I was just talking to Brink about Annette Lareau’s book Unequal Childhoods about the differences between the rearing and education of middle class and working class kids. This got me thinking, naturally, about the transformation of labor markets. People raising their kids to be cheap labor are having and will continue to have problems. Clearly middle class kids who develop human capital relevant to an information economy will do better. But a lot of the information economy will be automated or outsourced eventually as physical and human capital improves in China, India, etc. As Ed Leamer draws out in his entertaining and smartifying review of The World is Flat the less mundane and codifiable a job is, the less competition there is going to be for it (by both man and machine.) Here’s his list from more mundane and codifiable to less:
· Type this page.
· Edit this page.
· Write an article for an Economics journal.
· Write a good joke.
One way to read this is that the really indispensible folks are those in the business of manufacturing meaning. My job is a meaning-making job in a pretty literal sense. I am here to help people understand what all this thinking other people have done means. (In the process, you end up having and conveying some new, meaningful thoughts.) But meaning manufacture is broader than that. It’s basically ideas and aesthetics. If you can write a moving novel or ideas, a kickass rock opera, or a gutbusting monologue you are not about to be replaced by a robot or a Chinaman. Of course, only a small number of people will ever be able to do that sort of thing. But that small number gets bigger all the time as the number of people with the money to buy meaning gets bigger.
In any case, I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my future kids to be middle managers any more than I want them to be auto workers. Or even doctors or lawyers, unless they really wanna be. And I just don’t like the hyperprogrammed minivancentric middle-upper class childrearing style. I’m not sure that’s the best for building the human capital for future meaning makers. That’s one reason I plan to home school my children. I fear their potential will be squandered in even the best schools. I’d like my kids to be educated not just to show up on time, effectively navigate bureaucracy, and compete well in social word/power games, but to creative and entrepreneurial with the ability to make the kind of meaning that other people need. Of course, I think kids should grow up to be whatever they want. But we all know the kind of education you get is going to have a pretty big effect on what you want. And it seem to me that responsible parenting is partly about trying to get your kids to want things that will enable them to have the best possible life. Can you get ahead of the curve by educating your kids to be poet entrepreneurs? Are today’s middle class culture tomorrow’s equivalent of today’s working class values. Will the “cultural creatives” constitute a new and distinct class? Should you try to get you kids in?