Friday, September 17, 2010

Generation E - "I want to express my gratitude but sometimes I have a bad attitude."

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As a youngster I was always encouraged to attend university or some sort of post secondary institution. Parents tend to put emphasis on what they value. My mother grew up in rural Nova Scotia, she was 1 of 7 children on a single income and as a result she didn`t finish high school (she did eventually go back and finish after I reached adolescence). My father went to university and graduated with two degrees which I think both my parents attribute our comfortable lifestyle towards(combined with a lil blood sweat and tears of course). 

A million or more times I heard "Get good grades or you can't go to post secondary, if you don't go to post secondary do not expect to get a good job if you don not get a good job you WON'T BE WEARING THOSE DESIGNER CLOTHES THAT YOU CURRENTLY SPEND 100% OF YOUR PAY CHEQUES AND ALLOWANCE ON".  (the words in capitals are the words that I actually heard). This really hit home when I was about seventeen and barely had enough credits to graduate. Realizing that not graduating high school would probably result in me working at McDics for the rest of eternity I quickly finished one work experience module (at McDics!!) and graduated with 100 credits on the nose. I headed out to the work force promptly (with the intent of becoming a millionaire) only  to discover that the house, car and fancy wardrobe doesn`t really come with answering phones for eight dollars an hour. Within a year I found myself prancing giddily off to Sait with big dreams of becoming a bean counter and finally owning all the glossy new material possessions that haunted my nightly slumbers.

I`m not one to exhaust myself just for the sake of the education process. To be frank I can think of better ways to humor myself than dropping $20 000 and ripping my hair out through: 4 economics courses, 6 accounting courses, 7 managerial type courses and 3 human resources courses. In my mind there was a direct relationship between the amount of letters behind ones name and the amount of numbers gracing the little piece of paper that emerges from the bank machine and an inverse relationship between the years of education you have and the amount of tedious cleaning you find yourself doing daily. As a result of these thoughts, upon graduation, I found myself with an ENTITLEMENT MENTALITY. ``I deserve`` were words that frequented my mind. 

I deserve - a fancy job, I deserve - nice material possessions, I deserve - not to budget, I deserve - Starbucks everyday.

I perceive that I share this mentality with quite a few new graduates. If it`s not ``I deserve`` it`s ``I already know``. (this does not apply if you are becomming a chartered accountant as you are aware of the years of articling that lie ahead). We  think our twenty thousand dollar education has immediately granted us rights and freedoms almost like some sort of personal constitution. Our degrees and diplomas give us automatic credibility and automatically open doors and windows in our lives right? WRONG. That is why I refer to this posting as ``Generation E`` - Generation Entitled. We feel that putting four plus years of elbow grease into our degrees counts as paying our dues. This is an incorrect assumption, the Ferrari does not come with the degree sadly. It may come at some point following but that is up to you. The real work begins after school ends. When you head out into the corporate world to look for that shining $100 000 a year opportunity you may still end up becomming the office bitch, and your daily tasks will include but not be limited to ordering fancy coffees that you yourself cannot afford from the Starbucks up the street and cleaning up the remains as your experienced counterparts strut out the door to their big wig meetings, leaving you to eat the Kraft dinner you made for $1.50 alone at your desk.

The thoughts alone in the paragraph above make me realize that my value of a good education and what my personal definition of  wealth and success  is not kosher. I worry about a highly educated society if adults and children have the mentality that education leads to a better material life. Who will do the dirty jobs that they feature weekly on Discovery channel? I`m entitled, I don`t, I won`t!``. When we realize we are all far to educated to clean and scrape out sewers, being as smart as we are we will outsource such tasks to India, saving us money; (our labour costs will be far to expensive) but creating a whole new set of challenges for the western world.

This thought was sparked by an interview I saw recently on CBC where Peter Jennings was interviewing Liberal party leader Michael Ignatieff regarding the conservative budget. Michael Ignatieff was criticizing Harper saying that instead of investing in corporate tax cuts the federal government should be investing in education as a grass roots solution (education equates to a higher quality of life), which got me thinking about my education and why I actually went to school and how I felt after I completed school. Now not everyone in the world is as greedy as I have come to be (thankfully) but unless the grassroots solution focuses on emphasising to our population that the quest for a higher level of education is about more than a means to a shinier ends and changing our definition of wealth and what creates happiness I think we are in for some interesting future challenges.

By the way I am by no means blaming my parents for my entitlement mentality, it is how our entire society presently views the outcome of education. Education=fancy career=material success=power and status.

I think that if we could change our North American values system to equate successful relationships (spiritual, intimate, friendship, work) with material gain we could use education as a means of increasing people`s awareness about the world around them and how they to better communicate with the people they interact with daily effectively decreasing the growing number of 20-30 somethings roaming the concrete jungle snarling ``I DESERVE!``.

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