Friday, June 12, 2015

Slouching Toward Adulthood

David Brooks has a nice column on one of my constant themes, the troubles faced by American college graduates as they slowly make their way into adulthood:
In the meantime, many spend the first few years out of college aspiring but adrift. They are largely unattached to religious institutions. Two-thirds report that they are not politically engaged. Half the students in Arum’s and Roksa’s recent study reported that they lacked clear goals or a sense of direction two years after graduation.

Yet they are not sure they want to rush into adulthood. As Jeffrey Jensen Arnett and Elizabeth Fishel write in “Getting to 30,” “The value of youth has risen, and the desirability of adulthood has dropped accordingly. Today’s young people expect to reach adulthood eventually, and they expect to enjoy their adult lives, but most are in no hurry to get there.” . . .

The first big ordeal is finding a job. Many young adults have not been given basic information about how to go about this. As my Times colleague April Lawson, 28, notes, they are often given the advice, “Follow your dream! The possibilities are limitless!” which is completely discordant with the grubby realities they face.
Or there is graduate school -- as more and more professional jobs require a graduate degree, 20-somethings anguish about whether to go back to school and, if so, what to study. This is a dilemma for many of the young archaeologists I work with. Getting a professional-level archaeological job pretty much requires an MA, but on the other hand new archaeologists don't make a salary that would make it easy to pay off a pile of student loans.

As Brooks says, by the time they are 30 most American college grads have gone through this process and achieved the marks of adulthood: a career, a home, a steady relationship. But it is a hard road for many.

No comments: