Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Get A Job

I read today that only 25% of high school kids of working age get jobs these days. The article tries to finger the reason this has been happening. They start with the notion that the evil Democratic Congress when they weren't stumping for socialized medicine upped the minimum wage and so employers can't afford to hire kids anymore. They debunk that pretty quickly saying that previous rises in minimum wage haven't cut youth employment; also that employers don't have to pay minimum wage if the employee is going to work less that 90 days (did you know that? Me either.)

The next supposition is that while not working more and more kids are doing internships or going to summer school. This is theoretically about today's helicopter parents and getting high school kids ready for college. A little bit I'm dubious of this as I'm uncertain all that many kids are going to college.

I could be wrong.

I worked a lot of summer jobs. That isn't to say I didn't go to summer school as well. Another reason that second reason sounds odd to me is that summer employment and summer school aren't mutually exclusive. I worked one summer at a day camp. I cleaned the picnic area every day (and to my Mom's chagrin ate hot dogs for lunch every day). I think I might have been underage in that gig. I seem to recall having to get a work permit.

I worked at least two summers at K-Mart. I worked the floor of the toy department and also some in the outdoor patio. Somewhere I still have patio employee t-shirts that say "may I help you?" on the back. It's amazing how many 50# bags of topsoil you can get into the trunk of a car.

Also there was a bunch of theatre. I did the tech for the drama camp for the Deerfield Park District, building scenery and then running lights and follow spot for the shows. I also built scenery and ran shows for the Wilmette Park District's Starlight Theatre.

The thing that sticks me about this article is that if parents are steering their kids away from work to do more education it's possible their base assumption might be flawed. I mean, I know that school is a positive experience, but some of what we look for in kids we think will succeed in college is some kind of experience away from school. Working a job gets you all kinds of useful experiences. For many folks this is their first introduction to "regular people" and functioning while working with regular people is a real skill. Showing up for work is somewhat different than showing up for school. Taking responsibility for work is different than taking responsibility for schoolwork. Following a bosses instructions is very different than following a teacher or a coaches instructions.

I guess it is possible for parents to think that these real life skills aren't as important, or that there's plenty of time down the line to learn such things and maybe they're right. But the life skills from working a job might go further to adding to someone's maturity rather than even more school.

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