Unemployment Training

Joanne Jacobs directs our attention to a column published at Ednews.com titled “Unemployment Training (The Ideology of Non-Work Learned in Urban Schools)”. The author, Martin Haberman, identifies the following lessons which are inculcated in students who attend high poverty urban schools which make them virtually unemployable in the real world:

The “successful graduates” who carry this urban school virus are unlikely to get a job or keep one.In order for an individual infected with this ideology to actually work the job would have to be characterized by the following conditions:

1.There is no screening process for getting the job beyond showing up.

2.There is no previous training required.Whatever the job involves can be explained in a few minutes–certainly less than 45.

3.There is a “boss” who will watch what you do and see that you do it.

4.The “boss” is always there.

5.The “boss” is responsible for what you do.

6.You can come and go as much as you want and still keep the job.

7.If you are late or absent, you can simply start working again without having to make up for or even know what you missed.

8.You don’t have to talk to or work with anyone you don’t like.

9.You don’t have to listen to anyone but the boss.

10.There is nothing to do to prepare to come to work.

11.There is nothing to do after quitting time.

12.You get paid for the time you spend at work, not for what you accomplish.

13.No matter how long you work, the job never changes.

14.You can get a raise because of the length of time you have “worked.”

15.You don’t have to really respect anyone who can’t hurt you.

16.It won’t matter if the place is successful or the work gets screwed up; that’s not your problem.

17.It won’t matter how many mistakes you make; you’ll get another chance.

18.The work is fun.

19.You don’t have to remember or follow the work rules if no one tells them to you.

20.You don’t have to work (i.e., stay on task) more than a few minutes an hour.

Meeting these conditions will limit the jobs people can have to very, very few.These jobs would have to involve many others who do the very same work so that any absence will not matter.The job is likely to be part time, because staying on task as well as coming and going is a problem.The job is likely to be of little importance since how well tasks are actually done is not a primary concern.The job is likely to be menial since there is almost nothing to know.The job is likely to be one in which the success of the organization is not tied to worker effort.These and the other limiting conditions would even make a part-time job putting laundry into washing machines in the basement of a hotel problematic.”

You should read the whole article. It’s very interesting. One of the ideas which the author puts forth which I found particularly interesting is that schools make the situation worse by taking an authoritarian stance. In doing so, they re-enforce the street’s “might makes right” ethos. However, once kids get old enough to realize that the schools cannot inflict the sort of suffering on them which they experience on the streets, the authority of the schools takes a nose dive. By not challenging the street ethos of earning respect through the ability to inflict pain, the schools make it nearly impossible to maintain any sort of discipline over the long term. The author suggests that schools work from the earliest grades to model and train students to respect hard work, good communication and relationship skills as well as demonstrate a value for individuals in how they interact with and discipline students. I think that this model goes against many law and order type’s automatic assumption that the correct answer to difficult student behavior is to lay down the law, early, often and hard.

Another thing which I found particularly interesting about the article is that while this extreme combination of ideas is probably not found in better, safer schools, some of these ideas find their way in there as well (and into many homes, no doubt). I know that I had fallen for the “Excuses” misconception as a younger person (I couldn’t be held accountable as long as I had a good excuse). I know a man who to this day will argue that someone who can physically harm you deserves more respect, which I have always found profoundly bizarre. I would guess that most of us have bits and pieces of this ideology in our heads just waiting to expunged.


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