decision I have ever made.
posted by brian at 2:29 PM on August 26, 2001


Life is hard, you have to work for what you want, and it doesn't always come automatically.

I think part of the problem is that many people work their asses off in college/university, and then come out to find that all their scholastic efforts count for practically nothing in the real world.
posted by Zettai at 2:39 PM on August 26, 2001


When I finished college at a large midwestern multiversity, it was like coming to the end of the paved part of the road and seeing nothing but gravel ahead.

When we freshmen arrived at the meat machine, there was no end of on-ramps ... orientations led by gray-haired distinguished-looking elders, dinners, meeting the advisor, planning coursework. It was all so ... collegial.... supportive... nurturing feeling. All illusion.

One day there was suddenly nothing. The school I'd paid 4 years' tuition into said goodbye with a graded final exam bluebook sitting in a stainless steel bin.

I felt abandoned. Fear of falling. Wandering the streets with my hands in my pockets that summer, I considered lifestyles that would once have been inconceivable. Later I understood that I had been preparing for a sham. The grass looked bright and green, but the dirt was full of toxins. It was like coming out of a womb. Or the Matrix. Into the sunlight.

Colleges exist to make money and process meat for the glass-and-steel boxes. You are a unit of carbon. Owe them nothing. If they offer anything worthwhile, take it and then bail out. Pay for it with money earned outside. Loans are a venus fly trap. If you don't know what you're doing there, get out.
posted by Twang at 2:45 PM on August 26, 2001


wackybrit: The 18-24 period is, undoubtedly, a tough one. Success at this age, I feel, depends a lot on business acumen.

Excuse me but I can't stop laughing.

epersonae: maybe that's why the mandatory year-in-the-army, public service thing is a good idea

Oh, good solution. Out of one womb, into another. Let's all sing the chorus from Death of the Ball-Turret Gunner.
posted by Twang at 2:56 PM on August 26, 2001


The idea that some people, or even many people, should take time off between secondary and college, and many others should never go, is appealling in theory, but, reality is that one pays an overwhelming financial penalty for not going to college, and a significant one for deferring it for any length of time. Many professions impose a de facto age cap upon new entrants, meaning that the person who makes up his mind to go to university even as young as his mid-20s will find his ultimate opportunities quite limited.

For example, I work in a large law firm ... these days, many law graduates (remember, in the US, law is a 3 year curriculum commenced only after one has obtained a 4 year B.A.) are much older than they used to be. However, at least 70% of the law graduates hired into the elite firms are 25 or 26 years old (meaning they took off at most one year from high school through graduating law school), and the vast majority of the rest are under 30 ... 27, 28, or 29.

Finance, marketing, technology, advertising, media, entertainment, all of these industries are notoriously youth-centric ... and more or less bar entry-level posts to those older than 25, and mid-level post-graduate-school posts to those older than 30.

You may think idealistic professions are different. Wrong. Just for one example, medical schools make it much more difficult to obtain admission once someone is a BA graduate in their late 20's, and have a de facto policy against admitting anyone older than their mid 30's. The few people who are admitted older than their mid 30's are highly exception people who demonstrate a very high degree of dynamism and ambition in their interviews.
posted by MattD at 3:05 PM on August 26, 2001


Really, Twang, you don't know from a meat grinder. Tell that to the Indian who went through one of the subcontinent's technical schools, or a Japanese kid that made through years of academic hell you can't imagine.

Or tell it to a sixty year old waitress.

Exactly what was the illusion? The opportunity to get an education? The opportunity to meet new people and learn from them? Living for years in an environment dedicated to your personal development?

Yeah, pretty rough.

If you've got a real beef, if you've really been wronged, if you were defrauded of an opportunity, let's hear it.
posted by NortonDC at 3:16 PM on August 26, 2001


I took a few of those career development tests. Apparently, I should be an actor, writer or phsyicist. Which means I should’ve stayed in school and far away from Silcon V/Alley.

marknau: We're almost 50% better than Great Britain now. 50 PERCENT better off than our Imperialist masters. Thank you, Madison.

