“Nearly half of all persons under 30 did not go to work today.” Ok, so when Mitch Daniels added this statement to his State of the Union response on Tuesday night, he might have been stretching things a bit. I don’t normally touch on political subjects, because honestly there’s too much lobbying and money swapped for it to be honest legislation these days. But I have a couple of thoughts to share.
Today I noticed several responses to Daniels’ comments on the Labor Statistics for the under-30 crowd. Yeah he did stretch, misuse (however you want to put it) some of the numbers into making the unemployment rates for this age group seem a little more extreme. When you take into account the number of high school and college students, stay at home parents, and those who cannot work for what ever reason the unemployment rate falls to something much, much lower. But I have a bone to pick with this and it brought back some feelings I had about the Child Labor Act.
There is no reason youth from the age of 16-22 can’t have at least a part-time job. Yeah I know, there are a TON of excuses we can give for riding parents’ coat tails while in school. “We’re focusing on our studies.” “I’m too involved in activities.” “I can’t handle any more outside of classes.” I call bull hockey on this one. One of the issues that is getting Americans – as a whole – into a bind is our lack of work ethic and college debt. We have all these youth living off either parents’ money or student loans, in school, and will take years to pay off their loans. I’ve seen it, I’ve heard it with my own two ears. There are kids out there that will go through their entire high school and college education and never work a day in their life at a job. How are they supposed to know what to do once they graduate? (Now that I am stepping on some toes… Feel free to send me hate mail, but this is how I feel and sometimes ya just go it put it out there.)
My parents raised me to know how to work. I grew up on a ranch and learned how to drive a tractor, farm equipment, and a one ton pickup with a 32′ stock trailer before I could ever even think about getting my driver’s license. I used to ride the bus to the ranch headquarters and walk up the driveway (that seemed a mile long at the time, up hill both ways :) of course), and jump over to the barn to help mom and dad finish vaccinating or sorting calves and feeding for the day. On weekends I would beg my dad to wait while I finished feeding my show calves so I could go to work with him. When mom and dad got busy on the ranch, sometimes I would have to ride the bus to the house and take the 4-wheeler up the hill to check our personal cowherd, and occasionally feed hay. I got pretty darn good at tying 4-5 square bales on that ole 4-wheeler. I believe I was 15 when my whole family was at my brother’s basketball game when a cow had trouble calving. I got her up and pulled the calf, in the snow, and everything was taken care of. I look back and appreciate everything I learned in those years. It sure wasn’t all peaches and cream. I’ll confess, I moaned and ground a time or two, and might have even thrown a fit worthy of dad wearing out my tail, but I learned from it.
I learned an even harder lesson the week before my 18th birthday when my mom died from an accident while sorting cattle. Talk about heart-break. There is nothing we could have done. Working with livestock is a dangerous occupation. I look at life a different way now and immensely appreciate all of the time my parents and teachers took to teach me the skills and safety lessons about working around equipment and livestock. I wouldn’t be where I am today without those experiences.
Now that I have that off my mind, I completely understand the burdens of work when it comes to an education and that not every one is privileged to having a farming family or opportunity to work with their parents. It was far from easy working while taking 18 hours of classes. Every case is different. I have a couple of siblings that could have pushed a little harder to work, and I think they realize that. I seriously doubt you’ll look back and regret working for the experience. Heck, what do ya have to lose? Ya might even find a new passion in life. If nothing else you’ll gain a little appreciation for a good work ethic. We all want our family, friends, and loved ones to do well, and to find what they’re happy doing. But American’s aren’t getting any thinner or out of debt by riding the coat tails of the ones who came before us.
Sorry that got a little lengthy, and maybe preachy, but it’s how I feel on the subject, and sometimes ya just have to let it out.