It seems as if the Western World is made up out of paradoxes, and everywhere I turn I ﬁnd them. I got to thinking about “work” after writing an article for Life Learning magazine a while back. Work is the single most valued thing in Western society. When you meet someone new,the ﬁrst question will be: “what do you do”. We are a folk that deﬁnes themselves through their activities. If you do not “do” anything – or at least anything that complies to the general deﬁnition people hold, Westerners donʼt really know where to put you, and it generally ends a conversation dead on track.
When it comes to kids in Western society, we are most worried about their “success” in life. And success, of course, is deﬁned by their capacities of landing a well paid job, later on. So – from a young age – parents stress about “raising the bar high enough”, getting in the right schools and following the right courses. As kids get older, and get to go to college or university, they are told to choose a path that will ensure good (read well paid and available)career opportunities.
Now even though (paid) activity is so very valued in Western society, children are to be kept faraway from it. We even made laws to keep them out of it. Children are kept off the work market on purpose, for years. That is the whole purpose of collective schooling anyway: initially, to keep them safe while both parents are at work and secondly to keep them off the market and dependent, so both parents have to continue working.
So even though we are most concerned about our kids getting a good job, and every step we take from the day they are born is directed to ensure that we do everything in our power to ensure that super magniﬁcent well paid job, nothing, not one thing on their perfectly laid out trajectory towards that job prepares them for actually having that job. Nothing prepares them for the responsibilities that go along with that job. And nothing prepares them for controlling the money they earn from that job, which was, after all, the big goal of the scheme.
Now maybe that’s also a piece of the puzzle: to make them “ambitious” and have them make as much money as possible, and then to have them spend it as swiftly as possible to get the economy rolling, because they never learned to manage it.
Anyway, it seems really strange to me how so little people in the Western World see how much pressure we put on children to eventually get “a good job” and how little we do to actually prepare them for that job.