There’s been a lot of fussing about school attendance policy in my community lately. School officials think kids should get fewer unexcused absences. Parents think they should get more. And in the middle of the back-and forth, our school superintendent said something remarkable. She said business leaders are looking to schools to train students to be diligent about their school attendance, so they will learn to be diligent in their work attendance as adults.
The underlying premise of her statements has been clear. The woman who reigns supreme over education in our community believes students should go to school every day so they can learn to do the things they don’t like to do as children …so they can do well the jobs they don’t like to do as adults.
Is this really what we want to teach our children to do? The purpose of school should not be to train children to endure it.
There was a time in America when home was where you learned discipline and hard work and school was something more. Home was an excellent classroom for learning responsibility because children were immersed in the best personal responsibility curriculum ever devised. It was called “Chores.”
Now, we tell our children that school is their job. We measure their character by whether they can complete their homework, hand it in on time, and have their name written on the top of their papers. That’s fine, but education should be much more and much different than that. And careers should be the same.
There’s little vision in traditional education for real learning OR real work. Have you ever tried to get an excused absence from a school because you needed to make an important visit or attend an important event? Not going to happen. What about take an educational trip? Dream on. In school, learning only happens in classrooms and its measured by things like grade point averages and attendance reports.
Apparently, educators feel the same about work — that it only happens if you can count it or measure it. Our school superintendent said local business leaders told her they were looking for schools to train “soft skills” in students and she said those skills involved the ability to come to work every day and arrive on time.
“Punctuality” is important, but it should be expected and understood in school, not taught. It certainly shouldn’t be a lynchpin of the national curriculum and education leaders shouldn’t insult our intelligence by implying it is a vital component of the 21st Century skill-set.
If business leaders really are talking about attendance and punctuality as necessary job skills they are likely leading employees at places like Wal-Mart and McDonald’s. Because people with good jobs in today’s economy aren’t punching a time clock at all. They are paid and measured by their ability to produce and perform.
I remember the time I got a truancy letter from our local school district. We had taken our young children out of school to go on a very necessary (and very educational) family trip. It was a form letter similar to this one. It accused me of being a law breaker, threatened me with criminal prosecution, lectured me about the importance of education, etc.
I discarded that letter and started homeschooling. Now my kids get a real education in the real world where we can prepare them for more satisfying and more lucrative jobs than those defined by time clocks and manager reports. If you want to “train” people to work for minimum wage then force them to go to school. If you want to train people to work at something better, force them to learn. There’s a difference.
James Altucher knows a thing or two about how to be a success in the world of work. The popular author has written 11 successful books about business, started 20 different businesses, and produced podcasts about business that have been downloaded more than 20 million times. He’s also a prolific investor in business. I’ve read some of his books and blogs and downloaded his podcasts and I’ve never heard him say a word about the importance of punctuality and attendance in business. But I have heard him say a thing or two about schools. He hates them. And he has a unique take on training children. He believes they should be conditioned and even rewarded for doing the things they like to do as children….so they will choose jobs they love to do later on.
This thinking is completely contrary to my local school superintendent, as well as most other educators and parents. But then Altucher is brilliant and rich and most of the rest of us are still trying to figure out how to pay off our student loans.
Altucher understands that advances in technology are rapidly changing the work world, where companies are increasing owned and operated by small teams of highly creative and skilled people who use technology, not people, to assist them. In this world, mid-level jobs quickly disappear.
This is not conjecture or simply a dire prediction. It’s already happened. During the last recession (ending in 2009), 50 percent of the jobs lost were mid-level positions. Since then, only two percent of the jobs gained have been mid-pay. Approximately one-third of new job creation since 2009 has been high-paying positions (more than $70,000 per year), while two-thirds have been low-paying positions (less than $37,000 per year).
In his best-selling book, “Choose Yourself,” Altucher said students are left with two choices: They can prepare to invent, create, and lead, earning a high-paying job in the process. Or they can prepare to work in a minimum-wage job.
If you want the latter you might want to check out my local school system. They are working hard to make sure every student understands and masters one of the most important skills for a minimum-wage job — the art of “showing up.”
Until next time…Be fearless.