Time to Stop Devaluing the McDonald’s Fry Cook

Last week I marked my students’ Grade 9 Provincial Achievement Tests.  This year’s assignment was to write about the importance of learning in a person’s life.  As I was marking them, I became a little worried and had to sit back and reflect on my “persuasive tactics.”

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FreeDigitalPhotos.net, Photo by mrpruen, CC License

Many students wrote about the need for learning so they could get good jobs and earn more money and be more successful.  That they didn’t want to be “stuck working at McDonald’s” for the rest of their lives.  I hate to admit it, but I have used that phrase with my students, especially when I’m trying to convince them of the importance of education. I think I need to stop that because I’m sending the wrong message.

When I devalue these types of jobs, what am I saying about the people who do work in them?  What about the person who is working part-time to help make ends meet?   The mom and dad who left their home country in search of a better life for their family?  Or when their new country won’t recognize their accreditation, and they are forced to work wherever they can find a job?  What am I saying to the young person who takes the job to gain experience or to earn money to help take some financial pressure off mom and dad?

Maybe if we stopped devaluing these jobs and allowed them dignity in their work, that would help address some of the high turnover rates.  (As would paying them a decent wage, but that is for a whole other post)  When we pull up to the take-out window for our morning coffee or egg sandwich, we need them.

I am changing the way I talk to students about education and success.  I am no longer saying, “If you don’t take your education seriously, you’ll end up working at McDonald’s for the rest of your life?  Is that what you want?”  Ouch!  Even as I write this, I’m asking myself, “You seriously said that?”  Because what if they choose to?  What if they work their way up the ranks?  What’s wrong with that?

So I’m starting to talk to them about the importance of education and learning.  That if we take our education seriously and keep learning, we’ll have more choices about what we could do for a living.  And that being able to have choices about what we do for a living is the key to success and happiness.  And, yes, I’ll take fries with that.

What do you think?  How do you try to motivate our youth to get an education?  Are you guilty of using the “stuck working at McDonald’s” tactic?

About Sherry Langland

I have been teaching English for 15 years and am passionate about teaching students to read critically, think critically, and live purposefully. I am also the lead teacher for our junior high department and am thankful to be part of such a dedicated group of teachers who are committed to collaborating around the most important part of our job: student learning. My biggest blessing is being the mother of 2 young men who are in their 20s and discovering their purpose.
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4 Responses to Time to Stop Devaluing the McDonald’s Fry Cook

  1. Marshal Craft says:

    For some of us, it’s better economic choice on our part when employers choose to disregard and attempt to devalue college degrees. I worked for several years at a company in which I worked along side individuals that were not college educated. They artificially attempted to devalue my education and in turn to make the job work, I did so as well. Ultimately though, the differences were real and it caused on going issues. The fact was, I was considerably better trained for nearly all issues that would arise. I did have an unfair advantage and the consequences were real. Psychologically people often believed I was out to get their jobs or they felt they couldn’t compete and would shut themselves down. In other cases they even reported to me that I was magic. The ultimate problem was the employer artificially devaluing the education. It is real and has real consequences and additionally costs. Eventually I made the decision that the company was being provided a service that they simply were not paying for. Economically it just wasn’t going to work and I left. It was a better paying job then current, now I work a “medial” job. This I believe I have to do. If I and others are willing to provide services for free then there is no demand for higher education. Simply I can not provide any service except for the lowest ones for employers unless they require the degree In most cases and do in fact pay the cost of it.

    I think this is actually rampant across the United States. Employers purposefully will devalue a recent graduate’s education initially then say, “why don’t you look into our entry level jobs.” These jobs are often still higher paying then most jobs however still fall short of most college degree requiring fields. It is a way that has and continues to work for employers and business to reduce cost of working in more complex fields. Often the unsuspecting graduate will say well it’s better then nothing or flipping burgers, and take the job. In the end the only way to mitigate this, is to not accept these jobs at all. That or for government to enforce minimum standards for payment to college educated individuals.

    This causes additional problems as it inflates credentials. Now engineering jobs for instance often require phd with additional post doctorate training as well. The fact is it doesn’t. Many of these fields can be fulfilled at lower levels of education perhaps even at the graduate level, as it often was in the past. What this leads to is an inevitable and eventual decline in innovative and complex fields. Nowadays it takes 15 to 30 years for knew concepts originating in academia to finally reach the market. Part of this is due to inefficiency caused by credential inflation. The never ending amounts of training to do things that do not really require it. It leads to fields being deductively over perfected when the same results could have been brought about much sooner through empirical methods and observations by less qualified individuals.

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  2. Rick Fedorak says:

    Don’t beat yourself up for having made those comments in the past; it was coming from a good place and not intended to devalue others. Of course, we want our students to apply themselves and do the best they can. It’s frustrating when we see students with abilities not apply themselves (another phrase that continues to hang around because it’s true in so many cases). As students get older they should be preparing themselves for their next steps in life. Too many have only Plan A when really they should be thinking about and preparing a Plan B, C and D. Yes, many students don’t have the necessary skills to achieve their Plan A and it’s those students who become overwhelmed. I’ve had students take English 30-1 a third or even fourth time simply to get into university to pursue their Plan A. Many are able to achieve to finally achieve the grade they need – many are unable. So now what? Sometimes it simply takes time and experience to provide them with the motivation they need to realize a realistic goal, something that will be able to offer them a happy life. I see it in my evening and weekend classes. Students in their 20s, 30s and 40s saying they didn’t take school seriously when they were in school. For many, it wouldn’t have mattered what motivational tactics others used; they needed to find out for themselves. We know a reality that they don’t. It’s difficult, nearly impossible, to live in our society getting paid minimum wage. As I drive to work every morning and see many homeless people packing up their sleeping supplies, how can we not think about these things. Sorry, I’m bringing in other subjects that could be raised in future posts. I always enjoy reading your posts, Sherry. You are an incredibly talented teacher with much compassion. That’s what keeps you reflecting and questioning and learning (and your posts allow me to do the same).

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    • Thank you, Rick! It is hard to see students not do the best they can because, like you said, we know a reality they don’t…yet. Sometimes as teachers, we can only hope that students leave school with enough knowledge to get them back to learning when they realize that they will need more of it.

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    • Ashley says:

      Could it be the part about down on your hands and knees? You might think about adding soniehtmg regarding knowing your audience. I don’t necessarily mean knowing if your audience is capable of getting up and down,although that is soniehtmg to consider, but knowing how their system is set up and will they have to abandon your webinar while trying to fix the problem you created.On her hands and knees,Lydia

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