Unemployment, You, Your Children and You (Part Three)

Editor’s Note: This is part 3 of a hilarious guest post from reader Amanda Hahn. Amanda is a recent graduate from Texas A&M University in College Station, TX. She runs the blog, “I want to work for The Onion.”

PART THREE: U$E THEIR $KILL$

Have you ever noticed how much time your child wastes? Hours upon hours are spent playing video games, doing schoolwork, and even daydreaming. Your child should be using his or her limited abilities to maximize family profits. Just because you can no longer bring home the bacon, it does not mean no one in the family should. Try exploiting your children’s skills by monetizing on them.

In many developing countries, it is common to see young children begging for money. Mothers holding infants asking for money on the side of the road is a typical sight as well. There is nothing wrong with borrowing the techniques of those outside of the USA. So throw some culture in your money-making strategies and hit the road! Technically, you’ll be hitting the side of the road as you ask others to spare some change. You could do this individually, but your profits will increase dramatically if you bring your child along with you.

There are other basic, obvious job choices besides begging. Jobs such as mowing lawns, providing cleaning services, or distributing newspapers can bring in money, but there will be much competition for these positions, so think of other ways to use your children for profit. For example, if your child is good-looking, attempt to get him or her modeling jobs. If he or she is not a picky eater, encourage your child to accept dares to eat worms for money. Children (especially girls) with beards can be used in your own front yard freak-show exhibit. Get creative! Be bold! Just make sure that your children do not get their hands on a single penny. All profits should go to you. This is fair because your children may be the ones with the talent, but it’s your genes that gave them that talent in the first place.

If your children catch on and suggest that they obtain a cut of the profits, lie. Say that all of the money is going into a college fund for them. The exploitation process is now complete.

Hopefully, this text has been of help to you. With these three simple steps: 1) Tell your children, 2) Recall, re-bond, and re-conquer, and 3) U$e their $kill$, you and your children will breeze through the unemployment phase of your life. There is nothing more important than the parent-child relationship. Employment is almost as important, but hopefully your unemployment will go so well that you will never want a job again!

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Unemployment, You, Your Children and You (Part Two)

Editor’s Note: This is part 2 of a hilarious guest post from reader Amanda Hahn. Amanda is a recent graduate from Texas A&M University in College Station, TX. She runs the blog, “I want to work for The Onion.”

RECALL, RE-BOND, & RE-CONQUER

After emerging from your bedroom, your job is still gone, but your children are still there. It is time to adjust to living with them once again by recalling, re-bonding, and re-conquering.

Recall

To reconnect with your children during this stressful time in your life, start by refreshing your memory. You have probably spent much time away from your family during your years of employment, so get to know your children again at their deepest levels and remembering the fine details about them. Make sure you answer the important questions like:

Are these actually your children in your house?

Many times, children participate in events known as “get-togethers” or “play-dates.”  This is when your own children invite other people into your home to socialize with others their own age. Because of this phenomenon, some of the children in your house might not be yours. They may be friends of your children or even neighbors. Find out which ones are yours from a spouse or by referencing family photo albums.

Also, do some heavy-duty research and find out if you have any children that are not in your house. Have you had any previous marriages, relationships, or even one-night-stands? If so, it’s possible that you are a parent to a child that lives with his or her other parent. These children are just as important as the ones inside of your home, so make sure you study their faces and ages well too.

Do they have names?

Your children will become offended if you do not remember their names. For this reason, and for other practical reasons, learning their names is an extremely important step when remembering your children. Recognizing their faces is not enough. In person, you can get away with not knowing their names by referring to them as “sweetie” or “rascal.” However many times, as a parent, you will need to call your child by phone. To do so, you must locate his or her name in your phone contacts list, something you cannot do if the name is unknown. One helpful trick is to delete all of your old work contacts (you won’t need those anymore!) This will not only narrow down which contacts belong to your children but it also frees phone memory storage for your new friends in the PTA and other organizations you’re likely to join out of desperation to get involved doing something, anything other than seeing how often CNN repeats the same stories over a two hour period.

In addition to learning names, ages, and birthdays of your children, you should learn their gender as well. Many forms, such as those from school or a doctor’s office, will require you to indicate your child’s gender. For reasons presently unknown, children tend to become very upset if you do not know their gender and have to ask them which option to select on the form. Sometimes determining gender involves more than simply looking at the child, even after puberty. For example, depending on the decade, boys may have very long hair and girls may have very short hair. Be careful when making any assumptions. Remember: when in doubt, ask your spouse. This can apply to anything you want to know about your children.

