Tuesday, January 6, 2009

"Carrying them"

I recall one of the meaner Dilbert strips:  an administrative assistant mentions to the epinonymous engineer in passing, "My son is failing all his classes.  I'd like him to get a career in computers."  Dilbert answers unwisely, "What -- carrying them?"  His dejected look on the third panel seems to convey a mixture of guilt at his careless remark, and the sad realization of its truth.

"Carrying them" is something an engineer might say at a party to his nerdy friends.  It's an easy thought for an educated person who lives by his skills, when he considers the horde of apparently willfully ignorant American youth with the illusion of privilege -- the same frat-boy types who made his childhood miserable.  But when I face a mother who says to me more or less what Dilbert's coworker said, how do I respond?  How do I tell her what she secretly knows -- that young folk with no drive for success will no longer be able to reap the benefits of their parents' hard work?  The wise thing then is to say nothing, and contemplate the mixture of good fortune, hard work, and privilege (at least the privilege of proper upbringing that taught one to value education) that got one as far as one has gotten.