Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Future of Work, Marriage, Children

What kind of world will our kids graduate into when they're done with school? What will the economy look like? Will decent jobs be available?

On a completely anecdotal level, I've been noticing for a while that those with young-adult children report that their daughters are completely job-focused and hard-working, while their sons are drifting around finding themselves. This NYTimes article confirmed my observations: Young Women are More Career-Driven than Men.

The headline statistic was this one, comparing young men and women who said that being successful in a highly-paid career or profession is "one of the most important things" or "very important" in their lives: 59% for young men, 66% for young women.

The poll also reveals that marriage and parenthood are becoming increasingly separate goals, at the expense of marriage. Young women say these issues are "one of the most important things in their lives" at these rates: 37% for having a successful marriage and 59% for being a good parent.

What careers will be available to our kids? Some speculate that in the future there will simply be less work to do, because of advances in technology. I've been meaning to read this book about it: The End of Work, by Jeremy Rifkin. As reported in the Atlantic Monthly, in Making it in America:

There’s a joke in cotton country that a modern textile mill employs only a man and a dog. The man is there to feed the dog, and the dog is there to keep the man away from the machines.
I liked this article in the NYTimes: Let's Be Less Productive. Productivity is not a useful way to think about caring professions, e.g. teaching. A teacher with more students in the classroom is more "productive", but it's usually not in the best interests of the kids.

I'm also WAY in favor of a drastically shortened workweek as a way to increase the number of jobs. Of course, to make that work, we'd need universal health care, so that employers wouldn't be penalized for taking on more employees.

Readers? Thoughts? What will the future look like? What should it look like?


  1. PsychMom thinks...

    You're right about the shorter work weeks. The seniors who will want to work less but whose knowledge will be desperately needed, will be leading the reduced hours change.

    I want to see what develops if we could be able to make a change in schools, getting away from the industrial model to make way for the entrepreneur model. In education up until now, risk has been discouraged, rules enforced, obedience and conformity rewarded so that "good", "loyal" workers could be produced, who shared company values. This was the promised ticket to the good life. We still believe it because children have to be quiet and listen in school, longer school days and rigor are seen as answers to falling scores, and schools look the same as they did in the 50's.

    But what does the school look like that promotes entrepreneurship as the model for a successful life. I've been raised to believe that risk takers are born, they cannot be made. Promotion of the artistic lifestyle was the loser's way. They'd never amount to anything. But if the factories are closed, and muscle is not required, and communication is ubiquitous, is there any choice but to encourage our children to work together on projects that contribute to societies ills? Having them compete for marks is pointless, if the person with the best ideas isn't bothering to take the tests because he's too busy coming up with the answers. Finding the best within oneself and exploiting that is going to take a person further in life than making EVERYONE learn and do the same thing for 12 years of their childhood.

    Picture a funnel. The old model was to pour all the kids into the same funnel and if they were the standard size and weight they landed in the promised land. If you didn't fit, you got tossed aside, out the top, eccentric.

    But maybe our kids (and our culture) need to go the organic, free range route. They need to learn their value, and the value of other human beings. They need to know what they have to offer and be given a chance to offer it. Wouldn't teachers be happier too if someone said...."What do you WANT to teach children?" rather than, "this is what you will teach 8 year olds."

    Passion is needed. Bring back some passion for teaching and learning.

  2. The future, like the present, has layers or classes of workers. In the future, the proportions change and the classes become more rigid.
    Class A: At the very top are the people who don't really have to work but keep making money anyway because it's fun. They have fortunes that increase every year. Nobody in their families has ever gone to public school.
    Class B: Near the top are the executives on the way up. They make a huge amount of money every year, and dream of joining Class A. They won't, and neither will their children, despite not going to public school. They will always be 'new money,' and not enough of it. They are almost all men.
    Class C: In the middle are the professions. They went to college to learn a profession, but there is no gap between when a quarter of their income goes to pay off student loans and when a quarter of their income goes to retirement savings. They will work like dogs all their lives and die broke. In the future, they are mostly women. They will work hard to send their kids to private schools if they can, but their kids won't inherit a dime.
    Class D: Near the bottom are the service workers. They are interchangeable. Their main skills are obedience and tranquility. Today serving coffee, tomorrow hardware. They will never get anywhere. Half of them will have college degrees, and you won't be able to tell which half. They will send their kids to public school because they have no choice.
    Class E: Lumpenproletariat of permanently un- or under-employed. This class will get bigger every year, and be mostly men. Their children will have so many adverse childhood events they will be virtually unteachable. In the cities, these children will be the majority in public schools.
    The future is already here, it's just unevenly distributed. In the future, it will be more unevenly distributed as the pyramid flattens out on its new bottom.

  3. Anonymous, that's a grim picture, but I fear you're right.

    PsychMom, your post makes me yearn (again!) to see progressive ed done right. As I've remarked before, I have only ever seen progressive ed done badly.

  4. PsychMom says:

    I noticed I said "is there any choice but to encourage our children to work together on projects that contribute to societies ills?"

    I meant to say, "that contribute to solving society's ills"...
    I shouldn't write at one in the morning.

    The outline that Anonymous provides for our future sounds pretty much like what we have now. Also a very industrialized model. I'm just wondering if it isn't possible to change our future if we stop subscribing to and teaching this model.

  5. PsychMom, I don't want to be a downer. But I don't see how. The overwhelming tide towards centralization, standardization, mechanization, and outsourcing leads inexorably to the flattened pyramid.

    I am disenchanted with our public education system. I believe it was set up specifically to create the conditions for a rigid class society and produce obedient proletarians. The biggest problems we have now derive from not needing the proletarians anymore.

    Changing our society and our future is not going to begin with changing our public school system. The biggest bureaucracy in America will hold on to what's good for itself before anything else. That's why we still have an industrial model in a post-industrial society. The tunes of change are being called by the Billionaire Boys' Club, and change is mostly a matter of increasing corporate penetration into the education market sector.

    If our society and our educational system is going to change for the better it's going to come from below. Look not to the billionaires and the PhDs, but to the moneyless and the dropouts, the tinkers and craftsmen, the makers.

    Our kids would be better off just hanging out all day in a warehouse full of soldering irons, hand planes, and bread boards than they would being taught in New! Improved! industrial-model schools. When 2 million kids are doing that, we'll have a movement.

  6. PsychMom rejoices....But that's exactly where I'm looking for the the change to come from too...we totally agree Anonymous, on where the solution lies.

    I want some really good teachers to walk out of schools and create those places where kids can go to create and do what they were born to do. I'd love to see the end of school altogether but I'm afraid of someone pinning a letter "H" on my chest.

  7. PsychMom adds...the "H" could stand for Heretic or Homeschooler. Same thing, right?

  8. Honestly, I think the first step would be to rescind compulsory schooling laws so that people would be free to make their own choices without the gov't determining what counts as education. Then we could move on from there.