The Class of 2010’s Bad Luck

Courtney Martin argues that what college students graduating into the poor labor market of 2010 may lose in money, they gain in valuable perspective:

In this light, today’s graduates are not actually so unlucky. They are compelled to be scrappy, to depend on one another, to stick to their own invented definitions of success (what other kinds are there, really?). Like their great grandmothers and grandfathers, they are being made hardy for the long haul, accustomed to tectonic shifts in economy, environment, technology, culture. “There’s only change,” Meryl Streep told the Barnard College Class of 2010, “and then resistance to it, and then more change.”

How right she is. Now that I’ve hit 30, I can proudly say that I haven’t lost my idealism, nor picked up much bitterness, but I have endured the unexpected. My triumphs have tasted pretty damn sweet, but it is the loss and the change that have made me stronger, wiser, more empathic. Cornel West asks, “Yes it’s failure, but how good a failure?”

Wise words in many ways. And I hope they’re true because in concrete material terms the evidence indicates that the negative consequences of graduating into a recession last at least ten years and possibly even longer. It’s genuinely bleak out there, and hugely unfair.