“College Graduate X” Shares His Thoughts
He will graduate in May with a Bachelor of Science degree from a well-established university. He was raised in an upper-middle class household and his mother is a college graduate and a teacher. So why did he did not know China’s form of government?
Interview one graduate? What can we hope to learn from that? This is not a scientific survey!
Standard surveys can be useful, but they are one-dimensional and deadly dull. They aggregate pre-selected responses to pre-selected questions and often blur rather than clarify the nature of who or what is being surveyed. Provided some basic rules are followed, random selection interviews with some open questions can reveal much that you can’t pick up from a survey.
And College Graduate X was a random selection, without any particular characteristics that would make him stand out from his peers. He is twenty-two years old and was raised in a quiet upper-middle class suburb. He is Caucasian, and his father owns a successful business. His mother is a graduate of a northeastern university and as a teacher she has instilled in her family the value of education. X has two younger brothers, one in college, and a younger sister. He has played intramural sports but has not held a job while class is in session.
College Graduate X has spent the last four years as a full-time student at a university that has been in operation for more than eighty years. It is located in an urban area and has more than 24,000 students. His degree will be a Bachelor of Science in human services, with a minor in psychology.
Note to readers: As with all interviews published on Live Shot Cam, the person interviewed here was the first person who agreed to the interview – no other subjects were interviewed for this topic, so we did not engage in “cherry picking” to find an interview subject who proved whatever premise we wanted to prove. Also, no significant questions or material answers that took place during the interview were omitted in the transcript shown below. College Graduate X treated the interview seriously and tried his best and did not (except in one obvious spot) give flippant answers.
So your degree will be a Bachelor of Science, and not a Bachelor of Arts? What science have you taken in school?
“The only science I have taken is biology. Two courses, I only had to take two.”
What other courses have you taken, just off the top of your head?
“Human cognition, which I thought was a very interesting class. It was tough, but it was pretty interesting. I really liked that class. And then I’ve taken a fundamental development class where you evaluate some program or institution, and I’m doing like I said another class right now where you . . . hold on, let me think.” Pause. “I don’t know, never mind.”
What kind of electives have you taken?
“Electives? Well, the regular core classes like English and stuff like that, but the electives . . . like a computer class?”
Yeah, courses not in your major that you chose to take so you can get 120 credits to graduate. Did you need 120 credits to graduate?”
“Yes. I took South American history, on South America, and then I took US history. Which I had a really good teacher for that one. Professor.”
How much math did you take?
“I took statistics and I took college algebra. I know it’s low level, but that’s what I took. I really didn’t have to take too much math for this major. And I changed my major like two or three times because I couldn’t really decide what I wanted to do.”
Are you graduating with any student debt?
“Yes, fifteen thousand that’s going to have to be paid back, and then I’m going back to school, to grad school, possibly next spring.”
College Graduate X had told me he had accepted an unpaid internship position at a local special education facility. He will be working thirty-two hours a week for three months. The internship comes with no pay or benefits, but includes the possibility of being hired for a paid position after the three month period.
If you are hired after your internship, what salary do you expect them to offer?
“About twenty-five thousand. It’s not too much but I feel that I’m happy to have a job and I’m just trying to start our somewhere, you know, even though it might not be the highest paying job I’m happy that I have a job. So I can pay a couple of bills that I’m responsible for.”
What do you think about the economy in general?
“I don’t know . . . from what I’ve seen and heard, I feel like it’s gotten a little better, and it keeps fluctuating up and down, and I know like gas price-wise, it’s ridiculous, because it’s about four bucks here . . . I don’t know, it’s tough for everybody, people aren’t buying or even selling the way they were before everything happened.”
What is the unemployment rate right now?
“Unemployment rate? I’m not sure but if I take a guess I’d say around twelve or thirteen percent?”
It’s a little over eight percent. What do you think is causing the unemployment rate to be so high for so long?
“I just feel, like, people spending wise. Like my dad’s business, he doesn’t make as much money and he doesn’t employ as many people and he can’t give out as many hours, because people aren’t buying units. I feel it’s like that for other companies too. At the major chains, restaurants, Wal-Marts and stuff like that, people are going to always buy, because they want lower prices, so people are always going to go out and buy there. Businesses or companies that offer items or supplies that are expensive, people aren’t going to go there as much. They might try to do things or fix things themselves, or wait a little bit, or say fix their car or something.”
How do you feel about China? Our trade relationship with China.
“China. I think it’s pretty good. I heard that one day they’re going to surpass us in technology. I don’t know if that’s true or not.”
