AMERICA'S EMPLOYMENT CRISIS
The jobs in this country that are unfilled number, according to one estimate, 4 million. That's 4 million, with six zeros! Although there are conservatively estimated to be around 10 million Americans who are currently unemployed, most are not a match for these positions. Why? Some say too many employers are looking for the "perfect candidate," while others contend that applicants are disinclined to move across the country in order to secure employment. Who knows?
The jobs that went unfilled in 2013 were primarily in the following areas: skilled trades (such as masonry, plumbing, and carpentry), sales, commercial driving, information technology, accounting and finance, engineering, medical technology, management, mechanics, and teaching.
It is interesting that over four times more Americans 25 years of age or older in 2010 had college degrees than those who had them in 1950. I doubt that the trend in favor of a college education has lessened much during the last three years. Every day we hear that large numbers of recent college grads are unable to find jobs. Have you ever wondered why?
I suspect that one source of the problem has to do with the liberal arts curriculum. I don’t deny that reading Plato, Chaucer, and Goethe, or studying Latin and Greek, or immersing oneself in the history of the Civil War, can enrich one’s life. Liberal arts is about examining life, and as Socrates stated long ago with profound insight: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Yet a liberal arts education is next to worthless as an aid to finding employment, especially in today’s economy.
When I speak of liberal arts, I am of course referring to a classic smorgasboard of disciplines, such as English, philosophy, math, science, and government. As a high school student, I remember reading Jacques Barzun’s essay, “The Misbehavorial Sciences,” and I decided then and there to pursue the liberal arts. I’ve not regretted the decision much, since I went to trade school thereafter to learn something about lawyering. That’s how I finally made my living.
Yet as most everything else in American society, the concept of a “liberal arts education” has been corrupted beyond repair. At present one can attend a prestigious university for four years and emerge with a degree in Queer Studies, African-American Studies, Latino Studies, Women’s Studies, Peace Studies, or in some other bizarre field in a vast array of suspicious academic departments, which comprise the distinctive intellectual ghettos of campus life. I don’t deny that such areas of “scholarship” may be of towering interest to faculty and students alike. They are! Indeed, if I were an African-American, I might have an interest in the origins of the spirituals, the blues, and rock ‘n roll; or if a Latino, in the sundry ways in which jalapeño and habañero peppers form an integral part of the Southwestern diet; or if a feminist, in an analysis of matriarchical society.
Yet to graduate from an expensive university with a degree that will not help in the least to find a job seems, to most, a questionable investment. It is almost hilarious to consider the colossal disjunction existing between employers and some applicants. Imagine, if you will, an interview of a recent university graduate conducted by a medium-sized Texas-based corporation, headquartered in Austin.
Interviewer: Mr. Hardwick, it is good to meet you. Would you briefly describe your educational background for me please?
Hardwick: Sure, I went to a Class 1A high school in Dawson, Texas. My parents stressed education to me and my siblings; so I was determined to attend college, although I wasn’t sure where I would go or what I would study. Someone suggested the University of Texas at Austin, so I was fortunate enough to be admitted there since I graduated in the top ten percent of my high school class. At the university, my major was undeclared for two years, but then I discovered Women’s and Gender Studies, and my interest skyrocketed. I graduated with high honors.
Interviewer: What is involved in that major?
Hardwick: It’s actually a bifurcated department as you can tell from the name. We had a number of individuals, primarily female, studying women’s issues. The courses were open to anyone; so I myself took a few of them. They stressed multicultural and trans-disciplinary scholarship and provided a novel perspective with which to understand sexual issues in our society.
Interviewer: I see. Did your degree emphasize women’s studies?
Hardwick: No, not at all. The weight of my attention was upon studies relevant to bisexuals, homosexuals, and transgendered persons in American life.
Interviewer: I see from your resume that you wrote a senior honor’s thesis.
Hardwick: Oh, yes! It was entitled “Queer Contributions to Fair Housing.” I surveyed the strategies that gay attorneys and lobbyists have used to overcome discrimination in housing. I even spent time during my final semester studying with Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, founder of what is widely known as "Queer Studies." (She is pictured at right.) There was a time in the not so distant past, you know, when nobody wanted to live next door to a gay person. I guess people thought that we would bite them or something. Homophobes are disgusting, aren't they?
Interviewer: Uh um. Well, basically, what do you think your educational background will qualify you to do for this company?
Hardwick: Oh, so many things! I could work in human resources and help to recruit qualified gays, lesbians, and transgendered persons to the workplace in order to develop diversity. I could also help to insure that discrimination is readily recognized and punished. I could be on the look out for those who speak in whispered tones regarding sexual minorities, using derogatory terms such as “Sodomites,” “batty boys,” “ballbreakers,” or “carpet munchers.” Plus, I’m just an all-around fast learner, who could probably be trained in management.
Interviewer: I see. Yours is a very interesting background. Thank you for your time today. We should make a decision on your application in 10 to 14 days. We’ll be sure to let you know.
(Hardwick exits, and Interviewer turns to his secretary.)
Interviewer: How did this guy get through the front door? Did Nancy Pelosi refer him, or what? I consider myself tolerant, but what a flamer!
Secretary: Well, Sir, his degree was with honors, and he was a White House intern last year. I didn’t know what his major was before this morning.
Interviewer: That’s fine, but find out next time before extending an invitation to interview. Maybe he can get a job in Mr. Obama’s "hope and change" administration, or work with Mr. Holder at Justice, or even pursue a Ph.D. in “teeny weeny” studies. I’m not going to interview another one of these clowns. Do you understand?
Secretary: Yessir, I do. I regret the inconvenience.
(A few days pass, and the telephone rings.)
Secretary: Sir, it is Mr. Hardwick.
Interviewer: Just take a message please.
(Secretary converses with Hardwick.)
Secretary (to Interviewer): Sir, he wanted you to know that he has decided to withdraw his application here and to seek ordination in the ministry, where he hopes to begin an LGBT outreach program.
Interviewer: Good for him. But “LGBT”? What the hell is that?
Secretary: I think it stands for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.”
Interviewer: I guessed for a moment it might be “Loons, Goofs, Buggers, and Tea Room Queens.”
Secretary: Sir, (with a smile) have you ever considered that you may be an incorrigible “homophobe”?
Interviewer: Yep, that’s exactly what I am! I’m scared to death of perverts, especially when they escape the closet. You think I could find a job in Russia?
Secretary: Shame on you, Sir.
Interviewer: Man, do I need a drink! By the way, ol' Johnny Walker Red is about empty here. Remind me to bring another tomorrow.
Ain't it great to be living in the USA?
February 16, 2014