I spent a good part of two days listening to industry experts extolling their virtues and their needs. In this venue, once I started to hear a particular theme, I could not un-hear it. These leaders looked to our education system to “provide a workforce.” They desire to collaborate with educators in order to enhance “workforce ecosystem development,” meet “industry needs,” and put students onto “pathways” and “pipelines” that will provide, courtesy of public funding, their future workers. They even went so far as to describe the “fertile ground” they wanted to cultivate, in order to someday harvest these workers for themselves.
For much of this ongoing narrative, I was seething,* taking notes in a journal simply to keep myself from boiling over. At some point our metaphors step beyond simplistic models and imagery; they become euphemistic and damaging. When my children are being looked at by executives as future workers rather than children, human beings, citizens, I start to lose my shit. Moreover, I’m profoundly sad.
What I’m working on right now is how to process all this, how to move forward, how to work collaboratively rather than being “that guy” who grabs the microphone and tells a room full of people how they’re all wrong. That’s never productive.
And yet: they’re all wrong.
These are children. These are my children. These are children who should be able to ponder how a drop of water beads on a leaf, why a piece of paper gets lifted when air flows by it, the improbable fuzziness of a caterpillar. They should do all these things for their own sakes, for the joy and intrigue of it all. They don’t need to think about a distant future; we should help them embrace their present and all that it has to offer. Our children deserve better, no doubt, but not because of what we could someday extract from them in order to enhance our economy. They deserve better because they’re our children. Period.
*To cap it off, a representative of the aerospace industry said that “this industry changes lives.” It strikes me that, although he was specifically talking about the lives of children that he wants to harvest locally, the industry is largely devoted to finding the most efficient ways to end the lives of those on the other side of a line on a map. So, his statement is true in so very many ways.