It is no news that the baby-boomers are set to retire. It is no news either that this is going to change the face of employment. A few months ago the Economist (which is, as you might have guessed by now, my favorite reading of all time) published a special report on manpower in its issue of January 4th, 2007; it suggested that some of the baby-boomers would consider part-time work rather than plain retirement, for instance to maintain their standards of living. We have all seen those customer service employees at Wal-Mart or at airports who appear to be well into their seventies - the first wave of part-retirees might well have already begun. Of course some people need two (or three!) jobs to make ends meet, so part-time for the company and part-time for the employee are two very different things.
A friend of mine taught a course in electrical engineering at a university in the San Francisco area last year - she has a well-paying industry job, but she wanted to teach. Of course the emergence of life coaching and the proliferation of yoga studios throughout the country (in a manner not unlike Starbucks before the market saturated) suggest that more and more individuals today want to live a life that matters. This urge is now taking new forms, far beyond the usual "coach my son's Little League team" or "donate 10% of my earnings to charities". Many educators try to encourage college students to become schoolteachers, but it is not a choice many make - it is a tough job, even in schools with modern facilities and good students (briefly stated, you don't always make the impact you signed up for). Science and engineering majors in particular can easily find far better-paying jobs and, quite frankly, pay does measure how much society in general values certain groups of individuals. A one-way street, in my opinion, no matter how much lip service people pay to their children's teachers - which might not even be much, given the growth of the homeschooling movement. Part-time teaching would allow people to give back to their community and neighborhood without losing their primary professional identity. It could become some kind of "paid volunteer work" - you would not be doing it for the money. Maybe K-12 teaching will become the next global warming: the issue failed to gain traction for years and suddenly we are all watching "An Inconvenient Truth". Twenty years from now we might all spend a few hours a week in front of a blackboard.