…you want to study…WHAT!?

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…you want to study…WHAT!?

From accounting violations to its use of the dangerous herbicide Roundup, a name for the dangerous carcinogenic agent glyphosate, to the embarrassment of CEO Hugh Grant and former CFO Carl Casale having to pay back about $3 million and $700,000 in bonuses, respectively, to its legal battles with farmers involving suits and countersuits, Monsanto is a nasty dying giant that according to many sources will not survive.

But they keep running “feel good” ads: “We work Together Here”…”We Dream Here”…”We grow ideas here”…”Count the Benefits”…”It’s Hard Work Raising 24 million jobs”…”Friendly Soil”…Talk to some of the farmers we know in the small Ohio town where my wife grew up and you’ll hear some not so friendly reactions to those ads that try to sell them on how they – farmers and Monsanto – can work together.

An ad campaign that extols the young man who switched from a career as an actor to a job as a botanist or the young ballerina who ditched out of the life of a ballet dancer and got a nice corporate job as an engineer is just deceitful advertising. Again, like Monsanto above and like so many large corporations, Wells Fargo has been immersed in countless legal troubles. The $16 billion in legal expenses that Wells Fargo has had over the past several years may cost them a lot more than just dollars.

There’s a connection between the two one-paragraph stories above: they’re both about corporate greed and deceitfulness at any cost – usually at the expense of the worker who produces their product – Monsanto’s pesticides – or performs their services – Wells Fargo’s banking, mortgage, investing, credit card, insurance, and financial services. Those services and products depend on us – the consumer – for their success and on the marketing departments to be sold. When there is a bad ad that causes a negative reaction, heads roll, apologies are made but the next day it is back to funny business as usual.

A very well-written article by Steven Pearlstein a Professor of Public Affairs at George Mason University (https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/09/02/meet-the-parents-who-wont-let-their-children-study-literature ) brilliantly debunks all the myths put forth by my generation (post-Depression Baby Boomers) about job security and why a liberal arts education is a road to nowhere (has anyone not heard Donald Trump go on about that in one of his recent ramblings?)

Mr. Pearlstein offers lots of facts and figures to substantiate his views on why a good liberal arts education is good for anyone in whatever career is their ultimate goal. As he states in very clear terms, one can find as many unemployed or under-employed lawyers and engineers as one will encounter free-lance actors, singers, dancers, writers, painters and directors who now work, now pound the pavement looking for their next gig.

One thing is certain: I have met in a fifty-year career in the arts many happily employed and unemployed artists of all disciplines. The secret is finding your path and doing what you love. Many of our parents and grandparents did not have that chance. Let’s not ruin things for the generation of college-bound young men and women who should have the opportunity to choose what they want to do with the rest of their lives.

Rafael de Acha

4 thoughts on “…you want to study…WHAT!?

  1. Well said, Rafael! As someone with two “unmarketable” undergraduate degrees (music and history), I value the “learning to learn” approach to education that Pearlstein advocates, as opposed to the “job training” approach many take now.

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  2. Unfortunately, the arts world is very different today than when you or I started working in it. When I started my career in the early 80’s, there were thousands of resident theaters where a person could get a season or year long contract, which could provide a decent living. Now there are hundreds, if that. Think of how many cities had opera companies that could provide a living when you started as opposed to now. Young artists face a much more difficult journey to a living wage than we did, and it wasn’t easy in our day. Something to think about.

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    1. Steve, you are absolutely right about the dearth of resident theatre companies and their inability to provide a decent living for actors, directors, administrators and designers. I’m not sure why it is that way, but it is. Just hearing from South Florida theatre people about the lack of work down there is disheartening. When we left South Florida, the Coconut Grove Playhouse, the Caldwell Playhouse, and Florida Stage, to name but three of the larger LORT theaters in that part of the country had ceased operations, leaving behind some very worthy but smaller theatres that unfortunately were unable to provide a livelihood to many but a handful of administrators and that eventually perished.

      Cincinnati is not all that different: of all the stages around this area, only the Playhouse in the Park has LORT status. The rest of the theatres in this City are largely good but smaller theatres unable to provide substantial work for many artists. The classical music scene up here and countrywide is somewhat different from the theatre scene that you and I cut our teeth on. Just talking about Opera, for instance, OPERA AMERICA has a much larger membership than it did 40 plus years ago when Kimberly and I started our careers. At that time it was mostly Europe or bust for young singers. Nowadays there are a good fifty or more regional opera companies that will hire singers at the start of their careers for roles of all sizes. They’re not the MET, but they offer good. clean, decent professional work. Europe is still there and many Americans are still making Europe their base of operations, but many are getting their stripes right here at home.

      Instrumentalists have it tougher. I hear many stories about several HUNDRED oboists or clarinetists (only a couple of those in most orchestras) showing up for auditions for openings in orchestras in Maine or Wyoming or Alaska. The ones who don’t make the cut then journey on to the next audition and the one after that. Many instrumentalists have to turn to teaching. And that is a good thing.

      I can tell you that out of the graduating classes at CCM (our undergraduate school) and New England Conservatory of Music (our graduate school) most voice majors ended up five or ten or twenty years after in teaching positions around the country. In theatre, too…I think of the wonderful actors with whom you and I worked at New Theatre: Matthew Wright, David Kwiat, Jim Randolph, Carlos Orizondo, Bridget Connors and of how all of those mentioned ended up teaching.

      I consider you, my friend, one of the lucky ones to have ended up with a good job. Good wishes to you and Liz!

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