Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Moving On

That’s what we’re always doing. We move from one moment to the next, often while sitting still. This is a season of pronounced change. Graduates are completing their academic careers and looking to their next opportunity. For some the next stage is employment and others are continuing their education. Age isn’t the key, it’s the readiness of the individual. Unfortunately this country has grown to treat those who don’t choose a path to higher education with disdain. This is an unfortunate state of affairs and I maintain this is at the core of our economic woe. In order to have a thriving, diverse economy requires a knowledgable and talented work force at every level. Just as we need a dentist to care for our teeth we need automotive mechanics to care for our vehicles. Orthopedic surgeons are talented at reassembling bones but it takes a talented carpenter to repair the house after a tree falls on the roof. We spend too much time focusing on the high profile and ignoring those that enable from behind the scenes. How many nurses are behind that doctor? How many production staff does it take to put that actor on the big screen? A good friend of mine is a specialist in Cloud Computing and speaks at events on topics such as OpenStack. He’s one of the most intelligent people you’ll ever meet and can discuss most any subject reasonably well and will readily tell you that diversity is key.
We’ve programmed our youth to chase the dollar and not the passion. It’s cliche, but if we’re not doing what we enjoy, then why bother? There is an innate happiness that comes from enjoying your vocation. When we are happy we are more generous. When we are generous the world is a better place. Generosity doesn’t have to mean munificent gifts and often the most-needed gifts are not monetary. The most precious gift we can give anyone is our time, as that is the most finite resource we have. We can earn more money to buy more things, but we can’t buy more time, we can only make the most of the time we have.  My son graduated high school this year. All of his classmates, save one, are going on to colleges and universities all over the world. The young man who isn’t pursuing higher education yet isn’t sure where his interests lie. I applaud his decision to take a year (or two) to explore his passions. Another classmate has been accepted to a university and is delaying his admission for a year in order to attend culinary school.
How many of our young people are we selling short by forcing them to fit the mold that society has created over the past 30 years? Where do we expect the next generation of skilled mechanics, artisans and craftspeople to come from?  We don’t need “no child left behind” we need “every child finds their niche.” In a society where everyone is a brain surgeon who repairs our cars? Who keeps our airplanes flying if everyone wants to be a pilot? Our teens need an opportunity to learn and explore before we ask them to make a career choice. Chemistry, biology and physics are important, but so are wood shop, electronics and auto mechanics. We need more balance. Creativity (writing, painting, singing, acting) and analytics (algebra, geometry, calculus) hand-in-hand with nutrition and physical activity. Producing well-rounded, self-aware young people will make it easier for them to move on and be more productive in the next stage of their lives.
Maybe they become surgeons, perhaps they help develop the next wave in computing (OpenStack) or maybe they build a thriving business as an electrician or portrait artist. Our job is to make sure they have the tools necessary to meet their potential.