What do you think about China becoming the largest economy in the world by about 2016?
“I actually could see how that’s relevant because they do have more people than we do in this country. I don’t know if that means anything. And I know that, stereotypically, Asians are always pretty smart. I don’t know. But I think it’s a big thing for us, though. Because, you know, we’ve always been the superior country, no matter what it’s come to, you know, if in sports, technology, just anything really, and to have someone pass us I think us as a country might feel kind of bad about that. Maybe it would make the United States work even harder.”
China’s economy has been growing very rapidly. To what do you attribute that?
“I’m not even really sure. People having children. Then again, they put . . . I’m not really sure. I guess just working hard, you know?”
What form of government does China have?
“What form?” Pause. “It’s not a democracy, is it?”
“I know it’s not a dictatorship.”
What tells you that?
“I don’t know . . . well, not a dictatorship, but they do tell them what to do at times. They told the people who live there how many children they can or can’t have.”
Can you take your best guess on their form of government?
“I don’t know too much about that.”
They’re a communist country. To you, what does communist mean?
“That they control you and tell you what you can and cannot do. Up to a certain point. You know.”
What is your major source of news, outside of school, from day to day?
“I’ve actually been on the New York Times a couple of times, and pretty much in general just use the Internet. The Internet is a huge source for me because I’m on the Internet on my laptop every day. I’m always interested in what’s going on. And also Facebook. I don’t know if you’ve seen, they have the little articles you can read on Facebook.”
Give me an example.
“I’m not even sure what they’re called . . . maybe through Yahoo! like you can say you’ve seen a friend read an article and then you can go click on that same article they read.”
Any other particular sites you go to to get news?
“Like I said, the New York Times.”
What are some of the things that you’ve read in the New York Times?
“What I’ve read? I read this one article that had to do with autism, because it had something to do with class, and then . . . what else? Just . . . I don’t even remember too many other things.”
Anything in respect to news?
“News? No, not really.”
Any other newspapers you’ve read?
“Every now and then . . . I’m at school, and we really don’t get newspapers here, so it’s harder.”
Any news magazines?
What do you feel about President Obama?
“Obama? I think he’s done a pretty good job. I think he handles himself pretty well. He knows what to say, and I think he’s a good public speaker. I know a lot of people might not agree with everything he does, but I guess every president we’ve had there are people who disagree. I feel like he’s trying to do what he feels is right, and thinking about the United States in general, and he’s thinking about what is best for us. You know, because it’s a very tough position, being president, as you know.”
What is your primary source of information about President Obama? How did you form these opinions?
“Primary source? Just whatever I see. If I’m interested enough, I’ll just read. Whatever I see, like maybe an article about him. Or maybe even the TV.”
Do you ever watch any type of news channel?
“Not really. Maybe I’ll flip through, see MSNBC or something like that, but I never really just sit down watch the news like that. I’m always doing something else.”
President Obama is greatly increasing the national debt, which you’re going to have to help pay back. How much is the national debt right now?
“National debt. I know it’s in the billions, I can tell you that.”
“Billions or trillions. I actually think it’s in the trillions, like two or three trillion?”
Try over fifteen trillion. Do you know how much a trillion is? How much is a trillion, if you were going to express it with zeros?
“Hold on, give me a minute, alright?” Pause. “What’s a billion, seven zeroes?”
No. Seven zeroes would be ten million.
“Alright, hold on . . .” Pause. “Alright, nine zeroes is a billion.”
That is correct. So what is a trillion?
Pause. “Twelve or thirteen?”
Twelve zeroes. So a trillion is a million million. So we’re talking fifteen million million dollars.
“What’s making it so high?”
The government spending far more than it takes in. The stimulus program cost almost a trillion dollars. But the single largest source of increase over the past couple of years is the federal obligation for new government health care program, “ObamaCare.” How do you feel about ObamaCare?
“Isn’t that when they try to make it free for everybody, if they can?”
Is that how you see it?
“Well, that’s what I heard, that he was going to try to have free health care for everybody.”
Well, nothing is for free. Who do you think is going to pay for that?
“I know nothing’s for free. We are.”
Okay. So it’s not free then.
“No. The United States is going to pay for it.”
Given that, that the United States is going to pay for it, which means the taxpayers, how do you feel about that?
“I don’t feel good about that. I think people should take care of themselves, be responsible for themselves, at first, take care of them personally and then their families, then if there’s a little bit of money let over it can go towards that ObamaCare. But you should take care of yourself first. Because if someone is not part of your family, why pay for them if your family is struggling?”
How would you classify yourself politically, like political party or whatever?
