When asked to explain what aspiring means, Logan looks confused. Mainly because when the term was being discussed by the rest of his class, he was busy trying to punch England captain Harry Kane in the ear using his extendable arm with a fist on the end. Apparently, he’s an Incredible and one of his superpowers is elasticity. It’s just a pity he doesn’t have a super-memory because then he might recall what we talked about only 10 seconds earlier.
We are having a Future-Self Day and the children have come to school dressed up as the person they see themselves being in years to come. Logan’s dream occupation involves saving the world from crime and injustice. To gain the required qualifications, he is going to watch Incredibles 2 with his parents over the summer holidays. Although he wasn’t born when the original film came out, he claims to have seen it a hundred thousand million billion times, which I think might be stretching the truth a little.
What’s even more incredible, however, is the fact that Logan isn’t the only child in his class hoping to pursue a career in protecting the world from evil through the use of superhuman powers. Tyrell is going to be Spider-Man, Jermaine will be Captain America, Briony is destined to be Wonder Woman and Lamar will probably have someone’s eye out if he doesn’t stop twirling his lightsabre.
In a world where intolerance is increasingly being encouraged, you can’t have too many superheroes. But will we really need this many professional football stars? Can the future sustain an oversupply of dancers and singers? And what effect will a fairy-tale princess, vampire, zombie and graduate of Hogwarts have on social, political and economic stability?
Not long ago, these same children visited KidZania in London (an interactive city run by kids), so they know the sort of occupations a community needs to make it socially and economically viable. Where are the builders, engineers and plumbers? Where are the healthcare professionals, teachers and police officers? Where are the bus drivers, shop workers and people who help us claim compensation for accidents we don’t remember having?
Even scarier than the prospect of a severe structural imbalance in the labour market is the number of children who haven’t dressed up as anything at all. Are their futures already written off? Is it possible that by the age of 9, some children are resigned to being tomorrow’s unemployment statistics? Unceremoniously dumped on the scrapheap of surplus labour? Resigned to a life on a zero-hour contract of hopelessness?
Amid the gloom, Sam stands out like a beacon of hope. He is wearing a suit and tie and carrying a calculator. While he initially wanted to be a dentist, he didn’t have a white coat so decided to come as an accountant instead. Before I can commend his flexibility and pragmatism, however, the Incredible Logan prods me with his extendable arm. “I know what aspiring means!” he says. “It’s when you get sweaty.”
Steve Eddison teaches at Arbourthorne Community Primary School in Sheffield