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Baby Boomer Retirements and the Workforce Challenge
California and the nation are on the threshold of some of the most rapid social and economic changes in many decades. ... In 2005 there were 9.7 million baby boomers in California between the ages of 40 and 59, accounting for 51.0 % of the prime working-age population. By 2020 they will be 55 to 74 - squarely situated for mass retirement from the workforce. They will be replaced by younger, possiby less-educated workers. ...
How Big Are the Shoes?
The most acute changes will probably unfold just 10 years from now when it proves difficult to fill the shoes of so many retirees. The example that follows is about California, but every state faces similar losses from the retirement of the baby boomers. Specifically, three million workers from the ababy boom generation will exit the California workforce between 2010 and 2020. (Similar losses will continue between 2020 and 2030.) This workforce loss will stem from all sources, including death and out-migration from the state as well as simple retirement. The departees will be replaced by young adults who are newly entering the labor force. Over four million young workers are expected to join the labor force between 2010 and 2020. Although this number is larger than the number of retirees, it is very deficient compared to previous decades. ...
The anticipated annual losses of the baby boomers fromt he workforce will be most acute in the years between 2015 and 2020 and will drive down annual growth of the labor force to barely 0.6 % per year. As discussed in chapter 3, labor force growth is expected to slow by even more in the United States as a whole to 0.4 % per year - and it could fall to negative rates in some slower-growing states. These growth rates amount to roughly half the already low rates of labor force growth currently experienced in both California and the United States ...
Future Job Skills Requirements
As if the retirement-driven slowdown in overall labor force growth were not a large enough problem, it coincides with a period of expected increase in skill requirements. This is part and parcel of the shift toward a creative, high-tech, and information-based economy. Over the course of recent decades the California economy has steadily shifted toward industries that require higher education, and within those sectors, releance on workers with BAs or more advanced degrees has only intensified. For example, the fastest-growing area of the economy is the broad services sector, in which many of the workers are highly education: in 2002, 25% of workers in this sector held a BA degree, and 15.9% held a more advanced degree. Moreover, skill requirements in this sector have been increasing gradually over time.
Forecasts of economic growth in California call for continued increases in college-educated employment. ... a reasonable conclusion is that the California workforce needs to increase the overall share who are college graduates by about one-quarter by 2020. ...
Will the Workforce Decline in Quality?
... One has to ask if both the United States and California workforces are approaching a point where average skill levels might even decline. This trend is out of sync with the growing demand for higher-skilled workers, and is also out of step with the economic incentives for higher education due to the growing premiums paid to college graduates versus high school graduates.
A major basis for concern is the changing ethnic makeup of the working-age population. ... Census Bureau projections of the population ... demonstrate that the combination of faster-growing ethnic groups with much lower educational attainment will lead to a decline in the overall educational attainment of the workforce in the nation and most individual states. This conclusion is reached if it is assumed that esisting gaps in educational attainment between racial and ethnic groups will persist in the future. ... (From Chapter 10, Growing the New Skilled Workforce and Middle-Class Taxpayer Base, pgs. 204-209)
"Ah, yes," say those who are more worried, "but you're looking at a snapshot of today. America's advantages are rapidly eroding as the country loses its scientific and technological base." For some, the decline of science is symptomatic of a larger cultural decay. A country that once adhered to a Puritan ethic of delayed gratification has become one that revels in instant pleasures. We're losing interest in the basics - math, manufacturing, hard work, savings - and becoming a postindustrial society that specializes in consumption and leisure. "More people will graduate in the United States in 2006 with sports-exercise degrees than electrical-engineering degrees," says General Electric's CEO, Jeffrey Immelt. "So, if we want to be the massage capital of the world, we're well on our way." (footnote omitted)
... What hope does the United States have if for every qualified American engineer there are 11 Chinese and Indian ones? For the cost of one chemist or engineer in the United States, the (2005 National Academy of Sciences) report pointed out a company could hire 5 well-trained and eager chemists in China or 11 engineers in India. (-- pgs. 187-188)
Yes, but get this:
... A group of professors at the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University traveled to China and India to collect data from governmental and nongovernmental sources and interview businessmen and academics. They concluded that eliminating graduates of two-or three-year programs halves the Chinese figure (of engineering grads) ... and even this number is probably significantly inflated by differing definitions of "engineer" that often include auto mechanics and industrial repairmen. ... That means the United States actually trains more engineers per capita than either India or China does. (footnote omitted)
And the numbers don't address the issue of quality. As someone who grew up in India, I have a healthy appreciation for the virtues of its famous engineering academies, the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT). ... In fact, many of the IITs are decidedly second-rate, with mediocre equipment, indifferent teachers, and unimaginative classwork. Rajiv Sahney, who attended IIT and then went to Caltech, says, "The IITs' core advantage is the entrance exam, which is superbly designed to select extremely intelligent students. In terms of teaching and facilities, they really don't compare with any decent American technical institute." And once you get beyond the IITs and other such elite academies - which graduate under ten thousand students a year - the quality of higher education in and India remains extremely poor, which is why so many students leave those countries to get trained abroad.
... In both India and China, it (McKinsey Global Institute study on emerging global labor market, 2005) noted, beyond the small number of top-tier academies, the quality and quantity of education is low. Only 10 per cent of Indians get any kind of postsecondary education. ... Wages of trained engineers in both countries are rising by 15 per cent a year, a sure sign that demand is outstripping supply. ...
