Free Markets, Free People

Education

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Only in Liberalland

It is in that benighted land that irony, reason and hypocrisy are unknown concepts:

In California, Ventura High School Principal Val Wyatt barred the football booster club from selling meals donated by Chick-fil-A at back-to-school night to raise money. Wyatt cited company President Dan Cathy’s opposition to gay marriage as the reason for the ban. Superintendent Trudy Tuttle Arriaga backed up Wyatt. “We value inclusivity and diversity on our campus and all of our events and activities are going to adhere to our mission,” she said.

What could be more “inclusive” than allowing opinion that doesn’t agree with you to “coexist” without forcing everyone to suffer your biases because you have the power?   I mean if you’re really, honestly and truly interested in “inclusiveness”.  Oh, and what happened to tolerance, Arriaga and Wyatt?  What could be more diverse than a community that welcomes all opinions as long as they don’t advocate violence or other forms of coercion?   Is there something wrong with having a differing opinion about a subject based on principles that may be different than yours but are certainly shared by much of the mainstream (such as students at this school)?  Apparently.  Conformity with the opinion in power is the rule there it seems.  The irony?  This sort of action is blatantly exclusive and it makes a laughing stock of the word “diversity”.  It says diverse opinion certainly isn’t welcome if it doesn’t conform with the people in power’s opinion.

Mouthing of platitudes doesn’t change that.  Their “mission” has nothing to do with “inclusivity and diversity”.  It has to do with ideology.   A particular ideology.  One that abuses the english language daily as well as our freedoms.

~McQ

Who said the Soviet Union is dead

And I’m not talking about Putin’s attempt to resurrect it – I’m instead talking about this horrific overreaction by state of Maryland to … a book set in the future:

A 23-year-old teacher at a Cambridge, Md. middle school has been placed on leave and—in the words of a local news report—”taken in for an emergency medical evaluation” for publishing, under a pseudonym, a novel about a school shooting. The novelist, Patrick McLaw, an eighth-grade language-arts teacher at the Mace’s Lane Middle School, was placed on leave by the Dorchester County Board of Education, and is being investigated by the Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office, according to news reports from Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The novel, by the way, is set 900 years in the future. . . .

Imagine that—a novelist who didn’t store bombs and guns at the school at which he taught. How improbable! Especially considering that he uses an “alias,” which is apparently the law-enforcement term for “nom de plume.” (Here is the Amazon page for The Insurrectionist, by the way. Please note that the book was published in 2011, before McLaw was hired.)

According to an equally credulous and breathless report in the Star-Democrat, which is published in Easton, Md., the combined efforts of multiple law-enforcement agencies have made area children safe from fiction. Sheriff Phillips told the newspaper that, in addition to a K-9 sweep of the school (!), investigators also raided McLaw’s home. “The residence of the teacher in Wicomico County was searched by personnel,” Phillips said, with no weapons found. “A further check of Maryland State Police databases also proved to be negative as to any weapons registered to him. McLaw was suspended by the Dorchester County Board of Education pending an investigation and is no longer in the area. He is currently at a location known to law enforcement and does not currently have the ability to travel anywhere.”

As I find and read more stories like this on a much more frequent basis, I have to wonder what happened to America.  Where did it go?  And when?

The fact that anyone would find this supportable is phenomenal in and of itself, yet here we have the report … McLaw was obviously taken as a credible threat because he wrote … fiction to sell books.

Jeffery Goldberg goes on:

 It is somewhat amazing that local news reports on this case don’t make clear whether McLaw is under arrest, and if so, on what charge. It is equally astonishing that the reporters on this story don’t seem to have used the words “First Amendment” in their questioning of law-enforcement officials, and also astonishing they don’t question the Soviet-sounding practice of ordering an apparently sane person who has been deemed unacceptable by state authorities to undergo a psychological evaluation.

It would be useful to know if McLaw is under investigation for behavior other than writing two novels—and perhaps he will be shown to be a miscreant of some sort—but so far, there is no indication that he is guilty of anything other than having an imagination, although on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, as news reports make clear, his imagination is considered an active threat.

Dorchester County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Henry Wagner told WBO that police will be present at the middle school “for as long as we deem it necessary,” and the sheriff said that law-enforcement officials across the Delmarva peninsula have been given McLaw’s photo in case he shows up in their jurisdictions—though again, it is not clear if he is, in fact, in police custody at the moment.

