A column that appeared on the Chronicle of Higher Education’s website caught my eye while I was scrolling through my Twitter feed the other day because it seemed to address something I’ve been thinking about lately.
The headline read: “When It’ll Never Be a Good Fit,” and it reminded me of some recently graduated friends of mine who are searching for not just any job, but a job they think they can actually be happy with. As we are constantly reminded, it’s tough out there, but should we accept any job that comes our way even if we think we’re going to hate it? Or should we hold out for something better?
This column makes the valid point that “even in a market that mainly favors the employers,” we have to be picky sometimes. But what really struck me about this article was how the columnist seemed to take derogatory jabs at a small town she visited for a job interview. She was going for a professorship at an unnamed university (which has since been identified on a blog as Western Illinois University) and hated the town it’s based in. Here are some of the most offensive lines from her piece:
“The people on the train, with the exception of the hot-dog guy, were friendly and open. But they did make me doubt all the criticisms I have had of the way rural Americans are depicted in culturally elitist Hollywood movies. Turns out those movies have often done a fairly accurate job.”
“There was no way I could ever live there, I told [my mother], and expect to (a) continue being a historian of contemporary culture, because there was no access to culture here; (b) fulfill my long-cherished dreams of living a sophisticated, urban life; and (c) keep my sanity.”
“It was clear to me that those people were really isolated from civilization out there, because no civilized people I knew asked questions about genocide before 9 a.m.—over bacon, no less.”
“What can I say? I hated the place with a passion born from a desire to live above the minimal standard of living.”
The writer also makes a couple of snide remarks about Walmart and Farm King, but you get the picture. She might have intended for these quips to be humorous, but do they cross a line between honest opinion and brash insult?
Ohio University, where I attend school, is in Appalachia. Athens is a small town (the population reportedly doubles when classes are in session), but it is certainly not devoid of culture and civilized people. To imply that rural Americans live below the minimal standard of living and lack culture is closed-minded and uses only a very narrow definition of the word “culture.” I’ve experienced more culture and charm in Athens than I ever did growing up in a suburb of Cleveland. There is a real sense of community there, and college students collaborate with locals to put on small concerts, art shows, street fairs and other events. Having lived in both small-town Athens and big-city Manhattan, I can say with some authority that you don’t have to live in Chicago, L.A. or the Big Apple to enjoy some type of contemporary American living.