Higher education is America's best industry. There are two rankings of universities worldwide. In one of them, a purely quantitative study done by Chinese researchers, eight of the top ten universities in the world are in the United States. In the other, more qualitative one by London's Times Higher Educational Supplement, it's seven. The numbers flatten out somewhat after that. Of the top twenty, seventeen or eleven are in America; of the top fifty, thirty-eight or twenty-one. Still, the basic story does not change. With 5 per cent of the world's population, the United States absolutely dominates higher education, ...
... In India, universities graduate between 35 and 50 Ph.D.s in computer science each year; in America, the figure is 1,000. ...
I went to elementary, middle and high school in Mumbai, at an excellent institution, the Cathedral and John Connon School. Its approach (30 years ago) reflected the teaching methods often described as "Asian," in which the premium is placed on memorization and constant testing. This is actually the old British, and European, pedagogical method, one that now gets described as Asian. I recall memorizing vast quantities of material, regurgitating it for exams, and then promptly forgetting it. When I went to college in the United States, I encountered a different world. While the American system is too lax on rigor and memorization - whether in math or poetry - it is much better at developing the critical faculties of the mind, which is what you need to succeed in life. Other educational systems teach you to take tests; the American system teaches you to think.
It is surely this quality that goes some way in explaining why America produces so many entrepreneurs, inventors, and risk takers. In America, people are allowed to be bold, challenge authority, fail, and pick themselves up. It's America, not Japan, that produces dozens of Nobel Prize winners. Tharman Shanmugaratnam, until recently Singapore's minister of education, explains the difference between his country's system and America's. "We both have meritocracies," Shanmurgaratnam says. "Yours is a talent meritocracy, ours is an exam meritocracy. We know how to train people to take exams. You know how to use people's talents to the fullest. ..." (-- pgs. 188-193)
Why America and Europe both need LOTS of immigrants:
The native-born, white American population has the same low fertility rates as Europe's. Without immigration, U.S. GDP growth over the last quarter century would have been the same as Europe's. America's edge in innovation is overwhelmingly a product of immigration. Foreign students and immigrants account for 50 per cent of the science researchers in the country and, in 2006, received 40 per cent of the doctorates in science and engineering and 65 per cent of the doctorates in computer science. By 2010, foreign students will get more than 50 per cent of all Ph.D.s awarded in every subject in the United States. In the sciences, that figure will be closer to 75 per cent. Half of all Silicon Valley start-ups have one founder who is an immigrant or first-generation American. America's potential new burst of pruductivity, its edge in nanotechnology, biotechnology, its ability to invent the future - all rest on its immigration policies. If America can keep the people it educates int he country, the innovation will happen here. If they go back home, the innovation will travel with them.
Immigration also gives America a quality rare for a rich country - hunger and energy. As countries become wealthy, the drive to move up and succeed weakens. But America has found a way to keep itself constantly revitalized by streams of people who are looking to make a new life in a new world. These are the people who work long hours picking fruit in searing heat, washing dishes, building houses, working night shifts, and cleaning waste dumps. They come to the United States under terrible conditions, leave family and community, only because they want to work and get ahead in life. Americans have almost always worried about such immigrants - whether from Ireland or Italy, China or Mexico. But these immigrants have gone on to become the backbone of the American working class, and their children or grandchildren have entered the American mainstream. America has been able to tap this energy, manage diversity, assimilate newcomers,a dn move ahead economically. Ultimately, this is what sets the country apart from the experience of Britain and all other historical examples of great economic powers that grow fat and lazy and slip behind as they face the rise of leaner, hungrier nations. (-- pgs. 198-199)
New York Times Magazine
Questions for Felix Rohatyn The Builder The former banker talks about how to remake America's infrastructure, why the nation's economy is worse than New York's in the '70s and the appeal of being an engineer.
By Deborah Solomon
What do you make of President Obama’s $800-billion-plus stimulus package? I totally support Obama, but I would argue in favor of a greater amount of infrastructure investment and probably fewer tax cuts. There should be less concern about rapid liquidation and greater emphasis on long-term investments.
The emphasis now seems to be on shoring up levees and making repairs to crumbling structures instead of building new ones. Repairs are very important, as is new construction, and there should be a mix of both. If we have a major nuclear program in the next 25 years, for instance, then we have to do something about the infrastructure that goes with that, from creating an energy grid to dealing with nuclear-waste disposal.
Are you concerned about the number of students who have forsaken engineering for business school?
They’ll go back to being engineers after they’ve discovered that business school doesn’t make them millions of dollars. They’ll see the stock market doesn’t do them much good, so they might as well do something constructive. (emphasis added)
Which country do you think has the best infrastructure?France has a very good infrastructure. You get on the train in Paris to go to London, and two and half hours later you’re there, and you haven’t even felt a vibration. ... (-- p. 20)
Bold Endeavors How Our Government Built America, and Why It Must Rebuild Now
By Felix Rohatyn
In the genes Challenging apartheid, abandoning a job at Harvard, studying rare disorders that others ignore - Michael Hayden has never been one to follow the conventional path. And that's precisely what makes him one of the most successful scientists and biotech entrepreneurs working in the province today.
... Getting into Harvard wasn't something Hayden had dreamed about; he felt he'd lucked into it and, for that reason, wasn't all that committed.
So when UBC came calling, he accepted, shocking his Harvard colleagues, who thought he would be wasting his life in the boonies. In 1983 Hayden began teaching and practicing at UBC Hospital. "I saw there was space for me to do things," he says. "There was an openness, a perspective about building. I just had this feeling you could do great things here. It was not fully formed. It was nascent. Boston was pretty fixed, where Vancouver was really in flux."