Do any of them bite? If so, how hard?

This straightforward question is more complicated than it initially appears to be. It may seem like a clear choice to avoid the children that bite and bite hard. However, you must remain in charge, and never let your children intimidate you. Remember, you can no longer hide from your children by going to work. You’re stuck with these miniature humans for an extending period of time, so it’s important to stay in control. If they are biters, follow these steps to train your puppy child to not bite:

1)    When your puppy child bites, alert him or her that you have been hurt by letting out a large yelp.

2)    If the behavior continues, leave the room. Your puppy child will learn that this biting will lead to the “fun time” being over. This also lets the puppy child know that biting itself is not a game.

3)    You can also try giving your puppy child a chew toy. Try one filled with peanut butter. This is fun for your puppy child and also allows for a release of the urge to bite.

If these steps fail, simply bite back. If nothing else, your child will be stunned into obedience. If even this fails, try having your child spayed or neutered. Remember, you no longer have the funds to do so legitimately, so find a back-alley character who will castrate your son or daughter for a very low cost.

Which ones spend the most money?

As quickly as possible, determine which child requests, demands, or steals the most money then avoid him or her at all costs. As an unemployed individual, you can no longer afford to spend money on the frivolous requests of children. For example, your daughter (or son or intersexed child) may want something silly like fake, plastic nails. These are useless for everything besides falling off onto the carpet of your home and getting stuck in the vacuum cleaner later. Remember, you are unemployed: no new money = no new vacuum cleaner.

Because saying no can be tricky, the simplest way to prevent spending money on your kids is to avoid the spenders. When they approach you, it is appropriate to hide, run, or pretend to not speak any language they understand.

That’s all there is to recollecting. Congrats! You have successfully remembered your children! The next step is to re-bond with them.

Re-bond

Depending on how demanding your former job was, it is possible that many years have gone by since you have done things with your children like shopping, playing catch, or grounding. Start doing these things again, even if they insist that you do not. For example, if one of your children is between the ages of 12 and 15, he or she will likely spend enormous amounts of time at the mall. Not only is this dangerous to your dwindling bank account, it is dangerous for the re-bonding experience. Remember, time spent apart is time not spent on the heart. Go with your child and his or her friends to the mall. By doing so, you can prevent him or her from spending money (this is the most important reason). You can also hear the latest gossip spreading through your child’s circle of friends. This can use useful in future conversations. Here is an example of a conversation you may encounter at the dinner table:

PARENT
This sure is a lovely dinner. I apologize that we are once again eating expired Oreos, but I sadly cannot afford anything else.

CHILD
But Parent, I feel sick and malnourished.*

PARENT
Did you hear about Tammy’s bad grade on her Social Studies test? Wow! Where are her priorities, right?

See what happened there? A potential conflict regarding your child’s health was diverted with the introduction of gossip. (And scholarly achievement was encouraged, all in one breath!) Feel free to use this gossip tactic frequently, it simply cannot be overdone. If you need more material, listen in on your children’s phone conversations. In addition to expanding your gossip knowledge-base, your children will appreciate that you care enough about their day-to-day life to eavesdrop.

*Note: This will likely be a common complaint from your child. Do not worry! Many children remain starved and malnourished every day all over the world—your child is not alone!

For younger children, gossip is somewhat less common, so this technique may not work. Instead, introduce new, mutually beneficial games!

For you convenience, some game suggestions appear below, along with instructions on how to play.

Web Surfing

This game can be great fun for kids! Introduce this game as a follow-the-leader type of game. Sit side-by-side with your child, each of you with a computer. Have your child follow along as you browse the web. Some suggested sites that will be great for you and your child to enjoy are http://www.candystand.com, http://www.discovery.com, http://www.monster.com, and http://www.prozac.com. Once your child can follow along, have them type in these sites independently. Do the same with searches within these sites. Give tokens or stickers when your child can correctly search things like “Local job openings.” When they reach 5 tokens, reward them with one free pass to avoid a lecture the next time they leave the lights on, wasting energy. After 10 tokens, allow them to take more than two showers during a week-long period. Finally, winning 30 tokens earns them a multivitamin.

If you have more than one child, this can be turned into a great, competitive battle. For example, have them race each other by seeing who can find the most job listings. Whoever sets up an interview for you first wins. Whoever learns to type an effective post-interview thank you letter wins even more.