This is what happens when people quit thinking and only do “their duty”.  When rules like “zero tolerance” replace common sense.

What happened to McLaw is an outrage.  It is unacceptable.  It should be condemned in the very strongest of terms.

Yet, at least by the media there, it seems all perfectly sane and normal.  And, apparently, the police force as well.  School.  Etc.

Maryland (and Cambridge in particular) should be utterly ashamed.

~McQ

What ever happened to critical thinking

Dr. Thomas Sowell thinks he knows:

In an age when scientists are creating artificial intelligence, too many of our educational institutions seem to be creating artificial stupidity.

Critical thinking seems, in many cases, to be a thing of the past.  Ideology seems to be replacing it.

For instance:

Many people in Europe and the Western Hemisphere are staging angry protests against Israel’s military action in Gaza. One of the talking points against Israel is that far more Palestinian civilians have been killed by Israeli military attacks than the number of Israeli civilians killed by the Hamas rocket attacks on Israel that started this latest military conflict.

Are these protesters aware that vastly more German civilians were killed by American bombers attacking Nazi Germany during World War II than American civilians killed in the United States by Hitler’s forces?

Not only that, are they aware that the intent of the Hamas terrorists is to kill as many Israeli civilians as they can?  They’re just not very good at it.  And, Israel has taken steps to safeguard its civilians while Hamas repeatedly and purposely puts their civilians at risk by launching rockets from populated areas near schools etc.

This isn’t something that’s hard to figure out … unless you’ve turned thinking off and ideology (which only allows one to accept “facts” that fit the narrative”) on.

Another example involving Jerry Rivers:

Geraldo Rivera has denounced the Drudge Report for carrying news stories that show some of the negative consequences and dangers from allowing vast numbers of youngsters to enter the country illegally and be spread across the country by the Obama administration.

Some of these youngsters are already known to be carrying lice and suffering from disease. Since there have been no thorough medical examinations of most of them, we have no way of knowing whether they, or how many, are carrying deadly diseases that will spread to American children when these unexamined young immigrants enter schools across the country.

The attack against Matt Drudge has been in the classic tradition of demagogues. It turns questions of fact into questions of motive. Geraldo accuses Drudge of trying to start a “civil war.”

However, history reminds us:

Back when masses of immigrants from Europe were entering this country, those with dangerous diseases were turned back from Ellis Island. Nobody thought they had a legal or a moral “right” to be in America or that it was mean or racist not to want our children to catch their diseases.

Perfectly acceptable precautions.  Perfectly sound reasoning.  Something we understood well even back then.  But that doesn’t fit the ideological narrative today. The fact that the illegals are “children”  is what the ideologues want to emphasize in order to shut others up and have them enter freely and be placed within our system.  They appeal to emotion, not reason.  Reason tells you that you take prudent precautions instead of openly exposing your children to the communicable diseases, etc. that are being brought in by illegals, children or not.  Who do we have a greater responsibility toward and why should we risk their lives and health in order to satisfy an ideology?  A thinking person would conclude we have a greater responsibility to our own children.

Finally:

Although liberals are usually gung ho for increasing the minimum wage, there was a sympathetic front-page story in the July 29 San Francisco Chronicle about the plight of a local non-profit organization that will not be able to serve as many low-income minority youths if it has to pay a higher minimum wage. They are seeking some kind of exemption.

Does it not occur to these people that the very same thing happens when a minimum-wage increase applies to profit-based employers? They, too, tend to hire fewer inexperienced young people when there is a minimum-wage law.

No it doesn’t “occur” to them because they don’t think it through.  They simply parrot the emotional buzz-words and phrases their ideology teaches them.  The consequences are far less important than getting their way and feeling good about it.  But critical thought never enters the picture.

If it did, we’d not be hearing the nonsense these examples present, would we?

~McQ

Cantor, cheese and other stuff

So Eric Cantor went down in flames in the Virginia Republican primary I see.  I can’t say I’m the least bit chagrined.  Cantor is the quintessential establishment Republican.  And like most of that ilk, he was more worried about what the press thought of him than doing what was right by his principles.  I notice the media spin doctors are immediately claiming that he really didn’t lose because of his stand on immigration (i.e. a hard lean toward “amnesty” for illegals although he tried to deny it).  After all if they admit that immigration reform was a reason for his defeat, then they have to admit that its dead for this year (as, given this lesson, no Republican running for reelection in the House  – that would be all of them – is going to touch it with a 10 foot pole).  The spin doctors also know that if it is dead for this year, it may be dead, at least in its present form, for good, if Republicans win the Senate.  One also assumes that Republicans are aware of the polls out there that place immigration reform as a low priority issue for voters right now (yeah, surprise, they’re much more interested in jobs and economic growth than illegal aliens).