Hayden threw himself into research, publishing his results in prestigious journals such as Cell, Nature, the Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine. But gradually he grew frustrated with the limitations of being a university scientist. "Many of the discoveries had significant potential for patients, but we were always coming to a place where we had to talk to others," he says. "You never had a chance to be the advocate for your program, to determine the fate of what happened to it."
Even if a drug company wanted to license a discovery, that didn't mean the company would develop it commercially. "It might want the licence to kill it because it didn't want competition in the field," Hayden explains. ...
"For me, this is like a dream," says Hayden. But he's not resting on his laurels - not yet. He'd like to hit a home run with Xenon too. "We're interested in having a thriving company here in Vancouver that becomes a next-generation genetics pharmaceutical company. We have to see whether we can be successful and then resist any advances. My goal would be to maintain a Canadian-run company here." He's optimistic, but cautiously so. "We need a bit of luck, because finally when you make a drug you never know about side effects - not that we have any reason to be worried. Still, you need some blessing, some luck, some feng shui."(-- pgs. 54-57)
The French effort in the 17th c. failed for reasons that would become depressingly familiar to generations of assimilators from the early 19th c. onward. First and foremost was parental resistance to separation from their children, an attitude that the French thought was unusually strong among the Indians of North America because of their excessive love of offsping. As the Récollet Gabriel Sagard noted, 'they love their children dearly,' even though 'they are for the most part very naughty children, paying little respect and hardly more obedience.' To a European Christian it seemed that 'unhappily in these lands the young have no respect for the old, nor are children obedient to their parents, and moreover there is no punishment for any fault. ' And Nicholas Denys agreed, contending that Indian 'children are not obstinate, since they give them everything they ask for, without ever letting them cry for that which they want. The greatest persons give way to the little ones. The father and the mother draw the morsel from the mouth if the child asks for it. They love their children greatly.' (For their part, Indians regarded French mothers as 'porcupines' because of their stern attitudes towards the young and to child-rearing.) In fact, Europeans usually failed to note that, among Indians, discipline was applied to children, although it was administered in ways unfamiliar to the intruders. Usually, discipline and social control were exercised through praise, ridicule, rewards, and privilege - a subtlety that the Europeans missed. In any event, the Europeans' censoriousness about Indian children, and their proclivity to employ corporal punishment for disciplinary purposes, made it very difficult to secure children ... Indian children were also repelled by the competitive pedagogical techniques that the missionaries, especially the Jesuits, employed. The use of prizes, examinations, and public exercises to create competition and bring about higher levels of achievement was utterly foreign to Indian ways, including the indigenous peoples' methods of educating their young. ...
What made the alien nature of European schooling harder to accept was the fact that indigenous peoples were unimpressed by the newcomers and their strange ways. Few among the Native peoples in the 17th and 18th c.s could see much reason to want to become like these bizarre strangers. After initial awe at Europeans' technological superiority had ebbed, North American Indians were usually not impressed by the intruders. By and large they regarded the French as ugly, feeble and ill-prepared to flourish in the North American environment. Many of their ways, especially the outlandish practices and customs of the celibate clergy, were so weird as to convince Indians that there was an unbridgeable gulf between them and the intruders. (From PART ONE Establishing the Residential School System, pg. 55-57) (footnotes omitted)
Our cousin joined the Irish Army and was issued two pairs of boots and two pairs of shoes only to desert this neutral peacetime Army and go to England where he joined the British Army. When the British Army presented him with two pairs of boots and two pairs of shoes, he changed his mind, deserted again and returned to Limerick. A rich man now, he was proud owner of four pairs of boots and four pairs of shoes.
Our cousin of the boots and shoes had little or no education and not much in the way of opportunity. I'm more than fortunate. I will soon move on to the Christian Brothers Primary School on Sexton Street. Ten times the size of Henry Street School, "The Brothers" has a secondary school attached. I am in the great world of school, the first of my family to go to The Brothers. Admission is based on a written entrance examination. I know that I did well on the examination. I also know that my brothers would have done as well or better. If so, why had they not been admitted? (-- p. 87)
Ah, now, what's so great about a school run by the Christian Brothers?
We go to school through lanes and back streets so that we won't meet the respectable boys who go to the Christian Brothers' School or the rich ones who go to the Jesuit school, Crescent College. The Christian Brothers' boys wear tweed jackets, warm woolen sweaters, shirts, ties and shiny new boots. We know they're the ones who will get jobs in the civil service and help the people who run the world. The Crescent College boys wear blazers and school scarves tossed around their necks and over their shoulders to show they're cock o' the walk. They have long hair which falls across their foreheads and over their eyes so that they can toss their quiffs like Englishmen. We know they're the ones who will go to university, take over the family business, run the government, run the world. We'll be the messenger boys on bicycles who deliver their groceries or we'll go to England to work on the building sites. Our sisters will mind their children and scrub their floors unless they go off to England, too. We know that. We're ashamed of the way we look and if boys from the rich schools pass remarks we'll get into a fight and wind up with bloody noses or torn clothes. Our masters will have no patience with us and our fights because their sons go to the rich schools and, Ye have no right to raise your hands to a better class of people so ye don't. (-- pgs. 272-273)
On Frank's early efforts toward higher learning:
... Mam tells me give my face and hands a good wash, we're going to the Christian Brothers. I tell her I don't want to go, I want to work, I want to be a man. She tells me stop the whining, I'm going to secondary school and we'll all manage somehow. I'm going to school if she has to scrub floors and she'll practise on my face.
