Saturday, January 22, 2005

degree plans

i've been looking at degree plans -- majors.

this semester should be my last at harvard on the highway. thank the motherfucking lord, because this school is -so- backwards. anyway, that's a different rant.

i've been looking at three, all leading either to a bachelor of arts or bachelor of science: my first choice some time ago, political science. my later interest, history. and my most recent interest, geology.

sue (my wife for the uninformed), however, has a different idea.

she wants me to finish my college career at least for the short term at harvard on the highway with their associate of arts, so that i can get out there and get a $50k job so she can stay home with the kids like she wants.

an admirable goal, you know, being a stay-at-home mom. my only problem with it is that it's not reality.

i've been going to school part time off and on for a decade. in the last two years i've renewed my interest and attitude toward it, and done remarkably well: i've earned a 2.68 gpa in those two years (and my overall is slightly higher, 2.74). yeah, that's about a c average, but considering that i failed every class i took in high school starting in my sophomore year, that's pretty amazing. and i managed to earn a 3.0 last semester.

i'd like to graduate with a bachelor's degree before i turn 40. i'm now 30. at the end of this semester, assuming i pass everything, i will have earned 59 credit hours. most bachelor's degrees require between 120 and 128 credit hours, of which at least 32 must be upper-division courses. so i'll be just short of half way to my goal, with most of my lower-division stuff done, and all my upper-division stuff to go (because community colleges do not offer upper-division courses, for the most part), no matter what major i choose.

if i went for, say, six hours a semester (the minimum needed to hold my student loans in place), i'd wind up having to go 10 or 11 more semesters -- another five to six years, while working full time on top.

right now, sue works full time and i go to school full time. she's got a bachelor's degree, and doesn't think she uses it, although it's gotten her a $50k/yr job that has a BA as a minimum requirement. so she doesn't teach english, but she needed to have it to even be interviewed for her job.

i, on the other hand, would have, at the end of this semester, even less than associates degree. "oh i have 60 hours of college" doesn't mean anything in an interview. neither, i've found, does an associates degree.

to support her in the manner to which she would like to become accustomed, i'd need to earn something on the order of $60k/yr. and the bottom-line truth is that, at least where i live, people with associates degrees don't make that unless they work lots of overtime at home depot.

her attitude really pisses me off because she fails to recognize the common realities of work today:

- companies have no loyalty to employees; any pronouncements that they do are bullshit.
- the ideal that you worked 20 or 30 years for your company and then retired to a nice pension is now bullshit. it doesn't happen.
- the ideal that if you do a good job you'll be rewarded for doing it is bullshit.

the truth is that companies today are loyal only to their bottom line. that's why, at sue's office, they're doing a round of layoffs of a full one third of the people at her level. so her chances are one in three of job having a job come march. will she even think about putting together a resume? ha.

and the experience at her office bears that out in other ways: sprint has closed most of their united states call centers, and is opening new ones in places like india, trinidad, and the phillipines. when layoffs happen and call centers close, there's little if any severance; no retraining; no opportunity to find other positions within the company. you're just thrown away, no matter your experience, position, or level of performance in your job. you're a commodity to be replaced with another interchangable part from anywhere where the accent isn't too thick.

the average employee changes jobs -- even careers -- many times over a lifetime now. that's certainly been the case with me. studies are also showing, if you bother to read the business news, that workers who have college degrees do far and away better than workers without them. workers without degrees will be stuck in dead-end, low-paying service sector jobs that do not have any opportunity for advancement, no long-term prospects of personal and professional growth, and no long-term prospects for sufficient wealth-generation to do any better than paycheck-to-paycheck.

in texas, we've gone from being a one-party democratic state (that votes republican for president) to being a one-party republican state (that votes republican for president). now that the republicans are in power, and even to a large extent when the democrats held sway here, we're seeing a not-so-gradual erosion of all systems of public assistance. health budgets are being cut (which winds up costing billions more over the long term in sickness and preventable disease in people who can't afford routine health care because their dead-end service-sector jobs don't provide meaningful health insurance).

the only way out of this situation is to get a reasonable education (which is also becoming more and more unobtainable as costs skyrocket and state support goes away).

what the republicans in texas and elsewhere fail to realize, with their mania for "getting government off our backs" and increasing costs to end-users of state services, is that there are many things that, in truth, are too expensive to be paid for only by the user, but that benefit society as a whole, so that the cost should be paid for by society as a whole, for the benefit of all.

therein lies a fundamental difference between me and the democrats i vote for, and the republicans now in austin cutting my access to health care and education: i believe that the purpose of government is to fund societal needs that benefit everyone but are too expensive for individuals to afford. the republicans seem to believe that the purpose of government is to promote business.

so sue fails to understand the fundamental reality: her dad retired after 25 years in the air force. she thinks that she'll be able to work for sprint for another 15 or 20 years and then retire comfortably. the reality is that it won't happen. she'll be laid off eventually if she doesn't find another job first, if not this time, then next time or the time after that or the time after that.

so sue's falling for that same old trap doesn't do our family any good long term. what will do us longer-term good is finishing school the way i plan, and moving on to the graduate school program i've chosen.

i wish i knew how to make her understand that. she simply refuses to look.

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