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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Tucker on Teens


One of my favorite bloggers, Jeffrey Tucker, has an awesome article over at Mises.org about what is at stake amidst the teen jobs crisis (only about 14 % of teens aged 17 have jobs):
And so fewer and fewer people know anything about the workplace. They will sit in desks and run around on fields until they are 24 years old and then present themselves, fully formed, to waiting employers who will proceed to cough up as a reward for staying in school.

Well, what's the loss? Let's talk about the loss by talking about what might be learned from a job that will go unlearned.

To have a "work ethic" means the willingness to experience discomfort on the way toward the completion of a job done with excellence. This doesn't come naturally. The "natural" thing is to stop doing what you are doing when it begins to be something discomforting or when more is expected than you want to give. But this approach goes nowhere. In fact, if this is your approach, you trim more and more until the point that you become a sofa slug, which pretty much describes — a whole generation.There is the "work ethic," a phrase that is batted around all the time, but what does it really mean? You have to actually work to acquire one. As innumerable titans of the Gilded Age attempted to tell us, no young person is born wanting to work. How do you learn to come to thrive on it? ...

You quickly learn in any job — and especially low-paying ones — that it hurts to work, physically and mentally. You must focus intensely for longer than you really want to. You do things you don't like. You can find every excuse to drift off but you can't because there are tasks that must be done. And if it is the right kind of job, if you don't do the task, it doesn't get done and then everyone up and down the line that depends on that task finds their tasks are harder and so everyone hates you.

.... Do we really want to deny all of this to an entire generation and then expect these people to just leap into the "real world" at the age of 24 or so, fully formed? They will not be formed. They will not be ready. They will be less useful, less skilled, less productive, less shaped in their character, less ready to be free and responsible. Sorry, but languishing and pretending to study aren't substitutes.

Tucker is, as always, onto something. I have never been more frugal than I was the two summers I spent caddying (double bags, no less) in the humid New Jersey sun...

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  1. Our two boys used to do lawn work,buck hay and pick strawberries every year. Until the year they changed the law about the age limits for field work.

  2. ".... and then expect these people to just leap into the "real world" at the age of 24 or so, fully formed? They will not be formed. They will not be ready."

    Is he talking about Ezra Klein?

  3. Some of my best motivation to excel comes from the summers I worked as a house framer to pay for college. Sadly with the housing downturn even that labor intensive job is hard to find.