She knocks on the door at the Christian Brothers and says she wants to see the superior, Brother Murray. He comes to the door, looks at my mother and me and says, What?
Mam says, This is my son, Frank. Mr. O'Halloran at Leamy's says he's bright and would there be any chance of getting him in here for secondary school?
We don't have room for him, says Brother Murray and closes the door in our faces.
Mam turns away from the door and it's a long silent walk home. She takes off her coat, makes tea, sits by the fire. Listen to me, she says. Are you listening?
That's the second time a door was slammed in your face by the Church.
Is it? I don't remember.
Stephen Carey told you and your father you couldn't be an altar boy and closed the door in your face. Do you remember that?
And now Brother Murray slams the door in your face.
I don't mind. I want to get a job.
Her face tightens and she's angry. You are never to let anybody slam the door in your face again. Do you hear me?
She starts to cry by the fire, Oh, God, I didn't bring ye into the world to be a family of messenger boys. ....
Mr. O'Halloran tells the class it's a disgrace that boys like McCourt, Clarke, Kennedy, have to hew wood and draw water. He is disgusted by this free and independent Ireland that keeps a class system foisted on us by the English, that we are throwing our talented children on the dungheap. (-- pgs. 289-290)
Horace, the black man, sits on a bage of peppers and reads a paper from Jamaica or he reads a letter over and over from his son who is in university in Canada. When he reads that letter he slaps his thigh and laughs, Oh, mon, oh, mon. The first time I ever heard him talk his accent sounded so Irish I asked him if he was from County Cork and he couldn't stop laughing. He said, All people from the islands have Irish blood, mon.
Horace and I nearly died together in that fumigation room. The beer and the heat made us so drowsy we fell asleep on the floor till we heard the door slam shut and the gas hissing into the room. We tried to push the door back but it was jammed and the gas was making us sick till Horace climbed up on a mound of pepper stacks, broke a window and called for help. Eddie Lynch was closing up outside and heard us and slid the door back.
You're two lucky bastards, he said, and he wanted to take us up the street for a few beers to clear our lungs and celebrate. Horace says, No, mon, I can't to that bar.
What the hell you talking about? says Eddie.
Black man not welcome in that bar.
Fuck that for a story, says Eddie.
No, mon, no trouble. There's another place we have a beer, mon.
I don't know why Horace has to give in like that. He has a son in university in Canada and he can't have a beer himself in a New York bar. He tells I don't understand, that I'm young and I can't fight the black man's fight.
Eddie says, Yeah, you're right, Horace. ...
Peter McNamee is platform boss while the regular man is on vacation and when he sees me he says, What in the name of the crucified Jesus are you doing here? I thought you had a brain in your head.
He tells me I should be going to school, that there's no excuse for me humping sides of beef in and out when I could be using the GI Bill and moving up in the world. ...
Horace, the black man I nearly died with in the fumigation chamber, tells me if I leave the university I'm a fool. He works to keep his son in college in Canada and that's the only way in America, mon. His wife cleans offices on Borad Street and she's happy because they've got a good boy up there in Canada and they're saving a few dollars for his graduation day in two years. Their son, Timothy, wants to be a child doctor so that he can go back to Jamaica to heal the sick children.
Horace tells me I should thank God I'm white, a young white man with the GI Bill and good health. Maybe a little trouble with the eyes but still, better in this country to be white with bad eyes than black with good eyes. If his son ever told him he wanted to quit school to stand on an assembly line sticking cigarette lighters into cars he'd go upt o Canada and break his head.
... I walk to Eddie Lynch and pass him my baling hook, making sure to offer him the handle to avoid the insult of the hook itself. He takes it and shakes hands with me. He says, Okay, kid, good luck, and we'll send your paycheck. Eddie might be a platform boss with no education who worked his way up but he knows the situation, he knows what I'm thinking. I walk to Horace and shake hands with him. I can't say anything because I have a strange feeling of love for him that makes it hard to talk and I wish he could be my father. .... (Chapter 26, pgs. 142- 155)
Sally Ride, the nation's first woman astronaut, no longer flies for NASA, but she has embarked on a mission into territory that is just as mysterious and controversial, and is much closer to home: making sure that girls get to share in the adventure that is science.
This is not an easy task in an age when the president of Harvard, no less, hypothesizes that girls can't cut it in science because they lack the inherent ability. In truth, though, Dr. Ride, who earned her doctorate in physics, thinks that Dr. Lawrence Summers' January 2005 statement inadvertently helped more than harmed her cause. ... Even today, Ride says, "you see all these boys who get Cs in math and say, 'I'm going to be an engineer!' And all these girls who get As in math and say, 'I'm not good enough.'" ... And so she's spent the last five years creating the Sally Ride Science Club, science festivals, summer camps, newsletters, career guides, Web site and books - all under the umbrella of her company, Sally Ride Science. ... That purpose is to smooth the bumps, especially for the middle school girls who seem to be the most vulnerable. (-- pgs. 65-66)
... or is it an ethics problem?
