Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Lament from the trenches

There's an interesting post from Chris Dillow here about the effect that growing up during times of recession can have. I would agree with the finding of one of the research papers he links, which says:
"Individuals growing up during recessions tend to believe that success in life depends more on luck than on effort, support more government redistribution, but are less confident in public institutions."
Uh huh. I'd have to take issue with the idea that to make a distinction between 'socially-useful' and 'socially-useless' jobs is a function of prosperity, though. On this, Chris generalises from his own experience:
"My generation was shaped by the mass unemployment and industrial decline of the 70s and 80s. So we felt we had no such choice. For us, any job would do. And many of us still feel this way."
Well, I'm about the same age as Mr Dillow and all I can say is, speak for yourself, boyo. I drew the distinction but it had nothing to do with the times I was brought up with and everything to do with the ethos I inherited from my protestant atheist* parents.

So I went into teaching.

You should find it heartbreaking at just how wrong a person can be. Because what I've been thinking - for ages - is: is teaching really 'socially-useful'? I mean, while I'm teaching, my charges are not breaking into your house - so in that sense it is socially-useful. But this falls rather short of what most of us had in mind when we entered the profession.

I can't help making comparisons with people who do jobs that actually involve doing things that people want. For example, my washing machine broke down recently and I thought, "Oh fuck - that'll be three hundred quid for a new one". But instead I got an extremely helpful chap out who charged me a tenth of that to pull out the magnetic numbers and various other crap that my son had obviously been chucking into the machine for years and had now blocked the filter. (Had wondered where all these had gone - hitherto, I'd assumed he had eaten them.)

So you find yourself handing over thirty quid and doing so smiling. This is the sort of job I want - where people hand over dosh smiling because you've fixed some shit that they don't understand. Now that's socially-useful. But this never, ever, happens in teaching.

Or... if it has to be something socially-useless, let it be something that when you say what you do, people stare blankly and go, "Oh" - in a 'that's the end of that conversation' kind of way.

Like when people tell you that they are a project manager for an IT firm or something. What the fuck does that mean?

Sorry - just ranting. I'll go now....

*You think this a paradox? You know notheeng!

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