I think another reason for Cantor’s loss is a deep dissatisfaction with Republican House leadership – such that it is.  Add his lack of popularity within his own district and an acceptable alternative candidate and you have the prefect electoral storm. Finally, Tea Party candidate Dave Brat’s win signaled, much to the annoyance of the left, that the Tea Party is hardly “dead”.  It’ll be interesting to see how the establishment Republicans react to this upset.

On another subject, yesterday we saw where the FDA had unilaterally decided that it might be necessary to ban the centuries old tradition of aging cheese on wooden shelves.  Because, you know, there’s been such an epidemic of sickness from such practices here lately and over the ages. What?  There hasn’t?  There hasn’t been any real problem at all?  However:

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an executive decree banning the centuries old practice of aging cheese on wooden boards.  One bureaucrat within the FDA, without surveying all of the scientific literature, and without public commentary, has rattled hundreds of small businesses across the United States.  Consumers who eat any kind of aged cheese should prepare for a potentially catastrophic disruption in the market for artisan, non-processed cheese.

Now that was yesterday.  Today, yeah, its cave in time.  There has been such an outcry from cheese makers, the public and just about anyone else that could find a forum that the FDA is hastily backing down.  Overlawyered brings us up to date:

Following an enormous outcry from cheese makers, commentators, and the general public, the agency beats a hasty retreat. Commentator/ Pepperdine lawprof Greg McNeil has the details at Forbes (and his earlier commentary on the legalities of the agency’s action is also informative). Earlier here.

In a classic bureaucratic move, the agency denied it had actually issued a new policy (technically true, if you accept the premise that a policy letter from its chief person in charge of cheese regulation is not the same as a formally adopted new policy) and left itself the discretion to adopt such a policy in future if it wishes (merely declaring itself open to persuasion that wood shelving might prove compatible with the FSMA).

McNeal:

This is also a lesson for people in other regulated industries. When government officials make pronouncements that don’t seem grounded in law or policy, and threaten your livelihood with an enforcement action, you must organize and fight back. While specialized industries may think that nobody cares, the fight over aged cheese proves that people’s voices can be heard…

Yes, true.  But … there’s always a ‘but’, Overlawyered points out something that is true and often overlooked.  You have to be willing to fight for it all, not just the popular stuff.  You have to be willing the challenge all the nonsense bureaucrats put out there:

There is a less optimistic version, however. It happens that a large number of editors, commentators, and others among the chattering classes are both personally interested in the availability of fine cheese and familiar enough with the process by which it is made to be un-cowed by claims of superior agency expertise. That might also be true of a few other issues here and there — cottage food sold at farmer’s markets, artisanal brewing practices — but it’s inevitably not going to be true of hundreds of other issues that arise under the new Food Safety Modernization Act. In a similar way, the outcry againstCPSIA, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, rose to a politically effective level only on a selected few issues (publishers and libraries got a fix so that older children’s books would not have to be trashed; youthmotorsports eventually obtained an exemption, and so forth) but large numbers of smaller children’s products and specialties whose makers had less of a political voice simply disappeared.

Absolutely true.  I think of those who want to drink raw milk for instance.  Where does the government get off saying you can’t drink something you choose to drink if you’re willing to take the risk and suffer any consequences?  Something that, until pasteurization, everyone drank?  But since those who prefer raw milk don’t have a large lobby, they’re subjected to government bullying and laws prohibiting them from making that choice.

Choice is freedom.  Limiting of choice is limiting freedom and government is in the freedom limiting business.  The premise is you’re not able to make good choices yourself, so government must keep you from doing so.  Question?  If aging cheese on wood was dangerous to our health and it had been the reason from many deaths over the centuries, how do you suppose the market for such cheeses might have been effected by now?  Right.  It certainly wouldn’t have come down to some government bureaucrat making a unilateral decision in 2014, that’s for sure.

In Iraq, Mosul has fallen to terrorists.  Nightwatch brings us up to date:

ISIL has been trying to take Mosul since earlier in June, but only lately assembled enough forces to rout the security forces and overrun the city.