Francis Crick died in July 2004, age 88. Maurice Wilkins died two months later, age 87. In Stockholm in December 1962, Crick, Wilkins and James Watson had shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery nine years - as all the world knows - of the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid DNA, the stuff that genes are made of. Another scientist should have been on that platform, Rosalind Franklin, who died in 1958, age 37. Her meticulous experimental work in 1952 had supplied the essential X-ray crystallographic data that Watson and Crick used, without her knowing at the time, to get out the structure. Nobel prizes are never awarded posthumously;...(From the profile by Horace Freeland Judson at p. 78, celebrating the contemptible and charmless opportunist, James Watson, who at 77 got the face but not the fate he deserved - hideous!)
Farewell, Rosalind Franklin:
Theories for Everything An Illustrated History of Science from the Invention of Numbers to String Theory
By champion science writers John Langone, Bruce Stutz, and Andrea Gianopoulos
... Watson and Crick seemed stymied. (Linus) Pauling in California appeared to be gaining ground, returning to his helix. In a lab not far from Crick and Watson in England, (Rosalind) Franklin was getting very close to bserving DNA's structure in her increasingly explicit diffraction images. (At the crystallography laboratory at Birkeck College, London, Rosalind Franklin investigated the molecular structure of the tobacco masaic virus. She discovered that ribonucleic acid (RNA) was a single strand rather than the double helix found in the nucleus of other organisms.) Crick and Watson had consulted with Franklin, but their relationship was far from a collaboration. Female primary investigators were rare in science laboratories in those days, and in fact they were often not even allowed to eat in university dining rooms with their male counterparts. Personality conflicts had estranged Franklin and Wilkins, so she was working very much on her own.
Although the stories differ as to how it happened, at some point Wilkins gave Crick and Watson copies of Franklin's images. They realized - as she already had - that the molecule's shape was a spiral or a helix. The model came into focus: DNA was made of two long, helix-shaped sugar-acid strands, wound around each other like spiral staircases, each step another paired chemical goup of atoms. For their work, Crick, Watson and Wilkins shared the 1962 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. None of them acknowledged the part played by Franklin, who had died of ovarian cancer in 1958 at the age of 37. (-- p. 294)
Best science documentary ever!
Me and Isaac Newton
Directed by Michael Apted
Featuring *1988 Nobel Prize winning chemist Gertrude Elion, who reminiscences none too fondly about her career as a pickle-tester, one of the better jobs offered to women chemists in the farty '40s
Gertrude Elion patented the leukemia-fighting drug 6-mercaptopurine in 1954 and has made a number of significant contributions to the medical field. Dr. Gertrude Elion’s research led to the development of Imuran, a drug that aids the body in accepting transplanted organs, and Zovirax, a drug used to fight herpes.
In English preparatory and public schools romance is necessarily homosexual. The opposite sex is despised and treated as something obscene. Many boys never recover from this perversion. For every one born homosexual, at least ten permanent pseudo-homosexuals are made by the public school system: nine of these ten as honourably chaste and sentimental as I was.
... What surprised me most at this school was when a boy of about twelve, whose father and mother were in India, heard by cable that they had both suddenly died of cholera. We all watched him sympathetically for weeks after, expecting him to die of grief, or turn black in the face, or do something to match the occasion. Yet he seemed entirely unmoved, and because nobody dared discuss the tragedy with him he seemed oblivious of it - playing about and ragging just as he had done bfore. We found that rather monstrous. But he had not seen his parents for two years; and preparatory schoolboys live in a world completely dissociated from home life. They have a different vocabulary, a different moral system, even different voices. On their return to school from the holidays the change-over from home-self to school-self is almost instantaneous, whereas the reverse process takes a fortnight at least. A preparatory schoolboy, when caught off his guard, will call his mother 'Please matron,' and always addresses any male relative or friend of the family as 'Sir', like a master. I used to do it. School life becomes the reality, and home-life the illusion. In England, parents of the governing classes virtually lose all intimate touch with their children from about the age of eight, and any attempts on their parts ot insinuate home feeling into school life are resented. (-- pgs. 17-18)
From my first moment at Charterhouse I suffered an oppression of spirit that I hesitate to recall in its full intensity. Something like being in that chilly cellar at Laufzorn among the potatoes, but a potato out of a different sack from the rest. The school consisted of about six hundred boys, whose chief interests were games and romantic friendships. Everyone despised school-work; the scholars were not concentrated in a single dormitory house as at Winchester or Eton, but divided among ten, and known as 'pros'. Unless good at games, and able to pretend that they hated work even more than the non-scholars, and ready whenever called on to help these with their work, they always had a bad time. I happened to be a scholar who really liked work, and the apathy of the class-rooms surprised and disappointed me. My first term, I was left alone more or less, it being a rule that new boys should be neither encouraged nor baited. The other boys seldom addressed me except to send me on errands, or coldly point out breaches of school convention.
In my second term the trouble began. A number of things naturally made for my unpopularity. Besides being a scholar and not outstandingly good at games, I was always short of pocket-money. Since I could not conform to the social custom of treating my contemporaries to tuck at the school shop, I could not accept their treating. My clothes, though conforming outwardly to the school pattern, were ready-made and not of the best-quality cloth that all the other boys wore. Even so, I had not been taught how to make the best of them. Neither my mother nor my father had any regard for the niceties of dress, and my elder brothers were abroad by this time. Nearly all the other boys in my house, except for five scholars, were the sons of businessmen: a class of whose interests and prejudices I knew nothing, having hitherto met only boys of the professional class. Also, I talked too much for their liking. A further disability was that I remained as prudishly innocent as my mother had planned I should. I knew nothing about simple sex, let alone the many refinements of sex constantly referred to in school conversation, to which I reacted with horror. I wanted to run away.
