Don’t Stereotype… Investigate…

A friend of mine who I respect sent me a link recently to a video done by someone named Bill Whittle in a program called Afterburner. I listened carefully to the whole thing, realizing that I could just chime in ‘yeah yeah, thats the ticket, rawr rawr rawr… like so many will… but there was something inside me rising up and railing… and here’s the what came out…

I have 4 boys. All of them are faced with a much different series of challenges than I faced:

1. School and Academic life is much more intense than it ever was for me. It’s more competitive, faster paced, and harder than I ever had it. And I went to some pretty high quality public schools in Illinois and Michigan. What I saw them faced with starting early and lasting throughout their school years blew me away. And yet they all worked hard, hung tough, took more challenging courses… Me, I was looking to get high and get by, take the classes I could ace, and do whatever required the minimal effort. (Until College where that abruptly changed)

2. There’s the prospect of none of them ever even coming close to the earning potential I had, which I believe places an additional burden on them because they did grow up with certain perks and privileges, and have had to give up a great deal, just as I did, in order to be able to even attend a college.

3. A college education used to be a slam dunk for a better job. This changed during the 80’s when many people discovered that a bachelors degree no longer landed them a job, period. There was a time then when business minded young people could get into sales,or if they were entrepreneurial start a business… Soon though, the cost of a college education skyrocketed. So, for the bulk of young people who aren’t business-y they’re gonna be saddled with loans and debts even for the basic jobs.

4. College is a 6 figure investment, mid to high 6 figures if they go to grad / professional school, and they will have to borrow again to buy or open a business. Their debt service is unbelievable. I cant imagine the stress they must have just in trying to launch a career. As a father I certainly don’t have the necessary start up, college or grad school funds they would need or I’d give it to them. So, they’re having to borrow money, and they will have to pay back that money with interest, during the years when their businesses and careers can least provide them income. And interest rates aren’t 3% on student loans now — more like 7, 8, 9%. This is insane, given that the prime is what in the vicinity of 1%. Banking and lending profit margins are at record highs. It’s so out of alignment that I can’t imaging I would today undertake what I did given these circumstances. I would drop out and be pissed and go protest in a park.

5. I resent the stereotypic attitude that these young people are lazy and spoiled and surly and need to go camping. My kids all were raised on camping, the outdoors, in spite of all of them being bookish and intellectual, unlike their dad, the jock. Don’t blame the kids for their overprotective mother’s mistakes. Camping is camping, period. Take a kid who hates camping on a camping trip and guess what. They still hate camping. They all needed computers, and a variety of technology just to keep up. My parents RANTED at me when I dropped a hundo on a good pair of hiking boots in college. I hiked in em, heck I lived in em. It’s all the same; we get the things we need, we want the things we want. Besides, if you can’t be lazy, surly, and wildly liberal in your early 20’s then you never will. That’s the time in life when you should be good and pissed off at authority and old people and the wealthy. Resent their lifestyle, resent their crooked politics and resent their hypocritical viewpoints. Shine a big old light on that when your young, and a miracle happens… you finally understand how this country works.

6. So, I have 4 boys all of whom are hard working, and not at all entitled. They’re not hard working like I was where I had a paying job beginning at 15, they are all AP class taking ‘scholarship’ earning students. They’re all studious yet fun loving. There’s not a slacker among them. All of them are developing interests in a career based less upon having a huge home, but upon doing something they like and that will afford them a decent lifestyle, and that they won’t regret 20 years later. I totally respect that. Their girlfriends are the same way.

Rather than stereotype and criticize, I say we have to put names and faces on the young people. Get to know some, I think you’ll find they’re just people. They’re as varied as we adults are. Some are fantastic and make me excited for the future. Some, just like our generation are completely self absorbed and entitled – they face a tougher challenge – the world failing to meet their needs.

They don’t need a camp outing.. What they need is the freedom to protest, even if it’s lame, and then to continue to learn and grow… I don’t understand why people don’t get it, and why people need to fix it… What’s the worst that can happen? Nothing. Whats the best? Positive change.

So, that’s where I’m at.

