Lately, I have been thinking about just how insignificant my job is.
(Yes, I know you are thinking, “But you shape young children’s minds! You prepare them for our future! You teach them to be functioning citizens!”—which is all very true)
Here is basically what I do on a daily basis: Come into school, write some assignments on the board, ask some questions, tell my kids to write some answers, grade those answers, talk about some maybe (or maybe not) important ideas and then send them on their way. They sit in their desks for about 90 minutes. I stand at the front for about 90 minutes. And there is my day. “Education” and “literacy” and “ideas” are all very important to a progressive society, but, really, in the grand scheme of things, all that I do is think and make stuff up and ask my kids to think and also make stuff up. The ideas are intangible, abstract, maybe useful, maybe not. At the end of the day, I am not really sure there is a solid product that I am creating because it is all just speculation and fluff.
I am really good at being an idea person: I can read and comprehend like no one’s business. I can produce a spectacular and original piece of writing. I am really good at planning and organizing parties and events. I love sitting on my back porch swing and thinking and philosophizing about life. But, when it comes down to it, I feel like all of the stuff I am “good at” is insignificant in the grand scheme of the world. I mean, if a zombie apocalypse occurred, I would be SCREWED (like, literally, I blew up two car engines because I didn’t know how immediate the oil light coming on was AND the last time I shot a gun, I stuck my tongue out to concentrate and ended up giving myself a fat lip with the gun kicked back and I bit it. I am not even allowed to use the snow blower or light the barbeque grill because people are concerned I might break/blow up something).
One of my classes is currently reading Fahrenheit 451 (love the ideas it cultivates, do not love the rushed writing). Today, I posed the question (and, here I go again, just generating ideas): “In today’s world, is it more important to have scientists and engineers or writers and artists?” The class was evenly split; some students agreed that we need science/engineers in order to create things; an artist would not be able to paint without a scientist creating the paint and some students said that we need the creative people in our society to think up the innovations.
In my life, I am surrounded by people who MAKE things for their jobs, whether it be in construction, mechanics, farmers, etc. And, I can’t help but think about how useless my job is compared to theirs (Like I said, in a zombie apocalypse, they are definitely getting out alive, while I will probably be sitting on some steaming dirt mound, contemplating the meaning of life). I think in our society especially, we VALUE the thinkers, like myself. We think it’s really awesome when you can read well, write well, solve imaginary math problems. And, we forget about the necessity and brilliance of those involved in skilled labor professions. In schools, we have a tendency to label these students as “dumb”, “unintelligent”, “useless”. I hear those comments all the time; “Oh, Ryan can’t even capitalize his own name on his paper. He isn’t going anywhere”, “Oh, Sam doesn’t even know what a thesis statement is. How does he ever think he is getting into college?”. But, at the end of the day (or the end of the zombie apocalypse), how important are these “academic skills”?
I watch my roommate, who probably only read half a book (Catcher in the Rye, of which was probably read out loud to him) in high school, who probably has no idea what a five paragraph essay is, tinker around on his dirt bike and his truck and am so amazed at the intelligence he has to do that. My sister and I went to the dirt bike store last week to buy some brake part. As I watched the store manager flip through diagrams and indexes of parts, I was amazed as his speed and accuracy, something I probably could not do, and something that definitely takes intelligence that is NOT reading books and “cultivating ideas”.
We constantly hear these “statistics” about how our country is falling further and further behind in math and science. STEM schools are popping up all over the place and parents force their children into these kinds of careers because they assume a professional track like this will breed success.
But what about the mechanics? The welders? The construction workers and bridge builders? These kinds of jobs take just as much intelligence as “writing an essay”. I personally have a lot of respect for these skilled positions, because I certainly am not wired for that.
(Oh, and I hope I am standing next to one when the zombie apocalypse occurs so hopefully I have a chance at survival)