“You can be anything you want to be. The sky’s the limit”
Most of us heard that at some point during childhood, be it from parent, teacher, or a one the felt-covered puppets on Sesame Street. Some believe it; some call it the first of many of life’s little lies. Regardless, it’s what the American dream was founded on. But believe in the philosophy or not, it’s painfully obvious that “putting your mind to it” doesn’t just warrant success anymore, especially for a young generation entering a brave new world with a rocky economy that’s sliding into unexplored territory.
In something I read recently, writer Joel Kotkin pointed out that strenuous economic circumstances –including an overburdened job market, fiscal mismanagement of previous generations and a national college student loan debt that topped $1 trillion this year – have shaped what he calls “the screwed generation.” His arguments cite the obstacles faced by college graduates entering an economy that has little to offer in terms of employment and to top it, dwindling social security benefits and pension cuts are keeping older generations (also being screwed) in the labor market longer, making it nearly impossible for anyone in their 20s and 30s to pay back those student loans.
Millennials are destined to inherit a mountain of personal and national debt. It’s a rough for them to start to a new life. Baby giraffes fall seven feet when they’re born and even that, I think, is the start of a more promising future. It’s only a matter of time before this inability to pay their dues makes a further dent on the American economy in the same way the housing market did in 2008.
Perhaps little Timmy shouldn’t be taught that he could be anything he wants to be, especially if he’s destined to join the ranks of Generation Screwed; but that doesn’t mean we ignore the problem. We can prevent similar circumstances for future youth. So what can be done to keep future generations from being thrown under the tires of a moving bus? It’s a contested theory, but maybe we should ease up a little on pressuring high school students to pursue a four-year degree after high school. No, I’m not denouncing the value of higher education by any means, and the college experience brings to light out-of-textbook experiences young people can’t get anywhere else; but there’s a fair share of students who are forced into a four-year institution because a BA was worth its weight in gold in their parents’ day.
In the present, BA holders are a dime a dozen and there’s no such thing as guaranteed success for college graduates. Students who would have been better off learning a trade or attending a two-year college are instead left with a mountain of student debt, the education they gained has little value to them and what’s worse, the career path they “chose” makes them miserable.
Some researchers are saying that creativity, not formal educational training, is the key facet in making potential employees more marketable. I happen to fall in line with these claims. Yet, for some reason, many people have a tendency to blame the economy, politics and public education first when it comes to the screwed generation; but sometimes, complicated problems require some of the least complicated solutions. To prevent further growth of Generation Screwed, the answer might be as simple an education that begins at home. Parents should invoke creativity, read to their kids, give their kids a blank piece of paper and tell them to draw something – anything that lets them be innovative.
There’s no such thing as a quick fix to an obvious problem, but it doesn’t mean we need to keep following the path we’re on.
Follow me on Twitter ... @evesunshawn.