Aleka's shoes

One of my parents' good friends is a very successful (and rich) lawyer in her late fifties who grew up near Nafpaktos in western mainland Greece.

Back in the 60's when she was graduating from primary school, pupils needed to pass a challenging set of exams if they were to proceed to high school. Aleka almost didn't make it, and the reason was this: her father was dead worried that, if she failed the exams, the family wouldn't have any use for a girl's pair of shoes - and he refused to make the investment up to a few days before the exams. Aleka had no shoes up till then, and shoes were necessary to be allowed in the exam hall.

Going further back to the 1930's, my grandfather also passed his high-school exams, one of only two people in his entire (very large) village to achieve the feat that year. To get to the school, he had to walk 40 kms (a full marathon) every Sunday to get to the city, and 40 kms every Saturday to get back to his village. My great-grandfather made sure shoes were provided, but there was never any thought of my grandfather wearing them during his twice-weekly marathon: that would wear them out, and with no shoes there would be no school.

Fast-forward to the present, and I'm tutoring 15-year olds in economics. The subject turns to economic growth (shockingly, not part of the syllabus), and I ask them whether they think people today are better off in material terms than they were 40 or 60 years ago. They usually hesitate to answer economics questions, and they often disagree with each other. This time, there was no need to pause for thought: they all confidently told me that people today are much, much poorer.

by datacharmer | Wednesday, October 21, 2009
  , , | | Aleka's shoes @bluematterblogtwitter


  1. Stephan Says:

    Hillarious anecdotes.

    But we are definately better off now than we were 20, 50 or 100 years ago, that's not an opinion but a fact.

    I know all the reasons why we must stop the boot heel of progress, how we must preserve the way things were in the good old days. I'm not convinced there ever were good old days.