ISIL now controls two major cities in the Sunni region of Iraq: Fallujah and Mosul. Its fighters tried to overrun several other cities, but failed. Its aim is to create an Islamic emirate that joins Iraq and Syria.

The group had been affiliated with al Qaida for many years, since the time of Abu Musab Zarqawi, according to the National Counter Terrorism Center. In February al Qaida disavowed all links with ISIL because its actions were more extreme than al Qaida and it would not follow orders to stop fighting the al Nusrah Front in Syria, which al-Qaida supports.

On Sunday in Syria, ISIL fighters clashed with the al-Qaida-affiliated al Nusrah Front in eastern Syria, while its Iraq wing fought to capture Mosul in Iraq. This is a formidable group. Only the Syrian Kurds stand in the way of ISIL consolidating large areas in Iraq and Syria under its control.

Mosul’s capture reinforces the judgment that Iraq has re-entered civil war. ISIL is more than an insurgency because it has an effective organization and is conquering territory. By force of arms, it has created a power-sharing arrangement with the government in Baghdad and fragmented the country. A statement by the Muslim scholars association today encouraged ISIL to hold Mosul and to set up an administration. It urged the youth of the city to defend it against the Baghdad government.

ISIL’s control in Syria seems tenuous and contested by other opposition groups. In Iraq, it is the dominant anti-government force and it has broken Iraq, for now.

My position?  If Iraqi’s want a free Iraq, they’d better fight for it.  They’ve been given the time, the equipment and the training.  Now, it’s up to them.

Finally, yesterday I literally had to laugh out loud when I read something Robert Reich, a former Secretary of Labor, had written on his Facebook page.  It simply demonstrates how effing silly – and dangerous to your freedoms – these people are:

President Obama announced steps yesterday he said will make student loans more affordable. It’s probably all he can manage with a grid-locked Congress, but it’s still tinkering with a system of college financing that’s spinning out of control. What’s really needed is to make college free of charge and require all graduates to pay 10 percent of their earnings for the first 10 years of full-time work into a fund that pays the costs (additional years of graduate school means added years of payments). That way, nobody graduates with debts; young people from lower-income families can afford to attend; graduates who go into high-wage occupations in effect subsidize those who go into lower-wage work; and we move toward a system of genuinely equal opportunity. What do you think?

Right … free college for all.  Graduate with no debt!

Question: How in the world does this dolt think that making all graduates pay “10 percent of their earnings for the first 10 years” to fund “free college” doesn’t equal being in debt?  Oh, and who would keep track of all this?  Why the IRS of course – another in a long line of ideas to further centralize control of all aspects of your life at the federal level and add to the federal bureaucracy’s reach and power.

Then add the scam value of this.  Ride the gravy train for 3 or 4 years of free college and then walk away as a non-graduate.  Nothing to pay, right?  I mean the stipulation is that “graduates” pay, so why not hang out in a college dorm, eat in the chow hall, do your own thing while also doing barely enough to stay in school.  That way you can let these other dopes subsidize those years for you.  Then, move, apply to a new school and repeat.  Trust me, there are enough “professional students” in this world that I can promise that would be done.

Oh … and read the comments to the Reich post.  They’ll make you weep.

~McQ

And this woman wants to be a lawyer

I’m sure by now you’ve at least heard of the female Duke freshman who is paying for her college tuition by being a porn star.

She apparently wants to be a lawyer some day.  She’s a woman’s studies major.  She says she can’t afford the financial aid she needs to study at Duke and so she’s decided to do porn.

So what’s my beef with her?  Well it is not that she is okay with being in porno.  Its not illegal, and if there is no force or fraud involved, I have no problem with her choice even if I disagree.

The beef?  Read this first:

I was offered scholarships at a lot of places. I was offered full tuition at Vanderbilt, for example, and was accepted into USC, Wellesley, Barnard, Pepperdine, some others. But I visited Duke last year on Blue Devil Days [Duke's programmed weekend for admitted freshmen], and I remember walking into the Duke Chapel — I’m a very spiritual person — and just feeling an energy that told me, “This is the place you need to be.” And I felt something in the chapel in that moment that told me that I needed to be here and go to Duke and it was something that would be an amazing experience for me.

Yup … apparently something “spiritual” happened and she just had to choose Duke. Had too.  That is the place for her, even though she couldn’t afford it.  Even with a “full ride” at Vandy, she wanted to go to Duke instead.