Ration Passion

This is an exhilarating game of survival and will power! The game is simple: your children will attempt to eat as little as possible for as long as possible. Children love games that are callbacks to history. Games like Cowboys and Indians, Oregon Trial, and Baseball allow children to imagine living in the times of their ancestors—a time when there were no supermarkets and food was scarce and hard to come by. Bring games like this home with Ration Passion! Remind them the game is to eat very little in order make the food in the house last as long as possible. Whoever forces the family to begin using food stamps loses.

Shut that Trap

This game will likely be played frequently. Being freshly unemployed can be a tough adjustment for both you and your children. It takes a while to get used to being around your children for extended periods of time. This game is a great way to make each day pass much more quickly as each of you gets used to your new lifestyle. In this game, whenever your child complains, cries, talks, or makes other unpleasant noises, yell at the top of your lungs, “Hey, you there! Shut that trap!” If you child does not, he or she loses and is forced to sleep outside.  If you child falls silent, you’re both winners!

These tools and more will help you re-bond with your children as you get used to being under the same roof together for more than a few hours a day. You’re now ready to re-conquer the house.

Re-conquer

Now that you have recollected who your children are and re-bonded with them, the honeymoon period is over. It can be all fun and games for a while, but as your frustration and anger toward your job situation build up to unhealthy levels, you will need to find a release of these emotions. No one is better to be at the end of this release than those closest to you, i.e. your children. Also, by re-conquering your household, you will regain feelings of power, control, success, and productivity. These are feelings you likely lost upon becoming unemployed.

Start the re-conquering process by reminding them who is boss. This can be done at any point in the day or night. Whenever the mood strikes you, simply find your child and shout “I’m the boss around here!” and walk away. Your children will cease being startled by this quickly, so you will need to begin demonstrating your boss-hood by becoming irrational and refusing all of their requests, no matter how small. If they want to go to a friend’s house, say NO. If they want extra toppings on their ice cream, say NO. If they express a desire to talk to their other parent, say NO and then remind them that YOU are the boss. Make your face turn red. Wave your arms around for no apparent reason. All these things will make you feel like you are in charge of something again. Hey, if you can’t be the boss at work, why not be the boss in your home?

Check back tomorrow for Part 3!


Unemployment, You, Your Children and You (Part 1)

Editor’s Note: This is a hilarious guest post from reader Amanda Hahn. Amanda is a recent graduate from Texas A&M University in College Station, TX. She runs the blog, “I want to work for The Onion.”

Unemployment: it affects nearly 14 million people every day in the US, and it can last anywhere from a number of days to a period of years. Today, the only known cure for unemployment is employment, which is becoming more and more rare as the millennium progresses. So if you are unemployed, know that you are not alone. Many, literally millions, of others are right there with you. Despite this, the effects of unemployment can be hard for you and your family. Symptoms include distress, extreme weight loss, extreme weight gain, moodiness, an obsession with refreshing Craigslist jobs pages, jealousy of the employed, and a copious amount of free time.

If you have children, they may notice you going through these changes. These can be scary times for you both, but with the steps outlined below, together you can ease into unemployment.

PART ONE:  TELL YOUR CHILDREN

The time to inform your children is not immediately after you discover you have lost your job. If you tell your children right away in a calm manner, they will have no way of knowing how frightening, stressful, and worrisome unemployment can be. You want your children to fear unemployment so that in the future, they will be encouraged to get jobs.

Instill this fear in them while they are young. Do so by barging into the house when you first come home after receiving your pink slip. Carry a small box of random desk items. Children fear boxes filled with items because they signify change. Children, especially those with Attention-Deficit Disorder, dislike breaking routine. After they become anxious upon hearing you stomping through the house and seeing you carry the box, begin angrily mumbling under your breath. If you are unsure what to mumble, that is okay. You can literally mumble anything so long as you do so angrily and do not enunciate enough for them to understand you. In fact, the less they understand, the more upset they will become. Answers to any questions they have at this point will only decrease their nervousness.

If you have hair, run your fingers through it as you mumble to highlight your distress. If you do not have hair, this is good, as you are already exhibiting symptoms of stress. Or perhaps male-pattern-baldness, but your children will not be able to tell the difference. The next step is to go to your room and close the door.

If you have a spouse or partner, this is a good time to inform him or her of your job loss. After some valuables are broken in anger and tears are shed, it is time to again focus on your children. Your partner can help greatly with this. Have him or her step outside the room silently. If the children ask what is wrong, your partner should be vague to increase tension and create suspense. He or she should say things like, “Everything will be okay…no matter what,” “I hope we get through this,” and “I just don’t know if God is looking out for this family anymore.”

