a point of clarification

Yesterday, I overheard some twentysomethings complaining about how much they hated their jobs. After a few minutes, it became clear that none of them took high school seriously, and at least a couple of them had dropped out of community college because it was, in their words, "too hard."

I Twittered: If high school was "boring" and college was "too hard", don't complain about your "dead end minimum wage" job, twentysomething.

I got a lot of angry replies from people who thought I was being a dick about people working minimum wage jobs, like I thought I was better than them or something. I think that response would have been entirely justified if that had, in fact, been what I meant, but I think I was misunderstood, so I want to clarify: As I understood it, these kids (I am really Old Man Wheaton, now, referring to 20 year-olds as 'kids') didn't take their education seriously, didn't make any effort to work toward a career, and were complaining that their jobs didn't pay them enough for their minimal effort. The sense of entitlement annoyed me almost as much as some kid with a job – in a time of incredible unemployment – complaining about getting paid to work. (Yeah, I know that complaining about work is as fundamental as eating lunch, but in the time it took my brain to hear it and my fingers to type it, I didn't stop to think about that.)

I didn't mean to be elitist, or condescending, or insulting to anyone who is doing the best they can during some very difficult times, and if I offended or insulted you, I hope you'll accept my apology. I certainly don't think I'm better than you, or anyone else. We all do what we can to support ourselves and our families, if we have them, right?

On the other hand, if you're one of those kids who told me to go fuck myself, get off my lawn and go back to school. Work hard, because nothing worth doing is ever easy, and the more knowledge you have, the more options you have, so you won't have to spend your life in a dead end job that you hate. Trust me, you'll be glad you did. Maybe not now, maybe not in a year, but some time in the Mysterious Future when you're feeling cranky at the Damn Kids Today you'll be able to shake your cane at them with authority.

99 thoughts on “a point of clarification”

  1. I totally got what you were sayin’. Screw ’em if they didn’t. I agree with you, for the record. I’m having a laugh riot over all of the know-it-all 18-25yo I’m related to that thought they knew it all, didn’t have time for college and just wanted to “start making money.” It’s possible for some but now that they are still making the same amount of money several years later in a dead end job and wishing they had finished high school or college? It’s really hard not to say, “I told you so.” Not that finishing HS or college is a guarantee you’ll do better in life but it sure does help!

  2. Well said, sir. I read your point as it was originally intended but yes; I can see how it may have been misconstrued.
    You’re absolutely right; there’s a culture of entitlement amongst young people. I worked as a teacher in both primary and secondary education here in the UK and it was astonishing how much 1) kids expected to be pandered to and 2) actually got pandered to.
    Education needs a shake-up, particularly in the UK—I can’t speak for the States. But the attitude of kids needs a kick up the arse.

  3. For the record, I too knew what you meant. And I am 20 years old, currently taking community college classes to rack up credits before I make my way to art school in the fall.
    If we want anything in the world we’re going to have to fight for it. I like what you said. There are a lot of people that needed to hear it.

  4. Wil, as a College professor that tries to teach this, all I can really say is… WORD.
    KIDS: Take your education seriously and there’s a good chance you will get to do a job that you don’t hate all the time, and that pays the rent, buys you food, and once in a while lets you go to a fun con. And get off my lawn.

  5. Indeed. I didn’t finish college, but I WORKED to get to the level I am now (i.e. not making minimum wage). It’s the work that some folk seem to chafe at, methinks. Regardless of how they couch their complaints.

  6. As a recently graduated twentysomething, I totally agree. I’m having trouble finding a job at the moment because I didn’t take college quite seriously enough. I can’t even get an officer position I want in the military because my GPA was too low. (For the record, too low meaning 2.9 rather than 3.0)

  7. Dear Wil, you are right as usual, however, in times past punk kids such as these could have at least gotten a decent job working at a factory somewhere and be able to provide a middle class lifestyle for their families. While education and “white collar” jobs is an admirable goal, these things are not for everyone. Before globalization, it didn’t have to be. Now, in America, we are creating a permanent underclass. The children of these children will not be able to afford college. Also we have such a vast amount of surplus workers that everything requires at least a 2 year diploma, regardless of the utility of that education. You want to answer the phone at a dentist’s office? You’ll need to rack up $40,000 of student debt to learn how to do that. I admit it is tempting to mock these dumb kids who wasted their highschool years, no doubt they did. But now they have a whole life sentence of soul destroying mediocrity ahead of them. And that isn’t fair. 4 years of working for the “man” at wal-mart should be plenty of time to teach them the error of their ways. But now they are stuck in a poverty trap and will never escape.

