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Disclaimer

Examine the expectations and inferences underlying selected job positions. Consider timely topics in career preparation and the struggle for fulfilling employment. Analyze what could be improved in either situation. If this blog reminds you too much of work, then peruse my namesake blog for lighter fare.

Fuck UWM and all universities! UW-Milwaukee and their brethren are mediocre. Click banner ads on ClixSense instead; it's a better use of time than a college education in the UW System.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Five Parodies of Ads for Higher Education

The Higher Education Hucksters

are at it again, spreading their lies and misrepresentations about the extent to which their alma mater -- or favorite advertising client that happens to be a university -- “(can / will) boost your career.” These snake oil salesmen and whitewash women of university relations and related marketing firms don’t think twice about all the people they’re hoodwinking; some actually believe they’re doing an honest-to-God upright deed by misdirecting the labor force into that type of non-productive learning.

Under truth-in-advertising laws, each and every ad for a university should include the statement, “Could potentially enhance one’s career potential; results not guaranteed,” to make it clear that universities are just a procedure and that results are neither guaranteed nor implied to be. Remember that most people don’t have my perspective on this issue because they’re either:

1) One of the few who actually got somewhere career-wise soon out of university;

2) One of the many who didn’t benefit economically from their university degree(s) but believe they’ll succeed anyway, thereby conflating the ineffectual voodoo economics of leveraging their university degree -- in conjunction with key intangibles that a degree cannot purchase, contrary to the myth of “bettering oneself” through the hardship of college -- with the fruits of their own creativity, pluck, and determination; or

3) Someone who hasn’t gone to a university but believes it’s the “right thing to do” because most people they know who say anything at all about universities are from Categories #1 and #2.

Elaborating on Category #3, it includes na├»ve youth who can’t imagine anything other than a college-bound life, desperate older workers laid off from their old jobs, and similar types who are either “undecided” or deluded about what type of job(s) they can actually work in life. Who will hire them?

My goal is to shatter the illusion that a university degree is any longer important for meaningful participation in society; it is neither antecedent nor prerequisite for a satisfying life. The extended truth is that university studies often reduce a person’s quality of life -- not only in the short-term of earning that degree but also in the long run -- via lost earnings from foregone full-time work experience and a fruitless job search during and after college seeking to utilize one’s education.

The aforementioned HEHs will pin the problem on student loan debt and rising tuition. They’re wrong! Tuition should be four times greater to reduce demand for an education; or can that demand be substantially reduced by any means at all?

My purpose in writing today is to contribute to such a decline in enrollment at universities everywhere. Chancellors and those in the Department of Enrollment Services have permission to commence crying!

The implication of success and the cheap excuse, “We never said you’d be successful; you and others who knew you implied you would find professional employment after graduating.”

That part is where I really take -- and now give through my writings -- offense against universities: policy makers are always trumpeting “the importance of higher education,” so why would any rational person not believe an accredited university can be anything but a golden ticket to a prosperous future?

Contrary experience, that’s why!

With the scene set for epically iconoclastic smashing down of selected university ads, here are my defacings of such ads under the “parody and satire” portion of the fair use provision of U.S. Copyright Right of 1976, as amended. Whether you agree or disagree with my message, enjoy the artistic element!

Iowa State University
If it weren't for modern machinery, then you could get a job shucking corn!

This is the type of ad that would run if truth-in-advertising laws were more stringent for purveyors of higher education. To be fair, universities would probably run far fewer ads if that were the case! As for the whole "meeting new friends" thing, the complicating factors are:

1) Keeping them; and

2) Being able to help each other -- you can't really bail each other out of a bad employment situation if you're all working minimum-wage jobs after graduation.

And although relatives of certain politicians and business people provide greater potential "job influence" into the quality of your potential connections, you're unlikely to meet the influential son of a governor; the well-heeled daughter of a banker; or any of the very successful musicians of platinum-selling band Slipknot at Corn Field University.

Northwestern University
Northwestern management follows the Peter Principle

Not quite Ivy League, Northwestern University is a contemporary of UW-Madison and somewhat less prestigious than the University of Chicago. I chose its ad for parody because it appeared in a sidebar of my LinkedIn profile. So in case the web crawlers got the impression that I’d be interested in NWU, rest assured that my intent for that college lies only in satire.

“How dare you insult our institution by abbreviating it ‘NWU’!” I do not deign to use the “proper” acronym of “NU” for Northwestern University (NWU); may angry alumni and aggravated administrators bellow their complaints in the comment section!

UW-Madison
Madtown goes mad!

One of three UW campuses by a lake -- the other two are UW-Milwaukee and UW-Green Bay -- UW-Madison is a nightmare for agoraphobics. The immense size of the campus actually discouraged me from transferring there from UW-Washington County because every “campus close-up” and student government trip for United Council-related stuff made me feel disoriented.