Assuming he means the GDP is larger, or that there is more money created in the US, anyone here can deconstruct this statement a variety of ways. Firstly, the phrase “50% better” defines how well a country generates capital as the best measure of its greatness. This disregards simple things denoted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which mandates nations to give access to clothing, medical care, food housing, etc. It’s often evoked by US politicians against Third World nations. When the same critique is leveled against the US — that economic inequality in New York is comparable to Guatemala, or that compared to other industrialized countries, the US ranks lowest or near lowest in infant mortality, access to health care, elimination of childhood malnutrition — that we hear things like marknau’s “50% better” phrase. So, if the US is awash in cash — which is an undeniable fact — what is taking so long in bringing the health of the poorest to a level that reflects the fortunes?

Perhaps because 10% of the nation’s richest people own half of its assests. For the rest of us, it’s lean-and-mean times, we should realize that “Life is tough, too bad”. But life is certainly not tough for an opulent minority. In fact, life has certainly never been better. CEO pay has risen 535% since 1990, worker pay increased 32%. They were not equal to begin with.

Young job seekers, most dealing with school debt and hoping to start on careers, get hit hard by all this. Most find low-paying jobs, temp and/or live at home. Unemployment, since this time last year, is one percent, or nearly one million people, higher at 4.5%. About 883,000 college-educated adults are out of work, nearly 200,000 more than last year.

Madison (the man who created the Trail of Tears for gold mining companies) said that government must “protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.” I really have nothing to thank James for.
posted by raaka at 3:27 PM on August 26, 2001


Twang - didn't mean it as a womb, more as a way to do something non-scholastic w/out starving. my ex did a year of Americorps while trying to figure out what to do with his life. he worked like a fiend, 8 hrs/day manual labor, but doing something good for the world, building up money for school later, etc. (honestly, it changed his life.) that, and if it's mandatory for everybody, then it takes out that bias that MattD was talking about.
posted by epersonae at 3:27 PM on August 26, 2001


CEO pay has risen 535% since 1990, worker pay increased 32%.

"Corporate leaders have not seen a large rise in salaries. Rather, most of their earnings came from stock options awarded by their own companies... [These incentives were] originally were designed to motivate CEOs to lead their companies toward higher earnings and higher returns for shareholders."

Ask yourself two questions: How much of "worker pay" is made up of college kids working for beer money? And was the technology bubble possibly responsible for a portion of this "increase" (scare quotes due to the "worth" of many current stock options) in CEO compensation? As someone said in the other mefi thread discussing this: there's lies, damn lies, and statistics.
posted by gd779 at 4:23 PM on August 26, 2001


Also: current CEO compensation was due, in part, to a stronger-than-usual demand for executives coupled with a low supply of talent. The market corrects for this; high salaries have recently lured increasing numbers of students into b-school. Given the decreased demand for executive leadership (a lot of companies are going under these days), an increase in the number of competent executives will cause executive compensation to decrease.
posted by gd779 at 4:28 PM on August 26, 2001


it is wrong to try and run it as a profit-making business

"There are many practical reasons why we would want to maintain a strong private sector in higher education, such as the economic inefficiencies of government-provided services and the ability to offer certain programs only in a private setting. However, the most important is that an education provided by the government is likely to reflect the beliefs and priorities of those in charge of the political system. One need not agree with John Stuart Mill that "a general State education establishes a despotism over the mind" to recognize that the only way to ensure a truly independent educational system is through a strong private sector. "

[sorry, this should have been coupled with one of my last two posts. I got confused and thought that they were two seperate threads.]
posted by gd779 at 4:35 PM on August 26, 2001


A few times during my years of education it was brought to my attention that Things Will Be Tough and to not count on getting my dream job (at least not right away), and be prepared for burger-flipping or post-graduate schooling and don't forget to account for the huge student loan I'd be saddled with... but my idealistic braincells always told me they were talking about someone else. In many ways, this idealistic arrogance meant I was raised well, believing I can succeed at what I set my mind to.