The most unfortunate disability of all was that my name appeared on the school list as 'R. von R. Graves'. ... Businessmen's sons, at this time, used to discuss hotly the threat, and even the necessity, of a trade war with the Reich. 'German' meant 'dirty German'. It meant: 'cheap, shoddy goods competing with our sterling industries.' It also meant military menace, Prussianism, useless philosophy, tedious scholarship, loving music and sabre-rattling. ... Considerable anti-Jewish feeling worsened the situation: someone started the rumour that I was not only a German but a German Jew.
Of course, I always claimed to be Irish, but an Irish boy who had been in the house about a year and a half longer than myself resented this claim. He went out of his way to hurt me, not only by physical acts of spite, like throwing ink over my school-books, hiding my games-clothes, attacking me suddenly from behind corners, pouring water over my bed at night, but by continually forcing his bawdy humour on my prudishness, and inviting everybody to laugh at my disgust. He also built up a humorous legend of my hypocrisy and concealed depravity. I came near a nervous breakdown. School ethics prevented me from informing the housemaster of my troubles. The house-monitors, though supposed to keep order and preserve the moral tone of the house, never interfered in any case of bullying among the juniors. I tried violent resistance, but as the odds were always heavily against me this merely encouraged the ragging. Complete passive resistance would probably have been wiser. I got accustomed to bawdy-talk only during my last two years at the school, and had been a soldier for some little time before I got hardened and could reply in king to insults. (-- pgs. 33-35)
I spent two long years as a Fag at Repton, which meant I was the servant of the studyholder in whose study I had my little desk. If the studyholder happened to be a House Boazer, so much the worse for me because Boazers were a dangerous breed. During my second term, I was unfortunate enough to be put into the study of the Head of the House, a supercilious and obnoxious seventeen-year-old called Carleton. Carleton always looked at you right down the length of his nose, and even if you were as tall as him, which I happened to be, he would tilt his head back and still manage to look down the length of his nose. Carleton had three Fags in his study and all of us were terrified of him, especially on Sunday mornings, because Sunday was study-cleaning time. ... We scrubbed the floor and washed the windows and polished the grate and dusted the ledges and wiped the picture-frames and carefully tidied away all the hockey-sticks and cricket-bats and umbrellas. ...
The rules and rituals of fagging at Repton were so complicated that I could fill a whole book with them. A House Boazer, for example, could make any Fag in the House do his bidding. He could stand anywhere he wanted to in the building, in the corridor, in the changing-room, in the yard, and yell 'Fa-a-ag!' at the top of his voice and every Fag in the place would have to drop what he was doing and run flat out to the source of the noise. There was always a mad stampede when the call of 'Fa-a-ag!' echoed through the House because the last boy to arrive would invariably be chosen for whatever menial or unpleasant task the Boazer had in mind.
... the Boazer wished to use the lavatory but that he wanted the seat warmed for him before he sat down. ... I wiped the frost off the seat with my handkerchief, then I lowered my trousers and sat down. I was there a full fifteen minutes in the freezing cold before Wilberforce arrived on the scene. ...
I got off the lavatory seat and pulled up my trousers. Wilberforce lowered his own trousers and sat down. 'Very good,' he said. 'Very good indeed.' He was like a winetaster sampling an old claret. 'I shall put you on my list,' he added. ... (From Fagging, pgs. 154-159)
Future experience was to show me that my early distrust of sport was well founded. I was told of a public school where the lascivious butler used to change into games clothes and crouch behind a bush from which he would leap during the muddy confusion of a 'scrum down' and covertly join in the game for the purpose of fondling the boys in an intimate manner. Sport, as I have discovered, fosters international hoistility and leads the audience, no doubt from boredom, to grievous bodily harm while watching. The fact that audiences at the National Theatre rarely break bottles over one another's heads, and that opera fans seldom knee one another in the groin during the long intervals at Covent Garden convinces me that the theatre is safer than sport. In my case the masters at my prep school agreed to the extent of sending me to the local repertory theatre with a bar of Fry's Mint Chocolate. In this way I saw most of the plays of Bernard Shaw, which must have been better than playing cricket. (-- pgs. 32-33) ...
The sight of a woman at my public school was almost as rare as a Cockney accent in class; and if we spotted one it was, as often as not, a fierce and elderly matron. We were waited on at table by footmen in blue tailed coats and settled down for the night by a butler called 'George.' Our homosexuality was therefore dictated by necessity rather than choice. We were like a generation of diners condemned to cold cuts because the steak and kidneys was 'off.' ...
... There were the 'one yearers' who had to keep all their buttons done up, 'two yearers' who could undo one jacket button, 'three yearers' who could undo two and 'four yearers' who could wear fancy waistcoats and put their hands in their pockets. 'Five yearers' were said to be allowed to grow moustaches or even marray a wife if such a thing were available. If 'four yearers' mixed with 'one yearers' the worst was suspected and very often turned out to be true.
