How much sympathy for unemployed graduates?

The New York Times has a piece on our generation's acceptance of low employment prospects - a cultural shift they call "Generation Limbo"

Meet the members of what might be called Generation Limbo: highly educated 20-somethings, whose careers are stuck in neutral, coping with dead-end jobs and listless prospects.

And so they wait: for the economy to turn, for good jobs to materialize, for their lucky break. Some do so bitterly, frustrated that their well-mapped careers have gone astray. Others do so anxiously, wondering how they are going to pay their rent, their school loans, their living expenses - sometimes resorting to once-unthinkable government handouts.

The views of this group are summarized by one student in particular:

"We did everything we were supposed to," said Stephanie Morales, 23, who graduated from Dartmouth College in 2009 with hopes of working in the arts. Instead she ended up waiting tables at a Chart House restaurant in Weehawken, N.J., earning $2.17 an hour plus tips, to pay off her student loans. "What was the point of working so hard for 22 years if there was nothing out there?" said Ms. Morales, who is now a paralegal and plans on attending law school.

How much sympathy should we have for these students? More specifically, how much sympathy should we have for others in our generation who have been caught up in a bad economic situation?

Despite being empathetic and sympathetic for anyone caught in this economic morass, I can't help but feel that these people made seriously bad decisions - majoring in areas like English and the arts that have poor job prospects no matter what the outlook of the economy. While I am a strident defender of the classic liberal arts, these subjects must be complemented by an actual skill that will ensure economic stability. Again and again, we see people who have given little thought to their future outcomes - students who took out thousands in student loans to pursue luxury degrees without any plan on how to connect their education to their future careers.

Ms. Morales apparently hasn't learned that lesson, girding herself to go to law school. As has been discussed ad nauseam across the web and even on this blog, law school is facing a serious economic implosion due to a surfeit of lawyers, the outsourcing of legal work, and the changing economics of the legal industry. It seems that she is again failing to look to the other side of her degree program, instead choosing to use viewbooks as the chief evidence of her future success (she will make an excellent attorney).

These students by and large chose paths through college that were easier - avoiding engineering and the sciences for more enjoyable degrees. That they now find that the market has turned on them is cause for pity, not for sympathy.

Discussion

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