As I'm dipping my toes into my third decade, I'm finding out that staving off the sometimes severe cynicism requires a strange mix of lowering my expectations whilst keeping hopeful. A dose of self-confidence that picks my ass off the floor when things are really sucking, or enough to fake it when required, has also been essential.
posted by spandex at 4:41 PM on August 26, 2001


I'll only continue the off-topic side thread to clarify one point:

The metric by which we are 50% better than the UK is per capita purchasing power. For 1999, U.S. is $33,900, U.K. is $21,800.

And no, it's not all in the hands of the rich.

(same source, 1994)
Top 10% in US : 28.5% of income/consumption
Top 10% in UK: 24.7%
Top 10% in Netherlands: 24.7%

Richer people and countries have options. Personally, I opt to drive a old beat-up car, work at something I love, and save money for early retirement and my little girl's future.

If I were in the U.K., I'd have to work 50% more of my life to wind up in an identical situation. No thanks.
posted by marknau at 4:41 PM on August 26, 2001


raaka..."worker pay increased 32% [during the period]". I know we're not talking about income inequality, but frankly, I can't see what's wrong with a system that raises all boats, even if some of them don't rise as much.

More than that, there is *no one* in the United States who can describe themselves as 'lean and mean' times. My dad had drug problems decades ago and went to become a machinist despite his History degree. He's back in school to get an MEduc. He has absolutely no income coming in, because he's in school full time, but there are enough support systems in the United States that he is neither starving nor without a roof over his head. Admittedly, the Food Counter isn't providing the best-tasting Italian cuisine, and the house he's at is an apartment where he rooms with a friend, but if that's "lean and mean", then there's something wrong with how we're thinking.

Entertainment is not a privilige. If America has a society where people with no income can still eat and have shelter and clothing as well as opportunity and the hope that we can have the potential to go as high or not as we choose to go, I'd say that does make us one of the best societies in the world today.

About University systems being publicly funded, one only has to compare a publicly funded school like my hometown U of O to a private school like USC (they compete for the same students from the same region). USC has far smaller classes, far better facilities, far better scholarships, tons better job placement and a happier student body. This isn't an isolated trend.
posted by Kevs at 4:44 PM on August 26, 2001


From personal experience For-Profit training institutions do not work.

I started at a private training institution in '99 for a year long course, and soon discover that the tutors knowledge was inadequate, the training software was cracked and a whole host of other problems. The students banded together and we took the owners to arbitration [who where well aware of the problems], which we won but we only received about a quarter of the total cost of the course [around NZ$8000, US$4000].

My partner is currently studying at Victoria University, in her first year of doing a double degree in Zoology and Ecology and few days out from her final exams she was informed that the university was canceling the Zoology course because "it was non-profitable". Her and over two hundred students where left wondering if they would be able to finish their degrees and if the money that they had borrowed from the government [with an interest rate of 7%] for their student loans was all in vein, it was a horrible situation which other students in social sciences field have faced.

Currently there is a stand off between the government and the universities, the government will only continue funding the universities if they do not raise their fees, the universities argue that the funding isn't enough and that to remain profitable they have to raise their fees.
posted by X-00 at 5:17 PM on August 26, 2001


From personal experience For-Profit training institutions do not work.

I got my B.S. from DeVry Institute of Technology and my first Masters from Keller Graduate School of Management; both are part of the same for-profit corporation. At DeVry, I got the best undergraduate education I could imagine; the faculty was extremely responsive to student concerns, the curriculum was up-to-date (unlike most, if not all, traditional universities), and the lab time was almost excessive. Unlike traditional schools, the schedule was flexible and classes were almost always available. Because DeVry focuses only on a couple of areas (technology and accounting are their two big focuses), the entire school was geared towards meeting the needs of a particular group of students. And in my opinion, their for-profit status kept them focused on creating both an excellent education and a good overall experience.

At Keller, I got my entire degree online, leaving me free to travel as needed. You can't do that at most universities, even today (though that's slowly changing).

Not all for-profit educational institutions will be as good as DeVry or Keller; capitalism almost guarantees that some service providers will be better than others. I'm just saying that it can be done.
posted by gd779 at 5:29 PM on August 26, 2001


Because, Kevs, worker pay is not increasing on par with rich people’s pay, it barely beats inflation and in 1999 actually dropped in real wages. This boat does not rise in any meaningful sense.

