Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Earning and Learning What Our Culture Values

New list out on TIME.com this morning shares the ten top earning college degrees and the ten lowest paying degrees.

Highest Earning Majors

Lowest-Earning Majors

I was stunned to see that 8 of the top 10 are Engineering degrees, not shocked though that all of the top ten require a heavy dose of Math and Science.
To be sure, we need engineers and I know that the work they do is invaluable for every facet of life, so I don't have any problem with them being well compensated for their work. What disheartened me most is the second list. The 10 lowest earning college degrees. There is nothing shocking here either-I know how poorly people in these professions are paid, but I can't ignore it and I can't stop thinking about the constant message the low wages and often rotten working conditions of these professions sends out to students pursuing their educations and to the world in general about what our culture values most and what it values least.
The Washington Post in relating this same information actually had the nerve to refer to some of these majors as "Fluffy." Pardon me? I dare any electrical engineer to go on a home visit with one of my social worker friends and remove a battered, lice ridden child from drug addled, abusive parents. It is with a true sense of pride that I see how many young men and women continue to pursue professional life as social workers, knowing that when they graduate they will have to pursue a 2-3 year graduate degree and will still earn less than a first year computer programmer.
I am not even asking for people in the humanities to earn the same as engineers, but can't we at least make sure that people who go to college and earn a degree and work for a living in their profession actually be paid a wage that does not require them to work two or even three jobs to sustain a family? Forget the nonsense of competing for bigger houses or cars. I mean just being able to raise a couple kids, a dog, pay for karate lessons, and save for retirement.
Our society is dependent on the variety of professions that spring from math and science, but it is also dependent on the humanities, fine arts, and helping professions of all kinds. The world needs art of every kind to inspire everyone from engineers to physicians and we should be happy to pay for it. Every child should get to experience art firsthand and more importantly, try their hand at it themselves with an art teacher or artist.
Our society needs to have advocates for those most vulnerable and they should be compensated well for the emotional and physical work they do day in and day out. Social workers reach every kind of person in every stage of life and without them millions of children with disabilities, aging adults, people with mental illness, and every other kind person in need would go without the support they need to be successful. Two individual examples from my own little corner of the world, Mr. Scheuer and Mrs. Mountz.
Over the weekend and for the last 6 weeks the kids at Henry's elementary school have been preparing to star in an original musical production. There have been myriad rehearsals, set buildings, and costumes to prep and the two adults most responsible for all of this are an inherently goofy and inspiring music teacher who wrote the play and the score, and the school art teacher who helped Henry create his own Andy Warhol portrait. Saturday I watched Mr.Scheuer herd 50 elementary age kids through a rehearsal and direct parent helpers without once losing his temper. When one student was obnoxiously noisy while others were performing he called attention to the quiet ones without shaming the noisier and got the quiet he was looking for at no expense to anyone's pride.
In truth, Henry joined chorus this year on the sheer exuberance of Mr. Scheuer alone. He can't sing like Placido, and will very likely never sing for any kind of recording, but Mr. Scheuer has reinforced and rewarded Henry based on his participation all year along. In fact one afternoon I got home and Henry proudly announced that he had gotten Skittles from Mr. Scheuer during rehearsal that morning. When I asked why he said, "Cause I'm so enthusiastic!"
Every child deserves to have a teacher like Mr. Scheuer and be exposed to the way music can make you feel physically and emotionally, the way music moves you body and soul is a gift worth without price. As for the art teacher Mrs. Mountz, to say she is dedicated is simply an understatement. She has collected boxes and managed to keep a swirling group of parents and volunteer middle schoolers on task and painting and building for the better part of 8 hours Saturday. By showtime tomorrow the Kindergartners will see a working version of Big Ben and a rolling double decker bus. (I myself helped put the cockroaches in the villains kitchen.) Like Mr. Scheuer she makes progress with unruly kids by reaffirming their positives and she manages to keep a sense of humor when all that stands between her and sanity is a cadre of hormonal fifth graders and a sea of tempera paint.
Neither one of these teachers is going to get a financial reward for all their efforts-money doesn't motivate their work-the work and their love of art and children motivates them to devote almost every moment of their free time to productions like this, a production I know will be remembered fondly by every child included in the adventure. When Henry auditioned and got a call back he ultimately got the role he coveted most, police chief. But since the play is set in London he is Constable Wiggins and since the play is about a lost mouse, he is in fact, a mouse police captain. In Henry's mind this was, in fact, a major casting coup, "Mom, I get two costumes! I'm a MOUSE and a POLICEMAN!"

When Henry talks about school he says 5th grade is his favorite year ever and I know in large part it is do to the extra effort of two artists who know their real value no matter what price our culture places on them. As a nurse I get compensated with a living wage, yes, I could earn more, but what I earn is enough because I love what I do, I am rewarded emotionally, professionally, and in so many other ways by the work I do and I know the work I do is valued by our culture at large. Professionals who share the joy of learning, the arts, speak for the least of these, entertain, help others find their voice, and tend to the spiritual health of their communities should be lauded and compensated like their work means something.

Because without it all the well engineered inventions in the world will be meaningless if the culture surrounding them does not inspire creativity, celebrates all kinds of gifts, and is willing to pay the price.

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/completelist/0,29569,2073703,00.html#ixzz1NHB0KOBS

No comments:

Post a Comment