I cannot say I found Harrow brutal or my time particularly unhappy, but life there never approached the Elizabethan splendours and miseries of my prep school. Harrow's great advantage was that we had rooms of our own, although in the first year these had to be shared with one other boy, and these did provide a sort of oasis of privacy. Each room had a coal fire and a wooden bed which let down from the wall on which various political slogans were burned in poker-work, such as 'Death to the Boers' and 'No Home Rule for Ireland.' You could bring your own furniture and set out your own books on the shelves and enjoy some of the privileges of a long-term, good conduct prisoner (it's rightly said that the great advantage of an English public school education is that no subsequent form of captivity can hold any particular terror for you. A friend who was put to work on the Burma railway once told me that he was greeted, on arrival, by a fellow prisoner-of-war who said, 'Cheer up. It's not half as bad as Marlborough'). (-- pgs. 47-48)
Even into adulthood, this nonsense may continue:
Essential Pleasures A New Anthology of Poems to Read Aloud
Edited by Robert Pinsky
A man who’s trying to be a good man
but isn’t, because he can’t not take
whatever’s said to him as judgement.
It causes him, as he puts it, to react.
His face and neck redden and bloat,
a thick blue vein bulges up his forehead
and bisects his bald pate, scaring his children
but provoking hilarity at work
where one guy likes to get his goat
by pasting pro-choice bumper stickers
on his computer screen while he’s in the john,
then gathers a group into the next cubicle
to watch when he comes back.
He has talked to his minister and to his wife
about learning how not to react,
to make a joke, and he has tried to make jokes,
but his voice gets tense, they come out flat,
so even his joke becomes a joke at his expense,
another thing to laugh at him about.
He has thought to turn to them and ask,
Why don’t you like me? What have I done to you?
But he has been told already all his life:
self-righteous goody two-shoes, a stick up your ass.
They are right. He has never never never gotten along.
He says nothing this time, just peels off the bumper sticker,
crumples it gently, places it gently
by his mousepad to dispose of later properly,
comparing his suffering to Christ’s in Gethsemane
spat upon and mocked (his minister’s advice),
and tries a smile that twists into a grimace,
which starts the hot blood rising into his face.
This is what they came for, to see Dickhead,
the bulging vein, the skull stoplight red,
and indeed it is remarkable how gorged it gets
as if his torso had become a helium pump,
so, except for him whose eyes are shut tight,
they burst into laughter together exactly at the moment
cruelty turns into astonishment.
Between tennis matches and on nontennis weekends, Dan and his friends played cards. They were part of a national craze set off by the televised World Series of Poker and its sudden elevation of poker players to media stars. Some parents worried about the $5 buy-in games of Texas Hold ’Em that were held in various basements, including mine. I countered that I was glad the boys were talking to one another rather than staring at a video screen; that those who lost would play Ping-Pong or foosball. I actually taught Dan his first casino game, blackjack. When he was learning arithmetic, we had a jar of pennies on the kitchen counter, and one day I asked Dan and his brother if they’d like to learn a game in which they counted to 21 — and if they won, they got to keep the other players’ pennies. In short order, Dan owned the whole jar.
The college Dan chose to attend, Old Dominion University in Virginia, wasn’t his first choice. While many schools wanted his tennis prowess and high SAT scores, they balked at his grades. Old Dominion, a commuter school in Norfolk with a crack tennis team, was willing to take him. To me, Dan seemed to be going to college for all the wrong reasons. There was nothing he wanted to learn. He wanted only to get away from home and to follow the same path that his tennis competitors were on. But when Dan would not consider a “gap year,” even at a prestigious tennis academy, I stipulated that he take out a private student loan in the amount of the scholarship that he could have received from Old Dominion had his grades been better. If he finished the year in good standing, I would repay the loan.
By April, following a rough first semester, Dan had been suspended from the tennis team for missing study halls. He was unhappy at the school. Though he brought his grades up to the point where I would repay his loan, he spoke of wanting to transfer to a college where he might thrive. But when he came home in May, it was soon clear that he had no time to research and prepare any transfer applications. He was too busy with the activity that had replaced tennis: Internet poker. ...
Dan’s second year of college saw him losing out on things other than profits. His grades took another nose dive. Reinstated on the tennis team, he quit after a few months. Yet he was winning, consistently, at poker, amassing a big enough bankroll by December to fly himself and a friend to Aruba and have plenty left over to buy a car, support himself and start planning a life of international travel. Since he no longer valued being a scholar-athlete, the loss of grades and sports prowess were, from Dan’s point of view, insignificant. In February, having paid spring tuition himself, he made the belated but rational decision to drop out of school. ...
He was no longer a college student or my dependent. He was, for the moment at least, not only self-supporting but looking at six months’ earnings that were more than my annual salary. Yes, he was playing poker because he loved the competition, because it had a bad-boy appeal, because his peers looked up to his success. (From The Journal of Gambling Studies: 92 percent of college students agree that gambling makes a person look smart.) But he was also playing poker because the financial independence it could yield allowed him to separate. Here, then, was something I could seize on: a small benefit, a morsel of sanity in what had seemed a feast of madness. ...
Two weeks after withdrawing from school, Dan took off with a group of poker buddies for the European Poker Tournament in Germany, a face-to-face poker round leading up to the World Series of Poker. Some players at these tournaments have sponsors, their fees paid by companies or individuals in exchange for a percentage of their winnings; but like most of the 667 competitors — 31 of them from the United States — Dan paid the 5,300-euro buy-in himself, along with all the expenses of the trip.
On the second day of the tournament, I found a report online. A third of the entrants remained in the draw, only six from the U.S., and Dan was among them. I couldn’t help feeling a flash of joy, knowing how happy he must be, how confident and eager for the next round. Twelve hours later, he had lost. “But my friend Jake won the $2K event,” he said over the phone the day he flew back.
“You mean he won $2,000?”
