Why I let my son choose the least hireable subjects at high school

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images 

My 15-year-old son hates it when I start a story by saying "back in my day", but that's exactly what I'm going to do here.

I went to school in the 1980s – I took typing as a subject, and was advised by a nun at school to drop maths for my senior years to focus more on home economics (joke was on her: I was equally bad at both).

When I was at school, it was pretty much a given that when you were choosing subjects for senior, you needed to think about your future – whether that was a job or university. There was general pressure to think about how to make yourself the best possible prospect across the board, no matter what your interests were.

I don't remember there being much discussion about what I actually wanted to do, but rather, the emphasis was on moulding myself in preparation for whatever opportunities may arise.

That led me down a convoluted path of all sorts of career experimentation from law to waiting tables, until I returned to my first love, writing, in my late twenties.

I recently attended an information night at my son's school where the discussion was quite different from what I remember. My son attends a high-achieving school, with a massive focus on academia, but they still talked a lot at this information night about following your passions and doing what you love.

"We're not about trying to shove square pegs into round holes," the principal informed the gathered crowd of parents. "We want each and every student to follow their dreams and know they can make them happen."

My son is a bright kid, but he struggles if he's not interested in something. As it happens, he's not interested in maths and science. He's interested in creativity and the arts.

He came to me with a list of subjects he plans on selection for next year: drama, dance, music, visual art, English literature, and math (still a core subject, much to his disappointment).


There is no balance to this selection – it's all creative and it's all stuff my son loves to do. What sort of job will it get him when he's ready to find a job? I have no idea.

What I do know is that whatever he ends up doing, my son will be good at it because he's doing what he loves.

I'd much rather he was engaged and passionately doing something he loves – whether it's making him a lot of money or not – than an average doctor/lawyer/scientist who hates his life and counts the hours until his work day is over.

And I also know that the career pool that we grew up with doesn't exist any more. Technology has opened our world and made so many things possible – and it's not done yet.

The theory that the majority of jobs that will be available in 2030 don't exist yet may be an exaggeration, but I do know that as a parent, the gift I can give my child is the confidence to go after what he really wants in life, instead of playing it safe as my generation was taught to do.

I think we finally have it the right way around.