A Big Structural Change That Will Fuel SMB Growth

The government should support SMB and light a fire under job growth by dismantling the public school system and dragging it into the modern age.  The Powers That Be are not going to take to this idea willingly.

 We shouldn’t let that stop us from demanding it, though. 

Let’s demand that public education be done better, with less tax money, using the emerging modern tools that engage and excite kids instead of boring them to death and setting them up for a really boring future. 

Public schools today teach children how to be good industrial age workers, fit for: 

  • Working on an assembly line
  • Managing an assembly line
  • Building an assembly line
  • (and occasionally) Inventing an assembly line 

News flash. The assembly line is dead, at least in this country. So why are we training people as though the assembly line still dominates the economy? 

In his book Getting Organized in the Google Era, Douglas C. Merrill (formerly a Google executive) says the public school system as presently arranged is anachronistic, but too big to change. His suggestion is to work around it. 

I say that’s giving up too easily. SMB should be storming the gates of government, demanding a relevant public school system – for the good of the public, of American culture, and of the economy. 

Set aside the actual curriculum in the public schools, and you can see that they are oriented around inculcating the following life skills and attitudes: 

  • Show up on time.
  • Stay in your seat for long stretches of time.  And stop that fidgeting and doodling.
  • Study for the test.
  • Follow the rules.
  • Memorize and repeat after me.
  • Respect hierarchy. Fear authority.
  • Behave yourself. Fit in. Do what’s expected.
  • Don’t have too many ideas. It’s distracting the class. 

You all remember that, don’t you? I know you do. In fact I’m willing to bet that a lot of you feel at least some of your successes in life are actually in spite of, not because of, the education you got at PS 152. 

I’m also willing to bet that if you have frustrating employees, it won’t be too hard for you to trace the origins of that frustrating behavior right back to the public school mentality. 

Why, just the other day, I mentioned at a small dinner party that my son, a high school sophomore, is not a morning person and hates his first period class. Someone piped up with, “Too bad. He needs to learn to get his ass in the seat whether he wants to or not, because that’s his whole future.” 

A moment of stunned silence greeted this outburst, at the end of which the speaker looked around at everyone and said, “Did that really just come out of my mouth?” 

That’s how in-bred public school thinking is. Even people who aren’t actually working this way think kids should be trained to work this way, until they stop to think about it. 

Here are a couple more examples from a public school near you. 

  • Have a beef with the rote answer that will get you the A on a test? Keep your mouth shut. Arguing with the teacher is a behavior issue. Behavior issues lower your grade and earn you a reputation as a trouble-maker.
  • You’re 9 years old and you can type 90 wpm? Sorry. You still have to learn the Palmer Method and handwrite all your homework. That way when you get a job some day as a bookkeeper, your hand-written numbers on the paper accounting ledger will be plain for the auditor to read. 
  • You want to record your lectures instead of taking notes because you’re an audio learner? Too bad. No electronics in the classroom. 
  • Want to use a Kindle to read your English Lit novel, or listen to your book on an iPod? Nope. You won’t be able to tell your teacher what page you’re on. Not everyone can afford a Kindle or an iPod, and that makes it not fair for you to use one. What’s wrong with a good old-fashioned paperback? And so on. 

The bottom line: in the modern era, SMB has no need of good industrial age workers. We aren’t looking for rule-following, hierarchy-dependent, A-seeking conformists. Yet that is what the government is producing via the public school system. And that’s our tax dollars at work. 

So there you have it. Put today’s five-year-olds in a reinvented kindergarten, and thirteen years from now, out will pop an energetic, creative, and prepared workforce. Some will go on to college, which also needs reinvention, but let’s take it one step at a time.

It’s a big one, I know. But so is the government. And what are we paying them for, anyway?

Jayne Speich is co-founder of Business Growth Advocate http://www.businessgrowthadvocate.com/, a free online magazine dedicated to the survival and growth of small business in the new era.

You can find all of Jayne’s activities at http://www.xeeme.com/JayneSpeich

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