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End of the world as we know it

2012-07-06 23:28:26.559725+00 by Dan Lyke 3 comments

CJ had a Facebook entry that linked to New York Times: Preparing Kids For The Unknown, which is commentary and expansion on Brain, Child: Armageddon Mama. I had to check the dates twice, because they could as easily have been inspired by the current heat wave and derecho and whatever else as by the February 2010(?) event that they appear to have referenced.

Only problem: What if that isn’;t at all what the near future will look like? What if we’;re raising our kids to succeed in a George Jetson kind of world, but they wind up living more like Fred Flintstone?

I'm sympathetic. It's easy to make a plausible case that the world is going to hell in a handbasket. Where once I dived in to the virtual world, now I'm spending as much or more time improving my skills as relates to the physical one. More than one friend has, independently, stated that come the end of the world they're going to use whatever means they have to show up on my doorstep, because I clearly have the skills necessary to thrive in a post-apocalyptic world.

On the other hand... much of the reason I have these skills is that my parents thought similarly. We lived far from the city, with ducks and goats and sheep and a huge garden, and I learned to sweat copper and hotwire tractors and tape drywall about the same time I was learning to solder...

Which is the problem with any bubble: The pessimists only win when their timing is dead on. We live in a time of unprecedented economic and technological expansion. It's been going on for two or two and a half centuries.

It might continue for forever, there's little debate that humans are dramatically impacting the environment, there's more debate over what that impact will be longer-term and it's possible that we'll suddenly come up with new energy sources that mean we can continue pushing out the Malthusian limits that, up until the Industrial Revolution, played out for millenia. It's also possible that over the next decade weather patterns will shift such that ¾; of the humans on earth starve or die in natural disasters.

The problem is timing: Because even if you give that latter scenario the most credence, it could as easily happen after my lifespan. In fact, with either doom and gloom or a Polyanna-ish belief in eternal prosperity, most scenarios have my lifestyle pretty much unchanged for the rest of my expected span. Human lives are inconsequential in geologic epochs, timing that market's gonna be pretty damned hard.

So should you raise your kids to be rough and ready survivalists? I think my parents did a pretty good job with me, and it's likely that those skills are ancillary to ones that have helped me thrive in the world I ended up living in. It turns out that margins for safety aren't conducive to hard growth, and if you do so you're betting on something that might just hit your grandchildren. Or it may happen tomorrow.

[ related topics: Children and growing up Interactive Drama Nature and environment Invention and Design Theater & Plays Writing Law Heinlein Education New York Economics Gardening ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2012-07-07 06:47:20.096574+00 by: ebradway

I think every generation has felt that the end was nigh and that "kids today need more real-world skills." Of course, every generation has a slightly advanced idea of what those skills are. I think being able to step outside the bubble to transcend modernity is a genetic trait. Is the fact that I can rebuild the transmission on my car the result of my father teaching me to do it? Or is it because he passed his genes on to me that allow me to transcend the walls people have around that kind of effort?

#Comment Re: made: 2012-07-07 14:17:16.136911+00 by: Larry Burton

I've given up on trying to predict the future. I'm all for living in the now. Right now we need to put shop class back into all middle and high schools just because it not only teaches our kids to do things with their hands, which is just cool, but also because the process develops problem solving skills that word problems just can't develop. All that is needed right now.

#Comment Re: made: 2012-07-08 18:04:44.736829+00 by: andylyke

I echo Larry's comments. I'm working with youth at risk, many of whom don't have a "sit in your seat I teach you learn" type brain, and apparently weren't offered a vo ed possibility. As an academic track kid, I had various manual arts classes through ninth grade, and profited greatly from them. I was also jealous of the shoppies in High School who were building boats while I was learning the significance of 1066 and 1215. All in all, the education regime through which I went served me well, but I believe it also served those with a less academic orientation. Much has been lost with the movement toward "no child left behind" so called education.

Some in my extended family are hoarding gold and silver, to sustain them after the melt down. I'm hoarding as many skills as I can, and building the soil around my home to the best of my ability. If the melt down comes in my remaining years, I intend to barter my skills and produce with others who have useful talents and goods. If I have excess, I'll try to relieve the Au and Ag people of their metal, if I can think of a use for it. In the meantime, I can enjoy applying my skills and the bounty of my gardens.