There is a divide in this country between the educated and the not educated. And I don't necessarily mean people with college degrees vs. people who don't have college degrees. That is just part of it, but I am always concerned when I talk to people, and they've never heard of the term "white hot" or the artist Jackson Pollock. A few years ago, I worked with a guy about 24 years old, and we were discussing the person living at the house we just delivered an appliance to. I couldn't place the accent, but passing through their garage, I saw a map of the former Soviet Socialist Republic of Georgia. That solved that mystery, but out in the truck, my co-worker said he couldn't place the customer's accent. I said the woman was from Georgia. My co-worker's response: "oh no, she couldn't possibly be from the states." I then explained that the Soviet Union had collapsed, and once upon a time there was a republic that was called Georgia, just like the state. I asked him if they had covered that in high school. Apparently not. Yes, he was very young when the Soviet Union had broken up, but you'd think he would have run into that reference at least once when growing up, but I guess he didn't.
I always feel a bit awkward when I'm talking about something at work, and I have to explain who or what I am referring to. I had to explain who Jackson Pollock is. I never majored in art, but I know who he is. I find myself gravitating toward people who are educated. They seem to have a certain awareness of the world.
And then there was my mother--a high school drop out, but a voracious reader. She told me to learn all I could about computers because they were going to run our lives some day. She also suggested I become a teacher, and I'm doing that, on a part-time basis, and I'm loving it. She chose to be aware of what was going on in the world, and I'm astonished that people seem to stop learning as soon as they leave the classroom.
That being said, education is taking a hit, notably from the conservatives, because if you are smart enough to figure out what's going on, you are going to be harder to control. I'm stunned when I listen to self-declared conservatives, and their comments on education. I have a co-worker who sometimes pronounces education, "edumacation," and I want to flinch. It's obvious what her views are on it. It irritates me, because I was trying to educate a customer on one of our products, and the co-worker told me it wasn't necessary to explain to the customer the differences in paint bases. I try to always pass on information to people if I think it will benefit them. And nothing is more annoying than a customer bringing up an ultra white base and wanting it to be tinted black. If I can educate one customer to let us get the paint off the shelf, I feel like I've done something.
For a while, I was the only full-timer in the department who knew how to cut blinds and special order blinds. No one else in the department knew how to do it. And when window treatment training came around, one of my co-workers claimed illness and instead chose to unload freight, because this co-worker didn't want to sit in a room full of people all day. Now, if I'm sick, I'd rather just sit around (and get paid for it) than sling merchandise around. A few minutes after choosing to unload freight, this person decided to go home. Despite having a degree and having a number of skills (I have a Class A commercial driver's license, I can mix and custom match paint, install refrigerator water lines, washers, dryers and electric ranges, and cut shelving) my retail job dropped my pay level. This was based on not having the correct paperwork submitted so that I could drive. That has since been resolved, but I am at a lower pay rate than when I first started. I was told I would get a review, but that has not materialized and I doubt if it ever will. I've only had one review since working at my retail job, and I've been there for four years. I thought in the real world, the more you knew and the more skills you acquired, the higher you were paid. Right?
When paint training came around, four of us had to go to another store for training. Of the four of us, three took notes. One of us sat back, and crossed ankles. Care to guess who it was?
And when that shooter shot up that theater in Aurora, the co-worker said James Holmes was in medical school. Wrong. He was a doctoral candidate in neuroscience. Little bit of a difference there, but I didn't bother to point it out.
I used to wonder why I had bothered to go to college. For the last 20 years or so, it seemed that my degree was worth nothing. Then a funny thing happened. I got a part time teaching gig--something I wouldn't have gotten if I hadn't had a bachelor's degree. And here's another funny thing--the teaching gig pays more and is far more pleasurable than any regular job I've had. Yes, there are frustrations, but no student of mine has ever hit me. Contrast that with the two customers who whacked me in the shoulder in a matter of six months. I put up with more shit and less respect in the job that I didn't need an education for, and get more money and more respect (and job satisfaction) with the one that I DO need a degree for. I'm actually thinking of going to grad school. I had one of my students write me a glowing email about his experience in my class. It was really, really nice to read it and made me feel like I do make a difference. I've never, ever, gotten anything like that from any of my other jobs. And this student urged me to get my master's degree.
Funny, all the rich, powerful conservatives have had at least some college--even eternal windbag Rush Limbaugh got in, but dropped out. It seems like it's another case of, "college for me, but not for you."
But I feel sorry for some of these anti-education conservatives. They are working retail, and pretty much will be working retail until they retire. They have nowhere else to go, and they consider themselves too old to go back to school. Yet, corner them and you'll find they don't like working retail. They won't do anything to change their situation, and they will sneer at the college students who spend a few years working retail, then when they graduate, move on to bigger and better things. More than ever, in the United States, you have to stone cold hustle just to make a modest living. A college degree doesn't guarantee you'll be rich, but it's an important investment that may change your life somewhere down the line. My college degree and a willingness to try teaching means I don't have to be a full time retail slave, and that means my mental health has improved.
If having a college degree means I am a piece of liberal scum, so be it. If being liberal means I'm not going to freak out about your alternative lifestyle, so be it. I love to learn. That makes me a bad person, in some people's eyes. I want to educate people. And THAT, in some people's eyes, is threatening. Keep them dumb and in the dark. No thanks. I WANT people to know that light-colored paint goes in low-numbered bases, and dark paint goes in higher-numbered bases. It may seem like a small thing. But I guess if my co-worker likes having customers give her ultra white bases they want made into dark blue, she can keep them ignorant all she wants.
And I've noticed the customers she likes are the ones that annoy the hell out of me. Birds of a feather ...