Essential Workers: A Public Letter in Response to David Reynaldo (College Zoom) and Yahoo!


Earlier this week, Yahoo! published some of the worst advice for parents and for young adults regarding education and employment that I’ve seen in years (here: http://education.yahoo.net/articles/beware_these_five_majors.htm?kid=1O0V3). It isn’t just bad advice with worse information. It betrays a mercenary, simple view of life and the nature of happiness itself.

I responded viscerally, in the best 21st century fashion: twitter.

But, I am an essential worker.

*Bad* advice in this article. Absolutely sad.

Don’t Let Your Kids Study These Majors http://education.yahoo.net/articles/beware_these_five_majors.htm …

David Reynaldo, the gentleman quoted in the article, who founded CollegeZoom.us, responded to my tweet with a link to a blog post he wrote prior to the Yahoo article.

(Here: http://www.collegezoom.us/strategy/top-7-reasons-students-choose-wrong-major/)

It’s a very good list with sound advice.

The Yahoo! journalist edited Reynaldo’s views apparently to create (I assume) a more sensational article which would drive traffic on the site. My theories about the author, her editor, and the intention of the quotes are entirely subjective. I can say, however, that Reynaldo himself was dismayed.

(See his response here: http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/parents-forum/1504970-hey-parents.html)

David asked me what I think given his earlier blog post and his response in the discussion thread.

I think a number of things, but I’ll try to keep it somewhat brief.

~~

Dear David,

I appreciate your post on collegezoom.us regarding the Yahoo article’s advice for choosing a major in college. I find it difficult to comment on the article because the assertions it makes are both professionally inaccurate and, worse, morally vapid. Please note, I do not say that I believe your comments were ill-informed or shallow. The author of the article, however, certainly spun the meaning she wanted to attain the most catchy headline.

Sadly, for so many of us, it probably worked.

To begin with the easy stuff –

Her promises of high paying jobs from bachelors of arts in finance, accounting, or business administration are empty. Any position with real authority, and therefore, real earning power, in those departments will be staffed with someone who has a Masters of Business Administration. Business people, myself included, find BAs in Business Administration even funnier than Basket Weaving. If you want to learn how business works, get a job, almost any job will do. Start at the bottom – like everyone else – and figure out what makes work work.

Degrees in Elementary Education are similarly empty, but for very different and more sinister reasons. The legal environment in which teachers work today makes it almost impossible for a teacher to create their own lesson plans or their own motivational tactics. Unless one works for a private school (which pays far less, and probably has fewer benefits), the school district will tell you what you will teach, what materials you will use, and how you will use incentives. A teacher has very little opportunity to teach anymore. A degree in this field helps one pass the tests to become credentialed in one’s state, but little more. Incidentally, the degree does not guarantee you will pass these tests, nor is the degree in education required to take these tests.

As for health care industry jobs, there are a plethora of technical schools to fulfill the requirements  for these positions.  A four year degree is not necessary, and is very expensive. If one wants to continue into hospital administration, one will likely need an MBA, and possibly a law or medical degree as well.

The fundamental assumptions and assertions made in the article are naive.

The truly horrifying component of the piece, however, is more insidious.

The implication is that one only goes to school to be able to make more money, and that the only path to success and happiness is paved with wads of cash. Despite many studies and generations of folklore to the contrary, many people still fall for the more money = more happiness illusion. People fall for it every day.

The disdain in the article for the arts and humanities demonstrated by the author reveals a lack of humanity. For what is it that we live, if not for the very things we require art and histories to discuss? Money can pay your mortgage – and your student loans – but it can never buy you honor, respect, sincere affection, gratitude, or peace.

The arts and humanities may or (more often) may not pay well in cash, but one only goes into those fields professionally for money if one is a true narcissist — in which case, one probably chooses the route of YouTube, reality TV, or politics to gain fame.

An education in the liberal arts feeds the mind and soul, and teaches one how to continue feeding one’s self long after graduation.

Not to mention, it’s much more interesting to talk to a history major than an accountant.

My college advice, for whatever its worth, to parents would be this:

Urge your son or daughter to postpone enrollment in college of any kind until she is certain of her passion or interest.

Provide her with realistic information about the potential risks and benefits of the course of study.

And then –

Back off.

Let your child become the individual he or she wants to be, regardless of your fears.

