“Real World”

In class, we have discussed phrase working adults often say to younger students, “Once you enter the real world…” (see cartoon below). This phrase has made us ponder, are we as students not part of the “real world”? What is the “real world”? What skills are required in the “real world”? In my attempt to understand what the “real world” is, I remembered an idea we studied in Anthropology 101 which was “liminality”.UntitledDuring a liminal period, members of society are taken out of daily life, defy social norms, then re-enter society having gone through the rites of passage required by that society. How does this idea relate to school? Specifically, it is often expected in our society to earn some degree of higher education. During this time of learning new skills needed in order to enter the workforce, students are in a liminal phase. During college, students often defy social norms and expected behavior. For example, it is unacceptable for an employee to miss work often; however, I know other students who consistently skip class. But once those students enter the workforce, they are at work everyday on-time.

Attending college is also a liminal phase because students are not, in many cases, financially independent. As a student, I am learning multivariable calculus, but I have no idea how to do taxes, which is a requirement once I “re-enter” society. It is a rite of passage that I attend college, and I will be accepted by my peers and into the workforce once I receive my degree and gain financial independence.

Overall the “real world” I would define as financially independent members of society in the workforce, while students are in a liminal period, which is transient yet required.

4 responses to ““Real World”

  1. Your discussion of the liminal period is very interesting. This is a very helpful explanation of why students are treated and expected to act differently from adults. I understand the concept, but I still believe that the words themselves add another meaning to the idea. The phrase “real world” forces emphasis and importance for students away from the present and to the future when we join the workforce. It suggests that everything we do now is only to prepare us for when we join the “real world” as opposed to doing things for the sake of accomplishing something now. This ideology may even affect students not to try to make an impact until they join the “real world.” What makes this liminal period any less “real” than the other periods of our lives?

    Also, based on your definition, do people enter another liminal period when they get old and are no longer part of the workforce? Does it matter if they are financially independent or relying on family members to take care of them?

  2. Love the concept of liminality you bring in here, Alexia, and great questions, Orli. The old and young actually have a lot in common in how they are treated and considered in society — in the “discourse” which surrounds these groups, and these groups in relation to adults in the “middle” range of 20-60 years. I just watched an episode of Community in which Pierce (Chevy Chase) “acts out” by joining the group of “hip-sters” his own age in rebellion from the rest of his young-adult and middle-aged study group. It was clearly a humorous comparison of the teenage years with the elder years around issues of freedom and dependence.

  3. Hey Alexia! Great post, I really relate to it. I remember when I went to college I thought I was going to be an “adult.” I mean, I get to go to bed whenever I want, I get to eat whatever I want, I have to buy my own groceries, I had to make a resume for internships and jobs… I have never felt more independent. At the same time though, I can’t say I’m completely independent. I haven’t done my taxes before, I don’t have to worry about paying rent, or pay social security, or any other of that federal/bank stuff. I considered college to be a “limbo” between childhood and adulthood, and I think that’s a concept similar to the liminality you’re talking about overlaps with that.

  4. Orli I really like the questions you have posed! When you said, “It suggests that everything we do now is only to prepare us for when we join the “real world” as opposed to doing things for the sake of accomplishing something now.” I agree with that statement and it is a good summary of another concept in anthropology, which is called rite de passage. Rite de passage is closely related to liminality, where society expects its members to go through some ritual to transition from one phase or status/rank to another. It is linked to liminality because, for example, we as students go through a liminal period to transition from childhood to our adult lives.

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