I am a little sad, a little happy and a lot groggy. I finished my degree.
In the Disability Studies program students complete a year long research project and they present it to their cohort and faculty. Our cohort’s presentations took place recently. There were really insightful moments, topics and so many heartfelt presentations demonstrating that the personal truly is political.
It’s hard to describe what it feels like to be finished. The build up to the presentations, the nervousness, the anticipation, then an eighteen minute presentation and it’s over.
I recently watched a documentary on the large number of graduates from university programs in Canada who are currently working in dead-end service positions. The documentary claimed there were several factors contributing to this phenomenon. One, baby boomers are not retiring and there are less positions opening up, or new grads are competing against them for the same position. Two, recent graduates are given little to no training in university to prepare them for resume writing or job interviewing and there are no co-op experiences. Three, Canada does not have an education ministry which means there are no statistics kept on what types of degrees universities are producing versus the types of skills that the labour market actually needs.
One women in the documentary who graduated with a history degree said that she felt she would be working in an office wearing heels and a power suit by now. For those of us in the Disability Studies program we have somewhat of an advantage. We are all working in our chosen field. However, I also have an earlier degree that didn’t translate into a job. I have a religious studies degree. You may well question what the hell I was thinking. How would religious studies translate into a job? Well, I wasn’t thinking about a job. I thought about what I wanted to know, what interested me, what I was passionate about. I was privileged to have been able to work my way through that degree with very little debt.
Two degrees later, and about to enter my masters in the fall I think the overwhelming factor contributing to graduates working dead end jobs is not the boomers, or the lack of training or the lack of an education ministry. (Although, we do need one! I mean, seriously Ontario how many teachers can we produce?) What we need is free education. The woman in the documentary wasn’t working in a dead-end service because she liked it, rather because she was thousands of dollars in debt from her education. We are stifling the creativity of graduates because they are in hock. If we stop people from learning what they are passionate about and future generations focus on employment, what does that mean for the arts, for culture, for philosophy, for music?
Free education will not create generations of entitled citizens. Take a look at the Nordic countries. Education is free, their economies are booming and they consistently rank high in the happiest countries in which to live. Take a lesson, Canada.