Saturday, January 12, 2008

80; School

If there are generations, mine does not like to work. The past century has pushed back the working age with new discoveries of age barriers. First children were exempt when enough of a case was raised to support the idea that they weren't just miniature adults. And they were told to go to school, likely because the adults soon found out that children are not creatures best left unsupervised. Supervision and public schooling went hand in hand from the start.

But if you thought the little ones were a hassle wait until you saw what they were getting up to after they got out of school. In the words of Diesel and A-Rab: "The trouble is he's growing/ The trouble is he's grown." And voila! Adolescence was invented. So you decide these people aren't ready for the real world. But child labor laws don't protect them, so they need to work. Problem is, they aren't much interested in work, because, hey, hot rods, electric guitar, cigarettes and grrrls. (To be fair, it was grrrls which started off this whole thing, since adolescents aren't just, um, mentally different from children, catch my drift?)

So you're no longer children, since you're sexually charged, but you don't have the sense that comes with being and adult. What do you do, but continue to go to school? That way you can have fun and not have to work 3/4 of the year. Swell plan, Skippy, but if you thought kids needed supervision high schoolers need even more.

Once you're out of there, you can go get a job. Only, now almost everyone has a high school diploma, and, as we learned in Econ 101, if you have an abundance of something, it's value will drop. In this case the value is the amount of money you make working a job backed with a high school diploma. Besides, what happened to all that stuff you used to like? Sure, you've sobered up a bit (literally or otherwise). But all those fun things are still fun, and work is still, for most, unpleasant.

Enter college. In 1946 about 2 million people 18 or older were in school. 1964, it had increased modestly to about 5 million. By 2004, however, it was 17 million. The same thing had happened as in high school, more and more people got a college degree, and the value of a diploma started to drop. You did get four more years of freedom, but as confirmed young adults the price of not having adult obligations could make your head spin. Oddly enough this level of schooling doesn't follow the other's in that the students are barely supervised at all, in the time arguably the most important for them to be.

The last 20 years have had a fixation on not entering the workforce. Movies like Office Space and Clerks are lauded as comedies of our time, not to mention the rebirth of collegiate comedies on the market. Time is set aside for travel, and we live with our parents longer, our first jobs will likely not be the jobs we define as our careers later in life. This may be a carry-over from high school summer jobs. Get the money, get out, and move on to better things. Careers now begin at 30, not 20 or 12.

Apprenticeship has disappeared. Young lads off to work under a master and learn the trade has gone the way of Republican fiscal responsibility. What a difference the years make. We have a system now that not only discourages such behavior, but a potential populace which also wants no part of it. If you can delay entering the working world you do, to the tune, in some cases, of nearly a decade later than our parents.

There should be a joke at the end of this discussion, but there isn't. I just wonder what trends will be like in the future if this keeps up. Will people all get PhDs and not start their careers until 40? Will we retire at 80 and 90, thanks to longevity and late starts? Do you really want to retire that late in life? Even if you scored a twenty year retirement, it's doubtful you could enjoy it like those who retire at sixty-five. Out of the workforce, and straight into the home. There's a chilling thought. Maybe we should get out earlier? Ah, but then we'd be uneducated and end up spending thirty years doing something we don't want to do. Which, ironically, is the very fear which spurned us to prolong our education in the first place.

1 comment:

Karen said...

In re: "The trouble is he's growing/ The trouble is he's grown." The quotation is from West Side Story; the lyrics were written by Stephen Sondheim....

You could educate only those who show an aptitude for it. Give everyone the basics and then only have the smart ones continue. Give the rest vocational training. That's the Old World view.

We like to think, in America, that everyone's capable of learning and should be taught, however....