At this point, your children’s stress levels should be close to peaking. If they are crying, you can pat yourself on the back; you have been extremely successful so far. Now is the time to tell your children the truth. Take a seat as a family in the living room or other central location. Tell your children that you have lost your job and hope to find a new one soon.  Many younger children will not understand the gravity of the situation, so really drive the point home by crying and making statements regarding the terrible job market. Make the possibility of finding a new job seem bleak. Emphasize that money will be tight, meaning less vacations, toys, and food. Throw the possibility of no presents at Christmas into the mix. If your children respond that Santa will bring presents, be brief and say that Santa doesn’t like poor kids.

Your children should now understand the severity of your unemployment. To go the extra mile as a parent, go into your bedroom, and do not come out of it for a few days.

Check back tomorrow for Part 2!


Get a World Class Education… In Rural Kansas

I have been focusing a great deal on the problems facing students and college graduates a lot lately and the news has mostly been depressing. So I want to write about a more positive story to show that it isn’t all doom and gloom in this country.

A story appeared on Yahoo.com about the remarkable success of a group of rural elementary schools in Kansas. Apparently, schools in the Waconda Lake area of North Central Kansas produce students that score better than 90 percent of student from developed countries. Across the board the students outperform most of their American peers.

The average student at the Waconda school district of 385 kids scores better than 90 percent of students in 20 developed countries on math and reading tests, according to The Global Report Card, published in the journal Education Next. In fact, Waconda is the second highest performing school district in math in the country, after Pelham, Massachusetts, an affluent community that is home to Amherst College.

That remarkable success comes in an area that is agricultural, rural, and fairly impoverished.

What I found interesting is that the success of these districts wasn’t linked to any specific reforms, unique testing methods or high teacher salaries. In fact the teacher’s salaries were amongst the lowest in the state.

The conclusion drawn from the story was that parent involvement, a tradition of success, and lack of a communication barrier were the main reasons that these schools have produced such successful students. It also couldn’t have hurt that the schools had tiny classroom sizes and a high level of direct teacher-student interaction.

I think that conclusion is correct and that those factors contribute the most to success of young students, leading them to greater success later in life. Money means a whole lot less than tradition, culture and ease of communication.


Student Loan Industry Getting Out of Hand?

If this story in USA Today doesn’t show that there is a degree bubble in American higher education then I don’t know what does. It highlights the challenge young Americans face when they graduate, and the exploding amount of debt that college students have accrued in just the past five years.

The numbers are incredible:

The amount of student loans taken out last year crossed the $100 billion mark for the first time and total loans outstanding will exceed $1 trillion for the first time this year. Americans now owe more on student loans than on credit cards, reports the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Students are borrowing twice what they did a decade ago after adjusting for inflation, the College Board reports. Total outstanding debt has doubled in the past five years — a sharp contrast to consumers reducing what’s owed on home loans and credit cards.

The article mentions the difference between this bubble and the catastrophic housing bubble in 2008. The difference is that, unlike in housing, the opportunities to declare bankruptcy and walk away from student loans are far fewer. Students will shoulder this burden throughout their lives.

There has been an increase in for-profit schools that tend to take on high-risk students in large numbers, so that is one of the reasons for the increase in student debt, but that can’t explain all of it.

I don’t know if there is an easy answer to this problem. A lot of the best jobs require a degree, but the degree itself is no shoe-in. I think it speaks to how American institutions are in flux and how there needs to be a greater focus on cost-cutting and economizing in education. Using new technology to bring education to students at a fraction of the cost is certainly one alternative.

Some schools, like the University of California-Berkeley, are posting video lectures online for free. While the classes themselves may be free, students still don’t receive the credentials to use in a job hunt. Unfortunately, the credentials are often the only reason people even go to college. Universities are gatekeepers every bit as much as institutions of education. The process of getting into the school and getting through the process is more of the test than the courses.

Still, with all of the current economic problems, higher education cannot and perhaps should not remain immune. The changing circumstances might be a perfect opportunity for reform and improvement. That is how the American economy has worked and is one of the reasons why it is so dynamic.

The increase in loans for degrees is deeply worrying if those degrees are not consistently translating into success. It’s similar to how the United States is racking up debt right now to spend money and pull itself out of the recession, but is still barely growing at all. Those trends are troubling to say the least.

What do you think? Are there any reasonable ways to reform education without breaking the system, or should Americans just accept the higher cost and hope that things turn around?


Rich like me: monetary advice from Warren Buffett, Jay-Z

When I first saw that clip I thought that it had to be a joke, but Warren Buffett’s financial cartoon for kids is apparently a real show called, you guessed it, “The Secret Millionaire’s Club.”

