According to a recent survey, which asked young children what they want to be when they grow up, it found they aspire to be teachers, vets or footballers. Some aspire to be firefighters, others pop stars. Nursing came eighth on the list just ahead of archaeologist and dancer.
I hope someone, somewhere wants to be an archaeologist and a dancer. I don’t think 10 year olds should close down their options too early. A dancing archaeologist is an American TV series waiting to happen.
Children chose very visible jobs that exhibit human qualities like kindness, bravery and intelligence. In third place came footballer. But I think it is quite telling that the list is made up of jobs once considered vocational.
It is also quite telling that 10 year olds do not aspire to work in public relations, advertising, communications, marketing or ventriloquism. Partly this is because these jobs are not visible to children and partly it is because these jobs are fundamentally pointless to a child. And some grown ups. They see nurses, firefighters and police officers doing what they do in the world and it makes sense of work.
‘Children who stuck to their guns and became police officers, nurses and vets are our success stories. Plenty fall by the wayside and become estate agents’
Children don’t aspire to be bankers, corporate lawyers or accountants until they have learnt about life’s disappointments.Call it realism all you like, but realism to a child is compromise dressed up as a disappointed grown up.
Arguably, those children who stuck to their guns and became police officers, nurses and vets are our success stories. Plenty fall by the wayside; they become retailers of luxury goods, jugglers, estate agents and we hope they are happy but for those children who realise their dreams… well, you can’t help but admire them can you?
Of course, with the realisation of these dreams comes great responsibility and little financial reward. By the time they are grown up they have worked this out but not been diverted into something pointless. They have value in their lives, and fulfilment, satisfaction - maybe that is why they are the ones being targeted by less successful, embittered and unfulfilled people now - politicians to be precise.
When they attack public services, they attack the best of us, our aspirations toward greater civilisation. Our drive toward doing good. And what fascinates me is the language and logic being invented to justify such destructiveness.
My current favourite? Nurses having a moral duty to save money for the NHS. What nonsense. Nurses have a moral duty to deliver excellent care, to drive up standards and make sure they do not waste money - but a duty to save money? At what cost?
What’s more, I think these things are said to reframe the way we think about what we do. To think of it as unnecessary and superfluous. It implies that healthcare should be grateful for the gift of funding rather than expect the right of investment.
This isn’t economic policy, it is rampant ideology with the momentum that comes with new government. I think it’s ugly and sad. More tellingly, I wonder what politicians want our children to aspire to.
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