I am not an economist. But it doesn’t take an economist to realize that something is wrong with the economy. It doesn’t take an economist to realize that high unemployment is becoming a new standard, five years after the great crash of 2008. It doesn’t take an economist to realize that underemployment is becoming the new unemployment. And it doesn’t take an economist to realize that all of this is becoming the new normal.
That is depressing.
I realize I’m speaking from a position of privilege, someone who got a college degree, and didn’t have to dive deep into debt to do it. Someone who is currently getting their master’s degree thanks to fellowships and TA-ships. I grew up middle class. I’m also white and cis-gender.
I’m also aware of the fact that when I graduate in a year, with a master’s degree and a teaching license, I will be fighting tooth-and-nail for a job. I fully expect to send out upwards of 50 applications if I want to get one interview. And I’m scared shitless at the prospect that a year after I graduate with those degrees, I might still be unemployed.
Circumstance forces me to admit that I am one of the lucky ones.
And yet, the word “lucky” has a bitter taste of irony. Because in the same city where students are being squeezed into classrooms that don’t serve them, there have been 51 schools closed and 2,100 teachers laid off this year alone.
People tell me that I was silly to get a major in the humanities. Which is why I’m getting a teaching license. They tell me that I should have had a better plan. Except that this was my better plan – my original dream was to be a living history interpreter, which pays hourly. (Previous dreams included figure skater, singer, and writer, respectively. Society talked me out of them all.) They tell me that I should have had fail-safe career. Isn’t public education – an industry that our society is built on, and will always need – fail-safe?
I’m tired of being told that I should have been a STEM major. We can’t all be. We shouldn’t all be. This country, counter to current myth, is not going to shrivel up and die for lack of science and math folks. And what’s more, a STEM major doesn’t guarantee a job like the conventional wisdom says it does. 9% of computer science recent grads are unemployed and only 6% of theater majors are searching for jobs.
I’m tired of some careers being ranked as “smart” and “practical” and others being ranked as “stupid decisions.” I’m tired of different types of people being cast as “marketable” and others as “worthless.” I’m tired of various work being deemed to have more value than other work. I’m tired of being told by the older generations that we’re just not working hard enough, and we expect to have it all. I never thought I would have it all. But I did think that I would have half a shot at getting a full-time job when I graduated with a B.A.
It’s all backwards. It’s all wrong. And yet, wrong and backwards are the new norm.
Written by Laura Koroski
You can find more of her writings at her nerdy feminist blog, Challenge by Geek.