There is work to do

Abdominal sonographers
Able seamen
Absorption and adsorption engineers
Academic deans
Academic librarians
Account auditors
Account clerks
Account executives, securities and investments
Account executives
Accounting clerks
Accounting professors
Accounts collectors
Accounts payable clerks
Accounts receivable assistants
Accounts receivable clerks
Acoustical carpenters
Acquisitions librarians
Activities aides
Activities assistants
Activities coordinators
Activities leaders
Activity specialists
Actor understudies
Actuarial associates
Actuarial mathematicians
Actuarial science professors
Addiction counselors
Addiction nurses
Addiction psychiatrists
Addictions counselor assistants
Addiction therapists
Administrative assistants
Administrative clerks
Administrative court justices
Administrative directors
Administrative leads
Administrative managers
Administrative office assistants
Administrative officers
Administrative office specialists
Administrative professionals
Administrative services managers
Administrative specialists
Administrative support specialists
Administrative technicians
Admissions officers
Admitting interviewers
Adult basic education managers
Adult basic education teachers
Adult education teachers
Adult English as a second language teachers
Adult Literacy and High School Equivalency Diploma Teachers
Adult literacy instructors
Adult literacy teachers
Adult remedial education instructors
Adult remedial education teachers
Adult secondary education teachers
Advanced EMTs
Advanced nursing professors
Advanced practice registered nurses
Advertising, promotions, and marketing managers
Advertising agents
Advertising directors
Advertising executives
Advertising managers
Advertising photographers
Advertising sales agents
Advertising solicitors
S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook

I first came across the Occupational Outlook Handbook in the mid-1960s when I was selecting my undergraduate major. I had already decided to declare psychology as my major, had even filled out the one-page form to do so. But then, two things happened. First, I was growing uneasy about finding work in the field with a bachelor’s degree. Second, when I voiced that concern in the question and answer period of a large sophomore-level class lecture, I was told by the professor that I would not be granted a degree because I am a homosexual.

Although I felt deeply humiliated by this very public statement in front of more than 100 people, I also felt unable to address it with anyone. The psychology department? I didn’t even know where the department offices were located. My advisor? I had only met her once and the topic of my sexuality would not have come up. This was before the Stonewall Rebellion had moved the gay movement into public awareness.  When I did track her down, it was to get a signature on the form that declared my intention to pursue a major in secondary education as a teacher.

In the days between the fateful psychology class incident and declaring my new major, I consulted with the Occupational Outlook Handbook, then a thick set of well-thumbed volumes in the reference section of the library. From it I learned that there was a significant need for new teachers that would be would not be readily satisfied for years to come. I picked the field of education out of my need for steady work, my enjoyment of thinking, and my mistaken belief that the field would bring with it the respect teachers and learning that I generally felt toward both.

Though the projection system was not there in 1967, this lecture hall was. I took this shot recently from the seat I sat in nearly 50 years ago.

Though the projection system was not there in 1967, this lecture hall was. I took this shot recently from the seat I sat in nearly 50 years ago.

If it sounds like my approach toward resolving the problems of my situation back then was quite mature for a nineteen year old student, I would disagree with the assessment. I was not so much mature or even misguided as I as unguided. Being the only person in my extended family to have pursued post-secondary education at that time, my parents simply had little to offer by way of advice. They would not have been able to weigh in on my decision-making process because of their lack of exposure to higher education. At the time, their own jobs would not have required a degree, though they likely would today. No, my approach was not so much mature as it was a sign of being on my own. I was an emancipated youth at age 18.

Two and one-half years later I graduated with about 600 others with degrees in education. Unfortunately, the updated Occupational Outlook Handbook no longer showed a high need for teachers. The effects of the baby-boom and the GI Bill were both prominent. The former was now passed and the number of new children entering schools had slowed significantly. The latter had produced bumper crops of new teachers in the recent past. Further, I suspect there may have been some effect of the deferment status of teachers in the military on the numbers of newly minted professionals during the Viet Nam war. In any case, I landed one of a handful of jobs available in our local district. My 3.9 GPA, membership in honor societies, and excellent recommendations from student teaching likely helped. So did my willingness to teach youth in a program designed to decrease their likely recidivism in juvenile crime with support of Title V of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965.

Wars in Korea, Europe, the Pacific, and Southeast Asia joined with institutionalized anti-gay discrimination, poverty, and limited family exposure to higher education to advance and limit my educational and career aspirations. These forces did the same or worse to countless other graduates from the class of 1970. That new wars, continued discrimination, family histories, and personal traits continue to cobble learners 45 years later is at once astonishing and regretable.

A few years ago I had the great opportunity to work alongside some men who grew up in my old childhood neighborhood. Like me, they are hard working. They had also been pretty much on their own in making decisions about their futures at too young an age. Unlike me — though I cannot still figure out why my career trajectory is so different from theirs – these guys 30 years my junior were prison inmates in a work release program intended to reintroduce them into communities. It occurs to me that the answers to poverty, community violence, and crime do not lie in the industrialized prison complex, but rather in committing to the resolution of international differences through non-violent means, to the elimination of oppressive systems, greater supports for youth and families, education, and meaningful work. Community development processes will be more effective in the context of much larger social change.

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