Author Andrew Delbanco of Columbia University (College: What it Was, Is and Should Be), a critique of today’s failed higher education system, got caught up in a lively discussion on the Diane Rehm Show (NPR – 7/12/12). The conversation gravitated past the parameters of his book. Listeners phoning voiced desperation over their work and social lives as they have evolved from the promises of the 1980s and 90s. Upon stepping out of academia into the real world in a time of exciting futures and fair horizons they expected education to be the salvation of our society and offer them a prosperous life.
Instead they are left with a culture of constant competition (a few BIG winners but MANY losers). Instead of a solid education insuring a good secure life, they are forced to work in a “piece work system” (Dr. Delbanco) of short term employment, switching careers continually and often retraining so rapidly they are never free from debt.
The Professor’s book highlights an academic life of tenure and institutional involvement; now shattered in favor of big endowments and super sports budgets for management and of part time, minimum wage and very short term teaching opportunities for educators, where student follow-up is rendered impossible.
But as many of Diane’s callers, outsiders to academia, pointed out: “welcome to our world” life with no security, few rewards and little or no chance at happiness! In today’s new world order you and I are nothing but commodities. We can be tolerated only as long as we are winners, cutting edge and above all – profitable. We are no longer physicians, mechanics, modelers, seaman, truckers – our task is to harvest wealth and pass it on to investors and venture capitalist. When we become a “lesser” producer, a slower worker, a dull edge – we are out. And thanks to computer software the “company” knows that date even BEFORE we are hired. Job applicants are computer rated Red – Yellow – Green. Only greens get hired. That means if you have a spot of bad credit or a Workman’s Compensation claim you are “RED;” forever unemployable.
Does all this sound like a nightmare? Problem is: when you wake up from this one you’re just awake.
In this piece work world, the system will have crushed opposition and the only voice you have speaking for you (Unions) will soon be gone. Even these bastions of labor, long ago commoditized their members and shut out most working people. Any political person fighting for you will soon be gone, carried away by the sea of cash required to keep his/her job. Some, like Romney, will promise you jobs if you vote for them; not mentioning in the years before office they and their supporters exported millions of jobs to China and India; jobs just like the one they are promising you now. By this time next year, we will all understand: America’s become life with no security, no professional satisfaction, and no permanence; citizens competing forever in a “piece work world,” with every day a new start and every night a dead end. What have we done to ourselves – For God’s Sake!
AFTER NOTE: To the credit of “we the people” some unable to find real careers have entrepreneured themselves, mostly through internet business or services opportunities such a lice picking, to better than survival status.
Dr. Britt Minshall is an author of several books and a speaker on societal behaviors impacting politics, religion and wealth. He travels and ministers extensively in Haiti. He is a Pastor Emeritus in The United Church of Christ, a Minister in the Full Gospel Fellowship and a regular contributor on Fox Television Network, Public Radio, and National media. He is also a former Security Agency operator and INTERPOL Officer. His police career was compromised when he became a Freedom Rider in the mid- sixties.
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