Tuesday, May 27, 2008

How Higher Education Ruined the World

I’ve decided that higher education has ruined America, and of course, you should feel compelled to agree with me, but let me spell it out for you so when you make my argument at backyard barbeques this summer, you’ll have some weight behind your words.

Ninety percent of the jobs we have here in the US are fake jobs. They are made up. They are jobs for the sake of job-having. It reminds me of the scene in Shawshank Redemption when old Red let’s the man on the parole board have it, telling him that rehabilitation is just a made up word that allows a man to wear a suit and a tie and have a job. The jokes on us though. That movie, set in the early 1900’s was just the beginning. Today, we all have made up jobs with made up titles so we can get paid and live make believe lives. How many of us actually do anything though?

Everyone has a college diploma these days. It’s a useless piece of paper though, because everyone has one. And no one who has spent four grueling years of binge drinking, note copying and test cheating can ever possibly stoop to doing real work, so we have to continually invent jobs for them.

Have you ever taken a step back and asked yourself, if what you do for a living is essential in any real way? The fact of the matter is, unless you’re a farmer, a soldier, a fisherman or a builder of some sort, you’re expendable.

You look down at the kid working the counter at your local McDonald’s, but at least that kid serves a necessary purpose. We all have to eat. You laugh at the idea of being a dishwasher or working in a factory but these are real jobs, these people perform necessary functions in our society.

Corporate America is a sham. Most of us have jobs because some committee met and thought they could maximize profits if they added a new position to the fold. Have you ever noticed how the higher up you get, the less work you do?

You take that piece of paper that verifies your brilliance—if only in beer pong and quarters—and you demand a desk and a computer and a phone. You work until you have an assistant with their own assistant and a team of other mindless diploma wavers under your direct command and you consider yourself a success.

It’s all an illusion though. We’re all too qualified to do the things that make a difference, so we continually invent jobs that, in many cases, exist only for the sake of being a job and allowing us to dress up in nice clothes and have something to define ourselves with at cocktail parties and barbeques.

But if things ever got bad—really bad—with our economy, how necessary are you? Do you play a vital role in anything that matters? If society had to function at a *cough, cough* lower level and we were forced to give up the white collar paradise facade we’ve constructed, how necessary is what you do? If you’re honest, you’ll realize that for most of us, what we do is false. It’s an illusion.

Come what may, the kid at the counter at McDonald’s is always going to have a job. That kid does something real. There’s nothing made up about the need for food and those who supply, prepare and serve it. Of course the people who make the commercials, brand the logo, ensure the internet presence, manage the 401k and make sure the employees feel good about themselves are superfluous. They are only self important. Remember, it’s the meek who shall inherit the earth. And make no mistake, sooner or later, some day something will happen to even it all out. Then, we’ll be begging for that job at the counter at McDonalds, you know, so we can pay off our college loans.


Beverly said...

I think I'm in this odd place where I have the highest-ranking job I've ever had and also work more than I ever have. Maybe if I get a promotion life will be easier, though somehow I think not. Maybe in my wedge of the corporate research world it doesn't count. Maybe I need C-Suite then I can relax.. alas.. it will never happen. I like my personal life too much. ;-)

All that said - I agree with you. There's dignity in a job well done, no matter the job. I want my sewer worker to do a great and highly necessary job. I want my burgers hot and fresh and served with a smile. I've worked behind many a counter, and if only for that reason, I'll always respect the people doing those jobs for me.

Nice post.

Lamb said...

May I just say that I agree?

Anonymous said...

Hey Al,

I can't believe I found this! I am trying to find St. Monica alum for our reunion next year and was happy to come across your blog. email me at mo_brunell@hotmail.com I'm wondering if you have info you can offer.

Monica Deak Brunell

(Oh, and I read a few entries - you're a great writer, very good stuff.)

Bethie said...

I have to say, I'll probably be ok. I'm a teacher, and let's face it--people are always going to be stupid!