“Politically?” Pause. “I’m not even really sure.”
Are you more liberal or conservative or moderate or republican or democrat?
Pause. “What is republican or democrat again?”
Those are political parties.
“Oh, I know that. I mean how can you explain them?”
Well, republicans tend to be more conservative, especially recently over the past few years – more conservative fiscally and socially, where the democrats are more what is sometimes called liberal. Obama is a democrat. They want to create government programs that give people things, like healthcare, guaranteed housing, things like that.
“I’d say more republican.”
Who do you plan to vote for this year, if you’re going to vote?
Pause. “Whoever has the best credentials. I really haven’t studied up on anybody or really followed what has been going on.”
Okay. With respect to US history, you said you liked that class? What are some of the topics you studied in class with respect to US history?
“They talked about the wars, a couple of wars here and there. We talked about specific things and dates that went on. Like the Renaissance . . .”
The Renaissance? You studied the Renaissance in US history?
“Yeah. Like . . .” Pause.
That’s European history. The United States was founded well after the Renaissance. Maybe you’re thinking of the Reconstruction?
“Maybe that is what I’m thinking about.”
So what’s in the US Constitution?
“What’s in the Constitution? Our rights as Americans?” Pause.
Alright. And what are those rights, according to the Constitution?
“I don’t know. Well, there’s the speech, and the right to firearms, and stuff like that.”
Okay. Any others?
Pause. “Give me a minute, let me think.” Pause. “The right to drink alcohol.”
<laughter> (Technically, this is correct: the Twenty-First Amendment repealing Prohibition)
Have you heard of the Fifth Amendment?
What does that pertain to?
“I’m not sure. What is it?”
Basically it’s the right to not incriminate yourself, and the right to due process if you are ever accused of a crime. Okay, what else is in the Constitution?
“What else?” Pause. ”I’m not too familiar with it.”
Okay. Who wrote the Constitution?
He wrote the Declaration of Independence, but Jefferson did not write the Constitution. Any idea who did write the Constitution?
“No. Not sure.”
Okay. What were the issues in the Mexican-American War in the 19th century? What was that war about?
Pause. “Was it over land?”
Okay. What else do you know about it?
Pause. “Maybe like the immigrants? Not really sure too much.”
What role did Texas play?
Pause. “Not really sure . . . the Alamo?”
Okay. The Alamo, what was that all about?
“I’m not sure, never read anything about it, never seen a movie about it.”
World War One. What were the major combatants on which side? Who was on our side, who was on the other side?
“Aren’t they considered the Axis Powers?”
Well, that’s World War Two.
“Okay. Wasn’t it Italy, China, Germany?”
Well, Germany was a combatant, as was Italy, but China was not involved in World War One.
Note: Technically, this is not correct. China was neutral throughout most of WWI but in 1917 they declared war on Germany and sent a large labor force to France to aide in the war effort. My answer should have been that China was not a major combatant.
Let me try to refresh your memory a bit. What years were World War One fought?
“Well, first off I know that World War Two is around the forties, right? Nineteen forty or so, somewhere around there.” Pause. “The twenties?”
No. Earlier than that.
“The thirties? Or the teens, then, like nineteen twelve?”
World War One lasted from nineteen fourteen to nineteen eighteen. The US entered the war in nineteen seventeen. Who was president then?
“I have no idea.”
Okay. Did you ever study in school anything about the Vietnam War?
“Not anything I can really recall about it. I know that when the Americans came home no one really liked them.”
You studied American history in high school, and in college, you said?
And the college course in American history, what was the name of that course?
“I think it was just US History. I could look it up if you’d like me to.”
That’s alright. Do you remember if they covered the Vietnam War at all, even if it was just one lecture?
Pause. “I don’t think so.”
Did they cover McCarthyism?
“I’m not sure, but I remember hearing about it.”
What is McCarthyism?
The Civil War. Lincoln was assassinated. Who assumed the presidency after Lincoln was assassinated?
Pause. “Was it Jackson?”
It does begin with J.
“I’m not sure.”
Johnson . . .
No no, Andrew Johnson.
“Never heard of him.”
He was the only president who had impeachment proceedings brought against him. Now, about Lyndon Johnson. What can you tell me about Lyndon Johnson?
“Didn’t he come in to the presidency after JFK was assassinated?”
You are correct. What else do you know about him?
“I know he had a tough presidency.”
In what way?
Pause. “I don’t know.”
Okay. Just one more question, this one about you. Where do you see yourself ten years from now?
“A good paying job, and a family.”
The truth is not mean. It’s the truth.