How much of a mess is our system?
You tell me.
As you know if you’ve been reading this blog, I’ve talked recently about how we as a culture devalue jobs that require working with our hands or any kind of manual labor. We tell every kid they must go to college to succeed. Translation? Kids who don’t go to college are failures. Not true of course, but so ingrained in our psyche that to some degree it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy for many.
We also have a problem with poverty.
The combination of poverty and our prejudice against certain types of work has combined to create an impossible situation.
Here is an example. Say you are a restaurant owner in New York City. You need not only skilled servers but also busboys, dishwashers and delivery guys. You’ve repeatedly attempted to hire U.S. citizens to do the work, but the results are dismal. The people you’ve hired come in late, repeatedly don’t show up or blatantly steal from you. They are of course fired but their replacements are no better.
I hear people talk about these types of situations all the time, in very lofty tones, saying what a travesty it is that “those people” don’t value work or a job well done.
Hmmm, why do you suppose that is when all they’ve heard in school their entire lives is that the only success, the only “career” worth having, comes from a college degree? They didn’t go to college so any work they might get isn’t worthwhile. That’s not an idea they came up with on their own – it’s been shoved down their throats since their first day in school. Would YOU value a job you’d been taught is only given to losers?
We add another ingredient to this hot mess. Immigrants.
Whether they are here because they snuck in, or simply overstayed their tourist visas, most illegal immigrants desperately want to be in our country. The vast majority also want to work, and guess what types of jobs they are willing to do? Well, anything, really.
As an employer, who would you rather hire? Someone who thinks your job is for losers (because that’s what they’ve been taught) or a person who is dedicated, shows up early and never misses a day?
We make it impossible for such immigrants, working as laborers, mechanics or locksmiths, to get legal work papers. Their employer can’t sponsor them because it’s not a skilled position and how hard can it possibly be to hire a busboy? There are thousands of legal workers who could do that job. Maybe they could, but good luck finding any who would. So the immigrant who has overstayed a visa but who is working, paying rent and hoping to build a life here and become a taxpaying citizen? He or she becomes desperate, because all roads to work papers are closed.
There is one option. But it’s fraud.
However, desperate people do desperate things, and so they try to get papers the only way they can; by buying them on the black market.
Sometimes they are caught. And these people, whose only real crime is that they want so badly to be here they’ll work any job and do anything, are sent to prison and then deported.
Meanwhile we continue to tell our kids that the only road to success is doing well in school, getting a college degree – probably a masters too – and pursuing a “career”. Kids who don’t do well in school, starting in first grade, are labelled as ‘troubled’ or less intelligent. They learn one lesson very well – they are failures and will never amount to anything. Forget a career – it’s bussing tables or cutting keys for them – so why take pride in a “dead end” job?
Suggestions on how to solve this one, anyone?