The Sandlot – Smalls First Catch

In The Sandlot, neighborhood kids play an “endless dream game” all summer long. There are two kids on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to baseball talent and natural ability. Benny is the superstar on the local sandlot team. He has a clear absolute advantage over all the others in running, hitting, throwing, and catching. On the other hand, Scotty (nicknamed “Smalls”) possesses book smarts but is clueless about baseball. He can’t throw or catch and has little knowledge about baseball in general.

Benny uses his absolute advantage as an opportunity to train Smalls on how to catch and throw. Investing in training uses resources (like time and energy), but has the potential to payoff in the future. It takes Benny and the rest of the team a while, but Smalls eventually becomes a member of the term. Smalls may never have an absolute advantage in catching, but his comparative advantage in catching gets a little better with time.

Thanks to Amanda Mandzik for the clip submission and summary.

Boston — Rock & Roll Band (1976)

This song is older but is still useful as a discussion about investing in human capital. Human capital is much more than just getting a degree. Human capital also involves general knowledge (what do you know?), skills (what can you do?), experience (where have you been?), and personal characteristics (are you reliable? do you work well with others?). If you have a small enough class, ask students to identify investment in these characteristics based on the story in the song. Not only does the song tell a good story, but it also shows that there’s more than one way to get an education.

Thanks to Bryan Sloss for the submission and summary!

CBS TV — Kennedy on the Labor Market & Unemployment

In a 1963 Labor Day interview with Walter Cronkite, President Kennedy discusses his position on handling the labor market of the United States with around 4 million unemployed (about 5.5% at the time). Kennedy notes that the growing labor force in the United States requires that if the US wants to “stand still,” they still need to move very fast. Kennedy’s main policy focus at the time was retraining workers who had been displaced by technology and making sure that significant amount of workers have the necessary education to handle the growing workforce.

Kennedy also speaks to the lost jobs in “hardcore unemployed” industries like coal and steel and how it’s important to make sure those workers are retrained because those workers are no longer needed. He then laments that there’s a different issue with older workers replaced by technology and younger workers who don’t have the education to handle that technology. Kennedy ends this portion of the interview with a very powerful quote about the fear of automation:

Too many people coming into the labor market, too many machines are throwing people out.

You can view the entire interview, courtesy of the Kennedy Presidential Library, on YouTube.

Life Cycle Considerations in Modern Family

One of the tougher topics to get across to students is why older workers leave the labor force. One explanation for the leave is that they see a decrease in their human capital and that some of their previous training is no longer relevant. This clip does a good job bringing humor to a topic that often sounds derogatory.

Manny tries to teach his step father how to use the double-click feature on his tablet, but Jay struggles to understand.

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