I don’t have a problem with people earning different wages, but I have a serious problem when working people have to struggle to maintain living standards of over twenty years ago, as talked about in BusinessWeek rather often.

And GD, thank you for linking to that article, supplying more evidence to buffer my point, despite your wholly mischaracterized quote. CEO paychecks might not be 535 percent larger than in 1990, but their pay is. Here’s the whole paragraph.

“Corporate leaders have not seen a large rise in salaries. Rather, most of their earnings came from stock options awarded by their own companies. CEOs also garner lucrative enticements. They often receive large bonuses for taking their jobs, guaranteed retirement deals and airtight severance packages that provide them a "golden parachute" in case they’re fired.”

Here’s another interesting paragraph from your article gd. Read it with this in mind: Worker production is climbing despite huge layoffs.

“Bosses' earnings aren't necessarily related to performance. CEO compensation has swelled despite weak corporate performance, according to a study of the 365 largest U.S. companies by the Institute for Policy Studies.

Bosses' earnings aren't necessarily related to performance. CEO compensation has swelled despite weak corporate performance, according to a study of the 365 largest U.S. companies by the Institute for Policy Studies.”

One last thing GD: There are more than two ways to run educational institutions. Some communities are creating their own tuition-free schools, and religious institutions often do well in education. Jesuits come to mind here. I think free market fundamentalism is grossly inefficient when it comes every humanitarian ideal known to man, education included. No DeVry for writers; or for-profit schools are only interested in teaching students how to make a profit. Their is more to life than money, but you wouldn’t know it at the University of Phoenix. Government run education tends to indoctrinate pupils, and at worse, create quasi-commisars.

Marnau, this certainly is not off-topic. Economic disparity is at the root of a lack of good jobs.

By the way, I did not say that rich people buy 28.5% of all consumer goods, I said they own (approximately) half of all assets. The trend of capitalism is to coalesce into higher and unreachable groupings, using resources in highly inefficient ways. This makes it harder for individuals to raise their own boat, as Kevs might say.
posted by raaka at 5:54 PM on August 26, 2001


Is it just me, or is this article not about economics or education or even post-graduation aimlessness at all, but the breakdown of the family and people's attempts to replace it with social networks?
posted by darukaru at 6:20 PM on August 26, 2001


raaka: Actually, the facts that you highlight do support my point, though subtly. Let me explain:

CEO compensation has swelled despite weak corporate performance

This is the epitome of the tech boom, isn't it? This has been hardly a typical economic time. "High" executive compensation is mainly paid in stock options, which often do not have the value that they promise (as many here can attest). How many "CEO's" were college kids with millions on paper that they will never harvest? And how does that affect your statistic?

They often receive large bonuses for taking their jobs, guaranteed retirement deals and airtight severance packages that provide them a "golden parachute" in case they’re fired.”

Yeah, they're given bonuses and retirement deals all right... largely in stock options. See above.

worker pay is not increasing on par with rich people’s pay

Kev asserts that it's okay if some boats rise faster than others, because all boats rise. You refute this by saying that some boats are rising faster than others. 1999 was an aberration, not the norm. And before you start criticizing the economic system of the U.S. for it's unemployment, check out the unemployment rates over in Europe. As they say, we have the worst economic system in the world... except for all the others.

Their is more to life than money

That's true, and if you don't want to pursue the almighty dollar, then I applaud you. You have that right, that freedom. But nobody is owes you the education; nobody is indebted to pay for your lifestyle. Just as you have the freedom to pursue your lifestyle, others have the right to pursue theirs without having to provide for you.

Okay, I don't want to hijack this thread, so I'll email you any further responses. I suggest that you do the same.
posted by gd779 at 6:27 PM on August 26, 2001




If this is any indication of just what little social network is left...we are all in serious trouble.
posted by {savg*pncl} at 7:21 PM on August 26, 2001


This is the epitome of the tech boom, isn't it?

Anecdotal evidence from a very small sector of the US economy is not the “365 largest companies” from the study, most of which were not around prior to 1997. I'd suggest you read your articles closer, gd.

