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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Obama asks CEOs to help; This CEO responds...

President Obama: "As we work with you to make America a better place to do business, ask yourselves what you can do for America. Ask yourselves what you can do to hire American workers, to support the American economy, and to invest in this nation."

This statement was meant for CEOs of businesses, of which I am one (albeit of a small business) so I thought I would answer the President.

Here are some things I can (and do) do:

I hire American workers. I particularly like to hire American Ph.D.'s (in Russian Literature, History of Medicine and Archeology to name three recent hires of mine.) I like to hire people like that because they are very smart individuals who have bought the stuff that colleges sell and wound up unemployable because of it. I like how smart they are. I have no use for what they learned in their PhD programs however.

I hire American workers. I also like to hire women who have small children who want to work from home. I am happy to let them work the hours that suit them and in most cases I have never met them. I need them to be able to write and think well. Despite the ridiculous education system we have, it doesn't seem to make everyone a bad writer and thinker. Fortunately for me, such workers are in plentiful supply. Why? Because in this country nearly everyone has to work in a office and the skills of writing and thinking are way undervalued. Since my company builds school and training courses you might think I would hire people who had degrees in education. I don’t. Those degrees don’t teach much worth knowing.

I support the American economy by building learning by doing project-based courses and degree programs that teach people how to do things rather than listen and memorize things. Oh wait. That was the Spanish economy since I built those courses for Spain (and for Peru and soon for some other developing countries.) Why don’t I build them for the U.S.? I did initially, but our universities think that what matters most is the brand name of their degree and not the quality of the education entailed in that degree. The best universities in the U.S. are controlled by very conservative faculty who have no incentive to change the system in any way.

I also build high school courses and elementary school courses that would radically change the U.S. economy if they were ever deployed here. They teach students to do things and they concentrate on doing things that would make them sought after in the marketplace. But here again, they are more likely to be deployed in other countries which have some flexibility about what they can offer. Here, in the U.S., in a testing dominated school system that you have both inherited and made worse, no real change can occur. Is it any wonder then that my services are sought after in many countries around the world but rarely in the U.S.? Here we can’t fix the school system because the testing companies and the book publishers have the country in a stranglehold which you seem incapable of fighting.

I want to help this country. I really do. I want to help students live their lives better, make better decisions, learn what it interests them to learn, and learn things that will make them employable. But you have made it very difficult to do that. The schools teach so many subjects that were determined in 1892 and can never be eliminated from the curriculum, that there is no room for change. I want change. The students want change. The teachers want change. But your government stifles change at every opportunity.

The good news is that I can help and have been helping American businesses teach their own employees how to do their jobs better. I can do this because, for the most part, no government regulations prevent it. (When the government does step in and demands certain training, that training is always done in an absurd fashion that copies the school system because in those cases there are government mandated tests as well.) Our big corporations want and need their employees to think better and act better and they do invest in that. Since the graduates they hire don’t know much and can’t do much this has become a lucrative business for us. So, you might think I would really like our graduates to remain dumb so that the corporations we work for will continue to need us. But I don’t. I want change. It is all too sad really.

If it makes you feel any better, most every country in the world is as stupid as we are about education. But that will change soon. Other countries will soon step up and lead in educational change, and their economies will thrive. That will take some time and you won’t be President when it happens, so its not your problem really.

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