Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Educated Poor...

A warm welcome to the world's latest socio-economic class: The educated poor. These are a proud, creative, and moody people with at least a bachelor's degree from a university (often masters and doctorates as well), who are, for one reason or another, unable to translate their eye-opening educations into meaningful and sustainable real-world employment. Instead, they work menial jobs or not at all, drifting through life in a personal fog of increasingly conflicting and irrelevant thoughts and ideals.

Blame the liberal arts curriculum. Blame the marketplace. Blame Gen X. Blame the blamers. Bottom line: a more highly educated poor population reflects the trend towards a more highly educated population in general. It also reflects a system that could give a shit.

I tend to look at the points of disconnect, the ignored spaces between established places, invisible realms where one can fall through the cracks. Despite a more highly educated population, we still live in a culture of obviousness, where concrete issues get the attention, where we address things we can see and point to, usually after the fact (naturally a war on terror would require a president who would through his words invoke the endlessly repeated footage of the twin towers coming down). Therefore, impending crises such as global warming are tough to sell because they are not "a gun pointed to our heads" (as Jonesie so aptly put it on his radio show yesterday). Similarly, the idea of a culture that fails to embrace many of it's educated members is a counter-intuitive idea that simply falls through the cracks.

So Johnny Dartmouth, until you find some ugly way to get yourself on the nightly news, you may as well keep shelving those Ding Dongs, and curl up with your books and your ideals to keep you warm at night. It's going to be a long winter.


Anonymous thoughtsurfer said...

Thank you for making such a site. I'm rank and file educated poor. I have a B.A. in film studies (kinda)and know more useless facts than 90% of the population. I have never made more than $13 an hour in the last 20 years of post-graduation. I've been unemployed going on 7 months. I suffer from depression and have to get my meds from the county hospital. That's no fun. I do independent videos on the side. That's one of few things that keeps me going.

12:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Both my wife and I are educated poor. I have a BS in Journalism. I worked at a paper for a few years ($10 an hour). I have a teaching certificate and make $17,000 a year. My wife has a triple major BA in French, Political Science and Drama. She has an MA in Drama. She now has a teaching certification for Pre-3 and a reading endorsement. She can't find a job outside of subbing.

We both work very hard. During my latest attempt at self improvement, I worked three jobs-nights and days, 7 days a week and took 9 credits on average. Many nights during the week I only slept on average 2 hours and 30 minutes. Then I woke up, slammed coffee and did the whole thing again. On weekends, I got to sleep in for 6 hours a night. I barely had enough time to see my kids. The time I did spend with them wasn't quality time. I would fall asleep.

I had to give up the two other jobs which has created a major finacial burden for my family. I feel like a failure because I can't work 90 plus hours a week and go to school.

All these years working toward a degree and later certification and we still qualify for WIC. Going to the grocery store and watching people roll their eyes as we buy eggs, milk and cereal for the boys is always a good time. I had someon stop once and tell me to get a job.

Sorry. This sounds like a never ending sob story. I do have a wonderful wife, two little boys who are healthy, and a family who is very supportive and helpful.

10:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My wife and I would qualify as "educated poor".

It was the educated poor of the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth centuries who created the labor movement. If we can get over our pretentiousness we can be the leaders people in working poverty with less education really need.

The media tries to sell the notion of being a pretentious hipster to the educated poor. But if we feel superior to our co-workers, and separate from them, we will not make the best use of the position we are in.

I have been expanding the union at my employer, I keep coworkers whose ignorance is sometimes taken advantage of informed of their rights, procedures, labor law, etc that their supervisors regularly try to violate. We can do a lot of good, I have, and I don't even really try that hard.

If the numbers of the educated poor increase, fall out of or can't get entry into the middle class, there will only be more trouble makers like myself mining away underneath the power of low wage employers. If the trend continues, it will just create another labor movement. I'm not expecting it to happen fast or have any easy victories, but the last time the labor movement happened it took decades and many failures and tragedies before there was any kind of success.

But the end result of that last time of success was a generation where the middle class in America was at it's largest, with many working class professions as middle class professions.

We can by our words and actions bring meaning to our circumstances.

10:18 PM  

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