And?

Would you still do porn if Duke cost less?

No. If Duke had given me sufficient financial aid, if they had given me the proper resources and made college affordable for my family, I would not have done porn. I would’ve just gotten through college and been fine. The financial burden that Duke put on me was absolutely enormous and insurmountable with the resources that I had.

And it’s Duke’s fault she’s doing porn because, apparently, it was Duke’s job to realize what a catch they had in her and make college more affordable for her family and herself.

So, instead of going to a very good college which had offered her full tuition (which I’m sure has “womens studies” major as well), she selfishly chose to go to one she couldn’t afford because, you know, something happened in the chapel at Duke or whatever.  She’s now doing porn to pay for it.  And it’s all Duke’s fault or at least Duke is the reason she had to make that choice.

You know, I think college has gotten outrageously expensive and I hope the bubble pops very soon.  ROI for the money has been shown to be not so good.  And the debt load one has to take on to get a degree is outrageous.

But seriously, her justification is just so pathetic I couldn’t pass up commenting on it.  Btw, she says she loves doing porn, so who cares?  But to lay it off on the school when it was completely a result of her choice of  schools – is just the ultimate in BS reasoning.

Yeah, if she ever gets a law degree, I’d say avoid her like the plague.

~McQ

Where’s the hue and cry?

Walter Russell Mead points to something that is a good indicator of our “favored victim” form of politics.  If you’re not among the favored victims, well, no one really gives a crap:

Since 1979, inflation-adjusted hourly wages fell 20 percent for men ages 25–39 with only a high school diploma, while wages for their female counterparts rose by one percent. In the same timeframe, the number of male high school graduates with jobs fell by nine percent and rose for women by nine percent.

Part of this is due to the evaporation of jobs in industries that were previously filled by less educated men, like manufacturing and construction. But women have adapted much more quickly to a world in which a bachelor’s degree is increasingly important for landing a job. In 2010, among 35 year olds, women were 17 percent more likely than men to have attended college. Lower- and middle-class men lag behind women in their social class in education, employment, and wages.

If the gender roles were reversed here and a generation of women has suffered huge setbacks, we would have a great hue and cry with blue-ribbon panels, academic roundtables, and a lot of national soul-searching. But men’s problems don’t seem to interest anyone much, not even men.

Because, you know, men are brutes and white men, well they’re the worst kind (you see they “enjoy” white privilege – never heard of it?  It’s on all the liberal websites).

The point, of course, is the media nor the left (but I repeat myself) has any real interest in the struggles of men, because it is a article of faith among the left that all the ills of the world can be traced to a single source.  Men.

A caveat – if you are a “less educated” man, that’s your freaking fault.  And if that lack of education has you in this situation, unless the problem of getting such an education was beyond your control, I have no sympathy for you.

That said, while I agree with Mead’s point, I’m thankful that we aren’t involved with costly “blue-ribbon” panels, etc.  We’ve seen how effective government has been in the economy for the last 5 years.  Lord knows we don’t need to give them any excuses to meddle even more.  That could actually cause women’s job rates to drop and there we’d be, knee deep in “blue-ribbon panels, academic roundtables, and a lot of national soul-searching.”

And we know who’d be paying for it, don’t we?

~McQ

When the beast starves

I tend to be more optimistic than Dale about the near-to-intermediate future for the economy and for the culture. This may be unusual for a libertarian, but I’m heartened by many of the ways in which our opponents’ system is unsustainable.

Let me start by saying that, given a certain size of central government, libertarians could do worse than spending almost two-thirds of the budget on a few wealth transfer programs (Social Security and Medicare, both mostly funded by flat taxes, plus Medicaid, which gets much of its funding from the states) and a military like ours.  Imagine if that money was spent employing domestic police and busybodies.

But even that government is fiscally unsustainable, so we expect our government to eventually be forced to give up some of its “responsibilities.”  Assuming the country avoids a sovereign debt crisis, that adjustment might not be so bad for libertarians. Continue reading

Do we need “more teachers?”

The latest little dust up is about President Obama claiming we need to hire more teachers (i.e. we need more government jobs) and the Romney campaign saying we really don’t. Who is right?

Former Gov. John Sununu steps in with the following:

Former New Hampshire Gov. John H. Sununu, a surrogate for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, defended the presumptive Republican nominee’s comments that the nation should have fewer teachers, firefighters and police officers, saying there was "wisdom" in Romney’s remarks.

