Two weeks ago, I went to Easthampton, MA to meet my friends T and E. They were going to the t-shirt sale and book signing at Topataco. Topataco publishes graphic novels and makes t-shirts for a lot of different webcomics, and some of their authors, including J. Jacques of Questionable Content were in attendance (Questionable Content, despite its name, is not really questionable; it’s the story of some post-college kids living in the Northampton, MA area, in an alternate reality from ours where artificial intelligence has been invented).
The visit was very much ongoing proof to me that people are not really doing the kinds of things now that they were doing 20 years ago; and that this trend is going to continue. A former student of mine is living at home, attending concerts and trying to make work for himself. Two others are involved in video-game coding. Some are in the army. Few of them are going on to law school or medical school out of college. Everyone is hustling. So are the folks at Topataco — designing t-shirts, publishing books of formerly web-published material, and generally inventing lives for themselves against the backdrop of economic apocalypse.
The folks hanging out at Topataco were odd ducks. Alternative folks, mostly younger than T and E and I. Folks who looked like they didn’t belong to the mainstream, and didn’t care that they didn’t belong to the mainstream. Artists, nerds, geeks, fashionistas, artists. Artists.
What’s the world we’re moving into? What’s the mission for teaching kids for the future? What’s the future look like? What will people be doing? The factories are closed or closing. There’s only so many fast food joints that can open anywhere. We can’t all work in posh high-level all-local all-organic eateries, because we can’t all afford to eat in them. How will we train kids to see opportunities for themselves — niches like webcomics, and t-shirt creation, that clearly support some people, and give them a kind of life that they want to lead? It’s obvious that Washington DC is not going to solve this, nor is Wall Street, nor their proxies.
How will we, the teachers, restructure what we do, so that our children have a chance to fly once the rubble of what was, has stopped bouncing?