This article about how divorce is losing its luster reminds me of this essay here on this blog, about how the percentage of people getting college degrees in America has not increased in 40 years, despite the incessant claim that a college degree is a meal ticket to a better life. In both cases, despite the received mythology and the stories they tell themselves, people come to see the truth, however dimly or haltingly.
In the case of college, it works like this: some careers are off limits to those without a college degree or 3, mostly for good reason – you want your doctor, lawyer and research biologists to be very well trained in their specialties, and that’s unlikely to happen without years of schooling. Many other jobs are largely restricted to college grads, despite there being little if any connection between the work and the degree. Do cops, airline pilots or managers of insurance adjuster really gain anything from college that couldn’t easily get elsewhere? Historically, people did these jobs without college degrees. Now, the college degree starts out used as a filter to keep down the number of applicants, then habit eventually enshrines it as law.
But for most ways of earning a living, having a college degree is pretty irrelevant to the job. (Note: I have a couple of nice college degrees, so this isn’t just sour grapes). What your average guy sees: I can spend 4 years getting a college degree, going into debt or living in poverty or living at home, and – then what? I’ve always wanted to be a brick layer or auto mechanic or artist or – whatever. Maybe I should pursue a course that gets me where I’m going directly. Plus, I hear about all these people with English degrees not working, or doing jobs they could have gotten without a degree, and they’ve wasted years of their lives, years of earning potential, and possibly gone into debt – in order to sling coffee at Starbucks?
So, maybe 30% college grads is about all the economy can take. Maybe that reality is behind the stall in the number of people with college degrees after decades of increases.
Similarly, in the first story, people have been encouraged to think of divorce as this sort of random thing that can happen to anybody, without any really permanent or damaging effects. Sure, it hurts, but the core of your being – the unencumbered Will – remains untouched.
Anybody not willfully blind to the world knows this is not true – the human wreckage from divorce is all around us. The concomitant attempts to portray happy, faithful marriage as some sort of cultural Ivory-billed woodpecker also fails pretty regularly, as there are plenty of them out there. It helps the delusion that there is often a social divide between those who see marriage as a fundamental and permanent spiritual commitment and those who see it ‘for as long as you both shall love’. This article is interesting in that the women interviewed seemed to straddle those worlds.
While the stories are sad, the trend, if that’s what it is, is encouraging. Truth making a little bitty comeback – whoda thunk it?