Gawker's "Unemployed Stories" series, and what's the value of college these days?

by Peter Marus

I am a big fan of’s series of articles about stories of the unemployed.  People write in and vent/tell their stories about being out of work in this country and economy.  It’s a series that pulls out so many emotions-anger, sadness, empathy-from me as I read the stories.  It’s sometimes hard to read, because I can relate to some of the stories.  I actually wrote to the editor my story, and the editor said it should be up at some point (he has others to put up first).  I wrote it last week, since I thought it would be a good exercise.  I may post it here later this week, after it’s posted on their site.  I found writing it somewhat emotional, but also I found it a good thing.  I got into quite a bit more details about what happened at my job, more than I usually have in writing.  It made me relive in my head some of the moments that led me to leave that company, which also helped me get over the anger and frustrations I felt when I thought of that company.  I was happy to add another voice to the stories of the unemployed, which there are hundreds, if not thousands, of the voiceless out there.

Another fascinating aspect are the comments people leave in the comments section.  As with the article and stories themselves, the comments are full of different emotions.  Some people empathize with the writers, some don’t.  Some have no sympathy for the unemployed.  Why should they, they have jobs and are probably the same people I vented about months ago: they got their jobs through daddy, or are spineless sellouts/whores who did all they could to hang on to their jobs.  It’s a good look into the minds of people on both ends of the spectrum in society.

One story spoke about a woman who had three majors, and a couple minors from college (mostly liberal arts-type), and how she was not prepared for real life after work.  In the comments this led to the “you should have majored in a real major” remarks, or the “you should have worked harder in college and took advantage of what they had to offer to help you” remarks.  But there were also the “college sucks and does nothing for employment” and other anti-college comments.  To be honest, I agree with the anti-college people to a point.  

I think there is a level of need for a “college level” education, but I think that the current system is irreparably broken.  I saw this when I was in college over ten years ago.  Part of the problem is that, like most things during my generation, what the previous generation did/experienced is irrelevant for my generation, but the “old ways” are still used and pushed on today’s society.  It used to mean a ton to have a degree from a college, almost gave you a job straight out of college.  Now with the number of people going to college, as well as the amount of schools out there, the college degree is equal to what the high school diploma was a generation ago-nice to have, but the minimum you should have education wise.  Even a Master’s degree isn’t a guarantee you got a job-sometimes it’s a major detriment.  It used to be that you go to school, get your degree, get a job.  Now it’s you go to school, get into debt from school, get any job (90-95% not in the field you want) and try to pay off your debts to the bank, then maybe try to get that dream job if you aren’t bitter or burnt out from trying.  

You would think that with the current situation in this country, there would be change, but there isn’t.  I think it’s a huge blessing to banks and schools.  With people being pushed to “retrain for the jobs of tomorrow” (which no one knows what they are, so what the Hell are people training for?), schools get an influx of new students-and tuition payments-and banks get new people to loan money to and hold as almost slaves for years.  So why would schools want the system even looked at?  Why would bank want anything changed since loans payments are a nice profit center?  

Schools don’t prepare kids for work, they teach them something sure, but they don’t prepare them to make a resume, look for work, etc.  Kids come out of school and due to the message of the old ways, almost expect a job or feel entitled to one.  Schools almost NEVER show a kid reality.  It’s like the Matrix, and the kid was just brought to the “real world”.  Schools say they have programs or services to help prepare kids, but they aren’t really advertised or promoted on campus much (though they should be REQUIRED!! Much more than the bullshit electives freshman or sophomores are required to take).  I hated that: I went to college to learn TV, but I didn’t until almost my junior year.  Most of my classes my first two years were glorified High School classes, that really didn’t add anything to my experience.  

I think the current system is here for another reason: to keep the youth from being unemployed, and driving the unemployment rate through the roof.  I think it’s there to keep the youth dumb and let them sow their oats, rather than learning something useful or working.  Look at Spain and Greece, where the youth unemployment rate is over 50%, and they are starting to revolt.  That is something the US is afraid could happen here.  College is pushed on the youth as an “experience”, and it is, but what isn’t pushed as well as “experience life on your own, but prepare for your life”.  My High School has the motto “not for school, but for life”, and I WISH colleges had that a as staple of their philosophies.   It’s enraging how most colleges cry poor, but the tuitions and endowments they have are anything but.  

I don’t have a solution for what to do.  I will say those on college for a certain job should call/email/talk to anyone in the field they want to get into and find out everything they can do to get into any job out of college.  That’s how most people got their jobs in the past.  Most asked how, many volunteered their time to apprentice (that’s an old way of saying “intern”), and got in at the bottom.  This old-school thinking should be pushed.  Or entrepreneurship should also be pushed-make you job, not look for it.  

Don’t get me wrong, I still think in the end college is important.  Even going away for it is important-I enjoyed the Hell out of it.  But there has to be a “shock” to the kids to get their acts together and more programs and required classes to get kids ready to enter real life as normal people, not the entitled dumbass babies that are coming out now.