A recent article reminded me about the definition of insanity. Albert Einstein once said “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
There was an article published in the July 11, issue of the Payson Roundup titled “Rim Country businesses struggle to find workers.” In summary, the article pointed out that workers and employers are on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to their opinions with regard to employee performance. Three skills were evaluated; Basic (oral, reading writing and math), Thinking (problem-solving, learning, decision-making), and Attitude (dependability, positive attitude, interpersonal). Over 50 percent of the workers think that they are excellent workers whereas employers think less than 6 percent are excellent. Less than 1 percent of employees consider their performance poor, whereas employers think that at least 10 percent are poor. Although this study was conducted in the Rim Country, it has been expressed throughout the United States in all labor markets. Finding and retaining employees with the necessary skills has become progressively more difficult.
This condition did not happen overnight; it has been a gradual process. For the past 40 years or so increasing emphasis has been placed on doing the absolute minimum. This declining work ethic is jeopardizing the United States’ economic position in the global marketplace. The new developing nations, China, India and those in South America are actively competing to establish their positions in the global economy through improved education and hard work.
Many articles are written, politicians campaign, businesses complain, and parents and the educational community blame each other, but little has been done to rectify this situation.
Rather than commiserating over the situation, let’s start doing something about it. Let’s make sure that our children have the tools to be successful in their choice of careers and not simply have to settle for a job because they are not adequately educated or prepared.
However, before any improvement can be effected, it is necessary to define the issue/problem. Middle class U.S. citizens are continuously challenged by one crisis after another; the mortgage crisis, the oil crisis, obesity and diabetes in children, drug and alcohol abuse, all of which are a lack of understanding the necessary lessons about life. If you purchase a home where the mortgage payment exceeds your ability to repay, it is a lack of understanding on your part; eating healthy food is a matter of understanding the interaction of various ingredients and how those ingredients act within the human body; abuse of drugs and alcohol is a matter of self discipline and understanding how this abuse will limit your future opportunities or even take your life.
So, what is the problem? In my opinion we, all of us, have lost our focus on our duty as parents and leaders. We are more focused on quantity rather than on quality.
Looking at this situation from an educational standpoint, we are more focused on doing many assignments rather than quality work. There is an old adage that goes something like, “Practice Makes Perfect” that has been modified in recent years to, “Perfect Practice Makes Perfect.” Doing for the sake of getting to the end is a fool’s errand, a waste of time and effort. If a job is going to be done, do it right the first time. Let’s make sure the education we give our children is done right.
With that stated, there are now a series of questions that are necessary to determine the next course of action:
Do we believe that our children deserve to be better prepared for their future? If the answer is no, then no action is warranted; however, if the answer is yes, then the next question is:
Do we as parents, business owners and educators believe that, if we continue to work harder at doing the same things the same way as they have been done for the past 40 years, we can somehow improve the performance of our work force? Well, if we believe that, then we probably fit the definition of insanity. So let’s give ourselves the benefit of the doubt and agree that refinements need to be made.
What refinements will improve the preparation of our children to tackle the challenges that will occur in their future? Once these are identified, then the real challenge to us is, are we willing to do whatever it takes to make these refinements, and do we have the intestinal fortitude to stick with the plan of action and see it through to a satisfactory conclusion?
Achieving success will require changing the way we think and act; but the reward will be an improvement in our children’s chances to compete in the global marketplace of today and tomorrow.
We have all contributed in some way to the current situation. We have told our children for many years that taking the easy way out is OK. We have reinforced bad behavior by sitting back and simply complaining about it or blaming others. We have undermined the basic value system that used to guide our behavior. Performing at 60 percent has become the goal of many students. By gradually lowering our expectations, we have failed to adequately prepare our children for the global environment in which they will have to compete. The rest of the world has recognized this fact and sees it as an opportunity to carve out their place as a world leader.
It is time to make some tough decisions as to what actions will be necessary to reverse the current trend so that our children have every chance at success in a global economy.
What is it that we can do, each of us, as individuals and as a community, to provide our children with the necessary knowledge and skills to be successful productive citizens during their lifetime?