Here’s the original video link


2 thoughts on “Don’t Stereotype… Investigate…

  1. My parents ranted at me when I dropped out of college by failing all my classes, so I have some sympathy for your rebellious position here. And I went to college for the most ridiculous thing imafinable: I have a PhD in Medieval and Renaissance Allegory and Romance from the English Department of the University of Illinois. And I would do it again in a second. But I disagree with you about the worst that can happen here.

    It’s not simply a matter of letting students borrow a boatload of money and then allowing them to experiment freely. That might have been okay when you and I were kids, because my private school education (which I failed out of) cost only $7,000/year, which I financed myself through low cost student loans. With college costs rising even faster than healthcare costs and with interest rates at such prohibitive levels, the worst that could happen is bankruptcy, which entails a loss of opportunity, while not allowing you out of your one major expense (as student loans are exempt from default even during bankruptcy restructuring). This is a program that virtually guarantees perpetual slavery to one’s debt and loss of opportunity to travel freely and independently. This is why students in the Occupy Wall Street movement are so upset by the notion that they will be enslaved by debt and will not have the opportunities that we, who grew up before the explosion of tuition prices and student loan interest rates, had.

    While I agree with you about the decline of general earning potential, individuals who have learned things that others don’t know will always be able to make money on the basis of the difference between their knowledge versus that of others. The greater the differential, the greater the profit, whether you’re a plumber selling your services to literary critics or (in a far less likely case) whether you’re a literary critic who is selling your services to plumbers.

    This means that it no longer enough to have been to college and to have studied the liberal arts, since liberal arts majors need to be retrained after they get out of school into the way that the world actually works and not how those within the ivory tower think is ought to work. In an era where the President seems to be announcing that 9% unemployment is the new norm, liberal arts majors will go without jobs, since there are other in the world who have not been so idealistic and so will not require such (expensive) retraining. It’s no wonder that they are members of the Occupy Wall Street crowd, since they have been the most screwed by the choice they made to study what used to be considered essential to a full life.

    But situations change, and when they do, our obligation is not to continue on the paths that have worked for their parents (equality of choice leading to unlimited freedom) but will not work for them (where the exercise of unlimited freedom in education may lead to slavery to debt).

    I personally find this sad, because it leaves students in MBA programs, who stand to make the most money (because they have made the best choice in their education as it pertains to making money) feeling as though ethics courses (which are supposed to tie the specialist education back to more general principles) are impediments to getting their share of and increasingly limited amount of pie. In my experience, they generally laugh (and not all that quietly) at their idealistic ethics professors. But the liberal arts bear a lot of responsibly for this state of affairs. After all, they are supposed to be people who look at the “whole” of life, but by excluding that part of life that revolves around the human desire to make money out of the advantages provided by their education (which in their idealism they dismiss as greed) they lose the name of action (to quote some poet of other) and rest firmly within the prison house, not of nature (as another poet said), but within their own misconstrued picture of the world by which they walled themselves off in an ivory tower in the first place.

    The world has changed more than you think. In today’s environment, you have to study not just things but the right things, or you will be left behind paying for your education without the means to travel and experiment as we could when we were young, while others who make money from the few jobs remaining in this country (many of which are on Wall Street) after the sweeping away of manufacturing jobs by Chinese firms will still have the opportunity to do just that. This is why, in my humble opinion, it is a mistake for academia to exclude capitalism from the universe. This is like excluding liquor from legality, as they attempted to do in prohibition. It looks great on paper, but the human animal wants what the human animal wants, and no mere law will tamper with the underlying cause of that behavior. There’s more in heaven and earth (to quote my favorite poet again) than are dreamt of in your philosophy, Horatio.

    If not, they will suffer. And I’m not saying that if your kids choose correctly that they will be guaranteed an income sufficient to meet their increasingly large needs. There are no silver bullets (never were). But I would say that as a parent, you would do well to educate them about the realities of the world, which are not as we grew up with them in the 70s and 80s and are not as they still remain in my beloved humanities. A humanities education builds character, but it does so in a vacuum created outside of the real world in an ivory tower whose walls are built on principles that are not as real as those inside think they are.

    My 2¢.


    • I agree it is totally NOT OKAY just to borrow a boatload of money and experiment freely! A person needs to get a cast iron grip on reality with respect to debt and debt service! It’s a much more complex decision chain today.

      Thank you so much Bill, for the thoughtful reply!


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