"There are municipalities, there are states where there is flight of population, and as the population goes down, you need fewer teachers. As technology contributes to community security and dealing with issues that firefighters have to issue, you would hope that you can as a taxpayer see the benefits of the efficiency in personnel you can get out of that," Sununu said during an interview on MSNBC’s "Jansing & Co." Monday, prefacing that he was speaking "as a taxpayer" and not a representative of the Romney campaign. "There may be others who run away from those comments, but I’m going to tell you that there are places where just pumping money in to add to the public payroll is not what the taxpayers of this country want."

So do we or don’t we need more teachers?  That should be fairly easy to determine, shouldn’t it?  And, as it turns out it is:

 

cato-percent-change-public-schools

 

Since 1970 we’ve seen a 100% increase in Public School employment and a, what, an 8% increase in Public School enrollment?

Am I missing something here?  It would seem we have a plethora of educators available.  Or at least education employees.  If they’re not educators, then my suggestion is perhaps the way to get “more teachers”, if they’re really needed, is to look at the current employee mix and reduce administrative overhead while increasing the number of teachers.  Problem solved.

That, of course, could be done without spending a dime.  And that, as Sununu points out, would certainly be satisfactory to taxpayers.  Oh, wait, teacher’s unions – yeah, not going to happen is it?.

But let’s get real about this Obama gambit – it is the usual appeal.  Whenever the Democrats want to increase the size of government, the first jobs they talk about are “teachers, firemen and cops”.  Without exception.  It is a tired old ploy that most people ought to be on too by now.

And yet we continue to see it employed and, unfortunately, it works.  The scare factor.  See the above chart if you don’t believe me.

In the case of schools, what has it given us over the years as the taxpayer has answered the inevitable appeal and thrown money at schools?

 

cato-percent-cost-schools

 

A 90% increase in cost and flatlined (and even subpar) achievement.

We don’t need more teachers.  

We need less government.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Markets at work: College and jobs (and what that may mean to Obama)

The Wall Street Journal provides an interesting infographic which fairly well outlines what the market for college graduates is looking for.  Or said another way, employers determine what majors they’ll hire, not college students.

 

collegeinfographic

 

So we have college recruiting picking up – a good sign – and we have a buyers market.  Bottom left tells us all what they’re interested in and, more importantly, what they’re not interested in.   Of course that’s of the 160 employers surveyed.  That obviously doesn’t mean that the bottom five can’t and won’t find employment.  It’s just likely they won’t find it with those 160 surveyed.  They indicated, however, a trend we’ve talked about quite often.  Hard skills or business related skills. 

Bottom right shows us how the market for college graduates has changed in the last few years.  Only 25% are hired while still in college, most, one would suppose, in those top 5 categories.  The huge difference, however, comes in the last number for 2009-2011 graduates.  45% still have no “first full-time job”.  That means some are going on 3 years.  That adds more credence to the last chart on this post

As for this year’s college grads, they face even tougher prospects when it comes to finding a job.  They not only have to compete against their peers, but against the graduates from from previous years still seeking their “first full-time job”.

Which brings us to the politics of this situation.  In 2008, Obama charmed the college age crowd who treated him like a combination of a rock-star and the second coming.

With the sort of situation the chart depicts now being the reality and with the youngest demographic (which includes these college age job seekers) the worst hit by the still staggering economy, one has to wonder whether or not he can pull them back into his orbit again in any significant numbers with the promise of saving them $7 a month on college loans. 

I’m guessing the answer is “no”.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Economic reality welcomes new college grads

And it isn’t what they expected or hoped it would be:

A weak labor market already has left half of young college graduates either jobless or underemployed in positions that don’t fully use their skills and knowledge.

Young adults with bachelor’s degrees are increasingly scraping by in lower-wage jobs — waiter or waitress, bartender, retail clerk or receptionist, for example — and that’s confounding their hopes a degree would pay off despite higher tuition and mounting student loans.

An analysis of government data conducted for The Associated Press lays bare the highly uneven prospects for holders of bachelor’s degrees.

We continue to hear that we’re in a recovery, that we’re seeing better times, that all is now well.

Of course, it’s not.  In fact, as we mentioned in the podcast last night, we’re not seeing anywhere near the growth necessary to shake this recession.  Instead, we’ve found and are bouncing along the bottom (or at least what is the bottom for now – believe it or not, it could again get worse).

