Thursday, September 08, 2016

A little realization

My campus' homepage - and for all I know, all campuses do something similar - has photos and little blurbs about graduates of different programs. (Ours is on a rotating banner thing. Occasionally the plugin that runs it hangs up and makes the page slow to load).

Anyway, I realized something this morning, looking at a photo of a grinning fishing guide/professional fisherman: they are only posting the "sexy" careers. There's no photo of my department's excellent former student who is now teaching at a community college. There's no photo of anyone working in an office. Heck, there aren't any photos of nurses....

And this is how things get distorted, I think. I've often railed about college athletes and how some of them (not all, thank goodness) think they are God's gift to humanity, and how they're super important and should be given automatic passes in classes (I once had a student like that) because they're Important. When in reality, 99% of of them will NOT go on to pro sports - they will wind up as kinesiologists, or high school coaches, or maybe car salespeople. In other words, kinda like the rest of us shlubs without athletic talent. Similarly, people in the theater and music programs here are often counseled to also take business classes, because there are a lot more careers in managing "talent" than in being it. (My own cousin, a gifted singer who probably should have a good classical career, is working advertising).

But of course, what is lauded is not the dude who gets up and goes in to his psychology counseling office every day to help people, or the woman who keeps the books honestly and assiduously for several businesses, or even, for that matter, the parent who is raising their kid to be a decent human being instead of a little terror (and the older I get, and the more college students I work with, the more I can see a big difference between people who had parents who *parented* and parents who let their kids run the show). It's the "cool" jobs. It's the stuff that gets people media attention. And I wonder - how many of us (and I include myself in this) spend some of our time feeling vaguely dissatisfied, either that our jobs aren't that exciting, or, as is more often my case, that we're failing to make much of a difference? (Though I would argue a good hospice nurse makes FAR more difference to people than a professional fisherman, it's just the hospice nurse never gets his or her picture posted somewhere)

I think the rise of media (as compared to how it was, say, 100 years ago) has done a lot to distort things. I think of the student I once had who asked me in lab, "Is this like what a pathologist would do?" and I said I didn't know, I'd have to look up the daily activities of a pathologist (we were staining bacteria at the time). I later mentioned the odd question to my advisor and he then showed me a list that came out in a news magazine of "top earning jobs in different fields" and you can probably guess what was on the list for "biology...."

I also think of the student of a buddy of mine - he taught at a community college in Illinois that was colloquially known as "Last Chance Community College" and got some, shall we say, interesting, students. One student once commented how "no one in movies is ever shown brushing their teeth" which was apparently a big epiphany to this student (that movies aren't exactly like real life) but I also see something symbolic in that - in the sense of what media chooses to emphasize. Brushing your teeth is super important (says the woman with four crowns and two fillings) but it's not afforded that importance. It's not cool or "sexy." And a lot of the important jobs, in the sense of providing a service to others and keeping the world running aren't cool or "sexy" so instead the students visiting our website see "hey, I could become a commercial pilot and fly around the world" or "hey I could catch big fish for a living and have corporate sponsors" or "I could have a singing career."

I don't know where I'm going with this other than to note that it does give an unrealistic view of what most people will wind up doing, but also that it's slightly sad that there aren't any judges or hospice nurses or schoolteachers or members of the military on that rotation....

1 comment:

purlewe said...

Something you said sparked a thought. A friend of mine sent her kids to school this week. She made her 1st grader a list of things to do to be ready in the morning. She didn't write: comb hair. When he came downstairs she asked if he had combed his hair. Wasn't on the list. But do you have hair on your head? yes. then comb your hair. It wasn't on the list.

I wonder if "being successful" is a mantra people say but they forget that being a good citizen or being a good neighbor or being a good parent or a good college student isn't considered to be on the list. it doesn't earn them money. it isn't on the list.

that might be too pessimistic, but maybe it leans towards the truth.