  8. I just got off of a 2 week book tour and you couldn’t be more right. Visiting schools and Boys & Girls Clubs, I saw…real close up like…almost too close…an entire generation of attitude and entitlement-filled kids. So lazy and infatuated with becoming famous. I don’t think they have the slightest idea as to what being famous is all about. Yeah, sure…the money’s good…and that table in the tough-to-get table restaurant is nice, but there is a HUGE loss of freedom to being a ‘famous person.’ Remember the days when you could slip into a movie and not be bothered or stared at? Remember the days when your entire life wasn’t under a microscope? Remember the days when one wrong move meant headlines? The sad fact of the “I hate my job” generation is they are in for a CRASH AND BURN AWAKENING. No education. No skills. What? No more money from Mom & Dad? http://www.whatagreatbook.com

  9. I agree with everyone, well said. I’m 26, I got my master’s degree, I’m working at a job I like and while I’m not making nearly enough money I know I’m lucky to have my job and I’m damn lucky to be doing a job I like.

  10. I retweeted that comment because, as a college professor, I am irritated on a daily basis by students saying the same kinds of things. If college was easy, it wouldn’t be worth getting a degree and it wouldn’t do what it is intended to do which is to set you apart from those *without* a degree. In the end, it’s not even about gaining knowledge but just showing you can do what it takes to get the degree.

  11. I too got what you were saying in those < 140 characters. Anyone who didn’t, didn’t read them all. You did qualify which part of the population you were directing your comment to – those that had been given ample opportunity to better themselves and squandered it & still expected the world to hand everything to them. Not those that have worked as hard as they can for everything they’ve ever gotten. Sometimes those things have to be said and you do a great job of it. Keep up the good work Old Man (hee hee – that’s fun to say to a youngster like you)

  12. The whole sense of entitlement thing came to mind last night as the wife and I were looking up a good friend on some teacher-rating website. The complaints from kids who were upset that they were actually being GRADED on the stuff they turned in – and the very fact that they were being TOLD to turn stuff in – had to be read to be believed. This is from students in a community college English 101 course. When confronted by this degree of laziness and unjustified indignation, my only reaction is to shrug and say, “Enjoy your career in fast food preparation.”
    Or, as the kids say these days, “Cry moar.”

  13. I’m a thritysomething professional and I still rail against the inhumanity of corporate life. And I’m one that went from flipping burger to a corporate job without a “real” education (Because a degree in fine arts don’t mean shit) and I’m still unsatisfied with work life, said I working from home in front of my TV. I’ll still rail against my management being corporate douches with little consideration for the little things like REALITY and LOGIC or FLEXIBILITY, UNDERSTANDING and COMPASSION. No matter what job you have, being underfoot to corporate monsters is never a fun thing. I love what I do, I hate corporatism. I hated it flipping burgers at McDonald’s and I hate it while I safeguard the Global IT infrastructure.

  14. Honestly, Wil, I thought a little bit about being offended by that tweet. I found some of high school quite boring (and adored other parts of it) and I found college to be an experience I wasn’t ready for, which is a form of “too hard,” if you see my meaning. I’ve been a slacker and I’ve been a workaholic. I’ve worked the graveyard shift at a gas station, where I was mocked by customers, and I took a stab at what I thought would be my dream job. And here’s what I know: Almost nothing worth having comes easy. Almost nothing goes as planned.
    I have some sympathy for kids who find college too hard. I have some sympathy for kids who might be bored by high school. Here’s the thing, though: the grind is worth the toil when it leads to better things.
    Hard work is what gets the goods, and sometimes hard work isn’t immediately rewarding or glamorous or satisfying. Sometimes it’s just hard. Sometimes it’s just work. We’ve all got to do things we don’t like doing to get and to keep the things we love.
    So, anyway, I thought about being offended and I decided not to be.

