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Become a Green Innovator, Not a Glamorous Entertainer

 

By Rubin Patterson, Ph.D

Guest Column

 

Let’s face it – many young Americans would love to become celebrated professional entertainers. Not only do such entertainers make a lot of money, but also many don’t have any discernable special artistic, athletic, or technical skill or talent. Impressionable young people may look at some of these entertainers and say, “Hey, that could be me pulling down that high income.” My argument in this green column is a mixture of sociological analysis and self-reflection about my one-time, long-ago aspiration of becoming a professional entertainer, specifically, a basketball player.

 

As I perceived myself, I was as good as the athletically talented young men around me, and many of us appeared to be as talented as the men we were watching in the NBA; so I was pretty convinced that I had a clear shot at the pros – piece of cake! Talk about being way off the mark…. I realize now that I wasn’t all that talented and the competition for the few coveted NBA spots made my dreams of a successful athletic career all but impossible to come true. Many adults have lived through their own versions of such dreams of celebrity and wealth.

 

Fortunately, it dawned on me that not only would I have to be “better” than the 150 or so fellow high school basketball players in my district, but I would have to outperform millions of other players who were investing just as much time and effort as I was to get one of those 300 or so NBA spots at the time. It is up to over 400 now, but still…. Once that realization finally sank in, I began to look at basketball as just fun exercise while deciding to hunker down and get serious about my academic studies and pursuing a “realistic” professional career.

 

A similar type of analysis of the unbelievably long odds applies in the case of individuals aspiring to become rappers, actors, newscasters, and other entertainment-related professionals. Every day, thousands of young Americans finally experience an epiphany: “I have to seriously prepare myself to get a job!” Luckily, not all jobs are boring or are related to what may be considered mundane professions. Some jobs are actually downright “cool,” financially rewarding, exciting and satisfying professions.

 

Take the job of an innovator as an example. Innovators in any professional field generate radically new ideas and pioneer far-reaching new products, services and production processes. Such products as the Internet, the iphone, satellite radio and the process of turning garbage and animal waste into electricity are all products generated by a slew of innovators.

It is ironic that we live in a society highly dependent on and fascinated by science and technology, yet relatively few understand science and technology. The focus is too much on the world of entertainers. As one person said to a Senate panel on education in Washington on March 8 of this year, American youths today are “over-entertained and distracted.”

 

Ohioans appear to be less innovating than citizens of other states. I say this based on one important metric, namely, patents. In 2008, Ohio received only 2,227 patents from the US Patent Office. Ohio is nearly eight times the size of Idaho, yet Ohio received only twice the number of patents as Idaho received in 2008. Also, the city of San Jose received nearly as many patents that year as the entire state of Ohio.

 

There is a lot of money to be made, a lot of exciting careers to be experienced, and a lot of good to be contributed to society by individuals who have the interest and desire to become a leading innovator in green technology areas such as: renewable energy generation (e.g., solar and wind), energy efficiency, energy storage, energy infrastructure and advanced materials.

According to Governor Ted Strickland, the Ohio Advanced Energy trade association, and Willard & Kelsey, which is one of many renewable energy companies in metropolitan Toledo, the clean-energy economy is now poised to ramp up sharply.

 

A young person’s commitment to becoming an innovator as opposed to becoming an entertainer could be his or her ticket to personal and professional prosperity. As a matter of fact, some professional green innovators will become far wealthier than any professional entertainer, though most will simply be regarded as a big-time success by almost any measure.

 

I’m certainly not knocking entertainers; after all I enjoy being entertained by thrilling movies, dazzling music and exciting football games as well. And I know that many entertainers work incredibly hard at perfecting their craft. During my junior and senior years in high school, I often invested over 30 hours a week training in basketball. Looking back, obviously that was an unwise investment.

 

Almost any high school student who is disciplined enough to invest 30 hours a week for a shot at the NBA or WNBA or as a musician could undoubtedly prepare for a career as a green technology innovator by taking 20 of those hours and applying them strenuously to the study of math, science, social studies, and the humanities. However, the student should devote the remaining 10 hours to the basketball activities or to some other form of intense physical exercise, so as to avoid obesity and other possible health problems.

 

Young Toledoans are fortunate to have a number of highly regarded innovators in green technology and related social policy fields close-by at The University of Toledo. Toledo’s youths should reach out to such UT innovators for advice regarding a career as a green innovator just as they would if they had access to a local NBA/WNBA star, a well-known rapper, or other entertainer.

 

Rubin Patterson, Ph.D., is professor of Sociology and the interim director of Africana Studies at The University of Toledo.

 

 
 


Copyright © 2010 by [The Sojourner's Truth]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 10/31/14 06:45:41 -0800.

 

 


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