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Anytime before 1975, there were three things you needed to know by the age of twenty-two to prove that you were a bonafide adult, able to seek employment and community participation in any situation. How to tie a tie, how to write a business letter, and three Shakespeare references for cocktail parties.

Let me explain.

Some two weeks ago, my father had a heart attack, which necessitated Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and an ongoing stay in the hospital.

Wait, let me explain something else.

I've been trying to seek employment, something that has left me with a fair amount of angst and has given me a rather critical view of the cultural and economic system of employment in the United States of America. At no time is this more apparent than when I discuss the process of seeking employment with people from an older generation, who with a straight face will ask if, for example, I've tried looking at Craigslist. The gap between my experiences and their experiences is so wide that often I don't even know where to start. To obtain an entry level part-time job, I've had to go through the type of background checks that anyone before 1975 would only be going through if they were becoming an astronaut or a US Marshall.

There was an assumption, once upon a time, that if someone reached the age of 22 and had a college education, their knowledge, experiences and allegiances were such that they could easily and transparently interact with any other member of their society. If you graduated from college, and knew how to tie a tie, how to write a business letter, and a smattering of cultural information, you knew what your society had to teach you. Unless you were an actual academic going for the rare Masters or Doctoral Degree, you were complete in your acculturation and could continue on from there. I am perhaps, based on recent experiences, a little biased, but I imagine this was the process of seeking a job prior to about forty years ago:

(Bright, well scrubbed young man) "Hello, my name is John Smith...I just graduated from Central State University and I heard that you here at Centreville State Bank were hiring for loan officers and management trainees?" (Would they say "management trainees" in these fabled days? I don't actually know, but to continue)
(Avuncular older man, smoking a cigar) "Oh, Central State! Well, I am a Central State man myself! And I see you majored in English...we can use broadly educated men like you, son. Is Professor Snyder still there? Does he still fall asleep in the middle of class?"
"Oh, yes he does. Good old Professor Snyder!
"I like the cut of your jib, boy! Well, can you start Monday? I'll show you your office, and Carol here can be your secretary, and she isn't married."
(Hearty laughs all around)

So maybe it wasn't exactly like that, but the description isn't far-fetched. So it is hard to explain to my elders that a Master's Degree is really entry level. In fact, everything is entry level. A resume is not just a laundry list of education followed by employments, but something that must be garnished with merit badges, with volunteer work, CEU classes, professional trainings and seminars, and all sorts of forms of "engagement" to show we are in a constant state of learning. This is mirrored in our personal lives where we are constantly eating new foods, meeting people from new cultures, examining our own culture, and learning new and better habits.

Speaking of the last one: I mentioned up above my father's heart attack. My father was, and is, a very educated man, a man who taught me the basics of fields ranging from cartography to existential philosophy. But apart from his intellectual open-mindedness, my father had the habits of someone who graduated high school in the early 1970s. What men did was sit on the recliner, drinking beer and smoking cigarettes. Despite an intellectual knowledge of what this could do to his health, he would have thought of the idea of changing his lifestyle as being frivolity on the level of going to an astrologer. Lifestyle changes and learning new and better ways to be healthy weren't a fact of life, an ongoing process that every adult does, they were fads and frivolities that grown people wouldn't indulge themselves with. And this type of "common sense" led to a massive heart attack at the age of 61.

In the traditional five paragraph essay, which was one of the basic skills taught to students in high school, the type of writing skills they would need for entry level clerical work, they were taught to write an introduction, give some supporting points, and then write a conclusion. Here, I have wrote a non-standard introduction, written out some thoughts, but there will not be a conclusion. I don't know what the conclusion is now: this essay is part of an ongoing process of trying to understand the world around me. And just like the learning process that people of our generation must go through, there will be no conclusion, no pat answer arrived at. This will lead to more thoughts tomorrow, and more after that, and more after that.




NB: When describing the fact that people at the age of 22 were acculturated enough to take part in their society, I failed to mention that this was only true of people who were of the dominant culture. Part of the reason that white men with no obvious eccentricities were accepted so easily was that other people were not accepted at all. I can't open this particular can of worms right now because I am working on a library computer and the library closes in 15 minutes, etc. That is one of several things I will save for another day.

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