Working at McDonald’s
WORKING AT MCDONALD’S 7
Inan article titled "Working at McDonald`s," Amitai Etzioniargues that school-going children should be banned from working infast-food joints because such jobs do not help to develop criticalskills such as decision-making and independent thinking, neither dothey provide teens with positive role models. To Etzioni (1986), mostof the part-time jobs that are undertaken by teens do not provide anyroom for creativity and initiative. If this is left to continue,there will emerge a future generation that is incapable of executingthe high-tech assignment. The author rejects the notion that suchjobs are beneficial to teens in the sense that they fosterself-reliance and productivity, arguing that such jobs have anegative long-term impact on an individual’s usefulness in life.According to Etzioni (1986), the alleged benefits of part-time jobsare short-lived: they interfere with a person’s school attendancewhile at the same time imparting very few useful skills. Moreimportantly, the author believes that such jobs have an effect ofskewing teenagers’ values, especially their perceptions regardingthe value of money. To reinforce the claim that part-time employmentsare unsuitable and unhelpful to teenagers, Etzioni (1986) observesthat a significant number of teenagers who do part-time jobs infast-food end up doing low-skill jobs, and this is largely becausemost of them quit school due to the enticement that part-timeemployment gives. This is to say that part-time jobs do not offervaluable, marketable skills or career ladders they only serve toperpetuate an individual`s disadvantaged status.
Etzioni`s(1986) arguments spark off a heated debate and are thus not a topicthat is easy to make a definitive verdict about. Inasmuch as there isempirical support for the claim that teenage employment offers littlepotential for career development, research has found that some workexperiences obtained early in life are actually beneficial in thatthey prepare young people to function independently and productivelyduring adulthood. According to Green and Staff (2012), some jobsprovide valuable skills while at the same time expanding anindividual’s social networks, and this enhances his or hermarketability in the job market after completing school.
Inorder to arrive at an informed conclusion as to whether or notEtzioni’s (1986) thesis is valid, it is worthwhile to explore themerits and demerits of teenage employment vis-a-vis the claims madeby the author in support of his thesis. In an attempt to substantiatehis claim, Etzioni (1986) asserts that the kind of learning acquiredthrough part-time work is superficial and of little use, the reasonbeing that teenage workers are usually tightly and inappropriatelysupervised. At the same time, he argues that teen workers often lackan adult figure with whom they can identify, as teen workers normallyprovide supervision. Viewed from this perspective, the claim thatteen employment should be banned appears justified. As Green andStaff (2012) note, career programming ought to be done with the goalof preparing young people for the career world. This means that amongother things, young people should be offered mentorship and closesupervision within the place of work. This latter statement impliesthat the lack of a father figure that can serve as a role model toemployed teenagers, coupled with extremely tight supervision, isdetrimental to career programming. For this reason, teenageemployment-whether part-time or full-time- ought to be outlawedbecause it is detrimental to young people’s career growth.
Etzioni’s(1986) argument is valid and enjoys some credible backing.Nonetheless, it is flawed in the sense that it is based on too manyassumptions and overgeneralizations. For example, the author claimsthat part-time employment negatively affects an individual’sacademic performance. While this appears credible particularly whenviewed through the dimension that work reduces the amount of hoursthat an individual has to go through his or her class work, dataobtained from previous research indicates that there are threecategories of teenage workers: non-workers, moderate workers, andintensive workers. Intensive workers spend over 20 hours at theworkplace, while average workers spend less than 20 hours in theworkplace in a typical school year (Green & Staff, 2012). Thiscategorization suggests that only intensive workers will have theiracademic performance significantly affected. On top of this, it isworth acknowledging that part-time work has a complementary effect ona student’s educational attainment because it makes him or her toacquire diverse capabilities that include numeracy skills, literacy,and work values (Buscha, Maurel, Page, & Speckesser, 2012). Inreference to these skills, it may rightly be argued that part-timeemployment confers valuable skills that may be transferred to theclassroom context, thereby giving students who work part-timesignificant learning advantage over their colleagues who never engagein part-time work.