  15. I knew what you meant sir. As someone who employes those teens and twenty-somethings almost exclusively I have a deep and abiding appreciation of your sentiment. At the same time I have been able to see things like the young woman who at 18 was putting herself through school as well as paying most of her mother’s bills because the woman was…..scatterbrained at the very least. There is still hope for some of them.

  16. Funny how that works. After years of minimum wage jobs, I went back to school, got my degree, and was able to make enough money to raise my family and buy a house. Who’da thunk?

  17. Totally get it, and what’s funny is I’m teaching these ideals to my 5 year old daughter right now. She’s been coming home with pink slips (which is weird because she’s seriously the world’s best kid) because she’s been goofing off at school. So we’ve told her, “In order to be a scientist when you grow up you HAVE to pay attention in school NOW.” I think it’s sinking in because we’re seeing less and less of those pink slips. She REALLY wants to be an animal scientist and I believe she understands the consequences of her actions. I kinda wish I had had tougher parents with regards to this. I totally took the easy way out through high school and college and instead of going the route of my dream (funny, animal sciences) I did art, and not very well. Now I find myself nearing a point in my life when I am looking forward to a career (I’ve been a stay at home mom for 5.5 years) and I am CLUELESS what to do. School may feature again in my life, and this time I won’t wuss out. /rambleasusual

  18. I agree with you as well, Wil.
    On the other side of things though, employers who only pay minimum wage should only expect minimum work/effort from their employees. You do get what you pay for.
    Even when I was working entry level jobs, I wouldn’t work for minimum wage, I take pride in my work and try to work hard. If an employer wants to give me the minimum they can legally get away with, then they’re only going to get the minimum I have to give to them. That’s if they could even get me in the door.

  19. It’s entirely clear what you meant by your tweet. People that didn’t understand it are sons of very silly persons, the kind that will end up complaining about the low-paying jobs they ended up in. THEY are the people insulting those that are happy in such jobs.

  20. I was personally offended by the comment because I am myself a college dropout and before I was laid off (office closed and moved across the country), I was working with people with the same salary as me who not only had degrees but a few had post-graduate degrees and professional certifications. So I get offended when people imply that not having a college degree makes one a worse person or unintelligent, neither of which is true (I knew a guy with an English degree whose favorite author was Dan Brown FFS…and not “guilty pleasure” favorite, but actual “I love the writing” favorite).
    However, it only took me about two seconds of thought to realize that you were not insulting me or those like me, but rather were insulting a couple of spoiled brats who thought that they deserved better than to start at the bottom like everyone has to in their career, degree or no.
    For the record, I am trying to get back into school, but solely because I want to learn and want a degree for myself, not because of some future possible job prospects.

  21. I didn’t take offense with the tweet. That being said, I actually have two degrees and I’m working at a minimum wage job. I’ve had my first degree for almost three years and its still hard to find a good job.
    Granted, I’ve been job searching and in the hiring process for one of those potential employers (and I’ve been doing pro bono work for what I’ve been wanting to do to get experience), but its not easy out there.
    All that being said, I also get frustrated by people at my wage level who complain like that, even though they didn’t take their education seriously. Many of them have snubbed me because they have “real world experience”, but sometimes that’s just not enough, you know?

  22. I knew what you meant. You meant kids today act like coddled little creeps. I did well in high school, worked my ass off for lots of hard college degrees and I don’t love my job either. I guess that gives me permission to bitch about the lack of technology investment in the last decade ruining everything?

  23. Amen. In fact, I’ve often advocated that if you don’t understand why you’re going to college, then you aren’t ready to go yet. Spend a few years working, and perhaps it’ll dawn on you. And if you can be successful without going to college, hey, then good for you.

  24. I went to college, then watched my once-lucrative career plummet to almost a minimum-wage job thanks to competition from India. Nobody is going to pay me a good hourly wage with benefits when they can get the same thing for a buck a day overseas.
    So at 48 I find myself starting a new career, and making just a few nickles more than minimum wage; exactly the same place I’d be if I’d never put any time and money into my education.