“No, Mom. That’s the buy-in. He won like $140,000.” (-- pgs. 38- 43)
Raul Jara's grandfather tilled a rich man's land on the outskirts of Lima, Peru, until agrarian reform in the nineteen-sixties made four acres of it his. By the time Raul was born, in 1971, Lima had grown to surround the Jaras' compound, making their walled garden of bananas and bougainvillea an oasis from the increasingly chaotic and polluted capital city. Raul, an only child, was the first member of his family to go to college, and six times a week he would travel an hour and forty-five minutes by minibus to an oasis of another kind, the campus of Pontificia Catholic University, where he and his fellow engineering students immersed themselves in the elegant exactitude of mathematics. Peruvians like to say that they have the world's best-educated taxi drivers, because only a fraction of Peruvian college graduates find professional jobs. Raul was an exception. After graduation, he worked as a teacher of computerized industrial drawing, then as an engineer at a gold mine, until, finally, he was hired at a copper mine set more than thirteen thousand feet up in the Peruvian Andes. (First paragraph of the story, p. 46)
Postcards from Tomorrow Square
By James Fallows
... Despite a memorization-and-exam system as onerous as any country's, South Korea is enjoying a vogue right now as a source of creativity. Its cartoons, its televised soap operas, its clothing, even its Samsung mobile phones are popular in both China and Japan. South Korea's recent pizzazz, however it has been achieved, has only intensified long-standing and often-voiced dismay in China and Japan over how to make their students not just technically competent but also "imaginative" and "creative". The distress is particularly acute in China, because, contrary to what most Americans would assume, the Chinese government spends so little on education, and so much of what it spends is concentrated on a handful of elite schools. Overall, China spends just over 3 percent of its gross domestic product on education at all levels, about half as much as the average for developed countries. "Most of the money goes to the top ten schools, and what goes to the top ten mainly goes to the top few," a professor at one of the favored schools told me. This makes getting into the "best" name-brand schools - like Tsinghua and Peking universities in Beijing, and Fudan and Jiao Tong in Shanghai - all the more important, which in turn increases the need for students to cram for tests and the advantage for those who go to high-fee private high schools.
... If I were China's economic czar, I would recycle as many of the country's dollar holdings as possible on grad-school fees in the United States. And if I were America's immigration czar, I would issue visas to Chinese applicants as fast as I could, recognizing that they will create more jobs, opportunities and friends for America than the United States could produce any other way for such modest cost. (-- pgs. 106-107)
... A less attractive side of China's social bargain comes in public encounters. Life on the sidewalk or subway may have been what Thomas Hobbes had in mind with his "war of every man against every man." As technology, Shanghai's subway is marvelous; as sociology, it makes you despair. Every person getting on a subway understands that there will be more room if people inside can get off. Yet the more crowded the station, the more certain that there will be a line-of-scrimmage standoff as the people trying to surge in block those trying to escape. In a perverse way, I was relieved when I read that China's traffic-death rate per mile driven was nearly ten times as high as America's: I wasn't crazy in thinking that the streets were a reckless free-for-all. The writer Gwynne Dyer recently explained that such carnage is typical of cultures where virtually everyone behind the wheel is a "first-generation driver," raised with no exposure to traffic laws, defensive driving, or the damage cars can do. As more Chinese travel abroad as tourists, and China prepares to welcome more foreign travelers when the Olympics begin, the government has launched a "mind your manners" campaign urging people to stop "hawking" (noisily clearing their throats) and spitting on the street, to stop cutting to the front of lines, and to stop yelling at each other and into their mobile phones. Good luck!(-- pg. 109)
... A flashy Shanghainese woman in her twenties says, "I almost feel sorry for men these days. If they don't have an apartment, no chance of getting married. With no car - forget it!" Her bargaining position is strengthened by the ghoulish combination of China's one-child policy and its strong cultural preference that the lone child be a boy. Six boy babies are born and survive in China for every five girls. The imbalance is obvious among children on the street and even for young people now in their twenties, who were born after the one-child policy took hold.) (-- p. 112)
China driving update - be very afraid:
National Geographic Traveler
My CHINA Annual Photography Issue
FERRARIS FOR THE PEOPLE
Ferraris on display before the Great Hall of the People catch the attention of Chinese soldiers. Likewise, the clashing symbols of capitalist excess and implacable communism catch the eye of Chien-min chung, a Taiwan-born photographer who visited mainland China for the first time in the 1990s. "The picture shows how far China has advanced," he says, "with pricey Italian sports cars parked outside the halls that Mao once walked." The Great Hall, meeting place for China's congress and Communist Party, sits on Tiananmen Square, site of the 1989 tragedy in which hundreds of protestors were killed and courageous, unarmed civilians stood up against a column of army tanks. Four years later, Ferrari sold its first car in China. When this photo was taken in 2003, the company was hosting an auto show to celebrate a decade of doing business in the Middle Kingdom. By 2006, Ferrari had established showrooms in ten cities in China, and total Chinese sales of its cars - costing up to $530,000 each - reached 283. In a land where the per capital annual income is still below $1,900, "it's amazing how fast people have embraced car cultur," Chung says. "And cars are just one symbol of the new economy that you see every day. Remember, modern China is less than 60 years old, and we're experiencing change on a scale never before seen. I have high hopes for China." Beyond the weighty symbolism, there is a more playful reason that this picture is one of Chung's favorites. "Here I am taking a photo of someone taking a photo. Maybe someone else was taking my photo at the same time, too. ... (Caption under photograph, p. 61)
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