How would I ever get to classes on time? And once I learned the campus layout for my semester’s courses, unreliable bus schedules and long walks probably make me miss half a class if one ends ten minutes before the next. Planning a course schedule to minimize travel is good, but the reality of full sections makes the whole process an even bigger pain in the Badger than it Buckin’ needs to be.

And really, those full class offerings help me realize that my fate as one of thousands of UW graduates would have been no different at the main campus than at any of the directional schools such as UWM. Vo-tech training is the only educational path which would have best positioned me for a job by the age of 22 years; even choosing the “wrong” profession to begin with would cost me a mere two years and twelve thousand dollars instead of the four years and thirty-some thousand dollars required at a university.

UW-Madison gets -- not earns, but receives a taxpayer handout just like a welfare recipient would -- the plurality of UW System-wide general purpose revenue (GPR) for operations, not to mention all the grants, bonds, and alumni donations for capital projects. Renovating Ogg Hall from top to bottom every fifteen years?

What a waste of money! Student jobs could be created with the largesse! Such hyperbole, pretentiousness, and opulence make UW-Madison a truly overrated university -- a so-called “flagship” that is oblivious to its own sinking!

Although living in the deep country has cured my agoraphobia through over-exposure and desensitization, my other arguments for dissing the Family Jewels of Madtown remain intact: hogging 35% to 40% of system GPR while squandering Madison-specific wealth; having a campus that is too damned big for a small-town person, let alone one with mobility issues; and preparing students no better for a career than the chances they would have at a vocational-technical college.

UW-Milwaukee
*Specifically the ad for the MSM Certificate* UWM flight goes awry! PARODY / SATIRE / Not to be taken literally

Here’s a note specifically for those over-sensitive types who cannot discern fantastical jest from the serious rest: I neither want to, nor am capable of, bringing down any aircraft -- but this burning airplane is an apropos metaphor for the higher education market crash that is long overdue. It was an irresistible and technically challenging opportunity for a “PhotoShop vandalism,” as it might be. Yeah! Learning!

MPA Purveyor Dennis Hatch
Buy an MPA degree!

If you’ve ever visited his office on the sixth floor of Bolton Hall, you’ll know that MPA Internship Program Coordinator Dennis Hatch has a grumpy receptionist who takes leaves at the least student-friendly times. Presuming you can call Hatch to let him know you’re there -- despite the glass door to the receptionist antechamber being locked at 2:00 p.m. or other odd lunch hour -- he’ll deign to let you speak with him and behold his Ego Wall of 10,000 Awards!

After numerous bait-and-switches pulled by the tandem of middleman Hatch and the various municipal managers in the metro Milwaukee area, I had enough and told Dennis after graduating, “You could be a huge Internet celebrity if only you leveraged your presence.” So here he is: Dennis Hatch!

Now some of you might ask, “Why don’t you make fun of UW-Washington County?” I actually had very good reciprocal relations with many faculty, some staff, and even a few peers. UWWC was great for making me feel good about myself for the two years I took classes -- practically living there sometimes to escape a volatile home life -- but in terms of career preparation, I would definitely choose trade school if re-doing my educational plan.

Which trade school? The closest to where I lived back then was the Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) atop the hill where North Main Street turns into Beaver Dam Road. I’d probably still end up wasting some time in student government, as the allure of easy (symbolic) “power” was so great for someone just entering adulthood (really a delayed waithood).

The untold story of universities is that career success or failure boils down to getting enough social capital to actually leverage your university degrees and other liberal arts “credentials” into an employment path; such education is actually worthless for getting a job if you’re someone who cannot win the hearts and minds of others. Universities do not show you how to do that!

I’ve aced every public speaking course I’ve taken, but that was in front of a captive audience of people who were not employed in human resources. But what about guerrilla marketing of this idea of trade school being preferable because it relies less on social capital to judge someone’s job market value?

Although those reading this are already interested enough to have continued so far, spreading my ideas about trade school vs. university on street corners is likely to get me complaints from the public and perhaps a talking to from the police. Blogging at length -- while including statistically rare, SEO-optimized phrases -- casts a wider net with far less risk and is therefore a much better use of my time!

So be a rebel: print and distribute copies of this article around your high school and university -- and the one where I reveal not even the Department of Education considers university studies as leading to gainful employment! Complex issue this is, another question springs forth:

Why do the feds continue to underwrite billions of dollars in student loans if that public diversion or “investment” of taxpayer dollars does not produce enough professionally, “gainfully” employed graduates where the Department of Education would feel comfortable with changing the liberal arts college designation into “leading to gainful employment?”

That contradiction alone is damning, and I won’t rest until I uncover the hard numbers that will knock down the “university is good” argument of the higher education hucksters!

A design I have in mind is to compare median earnings of professionally employed graduates at one, three, and five years after graduation against median earnings of those “non-professionally employed” graduates working at minimum-wage jobs and those stereotypically dominated by minors.

The “working minor” wage will be a control against the first-year post-grad earnings of both professionally and non-professionally employed graduates. That is one of my resolutions for 2014!