But nobody is owes you the education; nobody is indebted to pay for your lifestyle.

So, those who do not choose give their lives over to money-making schemes are not worthy of an education. This opinion is in direct refutation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights signed and lauded by the US.

It would be terribly easy to institute fascism in the US.

darukaru: We’re discussing economic policy directly related to a lack of options to young people, making them, “riddled with self-doubt and self-loathing and fears about the future ... Often they just do not have enough money to cover the bare basics. Unless they happen to be going into IT or financial services they do not walk into posh jobs after they graduate, not even if they have firsts. Instead they do a bit of temping and lose their way and begin to panic but still can't manage to come up with a new plan because they've lost so much confidence. ”

This is directly related to economic policy and exploitation of workers. The degradation of social networks if directly linked an over-emphasis on monetary success, then not giving the majority of people access to that success. Besides, I believe monetary success, often called “security” is a false promise. After attaining it, most people would rather have their individualism, as implied in the article.

But, I’m certainly interested in hearing how you think we should rectify the modern degradation of social networks, and how the world would look after it happens. I’ve offered mine. The only solution I gathered from the Observer article was to keep children at home until their late 20s to early 30s. That seems to be the opposite of a solution.

Forgive me for not lamenting the “state of the family” or offering more “reality is a bitter pill, be tough” comments.
posted by raaka at 8:08 PM on August 26, 2001


Really? All I saw here was the same old capitalist/socialist wankery that comes up every time economics gets discussed on MeFi. Not a word about how it relates to social support systems until someone asks about them, just bashing CEOs for raising their own salaries. And if I wanted platitudes, I'd have asked for them.
You know what? I don't have any perfect plan for fixing society and figuring out what it might look like afterwards. But coming up with one would sure as hell make a more interesting conversation than this bullshit.
posted by darukaru at 8:30 PM on August 26, 2001


How to fix society: have ten percent of youth die in battle. Another fifteen percent should be seriously wounded. The rest will be thankful for anything they can get.
posted by aramaic at 8:41 PM on August 26, 2001


something that failed to come up (or i simply didn't find) was that many of young adult problems mentioned in the article could very well have been avoided by proper parenting when the child was still very young. many of today's parents seem to lack basic knowledge of how a child should be brought up. cronic neglect, lack of discipline, spoilage (is that a word?), constant quarreling, etc, can all have a negative and lasting effect on a young child's psyche, and these tend to lead to troubles in later life. and by the time these kids have grown into young adults, it's already too late.

perhaps a testing is required for to-be parents.
posted by dai at 11:53 PM on August 26, 2001


darukaru: I have real fears for my friends. Two left name schools and entered exceedingly high-paying jobs (marketing name-brand liquor and publishing) in New York right after college. One returned home a few months ago, the other took a job at a fraction of the pay and still (three years later) relies on her parents to make ends meet. A high school friend works in Florida at a high-profile telecommunications company. He hates it and wonders if he’ll ever settle down. Of the dozen or so friends I’m still in contact with from Silicon Alley one has progressed up the corporate ladder. All the others have been laid off. They all subsquently dropped in pay, or moved sideways on the corporate ladder. Of my four mentors from San Francisco (10-15 years older), all but one is still employed. My brother went through four years of college, got married and has a kid, bless them all. After two years in his field his job pays a few thousand dollars above the poverty line.

I see serious problems in all of this: my friends totally at a loss to see their future (and most wracked with guilt that they’re doing worse than their parents), my brother on government support to feed his family and me wondering where the next paycheck is coming from after nearly a year of un- and under-employment.

In my life I’ve worked for seven organizations. All but three went bankrupt, one of which is a non-profit, the other two are subsidaries of huge corporations.

I’m 25. I hope you can tell by now the article was pretty much written about me (and feelinglistless. we should hang out and cry into beer together). The future for my family, my friends and me is bleak. I truly can empathize with the people in the article, I hope you do.


If my argument is weak, please point out why. Saying I’m pushing some agenda and disregarding the topic at hand is, as I hope I’ve shown above, factitious.

