Passing the time; passing away
We build our own prisons and serve as our own jail keepers, but I’ve concluded that our parents and the society at large have a hand in building our prisons. They create roles for us – and self-images – that hold us captive for a long time.
“There are people whose clocks stop at a certain point in their lives.”– Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve
Sometimes I hear the expression, “Passing the time”. People are trying to find ways to “pass the time”. That is, they are bored, have nothing to do, or otherwise unmotivated to do anything. They need to find a distraction, or entertainment, something to “pass the time”… until they pass away. Life as a tragic waiting game for death.
Sometimes I hear about people who visit the doctor and they are told they have some sort of terminal illness. One of the first things they do is to catch up on their “bucket list” – do all those things they had planned on doing before the end of their life. These people are running out of time.
So, how can some people struggle to “pass the time” when they have all the time in the world while others struggle to do all they can in the limited time they have?
We only have one life. We all have limited time. Why would anyone struggle to “pass the time”?
What do jobs and the concept of education have to do with it?
Reading the Huffington Post I ran into an article about Bill Gates. The article had a quote from Gates
Gates’ belief that education is the greatest predictor of America’s future is supported by a report released last March that declared education to be an issue of national security. “A Nation at Risk,” penned by former New York City Schools chief Joel Klein and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, argues that a failure to provide quality education in areas like foreign languages, science and technology will create major future deficiencies of engineers, diplomats and soldiers, among others.
“As we’re not able to train people for the jobs, you’re going to hit a limit that, no matter how good the economy is, you’re not providing the opportunity,” Gates said Wednesday.
Whenever I read something like this I cringe. What always seems to be confounded in these opinions and statements is the difference between getting an education in the classical sense and getting a vocational education. Whenever you hear “job” and “education” in the same sentence think “training”. Training is not an education. Perhaps we conflate the words training and education so much we lose the distinction.
Management consultants – hands off the educational system
For all the respect I have for the consulting firm McKinsey I had to set that aside last year when I read their report “Boosting Productivity in US Higher Education”. Boosting productivity? They used terms like “unnecessary credits” as if higher education was like a factory to produce “just in time” workers for immediate deployment as dictated by what America’s corporations need today.
Why are people … Passing the time?
People who are “passing the time” are generally not working – either by choice or by circumstance. When I hear “passing the time” I get the idea that the educational system and the job market have both fulfilled their purpose and at the same time it has destroyed someone.
Note the use of the words “train people” in the quote above by Gates. Training people is like manufacturing a part (a cog) for a giant machine. I don’t think many people would identify themselves as a “cog” but that’s how most companies treat people and that’s what they are. Companies have “roles” and there is generally little problem in swapping different individuals in and out of roles (interchangeable parts). This is especially true for jobs that are non-strategic (operational, support, etc.)
So, when you are out of a job you are essentially a cog without a machine. And a cog without a machine really has no purpose or identity. Having no purpose or identify all a cog can do is “pass the time”. Opportunity? A custom manufactured cog for a particular machine in a particular era has little chance of reuse.
Too many people don’t consider the difference among education, vocational education, and training. As Gates points out, America needs people to be trained for jobs. But, unfortunately the terminal point for people “trained for jobs” will be quick obsolescence in a rapidly changing job market and/or wages reduced to poverty level to the extent that “training” is readily available to anyone producing surpluses of undifferentiated workers.
Gates’ belief that education is the greatest predictor of America’s future is supported by a report released last March that declared education to be an issue of national security.
Yes, education, not training. But the article does not make this distinction. What is important for America is not so much a ready and able”trained’ workforce to solve pressing in-demand problems of today but an educated segment that can create a tomorrow for America in the context of a global economy.
No one who is educated to “make the future” will ever have time to “pass the time”.
Training people for today’s jobs seems to be a tragic (and necessary) sacrifice of people which leaves them aimless near the end of their lives.
Re/Imagine everything – Mary Meeker 2012 Internet Trends Year-End Update – Business Insider
The Future of Digital – The Future of Digital… is not in a rear-view mirror
McKinsey – Boosting Productivity in US Higher Education