Thursday, August 16, 2012

Linda Hirshman and the 1%

I don't consider myself a fan of Linda Hirshman, whose screed Get to Work I confess I haven't read. I'm put off by her advice that an educated woman should have at most one child (any more will interfere with her career), and shouldn't study art because it doesn't lead to well-paid jobs.

So I was pleasantly surprised to find myself agreeing with much of her article, It's about the 1%. Her central point is that well-paid jobs have gotten more and more demanding over the past several decades.

(An academic woman I know told me: "[Famous Academic Bigshot] once gave me the advice that I should be careful to publish one good article a year if I wanted tenure. I didn't have the heart to tell him that it had gone up to two articles a year.")

I especially liked Hirshman's closing:

When ordinary working men got the chance to fight for a 40 hour week, they fought, in many days, to the death. The murderous police attack on labor we call the Haymarket was a response to a rally for an eight-hour day! When did this become a woman's problem? Calling it one only means it will never get addressed. Just like every other problem assigned to women.
I'm sure she's right about "women's problems", and it gives me a moment of insight into the current conversation about education. When people go on about how are kids aren't being correctly prepared for corporate jobs, what they're trying to say is, "Look! Education actually matters! It actually intersects with things we care about, like the corporate workforce!" No wonder they're nonplussed by people like me saying "shouldn't there be a point to education besides the ability to get paid?" What other point could there possibly be?

Overachiever's footnote: I also liked this article about women and work by Sandra Tsing Loh: "I Choose My Choice!"

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