Again, (and this is for NortonDC, too) the issues relating to a rather huge increase in young agnst, returning home in the mid-twenties (which is increasing), the degradation of social networks (which is sort of hard to track, but I think we can agree family dynamics have changed quite a bit) are all a part of the society and nation you live in. That you don’t see a connection between fiscal policy, economics and government is just shocking to me. Really, what is it you think national (and international) leaders do all day?
posted by raaka at 12:49 AM on August 27, 2001


That you don’t see a connection between fiscal policy, economics and government is just shocking to me. Really, what is it you think national (and international) leaders do all day?

I hope they don't sit around all day thinking up ways for the world to feel like college. That's a big part of what I had to say about Twang's post. College can be rewarding and a lot of fun, but I hardly think it's a viable model for the operation of society at large.

As for returning home, why do you think your parents never did it? I can tell you why mine didn't: they never left. They both lived at home all through college and only moved out after establishing themselves. I think a lot of the feelings of failure that young people may feel comes from comparing themselves at 24 to their parents at 50.

American social scientist David Levinson say that more than half of all young people hit a 'major snag' at some point between 18 and their mid-twenties. Typically the trigger is something that does not look as serious to a parent as it does to the young person. It can be a break-up

check

or the loss of a job

two checks (dot coms that folded underneath me, one of which owed me over $15,000)

or the sudden discovery that they've chosen the wrong degree course.

check (switched from mechanical/aerospace engineering to English, transferred schools, too)

But now, still in my twenties (barely), I'm within 10% of earning the highest salary my currently retired father ever earned. And it wasn't until just a few months ago that I ever had my own place (home from school at the folks for several months, rented a room at a friend's home for a few years, got an apartment with the brother of a friend, and only now have the apartment to myself).

Many young people have seriously skewed expectations, thinking they'll graduate and then automagically get handed a place as comfy as Mummy and Daddy's. Wrong. It didn't work that way for Mummy and Daddy, and it won't work that way for you.

As for people complaining about their work, well, there's a reason they call it work. And for a little perspective, try reading Nickle and Dimed. Frankly, it's not the greatest book, but even so, there are clearly a lot of people in here desperately in need of the dose of reality it can deliver.

Every person that has found a way to post in here is, by the standards of the world at large, fabulously wealthy. You are all literate and educated (in the dominant language of commerce and culture on the planet), and probably all have a place to call home. That doesn't mean it was easy, but don't think you were the only one to graduate college and spend time living with your parents, or living in a tiny room, or eating a lot more macaroni and cheese than you planned on. And especially don't think you're the first generation to do so.

Adolescence as we know is fairly recent construct. Do we really want to see it extended to 24?
posted by NortonDC at 4:29 AM on August 27, 2001


As we know it, rather.
posted by NortonDC at 5:09 AM on August 27, 2001


Adolescence as we know is fairly recent construct. Do we really want to see it extended to 24?

That's actually quite a perverse way to look at things. And you even hint at it yourself: how recent a "construct" is it that children left their home town -- or even their parental home -- before getting married? My mother moved out on her wedding day; she was 26. She'd been working in a stable, if low-paid job for a decade since leaving school. Does that count as "adolescence", because it comes damn close to your definition.
posted by holgate at 5:32 AM on August 27, 2001


Can someone please say "we have it too easy"??? My father came out of university with a masters and computer engineering experience in the 70s and grabbed a job making $10K a year. Not bad for 1973 except he lived in DC and had a wife and a kid. But he accepted it as the "first job" and built off that to the success he is. One thing people don't seem to grasp anymore in this credit card, "must have it yesterday" age - experience takes time. No, you are not guaranteed a perfect job with a degree. You are not guaranteed one without a degree either. You have to accept that like it, or not, you have ONE life to live and at some point, that life becomes your responsibility. Why not at 18? Would making the age of adulthood be better at 21? 35? 42?

The fact of the matter is life is about MAKING MISTAKES. You have to learn from them and move on. That, in and of itself, is a success. So what, you majored in the wrong subject. Geez! You are only 25! Unless you get hit by a truck tomorrow that leaves you plenty of time to find out what it is you WANT to do AND if you want it bad enough, to get the training you need/education you seek while working your half-asked job to make ends meet. It is NOT your parents' responsibility to pay for your errors.

