We were all out driving today, heading for a store to buy a farewell gift for our summer house girl, when I saw a bill board that read “40% of graduates students can’t afford child health care”. It was sponsored by some graduate student union. I found this interesting, unlike you, dear reader, because I live in the same town / area where I went to school. The message on the billboard struck me as bizarre and laughable, but admittedly a good technique given the political compostion of the area.
The first thought that came to mind was this one about student loans — if you’re going broke by going to school, drop out and get a job! Clearly you’ve made a bad economic choice but you can recover. I did.
Then one notes the level of deprivation that constitutes this crisis — no child healthcare for a minority of students. We are far from the days of starving rabble, aren’t we?
My final thought relates to my own experience, since I had encountered this union back when I was a graduate student myself and they were trying to organize. I, of course, opposed their efforts. I tried to interest my fellow graduate students in such opposition, but they demonstrated a level of indifference that is still motivational to me today. The key fact here, is that not all graduate students are treated equally. Those in financially remunerative fields (such as engineering) got paid relatively well. Those in the, shall we say, more esoteric fields (such as gender studies) got paid slightly better than dirt. As noted above, this sent me the message “it was a smart move to be in a financially remunerative field” but it seems to have been interpreted differently by others.
The essence, then, is that the union is ultimately a scheme for those in the esoteric fields to leach off those in socially productive fields. Why, exactly, anyone in one of the latter would think this was a good idea escapes me, as it did my fellow engineering students. Yet here we are, reading billboards about the sad economic state of graduate students persuing financially ruinous degrees. Surely the union’s efforts would be better spent providing some kind of basic economic knowledge to its members, rather than devoting itself to erasing any hints of how the real world values those pursuits.