In "Working at McDonald's," Amitai Etzioni argues that “after school jobs” such as McDonald’s are not helpful to today’s youth, but in fact they harm them in many ways and limit their potential. Some of the ways which Etzioni points out that youth are being harmed by their part time jobs is through poor supervision, blind obedience, prioritizing work over school and homework, and luring them into the consumerism trap, of earn a dollar, spend a dollar. He also states how it limits their potential because the jobs that they are currently doing do not build adult work values, limit their creativity, provide few useful skills, and leaves them stuck in the world of low skill jobs at companies with no career ladder. Etzioni also points out that many parents send their high schoolers to work part-time jobs to gain skills and a sense of responsibility, but in reality end up putting their children in an environment that is stifling to their life long career.
When I first read Amitai Etzioni’s article, “Working at McDonald’s”, I could agree with some points, but as I examined the article more, the piece did not do produce enough evidence to have me fully convinced. Etzioni referenced a handful of studies, but also mentions there has not been much research on the topic. Many of the studies he discussed were conducted informally and were based off teenagers’ responses to questionnaires. In addition, he also uses his son as a representation for all teens working in the fast food industry. Yes, his son does work in a fast food job, but this alone does not make him a credible source.
Next, Etzioni attempts to negate results from the studies but fails to provide convincing evidence that advocates for his opinions. He has many criticisms for the teen work places such as, the teens are not given the opportunity to master any valuable skills and they are not able to work without proper supervision. Etzioni mentions, one of the few skills the teens might learn while at work is how to operate a cash register machine. He states this information in way which can be interpreted as snobby and frankly a bit rude. He uses his words to convince the reader that there are no benefits to working a fast food job and the only skills you will learn are essentially pointless, failing to mention any sort of learning opportunities such as, learning to work as a member of a team, the importance of customer service and other skills that can be developed through jobs they are working with other people. Etzioni is only revealing information he wants the readers to believe and take away from the article. In doing this he is skewing peoples’ opinions on fast food jobs, with his own views.
Then, Etzioni criticizes Charper and Fraser’s study claims by expressing the fact that the skills the teenagers learn in their jobs are worthless and do not compare to skills they would learn through a complicated, adult, “real world” occupation. He declares that because these tasks take only 20 minutes to master they are incapable of providing any other skills besides how to operate a cash register. This implication neglects the impacts that technology has made in the work environment. Business have to stay up-to-date to survive in today’s economic market. They are always changing and improving. In the last decade many technological advances have been made to fast food chains to help insure accuracy of customer’s orders and simplify the customer’s experience at the restaurant. The advances in technology allow for new skills to be learned. Customers expect a level of customer service which employees are trained in.
Finally, Etzioni claims the teenager workers aren’t learning the value of the money they earn and spending it on unnecessary junk because the kids are supported by their parents. He opposes his own opinion there by previously stating a majority of the youth working in the fast food jobs come from lower income families cannot support themselves.
Before I read this article, I never really thought about if fast food jobs are hurting our youth. But Etzioni did not have a strong enough argument to convince me they are. He cites informal student evaluations and uses them as statistics. He also seems to use dramatic languages and contradictory statements. There was also no real sense of credibility throughout Etzioni’s article. I am not convinced that these jobs are hurting the youth, maybe there will be more research done in the future, which will shed more light on this subject.
- Etzioni, A. (1996). Working at McDonald’s. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/opinions/1996/04/07/working-at-mcdonalds/c035a18c-ec8f-4735-83a5-5a5a5ee8ed75/
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