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Nothing but the truth!

By Will Power


August 12, 2011 (San Diego) --The U.S. government says currently we have around 11% "unemployed." But that figure just means these people are receiving unemployment compensation. Millions of other Americans have given up on finding work, gone into premature "retirement", or simply dropped out of the job market completely. The real rate is over 20%.


What exactly is "work'?


Does a rich day trader, who got an inheritance "work" when he plays the stock market? Does a poet "work"? When teachers "teach", what exactly is the product?


Exactly what form does "work' have to take before it is valued by society. Does operating a factory making widgets make sociality better? Is the farmer the holder of a sacred trust? Do MD's have to actually care about their patients to treat them?


It gets even more complicated. Is learning "work"? Do the hours students spend reading and conversing about life make an "education". How many "units" do you need to be an educated person? Is a self-educated person 'working"?


Does a housewife "work"? Damned hard! Does she get retirement credits for raising educated , moral, hardworking kids? Not a penny!


One of our problems as a culture is we need to redefine work. We try to codify and measure 'work" by some arbitrary measurements of "production", when many products of "work" are immeasurable by any standards. Opponents of public schools, for example, cite low test scores as the measurement of success. But if we are turning out test-crash dummies whose only skill is taking tests, what are we doing to our children?


The U.S. needs to redefine "work" so that the unseen intellectual products matter as much as the widgets and test scores. Art, music, and teaching are work enough, as anyone who has ever tried to teach certainly knows. Work is more than mere activity, it is what gives life meaning. Work cannot be defined in units of production, but in the good it does to society and individuals.


Certainly, investors who collect dividend checks are recompensed far more than teachers or preachers. But which places more demands on resources and contribute less to society? We need to recompense teachers not on the basis of their test scores but on their training and experience. It's the price we pay for being civilized.

Will Power is a retired history teacher and creative writing instructor. The views in this column reflect the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of East County Magazine.


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