I read this stupid drivel and saw someone who made mistakes, and has a desperate need to hold SOMEONE else accountable for them... the university, his former employers.. his parents... anyone but himself. So go fling your perverse morosity somewhere else. There happen to be twenty-somethings on this list who accept that the choices they make in life are their OWN for better or worse and simply change that that they can and accept the rest.

To do otherwise makes you a sad, pathetic shell. The best thing your parents could do for you is kick you to the curb buddy and make sure you pay your OWN bus fare.
posted by gloege at 6:19 AM on August 27, 2001


Sorry, if reality seems perverse to you, holgate, but that statement about adolescence is well supported. Adolescence, as we tend to think of it, is the outgrowth of several social (and even biological) trends that have taken hold since roughly the mid 1800's, including compulsory education, child labor laws, and even the decreasing age of menarche. But still, it was nice of you to nail down my definition of adolescence before I ever laid one out.

And it sounds to me like your mother was an adult living at home. It happened then, it happens now, now that's a big part of the point.
posted by NortonDC at 6:46 AM on August 27, 2001


I lived like a crown prince growing up, then my parents got divorced, my mother became disabled and I had to go to the grocery store and figure out what could and could not be bought with food stamps.

I majored in finance, got distracted by the web, realized that's what I want to do. The university had no idea what the web was or what to teach about it so I dropped out, learned on my own, and started my own business. I fucked up a lot, I racked up a good size debt.

I'm not a very good salesman so I delivered Pizza 50 hours a week and sold a crap load of my possessions to make ends meet. It still wasn't enough.

I ended the business and worked 2, sometimes 3, crap jobs at a time while looking for a place that would hire me to do something, anything, web related (this was 13 months ago, not a great job market at the time).

At times I blamed my parents, my brothers, teachers, god, and my dog. I always knew it was on my shoulders, it was my life, but it wasn't until I stopped making other excuses that things starting falling into place.

Last week I paid off the last of my debt, I love my job, and I'm ready to move on to other challenges.

People told me life was hard, I just wish I would have believed them sooner.
posted by Mick at 8:44 AM on August 27, 2001


Oh, fuck it. I'm too close to this topic to discuss it here.
posted by holgate at 8:46 AM on August 27, 2001


I just turned 25. I think the problem in America, at least, and probably in the UK and other first-world countries, is the realization - maybe even subconscioustly - that the life we have been prepared for by parents, schools and "mother culture" is not what is most important. We sense that something is wrong, but we don't know what exactly. This may be something only this generation is prepared to accept. Parents, whose values are often steeped in the myth of the American dream, can't comprehend that having a good job, an SUV, a house and a big-screen TV, is not what life is about. Read Ishmael by Daniel Quinn and Culture Jam by Kalle Lasn, for more on these ideas.
posted by abosio at 11:11 AM on August 27, 2001


abosio, along those lines I recommend Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic and Nickle and Dimed: On [Not] Getting By In America.

I've been very lucky because I did not go to college but after five years in the working world I've finally got my dream job as an interface designer and have purchased a house in Boston. I'm 22 and very happy with my life ... I managed to create a career for myself through a combination of shrewd temping and learning from books about programming, web design, and career skills such as resumes, office politics, cover letters, networking, etc.
I try to learn something new every day and always read the New York Times to keep up with the world around me. Overall I think it's an perspective thing -- if you expect to have everything handed to you just because you went to Harvard then you won't get the job because people like me are willing to go the extra mile every day ... I have to because I don't have that posh degree to fall back on.
posted by Johannahh at 11:52 AM on August 27, 2001


How to fix society: have ten percent of youth die in battle. Another fifteen percent should be seriously wounded. The rest will be thankful for anything they can get.

Nope. Sorry. Already been tried.

and feelinglistless. we should hang out and cry into beer together

I'd love to next time I'm in your neck of the woods - I think we'd have lots to talk about.

Oh, fuck it. I'm too close to this topic to discuss it here.

I know what you mean. Although reading everyone else's opinions has made me feel much better...