Oneof the claims made by Etzioni (1986) in support of the thesis thatpart-time work for teenagers should be outlawed is that such jobsstifle creativity, besides being very boring. In the author’s ownwords, “most teen jobs these days are … highly routinized”(Etzioni, 1986 p. 271). However, research shows that this is yetanother major overgeneralization made by the author. According toGreen and Staff (2012), many jobs done by teenagers are enjoyable,not a dead-end as portrayed. The authors argue that many teenagersfind the jobs they do to be interesting and helpful in that theyprovide opportunities for them to develop vital skills likepunctuality, dependability, and reliability. Etzioni’s (1986) claimthat teenage jobs are generally dull and monotonous becomes moredubious when it is taken into consideration that the number ofstudents doing part-time work in the U.S. has increased substantiallyover the past few decades (Buscha et al., 2012). More significantly,it is reported that students do not engage in one kind of typethroughout the entire period of employment. On the contrary, it isreported that “as children grow older, the nature of work appearsto formalize from freelance work into a more mature and bindingemployment relationship” (Buscha et al., 2012 p. 383). Theimplication of this is that teenage jobs are not as dull androutinized as Etzioni (1986) depicts them to be, and this furtherweakens the credibility of the assertion that part-time jobs shouldbe outlawed for school-going teenagers.
Theother concern raised by Etzioni (1986) is that teenagers should bediscouraged from engaging in part-time work when they are still inschool because this encourages impulsive consumption behaviors. Theauthor appreciates a few teenagers who use their salaries to financetheir education, but he takes issue with a majority of suchindividuals who spend huge sums of their money on luxuries such aspunk clothes. The author clearly believes that teenage employmentencourages consumerism. This argument has been validated by researchfindings, with Leeman, Hoff, Krishnan-Sarin, Patock-Peckham, andPotenza (2014) establishing that students who engage in part-timejobs mostly spend their salaries on marijuana and alcohol, and arestrongly inclined towards impulsivity and sensation-seekingbehaviors. These findings notwithstanding, a crucial observation madeby Manolis and Roberts (2012) is that a low subjective well-beinglargely triggers compulsive buying together with materialisticattitudes. This implies that in as much as there is some logic in theclaim that students should be banned from part-time work as a way ofcurbing consumerism, materialistic behaviors will always prevailamong people who feel that their well-being needs to be enhanced.
Inconclusion, there are many forces that drive students to seekpart-time work, and most of these forces are acceptable or authentic.For example, it makes sense for a person to keep himself or herselfbusy with part-time work as a way of making extra income, acquiringjob-relevant skills, and avoiding boredom. Nonetheless, it is arguedthat part-time employment is harmful to school-going persons becauseit encourages consumerism, affects academic performance, and isexploitative. While these concerns are valid, evidence from availableresearch suggests that such an argument is incredible and not validbecause it is based on overgeneralizations and unrealisticassumptions. Precisely, it has been found that part-time employmentequips students with vital skills that may also be of help to theiracademic life. Apart from this, part-time employment links studentswith social networks that enhance their ability to find jobs aftercompleting school. Regarding the view that part-time employmentencourages compulsive spending, it has been learned that this dependson a person`s subjective well-being.
Buscha,F., Maurel, A., Page, L., & Speckesser, S. (2012). The Effect ofEmployment while in High School on Educational Attainment: AConditional Difference‐in‐DifferencesApproach. OxfordBulletin of Economics and Statistics,74(3),380-396.
Etzioni,A. (1986, August 24). . TheMiami Herald.
Greene,K. M., & Staff, J. (2012). Teenage Employment and CareerReadiness. NewDirections for Youth Development,2012(134),23–8.
Leeman,R. F., Hoff, R. A., Krishnan-Sarin, S., Patock-Peckham, J. A., &Potenza, M. N. (2014). Impulsivity, sensation-seeking, and part-timejob status in relation to substance use and gambling in adolescents.Journalof Adolescent Health,54(4),460-466.
Manolis,C., & Roberts, J. A. (2012). Subjective well-being amongadolescent consumers: the effects of materialism, compulsive buying,and time affluence. AppliedResearch in Quality of Life,7(2),117-135.
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