The other morning Eric Liu was on KUOW talking about what would make a meaningful high school diploma. It is a good question, and despite the efforts of the guests and host, the content sounded like pablum. Lurking behind this topic is the matter of economic security, but it lurks because no one calls it out into the open. People on the show listed 30+ qualities they would like high school graduates to have, not to mention all the academic knowledge necessary to succeed in college. Honestly, I think most people would trade all of that to know their son or daughter would have a "good job" and be "successful". But those goals are fraught with danger in the "new economy.
This morning, I watched people who made that deal with the devil. As I walked my new baby boy at 7:30 am around the neighborhood, I saw a river of neighbors dressed in their work clothes, piloting their commuter cars, driving kids to daycare and heading off to jobs they need. Thoureau's line that "Most men live lives of quiet desperation" came to mind, and I think it could be updated to include working women as well. And you know what? These are the lucky ones. Folks who did well in high school and college and got the "good" job.
I've read up on the so called rise of the creative class, and watching the neighborhood commute this morning made me think about it in a different light. It may be true that in a "creative economy" rewards will flow disproportionately to "creatives" - but even if it is not true - it may be more important to have work you can identify with as your own - a job where you are not replaceable - just to be really satisfied. The way out of economic insecurity isn't necessarily through more money. I think it may be through doing something that you own. Defining yourself as unique and irreplaceable.
I want my kids to grow up and understand they need to find a passion that will nurture them. I don't care if they finish college or even high school, so long as they have found a craft, practice, or pursuit that will add value to the world and will allow them to enjoy themselves.
If they are ever commuting to work at 7:30 am, wearing a work suit, with kids in carseats I hope it is in order to finance their mad passion - and not because they need to be there by 8 am because, ultimately, they are replaceable.