Monday, February 11, 2013

one point five million

i'm so amazed by so many of the misconceptions of what life is like in the usa. money falls from the sky and the streets are paved in gold, and, for many, life is always easy street. being from the grand ole yu-es-of-eh means that i know it's not true. and having wandered enough with immigrants, i know it's even less true for so many latinos.

when i teach my university students, i try to find tricky ways to open their eyes to things they might not have the chance to see in their other courses. things like poverty that exists in their own backyards, women's issues, and yes, sometimes i need to break it to them that money is mostly hard to earn and easy to lose.

today, we did a salary comparison activity. the students get a list of ten fairly common professions and they have to put them in order from highest paid to lowest paid. and then, the fun part, they have to guess what these professions earn in the u.s.

overwhelmingly their lists look like this:

basketball player - $10,000,000
CEO - 3,000,000
pilot - 1,500,000
doctor - 1,000,000
lawyer - 900,000
police officer - 150,000
farmer - 100,000
nurse- 95,000
teacher - 75,000
supermarket cashier - 10,000

i don't know what this illuminates more - the sheer ignorance of what professionals are worth (in any country!) or the depressing contrast of rich and poor that exists in their own lives and culture.

when i ask students why they chose their major, i'm saddened that almost none are studying because they are passionate or interested in their studies. either, "my dad has a company and he wants me to work with him." or "my mom told me this is a good way to make money" or "this is the best way to get rich." and when i bump into people after graduation, many are disillusioned with their jobs - believing mostly that they deserve more money even though they have no experience. and, of course, the aim is to reach the states eventually.

and now i know why.

seriously, one point five million for a pilot? the reality looks more like fifty thousand. unless you're flying beyonce's plane. and while i sincerely believe that teachers deserve 75,000 and more, it's not even close to reality for new teachers. and the poor supermarket cashier who makes pennies? that's because, they tell me, she didn't study and doesn't deserve a better salary.

i don't think this attitude is going anywhere - but until then, i'll keep slippin' in the truth, knockin' down the un-true dream and hoping they get it.

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