July 16, 2007

IN THE MAIL: Daniel Brook’s The Trap: Selling Out to Stay Afloat in Winner-Take-All America. The tragedy, apparently, is that jobs in corporate America pay more than social activism. The Amazon reader reviews are fun, too.

As with Anya Kamenetz’s Generation Debt, this seems like more excessive complaint from the privileged classes. (Brook and Kamenetz overlapped at Yale, in fact). And is it really true, as the back cover asserts, that only the “corporate elite” can now enjoy middle-class comforts?

I opened Brook’s book up and saw this passage:

After graduating Yale in 2003 with a double major in film studies and gender studies, Tara moved to San Francisco to pursue queer documentary filmmaking. She settled in the Castro district, the historic epicenter of American gay culture, and quickly discovered plenty of enticing projects. “There were lots of opportunities to do film and to help people with their films, but no one had any money to pay me so I did a lot of volunteering and part-time work,” she told me in a Castro coffee shop.

My goodness. What message could the market system have been trying to send?

UPDATE: Another perspective from reader Robert Holmgren:

My goodness, since when is a Yale double major in film studies and gender studies not able to make it in San Francisco’s Castro district? Better get word back to Yale on this.

I too have lived in the Castro district with a different perspective. I had a modest education, community college followed by a 2nd tier state university. During my time in the Castro I was able to earn a handsome living as a photographer for many national magazines. In fact, I was able to provide temporary support for other photographers who went on to similar or greater accomplishment. All of us now own homes in a ridiculously priced real estate market. Our secret–none of us had double-majors in anything with the word ‘study’ in them…plus, we provided a service for which there was a ready market.
Better get back to Yale on that.

I think it’s that “service for which there was a ready market” bit that really makes the difference. But Yale, like other top schools, does tend to imbue its graduates with a sense of entitlement that often serves them poorly out in the world. You only get so far by acing standardized tests.

ANOTHER UPDATE: More thoughts from a Yale alumnus: “I found this hilarious because I’ve been Tara once upon a time, immediately upon graduating from Yale. But thankfully, real world intruded and I was able to wake up. . . . I know the vast majority of my fellow Yalie — even some with degrees in Film Studies — have productive, extremely well-paying jobs in some of the largest companies in the world. Or they’re lawyers.” You can’t win ’em all.

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