Monday, January 26, 2009

Compete or Become Irrelevant

As my younger brothers and sisters know, I’m way on board the education bandwagon. But my educational philosophy is not that, “every young adult, regardless of economic means, should attend college,” but that “education should be the means by which a young adult should do something to better society and their family… not merely their own selfish interests.” That last point is a little hot – but it is true in the context that children can learn to love and be successful in many skills, trades, and careers if given guidance by their parents, family, school, or other outside influence. Success should not be measured by whether or not you graduate from a 4-year college. I know too many 4-yr college graduates who have $80,000 in loans and no skills. Success should be measured by whether your contribution to society is “net positive.” A 4-year education is not the answer. The answer is acquisition of the skills and experiential tools required to compete in a global economy and bring about positive change in your community; whether those skills are learned via college or trade school, or apprenticeship, or service to the country, etc.

“We had more sports exercise majors graduate than electrical engineering grads last year. If you want to be the massage capital of the world you’re well on the way.” (GE CEO Jeff Immelt to the US government)

I imagine the conversations and rationalizations parents must have with their children, “You must go to college because that's the expected thing to do… I don’t care what you do there, as long as you graduate. A BA in Sports Exercise? Fine. BA in Counseling? Fine. As long as you graduate.” But this thought process is the wrong algorithm. It’s not about what the child thinks is fun, it’s about what is going to advance the child’s skills and marketability in 2009 and beyond. Apart from "fun" are things like "gratifying" and "worthwhile."

Here’s an interesting read from Norman Augustine, the retired CEO of Lockheed Martin. It discusses America’s competitiveness, or lack thereof. It’s easy to read and chalked full of great one liners like, “Once upon a time, if you were born in America, you already won the lottery. That’s not the case for my grandchildren.” And, “When I compare our high schools to what I see when I’m traveling abroad, I’m terrified for our workforce of tomorrow.”

My homework assignment for anyone reading this who has kids is to think about the legacy their children will leave behind. What will they contribute? How will you have set them up for success in life? What lessons have you instilled in them. Tell your children, "do your homework because starving children in China want your job."

Fun, relavent articles to read on this subject:
They're Baaaaack!
Rethink the value of college

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