Unemployment numbers for the last two months have “unexpectedly” worse.  And while the official rate is 8.2%, most realize the real unemployment rate is much higher and in double digits.

That is the world today’s college grads are facing.  It is a buyers market, for those that are actually hiring college grads and so they are able to select among the best.  Guess what majors are faring best?

While there’s strong demand in science, education and health fields, arts and humanities flounder.

Majors with immediate applicability in still growing fields of course.  Meanwhile, there’s not much demand for the softer and less applicable fields.   And even in the majors where demand is still high, entry level jobs are of a lower type:

Median wages for those with bachelor’s degrees are down from 2000, hit by technological changes that are eliminating midlevel jobs such as bank tellers. Most future job openings are projected to be in lower-skilled positions such as home health aides, who can provide personalized attention as the U.S. population ages.

This is one of those teachable moments.  A sheepskin is no longer a guarantee to a high paying job.  And that’s certainly true of those who indulge themselves in a humanities or art degree, etc. 

College graduates who majored in zoology, anthropology, philosophy, art history and humanities were among the least likely to find jobs appropriate to their education level; those with nursing, teaching, accounting or computer science degrees were among the most likely.

While perhaps the brightest and best in those areas will indeed find good paying jobs coming out of the chute, the vast majority are going to be taking jobs, if they can find them, well outside their major field of study.

By the way, I use the term “indulge” above purposefully.  It would be nice to indulge yourself in something you might enjoy in college and major in it.  But then don’t whine when you find out that all of the companies you feel should have the benefit of your august presence aren’t as excited about your degree in gender studies as you are.

That gets down to the purpose of college to each person.  Is it a means of achieving a job and a life style to which one aspires and a willingness to do what is necessary to accomplish that?  Or is it a place one indulges themselves giving little or no thought to the reality that awaits them at graduation?

What we are seeing is the market for college grads making a very definitive statement.  It is sending signals.  It is telling everyone what type of degrees are being sought and which aren’t.  And because of the tightness of the market, it is making decisions on merit, with the brightest and best capturing jobs and the also ran’s waiting tables.

"I don’t even know what I’m looking for," says Michael Bledsoe, who described months of fruitless job searches as he served customers at a Seattle coffeehouse. The 23-year-old graduated in 2010 with a creative writing degree.

Imagine that … creative writing degree.  Wonderful stuff, but not to the market for those with college degrees.  One would think that a person pursuing that sort of degree would have probably researched that and have a plan which might not include someone else hiring them first (i.e. selling their work on a freelance basis, etc. and knowing how to do that).

Had Mr. Bldsoe had a degree in physics or accounting or engineering, he’d stand a much better chance of being employed in his field of study.  Then he could indulge himself in his creative writing passion.  In fact, it would likely give him the means to do that.

Instead … “you want a tall or a grande?”

I still haven’t yet figured out why supposedly bright people can’t figure that little thing out.  Markets are talking.  Markets are sending signals.  When you choose something as your major that these markets have no interest in, what do you suppose is going to happen unless you have a plan to go out on your own immediately?

They’re not going to hire you just because you feel your major is important.  You’re going to hire someone if they feel the major is important and  you have demonstrated competence in that field at a level they require.

This is the reality that, for the first time, many recent college grads are coming to grips with.

One thing this recession may finally do is drive home the idea that indulging yourself is a useless degree is not very bright or productive.

Want to study creative writing?  Fine.  They have minors as well in colleges.  Make it your minor.  But for heaven sake, take a clue and look at what is being demanded out there before declaring a major.  Certainly it may not be your passion, but then unless you want to spend your days immediately after college waiting tables or hoping for a labor sellers market, where jobs are plentiful, you had better commit to a useful major.

I know, I know, that supply and demand thingy again.  Gender studies majors aren’t into “markets” and “supply and demand” stuff. What’s wrong with me?  They have a college degree, the world should be beating a pathway to their door, no?

No.

Welcome to reality … and reality includes the immutable laws of economics whether one likes them or not.  And right now, those with useless degrees find themselves on the wrong side of the demand curve.

Don’t like economics?

Then content yourself with making frappes.

Otherwise, it’s time to wise up, use that superior brain for what it was designed and “indulge” yourself in something the job market finds useful and valuable.  Refusal to do that means a guaranteed rough transition into the real world, especially now.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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