  25. I disagree with this sentiment. If you want to succeed in life, first you must become indispensable wherever you are right now. Only by pushing yourself to do your best in every situation will you create value in your environment and opportunities to grow. It’s not up to external circumstances to define how hard you work; it’s up to *you* and your own sense of self-worth. :)

  26. I knew what you meant, and there was no way in hell that I was going to be offended. I recently went back to college and I’ve been appalled at the attitudes of a lot of these kids. My coworkers and I have come to the conclusion that most of these kids just don’t care. They may not know what it’s like to have to work hard for something because they’re too busy being wrapped up in that entitlement crap.
    At least not all of those kids act like that, so there may be some hope left yet.

  27. I worked my way through college, grad school and law school just to end up being “downsized” twice in the last two years. I won’t say my education and effort was a total waste but I sure would like some of the time and money I put into it back considering how little I now have to show for it. However, as much as I complain I know I would be seriously screwed in this economy without an education and marketable skills.

  28. When I saw your Twitter comment I didn’t draw any comment, I figured you where making some sort of point and awaited further info, and here it is.
    I only got to go to college (what you would call community college) and had to work my arse off because an illness robbed me of several years of high school education. But I found it enjoyable and got decent jobs despite the setbacks, but only because I grafted for it. I’ve had friends who’ve been to university and did well from it, but they had to work for it.
    And yes, I’ve had friends like those you describe, moaning that they earned minimum wage in dead end jobs because they where not qualified or anything else. They pissed away their time in college, wasted years thinking nothing would get any worse and are now bitching and whining that it has.
    I think more than a few of us understand what you felt at that moment, I’ve spent whole nights at the pub listening to it. I could be worse Mr Wheaton, you could be forced to listen to it during your leisure time.

  29. Don’t get me wrong Widowspider, I think they’ll always be people who will settle for whatever lot they get in life, but too many employers pay the minimum and feel entitled to; a) never pay you more no matter what you do to prove you’re worth it and b) expect your loyalty and hard work with never returning those things in turn.
    In some respects I’ve accepted SOME of Ayn Rand’s outlook on capitalism. I sell myself and the work I provide to my employer, if I don’t place a high value on that, how can I expect my employer to value it? If I’m willing to work for the legal minimum, then I should expect my employer to place a minimum value on my efforts.
    Currently, in Canada, we have many families that are surviving on minimum wage, a wage that allows them to continue to live in poverty with no hope for the future. In BC where I live we have a “training” (translate that to slave) wage, which is even lower than the minimum wage, so that employers can truly show their contempt for the people they employ.
    Continual staff rollovers, and a work force that has nothing worthwhile to strive for means lazy, dissatisfied workers.

  30. I said it before, I’ll say it again:
    Ryan and Nolan REALLY should start working on @ShitOldManWheatonSays soon. These old man rants are happening more and more frequently. :)

  31. I totally understood what you meant and who you were directing it at. I have to share my frustration with some of these “youngsters”.
    I ride the bus to work and due to the hour it is crowded both with college students and downtown workers. This morning at my bus stop, a mother with what was at most a 6 month old got on the bus. I made sure she got on before me so she could more easily get a seat.
    At the front of the bus there is priority seating for disable and elderly, and given the hour it was mostly taken up by college students, the majority who get off in one or two stops or basically 2 to 4 blocks. Not a single one of them in the priority seating offered this mother and her child their seat even those that got off at the next stop.
    I was totally disgusted by them. I know not all young people are that way. But it does reflect poorly on them when they are seating in areas designated for people like that mother but not a single one of them offering up their seat as intended.

  32. Three ingredients in this pot:
    “Kids” feeling a strong sense of entitlement. This is partially due to parents raised in the 60’s and 70’s raising kids with more “love” and less discipline. And TV ads aimed at children telling them how much they all deserved.
    The growing wage gap between rich and poor since the early 80’s thanks to Reaganomics.
    Its not the same environment for them as it was for us.
    Here’s a quote from Pew research:
    One in four of those between 18 and 29 have moved back in with their parents. Fewer than half of all adults expect their children to have a higher standard of living than
    theirs, and more than a quarter say it will be lower.
    The rules of the game have changed, and not in the favor of America’s youth, they may have a right to be upset.

