Monday, February 17, 2014

Parents do not know it all - Part I (University)

I always make my point that parents do not know it all. They often push their children to things that they either do not like, or will put them in worse stead than before. They may not even fully understand what they are doing. I try to put ideas in perspective, but beware: they would challenge your assumptions you made for your child, if you are a parent.

There are a few aspects of parents not knowing it all. Parents have our own best interests in mind. They do not know all of the children's needs, though, because the children live in different societal contexts from the parents. Both parents and children have to adapt to each other.

One would them would be university.

Looking at financial projections in current employment markets, I am skeptical of the financial return of university, given the high costs of degrees and relatively low barriers to entry for these degree programs, as compared to 20 years ago (my parents' time). 

Degrees cost over $30,000 at the very least, and may cost as much as $300,000 in some universities. However, given that at least 20% of university graduates do not go to work, and an undisclosed number of graduates do not even work in the same field as the discipline as their major, I shudder to think the possibility of university as a blow job because it charges money, and holds no responsibility to its students with regards to its claims of 'better employment prospects'.

And yet, I am surprised most people, regardless of conditions, tell me that they go to university to 'earn more money'. I always bless myself when I hear it.

For neurotypicals (people with autism, they can be NTs for short), they should consider having a job first before considering further studies, to try tuning to employment conditions. I hear of accounting students commenting that they study the degree only because their boss want them to. This should be the case for most employees.

For people without autism, they would think university as a place where we acquire skills for higher paid, more sophisticated employment positions. Some would think of it as a place to attend sports matches together, party, drink and be merry. Their reason for attending university could be a structured setting for socialization, which could or could not be essential for them, depending on their aspirations in life and economic circumstances (i.e. are they, and their family, willing to pay all the way through university).

As someone with autism, I think university is a controversial issue. Parents either look at people with autism and think, they will not make it to university, so why bother, or they will just make the mad scramble to ensure their children with autism are in good positioning to be selected by universities, and they make the foolish assumptions that the university will 'take care' of their children. They do not think university as a social setting, given that autism is a social and communication impairment, isn't it? So why bother about the social part, when people with autism just go to university to acquire skills for advanced employment and eventually, societal standing?

This cannot be further from the truth.

But for employees and future employees with autism, do we simply accept that we are always on the bottom of the economic food chain? Do we accept the situation we will always be the lowest paid, in the lowest organisational hierarchy, and maybe even the most vulnerable to redundancies, no matter how hard we try? So do universities help us in terms of expanding our job skills, or doom us, because of our current assumption of 'communication skills'. which we have to attend Toastmaster's courses to 'prove' just these?

I am not too keen in 'sitting around at home and doing nothing'. I am even against it. I actively seek socially meaningful things to do that my family will support, such as seeking employment and attending suitable interviews, on top of doing household chores. If I know any Aspie doing so, and he is not under antidepressants etc. that render him unemployable, then we need to talk to him (or her) and hopefully persuade him to work.

As an alternative to conventional degree, for our interests, maybe we can consider doing online degrees. As a friend with Asperger's Syndrome says, 'do a degree because of your passion, not for a job or societal status'.

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