Buffett has recently been featured in the news for the “Buffett Rule,” his proposal to lift taxes on the super-rich and equalize tax rates across classes, but now it’s his partnership with media mogul Jay-Z that is making headlines.

The first episode is called “Be Cool to Your School,” in which Buffett gives financial advice to a group of teens attempting to raise money for their school and a trip to New York City where the kids will meet Jay-Z. Jay-Z plays himself and the show features his song “Empire State of Mind.” (Tacky!)

While I don’t think that it’s too early for kids to be learning how to manage finances, I’m not sure the premise of the “millionaires club” quite captures a spirit we should want to instill in America’s future.

What do you think?
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The Universal Decline of Universities

If you are a young, 20-something American then you probably have or are working to get a college degree. In the last 50 years the number of Americans with a college degree has risen dramatically to the point that it is the norm instead of the exception.

An article in National Review, called “Don’t Occupy Education”, had an interesting take on education and the Occupy Wall Street movement. The author, Charles Cooke, states what he believes is the problem:

It was, until a few years ago, possible to draw a direct line between the possession of a university degree, and a better paying job. This was not the product of a timeless ironclad equation, but because the default was not to go to university; to have a degree thus set one apart from the crowd. But if everyone has a degree, then nobody does.

The fact is that a large number of recent graduates are unemployed and frustrated that the opportunities available to them require little more than a high-school diploma. A bachelor’s degree just isn’t what it used to be.

The promise of a degree in the American economy is deeply alluring. At one time an American with a degree had a dramatically higher earning potential than the rest of the population. The cost and debt to obtain a degree was high, but would pay dividends down the line.

Pushing young Americans to enter academia and the professions in large part led to a decrease in manufacturing and blue-collar jobs.

The change was for the most part positive and put the country ahead of the world in technological advancements and innovation. The domination of American universities is nearly complete, occupying 45 of the top 100 spots in the Times Higher Education ranking list and nearly half of the top 200. This list may even be underrating the domination of American schools because it the list was created in a Europe.

While more Americans have flocked to join the white-collar world of expertise and technicians, the traditional manufacturing industries have gone into a slow, sad decline. Blue-collar towns like Detroit were hit hardest as American car companies became uncompetitive and eventually bankrupt. Its decline was because of a combination of factors some within and some outside of the control of workers, companies and policy makers.

American manufacturing has been operating using mid-twentieth century norms. Uncompetitive levels of pay and benefits for workers couldn’t work in the highly competitive globalized world that America operates in today.

For the American consumer this increased competitiveness has been a good thing, as products are cheaper and often of a higher quality, but have left many others struggling to compete in the changed environment.

While a degree has been a gateway to greater opportunity and an engine of American innovation and growth, the times are changing again. In the current economy, the recently graduated strain to find any kind of gainful employment. They often struggle for years with low-paid or unpaid jobs.

These difficulties are not just for those with a bachelor’s degree, but extend even to those with law degrees and higher degrees. Many law firms today are not giving new lawyers the same pay and opportunities that were nearly a given in the past.

It is hard to go through nearly a decade of work in higher education to take a greatly diminished job. Being strapped with a mountain of debt makes it worse.

The rapid change in economic circumstances will undoubtedly create a shift in how Americans approach the economy. If any country can make a dramatic shift it would be the United States; a country with the most powerful and dynamic economy that the world has ever seen.

Like the housing bubble, the degree bubble is bursting and leaving a lot of middle class Americans dealing with the mess left behind.

If there is an answer to fixing the mess it could be in making the economy more diversified, something that has been lessened by the dramatic shift of recent generations to the knowledge and service industry. Better tapping into the vast natural resources like oil and natural gas, made possible by those advancements in technology, is an important first step.

The great Founding Father of the United States, Alexander Hamilton, who perhaps understood economics and finance better than anyone in his generation, once said of economic diversification in his famous Report on Manufactures,

When all the different kinds of industry obtain in a community, each individual can find his proper element, and can call into activity the whole vigour of his nature. And the community is benefitted by the services of its respective members, in the manner, in which each can serve it with most effect.

Tapping into energy resources, creating a pro-growth business environment and cutting down on legal red-tape has made states like North Dakota particularly successful in even the most catastrophic national economy that America is dealing with today.

Americans now, like always, must learn to adjust to rapidly changing economic circumstances. Higher education will continue to be important, but Americans must learn to deal with its limits.

Mark Twain, once said,”I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”

The times are changing. It’s time to put our Yankee ingenuity to the test.