Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Days of Our Worklives: Part III: Adam's Saga. Episode 3: Early Career Clues?

Part III: Adam's Saga

Episode 3
Early Career Clues?

In the previous episode, Ben and Susan had their biggest fight ever: about how much to try to tame Adam's "natural maleness." Indeed the school was trying: A strong case can now be made that school is not boy-friendly.

Adam was really helped by Susan convincing the school to let him skip the 5th grade, going straight from 4th to 6th. With Adam now on Ritalin and willing and able to be compliant, the school could no longer blame his boredom on ADHD.  

Indeed, for most of the school day, Adam had good reason to be bored. With teachers rewarded and punished mainly for raising low-achievers' performance and not for helping above-average kids live up to their potential, most teachers allocate little time to meeting the needs of kids like Adam. The easiest thing for the school to do was let such kids skip a grade. And that's what they did with Adam, let him start middle school early--It was good for him and made the teacher's life easier.

Having struggled with their careers, Ben and Susan's nightly "What did you do in school today?" discussions often focused on trying to unearth career clues for Adam:  Susan reasoned, "If Adam could pick a well-suited career early, he could focus on that and so have a better chance of success." Ben added, "When there were plenty of good jobs, that was unnecessary but that won't be true in Adam's lifetime."  

Indeed, the already declining number of good jobs will likely accelerate: Ever more good jobs are being roboticized, offshored, and chopped up into temp projects to avoid paying benefits and to reduce employee lawsuits.

One night, Adam came home excited that his science teacher, of all people, spent the lesson talking about how President Obama's influencing operation goes about creating messages that influence not-liberal voters, for example, couching even radical proposals as what The Founders intended in the constitution. Wanting to nourish a potential career interest, Ben bought Adam the book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini, one of the 29 eminent members of Obama's dream team of messaging. Good try but Adam never cracked open the book. Perhaps if Adam had been older.

One night, Adam told of his class's field trip to a science museum. He exclaimed, "I want to be a an environmental biologist!" He then unfurled a poster of endangered cute  animals he bought at the museum gift shop. Ben asked, "Did the exhibits explain that today and especially tomorrow, environmental science is mainly math--you know, formulas and spreadsheets analyzing big data on computers?' Adam's face dropped.

Then there was the night Adam said he had asked his teacher, "Isn't is racist that there are so many negative stories about Muslim countries?" The teacher somehow didn't answer the question and so he asked Susan and Ben. They too avoided the question and turned their focus to trying to help Adam identify a career direction. Susan asked, "Think you might like a career studying the Middle East for the State Department? Working for the CIA? Being a professor of Middle Eastern Studies at a university?  Adam said, "Can I take Casanova for a walk?"

Maybe middle school is too early to expect a child to think much about career. But high school wasn't.

The next episode is HERE.

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