Friday, March 04, 2016

Youth and Money

Like everyone, I'm not as young as I used to be. And having spent most of my life as a teacher, I don't know a whole lot about money. But my students know pretty much everything, and they're ready to let me know at a moment's notice.

Yesterday we were talking about what people do and do not have to do, and I had them imagine what they wouldn't have to do if they were millionaires. Getting up early was the most popular thing to not do once they hit it rich. But a few kids had other ideas. Several said they wouldn't have to go to school, and one boy, a really smart one (usually), said he wouldn't have to go to college.

I asked whether the only reason they went to school was so they could make money, and I got a whole lot of nods in the affirmative. I asked the boy if there was any other reason to go to college, and he shook his head. Absolutely not. I tried another approach. I asked the girls if they wanted to go out with a guy with a lot of money who never went to school. Happily, for me at least, they said no. I asked why not. "He'd be stupid," one girl ventured.

But the guy didn't care. He was not going to college if he had money, and that was that. I could see him imagining what life would be like with no school and all that cash.

I was a little more disturbed by a conversation I watched with a few young teachers in a department office. Some former students had come to visit, and they were talking about their futures. One student said he wanted to be a teacher. "Absolutely not," said a young teacher. "Think about what you want in life. Do you just want to make a little money and only go on vacation once in a while? Or would you rather get a job where you can travel a lot and do whatever you want?" The other young teacher nodded in agreement.

This made me very said. I've had multiple conversations with young teachers in which they tell me how lucky I am that I can retire. I look at them and wonder what their next thirty years will be like. I think about those teachers telling the kids how awful it is to be a teacher who can't travel all the time and it makes me very sad. I mean, if traveling all the time is a priority, maybe they should've joined the military. I don't know.

I love it when kids challenge me. I love it when they light up and realize things. If I wanted to quit and go sit around a pool in Florida or someplace I'd do it. But honestly, I think after a week I'd be bored out of my gourd.

There are reasons why I'd advise people not to become teachers. But while I'd like more money about as much as anyone, that's not really one of them. For me, what I don't like has almost nothing to do with what I wake up and do every day. It has to do with Bill Gates, the Waltons, and all the outside experts who pull ideas out of their asses and impose them on us with all that money my students and young colleagues want so much.

I hope we can get our values a little clearer. I'd like my students to know that having a job you love is something you can't really place a price on.
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