I was poking around to see if Paula Hawks’ invisible campaign had bubbled up and shown any signs of life this month, and I was pointed back to something I’d written about earlier, where announced she was going to introduce a “Bernie Sanders-eque” resolution this next legislative session on college debt.
What has me revisiting the topic was one of the damndest misconceptions I think I’ve ever heard uttered from an elected official. I’ve been around 27 years, so that says it’s pretty darned goofy. From SDPB Radio’s website, the Paula Hawks theory of economics:
“Those kids who are choosing not to go to college because they can’t handle the debt or because they can’t secure the loans are stymied in their approach to economic development for themselves, and that slows down the process of economic development for everybody,” Hawks says. “And those kids who are finishing college and are saddled with that debt are not contributing to economic growth in South Dakota, because they can’t buy houses, they can’t buy cars, they can’t pursue their dreams and their ideals and what they hoped for having gone through college and being promised a great job with a great pay.”
I think there’s a lot wrong with that statement we can examine. but first and foremost, her claim of college students “having gone through college and being promised a great job with a great pay.”
Who promised anyone “great jobs?” I mean, seriously? I had previously known of no one at SDSU when I attended who walked into my classroom and said “Here’s a great job for you, and here’s a great job for you, and so on.” Clearly, I should have gone to Paula’s classes, because hers came with the magic job fairy who skipped over the political science department.
Paula’s theory of economics ignores the fact that in the real world, going to a school generally doesn’t promise you anything. Anything at all. Attending a college or university is not a guarantee of a darned thing. What does it mean? It means that on average, your economic opportunities are greater. As you can see from this chart…
… on average, the more education you have, the less likely you are to suffer from unemployment, and the more likely you are able to attain a higher salary. But, again, I don’t see anywhere where it promises anyone anything, despite her claims of people “being promised a great job with a great pay.”
Attending College provides an education, which is never a bad thing. And it opens up doors for opportunity. There may be jobs here and there. Or not, and to take a job, you have to travel away from your home, or across the country.
There is no societal responsibility on whether you take a certain kind of job. Whether to take an opportunity is up to the individual. You might take a mediocre job and try to move up in pay and responsibility. Or you do something until you can find something better. Or you can’t find a darn thing in your area, and you’re delivering pizza because you want to live in the area. That’s kind of up to you.
Paula Hawks may believe as she’d stated that people were promised things. But those of us who live in the real world know generally, no one has promised anyone anything. And it’s up to each of us to take opportunities, or to make our own.
That’s what people used to believe in America. Maybe it’s time they – including Paula – need to start considering the concept again.