Doctor or Engineer?
Focusing on boots to fill in an askew demand-supply equation is admirable,
but ultimately pointless if the quality of new hires is all over the map.
To borrow novelist Charles Dickens’s famous turn of phrase, these are both the best and worst of times to debate parental input in their children’s careers. Either way, the urgency for such debate is considerable, for the “game” as we knew it has irreversibly changed.
When the global panic wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic finally settles, we face years if not decades of economic misery. Such a grim forecast will in the short-term trigger a spectrum of reactions, and only a few of them appealing.
Australia, for example, in a move unprecedented among developed nations, recently doubled the tuition fees for arts and humanities degrees, while subsidizing those for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) courses. The government explained this policy would produce “job-ready graduates” in an uncertain labour market.
This is a problematic assessment as many industries once thought to be immune to “future shocks” are now shedding workers by the shipload. It is also insane to imagine individuals with an innate aptitude for, say, literature, prospering as doctors or engineers.
Focusing on boots to fill in an askew demand-supply equation is admirable, but ultimately pointless if the quality of new hires is all over the map.
From a young age, parents force-feed their children the orthodox definition of a successful life.
If Asian states follow Australia’s example, then we should expect an intensification of parental instruction in the career choices of children. While the stated purpose of such policies is to produce employable adults, I fear they will ultimately harm both individuals and society at large.
Asian societies already oppress free-spirited children. From a young age, parents force-feed them the orthodox definition of a successful life, i.e. enrolling in an elite school, graduating near the top of their class, and landing a high-paying job. In our neck of the woods, passion only has value when it promises profit.