The Future’s Gonna Be Wicked Hahd

Hey, it snowed a whole bunch!  I didn’t have to spend the night at the school with hundreds of stranded students, and my 13 mile commute home only took three hours.  I have a handful of colleagues who weren’t so fortunate, but they all handled themselves like the adorable professionals they are.  Go hug some teachers today or something; they probably deserve it.

But all the snow days left me with plenty of movie time, and God bless video on demand.  In the past, people had to raid their Blockbuster Video well before a snow storm.  I myself worked at such a Blockbuster during such snow storms; it wasn’t fun.  The reality we live in now, of Captain Phillips being just a few clicks away, is tremendous.  Welcome to the future.

And that’s what I want to talk about: the future.  Captain Phillips is based on a true story, but I couldn’t help but see some deeper implications about the global workforce and where it’s headed.  Captain Phillips–the movie and the character–bring up how the world is changing, getting smaller and more competitive.  It’s the first conversation in the movie, as Tom Hanks drives to the airport.  He mentions how his son doesn’t take school seriously, how that will limit his options in the coming world, where he’ll be competing with his peers on a global scale.

It’s a fear I have for my own students; I even shared my concerns with my juniors last Tuesday, as I desperately tried to get them to read some Walt Whitman instead of whatever else they felt like doing, having already found out that they were being released early on account of the snow outside (also a bit of distraction in Georgia).  “You don’t just have to work harder than your classmates,” I warned.  “You have to work harder than the rest of the world.” (Yeah! Bringing some real Dad Truth on them!)

For Captain Phillips, those fears of a changing world are realized when ruthless Somali pirates, driven by pure desperation, attack his cargo ship (I guess that’s what that thing is called).  The pirates cheer when they discover the ship is from America; it represents fantastic fortune and an easy life for them.  Phillips meets face to face with Muse, the leader of the pirates.  When Muse declares, “I’m the captain now,” it’s just as much of a warning for the American workforce as it is for poor Captain Phillips.  Desperate, hungry people want our prosperity, and they’ll work far harder and do anything at all to get a piece of what we enjoy.

And Captain Phillips is clever and experienced.  He’s backed by a loyal staff and, later, the entire U.S. Navy.  The movie’s still tense, though.  You still worry for they guy, and it’s because these pirates are just that determined.  By the end of the movie, they’re injured, starving, exhausted; they’re facing the Navy, and yet they still press on, because they have nothing else.  I hated Muse for being so mean to America’s beloved Tom Hanks, but I couldn’t help but think “Hey, he’d make a pretty good captain, too.”

And Somali pirates only represent a small “threat” to America’s youth.  I can’t help but wonder how many Asian elementary students read English better than my sophomores.  How many students internationally can run circles around my precious kids in computer coding, basic engineering, or–I don’t know–math?  It’s troublesome, and I wonder if I’m doing enough to prepare them.

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