  33. I totally understand where you are coming from Wil. We are about the same age I am really surprised with the younger generation these days. It’s as if they don’t even understand that you only get out of life what you put into it. Of course, I have met many young folks who aren’t like that at all and understand that success only comes from hard work. But lately that seems more like the exception and not the rule.

  34. Wil, I paid little attention for half of high school, and then turned it on the last two years. I went to two community colleges and then dropped out to work full-time.
    You know what? My job isn’t my dream job, but I really don’t mind it, and it’s going to take care of me when I’m old. I agree with what you said, and as one of those guys who didn’t work that hard in high school and didn’t bother to even finish community college, I can’t complain, because I made the choices that led me to my current station in life. I’m comfortable with it, so it’s not a bad thing, but if I wasn’t, I’d have no good reason to complain.

  35. I was a slacker and dropped out of college when I was around 23, after 5 years of not getting very far. Ended up going back after the dot com bubble burst and got my Associates’ degree in ’05, my BFA at age 40 in 2009, and am halfway through my Masters of Fine Arts degree, planning on finishing in 2012 (just before the end of the world 😉
    There is no “losing,” there’s only giving up…

  36. In a perfect world, you’re right on the money. But this is a world where employers love indispensable people because then they can set them and forget them. They know they will work as hard as they can, so they take advantage of that because it works out for their bottom line.
    For example, if you’re working so hard that you’re actually doing the output of three minimum wage people in that same position, then the employer says “Great! I’m saving two salaries by keeping that person there for as long as I can convince them to stay.”
    Or worse, then they make you management, and allow you to work yourself so hard that if you add up your hours worked, at the end of the month, compared against your salary, you find that you’d be making less than minimum wage.
    At which point you burn out in a few months, and they replace you with the next indispensable person willing to push themselves to do their best in every situation.

  37. Unfortunately, both sides are true. The narcissism, the sense of entitlement, going on in this country (and not only by young people) is off the scale. Yet the state of the going-global economy is not helping very talented, very educated people find living-wage jobs. Someone very dear to me has 90K in student debt, two degrees and has been unable to find a job in 2 years. I know this very hard working person, and I find the “they are just lazy” statement a cop out. There is a whole lot going on in this country and none of it fits into a nice neat package that can be easily labeled.

  38. I completely agree especially in these hard times. If a lot of people are complaining then they should give them up for people like me who will happily do ANYTHING just to earn some extra money to get through University. I say this because since I came to Uni, I have only been able to get 1 job which was boring, but I was grateful for the few extra quid to get by. Unfortunately they let me go after Christmas because they couldn’t afford to keep me.
    So for all those complaining because they refused a decent education, make way for those who ARE working hard but aren’t getting anywhere by it because of a recession and a (STUPID) VAT rise!
    Rant over. Please continue… :)

  39. Wat?
    You’re right, of course, but I don’t see how this applies to this situation.
    Wil was overhearing what some people whom he didn’t know was saying. These were not loved ones, or else I’m sure Wil’s tone would have been very different.

  40. I totally agree with you Wil. There are several teens in my life I really really like; they are good hearted kids; but they are so so lazy. They have the brains to go places but they don’t take school seriously and already think they know it all. I do remember my parents showing an interest in my education by saying “what did you learn in school today?” Id answer “nothing”. But, even though I didnt think it was important i still went to school and did the homework. And now at 40 I work for myself. And try to to tell these kids today they WILL need that algebra.

  41. I agree, but again I don’t believe this is what Wil was criticizing. “Very talented, very educated people” were not the people Wil was talking about.
    It seems to me, he’s specifically talking about those who so believe that life should be easy and handed to them that they refuse to put in the effort to be educated, and then have the nerve to still refuse to take ownership of their situation when their life isn’t where they want it to be.
    They are the ones that “are just lazy,” not the person you described.

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