Folks on the progressive left seem to see Joe Therrien’s story as a tragedy. I agree that it’s a tragedy, but for very different reasons than the ones laid out in the left-wing publication The Nation last week.
Therrien is a part of the Occupy Wall Street protests. Listen to his story and see if you can spot the tragic part.
Just a few years ago, Therrien had a full-time job as a drama teacher in a government-run elementary school in New York City. He was unhappy with the working conditions — too many students, not enough resources and lousy management — so he decided to go to graduate school instead. He spent the next three years studying his passion — puppetry — while he ran up $35,000 in debt.
After emerging from the University of Connecticut with a master’s degree in puppetry, he was apparently shocked to find that he couldn’t find a job. We all know that jobs for good puppeteers should be available pretty much anywhere, but the evil rich have dried up the market. Or something like that. Therrien says he couldn’t find a job, so he ended up applying for his old job at the NYC elementary school. As you might have heard, times are tough, so schools aren’t exactly creating new positions left and right, so he ended up taking a job as a full-time substitute teacher at his old school — at about half his former salary.
So what’s the tragedy here? The writer at The Nation seems to think it’s that there aren’t enough good jobs for puppeteers. (What other conclusion could we draw from the story?) The real tragedy, though, is that some guy left his full-time job — with good benefits and health insurance — in order to put himself $35,000 into debt to get a degree that’s practically worthless. And now he’s part of the Occupy Wall Street crowd whining that someone else is responsible for his predicament?
As far as I’m concerned, Therrien could be the poster child for what’s wrong with the attitudes of many of the Occupy Wall Street crowd. He created his own problem by taking risks to follow a dream, yet he wants to blame others when those risks didn’t pay off as he wanted them to.
I have no problem with people chasing dreams. I’ve done my share of risk-taking and I’ll do more than my share of it in the future. But when foolish risks don’t pan out, you accept that you lost your bet and you learn how to be an assistant manager at Burger King or something. (If you work your way up, you can make a nice living as a fast food manger.) You don’t become part of a naive movement that blames people whose jobs they don’t understand for economic problems they don’t understand. Yet this is the choice Therrien has made.
We live in a society where people are forgetting how to take responsibility for their own choices. They’ve been told for so long that someone else should take care of them — and that someone else will take care of them — that they don’t even understand the foolishness of what they’re doing. The people on the political left talk in language that makes little sense and has no coherent meaning. (Read the story at the link above and see what I mean.)
It’s time for a return to personal responsibility. If you want to take a risk to follow your dream, that’s great. But if it doesn’t work out, get to work on the next plan. Don’t spend weeks making puppets for left-wing political protests and complaining that nobody is giving you a job.