Thank you for your consideration, and,

Best Regards,

Shannon Christensen

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About Shannon Blue Christensen

Storyteller. Author. Editor. Literary Critic. Director. Teacher. Knitter. nascent Musician. Student. Operations and Quality. Marketing. Historian. Lear's Fool. View all posts by Shannon Blue Christensen

2 responses to “Essential Workers: A Public Letter in Response to David Reynaldo (College Zoom) and Yahoo!

  • davidreynaldo

    Dear Shannon,
    Thank you for your beautiful post. So eloquently stated.
    The more money = more happiness illusion:
    Two years ago, I met a very amicable student at UCLA. He proudly told me that he was studying finance to provide for his future children what his parents couldn’t afford to provide for him. He smiled and ambitiously said, “As wealthy as possible; nothing will ever be enough,” when I asked him how wealthy he wanted to become. Then, something about his personality compelled me to follow up with the question: “Did you grow up in a home with a lot of love?” Without missing a beat, he told me there was a ton of love in his home. His family didn’t have much, but they had each other. I warmly encouraged him to pursue his dream, but I also cautioned him not to forget that if he grew up in a home with lots of love, it was because his parents were around, and not the nanny who would have been hired had they been out chasing money. He was quite for a minute after I said that. But, I could see in he was deep in thought.
    There’s a Dalai Lama quote I see surface on social media each time a similar light bulb turns on in someone’s mind. The quote goes: “The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, he said: ‘Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And, then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.’”
A commencement speech I heart at Loyola Marymount University’s graduation ceremony last year echoed a similar sentiment on the topic of patriotism and efficiency. The speaker said, “The arts don’t do anything to defend the nation, but they make the nation worth defending.”
    And, I love Pablo Picasso’s famous words, “All children are born artists, the problem is to remain an artist as we grow up” (i.e. educated out of our creativity).
    I’d piggy-back on your advice to parents and students, adding that once students have identified their interests and passions, some of them may not have to compromise on any of their dreams (including the lifestyle they dream about) if they have an enterprising spirit, are savvy, and position themselves well.
    Students must know: money and passion can co-exist, because any student who has the desire to create value for others has the potential to become an entrepreneur. Although that path is not right for everyone.
    To the students with an enterprising spirit: an entrepreneurship professor changed my perception of money when I studied business at the University of Southern California. Similar to what you expressed, entrepreneurship may or may not pay well in cash, but one only goes into entrepreneurship primarily for money if one is a true narcissist — in which case, he or she probably has his or her own idea of what’s best for customers rather than actually listening to and servicing the customers’ actual needs. This professor urged the class to substitute the word “money” with the word “value” whenever thinking about a business exchange. An individual and a business exchange value.
    Some months later, as the class got into full swing, the same professor asked my class why all of us were so timid in making our assigned sales calls to our would-be customers. One of my classmates responded that he felt weird asking people to give him money. The class agreed. The professor, in turn, asked, “How many of you passionately believe you’re selling a product or service that will make people’s lives better?” Every hand was raised. He then asked, “Why wouldn’t you want to share your product or service with others if you know it will make their lives better?” Light bulbs lit up around the room. The message was clear. Money is not the focal point, it is the byproduct of bettering others.
    Sometime around my senior year, my entrepreneurship classes inspired another realization. With today’s technological advancements, creating a scalable business that can create value for others while you sleep is more actionable than ever. More money doesn’t necessarily mean more work anymore. So I would implore enterprising students to explore how their passion and interests can be channeled to create something that makes not just 100 people’s lives better, but also has the potential to make 1 million people’s lives better or every person in the world better.
    John Adams, Second President of the United States, once said, “I must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematicks and Philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and Philosophy, Geography, natural History, naval Architecture, navigation, Commerce and Agriculature, in order to give their Children a right to study Painting, Poetry, Musick, Architecture, Statuary, Tapestry and Porcelaine.”
    My advice would be that, in today’s world, any student with an enterprising spirit who has ever dreamt of a comfortable lifestyle and the ability to live out one’s passion every day at work can have it all. It’ll take hard work, determination, and luck. And, the journey isn’t for everyone. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. However, any student with the core desire to serve by applying his or her interests and passion to create something of value for others has the potential to make it happen.
    Sincerely,
    David Reynaldo

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