Is Getting A Degree The Only Option?

What next????

Part Two of my rant on not being defined by a degree, might apply to my side of the world more than to yours. The reason being that in South Africa, the majority of parents, especially those with more means, insist that their school leavers get a degree. 

There are three types of parents here on my side of the world, and then there is me….bugger….there is always me!!

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard people say ”I told my child, he better go and study and get a degree. I do not care how long it takes him, he WILL get that degree!! IN THIS COUNTRY (hmmmmpfhhh….refer to my previous blog if you wondering why the hmmmmpfhhh ), he will NEVER find a job without a degree””. This now is normally a statement made by a previously (and still) advantaged parent. 

Then there are the previously disadvantaged parents, who have the means, and because their generation, and their generations before them did not have the opportunity to study further, will insist that their school leavers do what they never had the opportunity to do. 

Then there are the previously (and still) disadvantaged parents, who do not have the means, but sacrifice so much, and work so hard, just to give their children this opportunity. 

The common rationale amongst all these parents, is that if their children get a degree….. any degree, they will get a job!!! Even more disturbing, is that this is what they tell their children!

So what this results in, is that too many of these children will literally use this opportunity as a paid vacation. As long as their parents insist on paying for this ‘’vacation’’, will be as long as they will be on this sabbatical!! One cannot blame the children. Why would they pass that opportunity up?? They could not even be bothered when they are being constantly hounded by their parents for not working or advancing as they should, towards something they did not even want to do in the first place. 

And when these children FINALLY get their degree (if ever), and a job does not automatically fall into their laps, as they were promised by their parents, they feel disillusioned. They lose confidence, self esteem and waste even more time not managing to find gainful employment, while feeling worse and worse about themselves. But at least they obtained their degree, so their parents are satisfied!

Let me use my personal experience as an example. Growing up, I was the youngest and the only daughter in the family. There is a possibility that my dad had wanted or tried to pressurize my brothers to get degrees, but I have no recollection of that. Me…never even suggested by either of my parents (hmmmm, just thinking….maybe I should have taken offence to that). But no matter…got that degree, and then realized I wanted to save the world from all the injustices. As my regular readers will know….never happened. 

While I was diligently studying my years away for this degree (not even sure why I was studying for that, or any degree), my husband had started a business. Despite the fact that he had not even passed Grade Twelve, I will always maintain, smartest man I knew, really hard working, entrepreneurial and ambitious.

So, while my husband was building up a business, he used to tease me about wasting my time with a degree. By the way…another trait of his that no person could top….his ability to tease people….playfully, of course.

”You are wasting your time studying for all these years”, he would tease.

‘’Ha ha,’’ I would respond, ‘’wait until I have my degree, and then you will see!!’’

‘’Ha ha, by then I will have a successful business, and you will have …….…a degree….’’ he teased.

 ‘’Ha ha, yes, but wait until a few years after that…you will see.’’

‘’Ha ha HA’’ the Universe cackled, when he was way more successful without his Grade Twelve, than I was with my degree.

Sure, with my degree, I could have continued to practice, and been as successful as my husband. But I was not that person. No, I was creative, artistic and lots of other things, but law was not my calling. I cannot even blame my parents for this decision I made. Nope, that was all on yours truly.

So nearly fifteen years after I left school, I was a qualified attorney, with no clue as to where I was going next. By that stage, I was married, had two children and just dabbled in this and that. Had I spent the previous fifteen years doing something I was passionate about, something I enjoyed or was talented in, I would have had way more to show for it. But me………even armed with that magical degree…..……had not a sausage!! 

And again, don’t holler “‘different times”. Nope, hard work, sacrifice and ambition still affords you the measure of success you desire.

Then there was my oldest brother. Legend has it, that when his final exams were coming up for his teaching degree, he decided that he did not want to get this degree. Now, he was (and still is) super smart, so this was not about that. He would surely have passed, but decided that getting the degree would limit his options going forward. If he continued, he reasoned, he would be a teacher…case closed. So what he chose to do (despite the Dean phoning my mom and begging her to tell him to just write the final exams), was to continue to read the work on the floor in his room, while his classmates were writing their finals.

Hmmmm….contradictory……different…….difficult…….rebelling….I am noticing a pattern here! However, having done that, he continued on to surpass anything he would have done had he written those final exams. 

I am not suggesting that a degree is always a waste of time. Of course there are instances where a degree will give you a leg up, or might be necessary for you to further yourself in your chosen field. It can get you noticed when you start, and open doors that wouldn’t be open if you didn’t have a degree.

What I am suggesting, however, is that not everyone is an academic. or destined for a profession.

Unfortunately, because people without a degree are not respected, tradesmen and artisans are regarded as inept by society as a whole. How dare society?? Could a Doctor or an Accountant fix a leaking pipe? No, that is what the plumber is there for. Is a carpenter necessarily any less intelligent than a lawyer? No, he just happens to be more creative. 

But what this has given rise to, is the stigma attached to many school leavers, who could have become very successful tradesmen or artisans, and, due to pressure from all corners, land up with a degree and …well….a degree.

The quandary which this incessant need of parents to INSIST on their children getting a degree ”otherwise they won’t find a job” creates, is that there are going to be a gazillion graduates, who after graduating, assume they will DEFINITELY find employment….IMMEDIATELY, as this is what they were promised by their well meaning, but misguided parents. 

So the world, or certainly the country I live in, will be saturated with these gazillion graduates pondering why they did not get a job that they were guaranteed to get if they got their degree. On the flip side, there is a shortage of good tradesmen and artisans.
But no matter…..these graduates might be unemployed, but at least they will have that degree!!

On that note…anyone know of a decent electrician? They are a dime a bloody dozen around these parts!!!!

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