While I have spent a Facebook post or two poking fun at the “Occupy Wall Street” crowd over the past couple of days, there is one subgroup among the crowds there that I do have some degree of sympathy for. It’s not George Soros’s professional activist bunch, nor is it the unions. It also isn’t the people who show up at protests even if they don’t know what they’re protesting, just because they think protests and raging against “the man” are cool.
Among the crowd, however, is a subset of people who are genuinely scared for their own personal futures. Many of them are recent college graduates, who have now have student loans coming due, but have no way of paying for them. Tea Party people can identify with that sort of thing, since we have that sort of fear for the country with its mounting debt, and in some cases, personally as well. (For the moment, I am thankfully not among that crowd with personal financial worries.)
For the people in that group who are currently directing their angst at corporate America, I have one simple question: Has any corporation ever taken tens of thousands of dollars directly from you, and made you spend four or more years of your life essentially working for them, and then given you absolutely nothing in return? Corporate America didn’t do that to you, but it’s quite possible that your college did exactly that.
For decades, people have been sold on the necessity of getting a four-year degree. It doesn’t even matter in what, they say, just get a degree and you’re set for the real world. Well, it isn’t proving to be quite that simple in the real world. Many of these recent grads are finding out that there isn’t much call for philosophers at Proctor and Gamble. 3M doesn’t exactly have a division where that Women’s Studies degree is going to get you a leg up on the other applicants, either. Art History is a great degree if you want to be a museum curator, but not so much if you want to be -- well, anything else, really. It isn’t the fault of corporate America that they don’t have use for these skills; it's the fault of the school that didn’t bother to tell you that part.
College is supposed to prepare a person for the real world, but many are failing to do so. They are perfectly willing to let people throw money at them, and give them completely worthless degrees in return. It’s not like they particularly care, as long as they get your money. Kinda sounds like the protesters’ view of corporate America, doesn’t it?
The only thing worse than getting a worthless degree is getting one in Economics or Political Science; instead of teaching people how to survive and thrive in a capitalist economy such as ours, they teach the students to hate it instead, for all the good that will do. As a software developer, I would liken it to taking a two-week course in Java programming, and having the instructor for the class spend the entire two weeks telling me that Java is worthless and teaching me Cobol instead. If the instructor did that, I'd demand my money back. Getting an Econ or PoliSci degree is just that on a larger scale. The students may leave understanding why socialism is such a great system in theory (never mind that it all falls apart once reality creeps into it), but much to their chagrin, they are still being let loose into a capitalist world with nothing to build on.
So to those students with degrees and no jobs, I would suggest that maybe they leave Wall Street alone and protest Harvard instead. They are the ones who are taking people’s money and not delivering on their end of the deal.