Jun 12, 2006
June – it’s the month that high schools graduate another senior class, parents relax a bit and graduates begin to discover what the future holds for them.
Of course, for those whose families have money, there is no question about what they will do. Their future has been prepared for them for many years – and the next step will take them to the university. For a lucky number from working class families who managed to get a decent enough education in the mostly bad schools in working class neighborhoods, college might also be on the agenda. But for the most part, it will be a different kind of school, and one they will pay for with long hours of work and loans putting them in debt for years.
But there are all the rest of the 18-year- olds in this country – those who only graduated from high school, and those who didn’t even get that far. What awaits them is a very uncertain labor market. They find employers who pay only the minimum wage – or just a little more, with no guarantee from one week to the next of how many hours they will work and how long they can keep the job.
Employers turn them away, saying they want someone with more science background, and more math, plus the ability to express themselves well in English.
More science? Yes, students graduating should have more science – lots more, and it should be up to date, taught by teachers competent in their field with materials and books that are up to date. But the schools to which many working class children are condemned – especially in the middle of big cities or in rural areas – barely teach science. In 2004, teachers at the elementary level devoted only 2.3 hours a week to science – and the time barely increases as students progress into the upper years in school. Textbooks? Many times the books are 30 years or older, in a field where information changes rapidly. That is, when the books haven’t been expurgated by religious fanatics who push to remove everything from science books which contradicts their superstitious view of the world.
Prospective employers act as though it’s the fault of new job applicants when they don’t express themselves well. Well? Give them schooling with plenty of interesting books to choose from, time to read them and talk about them, small enough classes so they can do it, and students will express themselves. But coming from boilerplate classes, filled with too many students, too few teachers and too little interesting material, they will be proficient only in the speech of the streets.
For many 18-year-olds this spring, their first taste of the job market lets them know that they have been betrayed – the efforts they made to get through school were not matched by the efforts this society made to give them the education they need. Not enough money was set aside so that every one of those 18-year-olds could today have the education required to live and function fully in a modern, technologically developed society.
And then some employer dares to fault them. No, fault the society that didn’t give them the preparation needed. Fault the biggest companies who drain off society’s wealth, stealing it from schools, medical care, and other essentials.
Let this generation of 18-year-olds, as they confront the job market, start with the assumption that society owes them a living. It owes them a job, and one with sufficient income. And if capitalist society doesn’t provide them a decent job, this generation should do what previous ones didn’t, but should have done – demand it. Stand out in the street and put society on notice they WILL have a job, they WILL have a decent standard of living. And they won’t pay the price for what society didn’t give them.