I'm reminded of this scene from Richard Linklater's 'Dazed and Confused':

MIKE
I'm saying if we're going to go out we shouldn't just drive around we should do something.

CYNTHIA
Yeah you're right man. I'm gonna just you know get drunk, maybe get laid, or get in a fight.

MIKE
No I'm serious man. We should be up for anything.

CYNTHIA
I know. We are. But what? I mean, God. Don't you ever feel like everything we do and everything we've been taught is just to service the future.
TONY
Yeah, I know. It's like it's all preparation.

CYNTHIA
Right, but what are we preparing ourselves for?

MIKE
Death.

TONY
Life at the party. It's true.

CYNTHIA
You know, but that's valid, because if we're all going to die anyway shouldn't we be enjoying ourselves now? You know, I'd like to quit think of the present, like right now as some minor insignificant pre-amble to something else.

MIKE
Exactly. That's what everybody in this car (or thread -- Ed) needs. Some good old worth-while visceral experience.
posted by feelinglistless at 12:40 PM on August 27, 2001


We sense that something is wrong, but we don't know what exactly. This may be something only this generation is prepared to accept. Parents, whose values are often steeped in the myth of the American dream, can't comprehend that having a good job, an SUV, a house and a big-screen TV, is not what life is about.

I never thought I'd see direct evidence of an American generation more self-absorbed than the boomers. I suggest reading some Santayana, and maybe learning about the Beats. Or the punks. Or Germany's Swing Kids. Or Franciscans. Or maybe even the goddamn hippies. Anything to take your eyes off your omphalos for 20 minutes.

Johannahh--yeah, I hear that Nickle and Dimed might be relevant. ;-)
posted by NortonDC at 1:04 PM on August 27, 2001


Johannahh--yeah, I hear that Nickle and Dimed might be relevant. ;-)

Argle. You caught me skimming .... =) Though I realized after I posted that I've mentioned the book before.
posted by Johannahh at 1:35 PM on August 27, 2001


NortinDC: Exactly what was the illusion? The opportunity to get an education? The opportunity to meet new people and learn from them? Living for years in an environment dedicated to your personal development?

A complete answer would be very lengthy Nortin, but I'll try to abstract. There are different kinds of education. I'll quickly summarize with the words 'vocational' and 'developmental'. The education I got was the wrong one for me. Yes, partly from my own ignorance, but what does an 18-year-old know?

The multiversity curriculum was designed to service a sector, a sector which paid the school a lot of research money, which distracted educators that I seldom saw. Far from being dedicated to my personal development, as I sat in classrooms with anywhere from 100 to 2000 students, that carborundum curriculum was more indoctrination than anything else. Those students were learning to submit to a soul-deadening grind. The tension of performing for standards set by others rather than by themselves. (A few of them literally went mad from the strain. ALWAYS hush-hush, isn't it? Body quietly removed from campus ....)

That was the real curriculum. You may say, in tough love fashion, well that's the real world. To which I say, misery loves company.

Yes, after five years in such a rich environment, I came into contact with many new people and ideas. But the *skills I paid for*, it turned out, were worth little in the outside world (details spared). I'm certain that, given my broad native curiosity and outgoing nature at the time, those benefits would have come to me without paying for them with tens of thousands of dollars and thousands of grinding hours of boring teachers and busy work ... all in the illusion that any of it would matter a shit in the outside world. Nobody will care about your grades!

Certainly there were loveable exceptions to the grind. But to quote my dear, departed senior-year philosophy professor: "This place is not for you." And no doubt that is true for countless students each year. They leave thinking they are failures, but it is industrialized education which has failed them, miserably, fundamentally.

So I say, if it feels bad, bail out. The world is full of teachers. There's a reason it's called "Piled Higher and Deeper."
posted by Twang at 2:19 PM on August 27, 2001


Twang--So, when you discovered these shortcomings of your school, that's when you transferred to a new school, right?
posted by NortonDC at 6:33 PM on August 27, 2001


50 PERCENT better off than our Imperialist masters.

You're the Imperialist masters, fool.
posted by Mocata at 3:25 AM on August 28, 2001


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