"I want to be a video game programmer and retire a millionaire by age 30."
Walk the halls of American high schools.
Ask the boys what their career goal is.
This is a common reply.
When Jacques Cousteau’s Underwater World series was broadcast, many students wanted to become whale biologists—perhaps ten times the numbers needed—and colleges channeled most into related and more practical careers. Today, the popular CSI series brings even more to college to become "evidence officers" (the real term for this job). Again we divert surplus students into more realistic careers.
But the number of high school boys who dream of becoming video game programmers is astronomical.
Where do they get this idea that you can program video games and retire rich early? No billboards tout video game programming. No televised commercials promote the vocation.
But our boys are aware of three very rich men in the electronic arena: the founders of MicroSoft, Facebook, and Apple. And these heroes (so acknowledged by society) became billionaires—that is billionaire with a ‘b’—by following their love of electronics and programming. Or so our young generation believes. Their knowledge of the business acumen and luck involved in establishing these three companies is minimal.
Our students’ belief that their idols made a fortune through playing with computers and programming is adequate to sustain their dreams.
In addition, every one of them knows that none of their heroes completed college. So why should they buy into the study-hard-to-go-to-college party line? With a growing number of boys video game addicted, failing to complete homework, decreasing their involvement in social and academic activities, physically out-of-shape, and basically dropping out of normal life, they have a ready-made excuse to continue playing video games past midnight every night. Many have convinced themselves their obsession will make them the next hi-tech millionaire.
It is not the fault of these corporate founders that they were successful in making billions. But we allow and even condone our boys’ fantasies. As many grow overweight sitting in front of the screens, we blame the vending machines, limit potatoes in school lunches, and push more electronics into schools. We buy them the latest gaming computers with ultra-fast video cards for supposedly "educational" purposes; then four years later when its gaming capacity is obsolete, we have to buy another home computer—and the "educational" discs are still sealed in their cellophane wrappers, never uploaded.
School administrators face the problem of dissuading some of these boys from dropping out of school. In 1996, the Kansas Legislature raised the compulsory attendance age to 18. Facing some harsh realities, this was altered two years later allowing students 16-and-over to drop out if the parents and student sat through an explanation of the likely loss of earning power, etc.
We show them figures that the higher the degree, the higher the income and lower the unemployment. Our boys yawn. They are convinced that they can parlay their video game skills into mega money. And if they can’t, they can always go back and get a GED (not realizing that GED-holders are mostly equivalent to high school dropouts in earning power and college readiness).
This video game millionaire mythology knows no borders. Worldwide, boys are declining in proportional college attendance. This male dream of becoming a play station millionaire is universal.
Other countries are alarmed and working to dismantle the myth.
America lets our boys stay in their fantasy world.