Last Friday, friend and fellow Laguna Beach Independent contributor, David Vanderveen, wrote an encouraging article for us all to consider our daily occupations in light of the Occupy Wall Street movement (“Occupy Laguna,” Local Currents, Nov. 11). It was well written, and I, as a 22-year-old newcomer to Laguna, have had a similar response to the hard times our country faces.
The day after David’s article was published, NPR produced a fascinating report on the onslaught of unemployed, debt-ridden youth now graduating from college. They titled the piece “Educated and Jobless: What’s Next for Millenials?” and highlighted the dire situation most 20-somethings are under. Insightful, it explained that today’s students cannot be written off as merely lazy – they were told they could achieve anything and are now finding out that they can’t. Theirs is a “raw deal” and there is a reason my generation composes a major part of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
I would agree for the most part. The piece concludes that the response we should have is to tell our kids (well, not mine – I’m not there quite yet) to be content with the ordinary; be reasonable with decisions on majors and areas of study. Be career oriented. The argument, and we’ve all heard it before if not made it ourselves, is that students ought to pursue specialized degrees for the sake of a steady career. Indeed, after “cold, calculated, cost-benefit analysis”, a job as an “actuarial analyst”, the most employable career in the country, becomes quite palatable.
Such thinking, however, is severally mistaken.
America’s strongest currency is its innovative and creative spirit – an entrepreneurial one. We need students and young professionals who think outside the trenches and regard dogma for what it is. We need people to create new things and not find contentment in the old. Silicon Valley, the media industry in Los Angeles, and even homegrown energy drink companies all tip their hats toward a unique crosscurrent that happens here in America – particularly California – and threatens to be lost if we forget to look ahead. Such is the spirit that built the West Coast and the spirit that will keep it from losing footing to nations farther West.
But it is not only location that empowers our industry. Specialized thinking in our educational system threatens areas of study integral to our thinking broadly and synthetically: the liberal arts. Removing the liberal arts from curricula and replacing them with technical degrees is not a solution to our nation’s economic woes. Degrees in political science are needed as much as those in the sciences. We need the philosophy majors to not only make our coffee, but to steer us into loftier ways of thinking.
I say this with a bias; I studied philosophy. And, yes, now I am also selling coffee at Growers First Coffee just south of Brooks Street. It is a better coffee and because of my liberal arts education, I am fortunate enough to not be occupying Wall Street. Truly, the combined belief in what an innovative drive can accomplish and the sharpness that a multifaceted education can deliver brought me to Laguna Beach to
Jeff Smith, Laguna Beach