Stand Up for Education

This morning I stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts to get some refreshments for a meeting to be held here at the Visitors Center today. My protracted wait in line reminded me of one of the critical issues that confronts this Nation. The store is set up so that customers proceed in one line toward two cashiers, who when free respectively wait on the next customer at the head of the line. The gentleman directly ahead of me placed his order and handed the young cashier a $100 note with his apology that the large bill was all he had. She assured him it was no problem and began to prepare his order as my cashier did the same. As I was waiting for my order, I observed panic on the face of the young girl waiting on the customer beside me. He’d given her $100, but she had tendered the transaction by accidentally entering $10. She was stumped as to how much change to give him. The POS system prompted her to give him back $4.88, but she knew he’d given her a $100 and not a $10. Her “fix” was to give him $40.00 back. He objected, so the young cashier enlisted the aid of my cashier, who gave her an answer I did not hear clearly and proceeded to prepare my order. At this point, the young cashier gave her customer another sum of money, to which he also objected. After a few moments explaining to the customer that his change was now correct and the confusion occurred because she’d punched in $10 rather than $100, the customer remained unsatisfied. Therefore, the young cashier enlisted the aid of my cashier once again. My cashier and her customer than had a conversation I could clearly hear. He was given $90 in change and objected that he’d been shorted. She immediately returned to him the $94.88 he was due and the matter was settled, while a somewhat bewildered young cashier waited on the customer behind me.

I might consider this an isolated incident were it not for the fact that I’ve seen a similar scenario played out at countless convenience stores and discount stores and department stores. The plain but difficult truth is that we as a society are failing to educate our children in mathematics and the sciences here in the US. In fact, several studies and various international tests have proven that US children perform poorly when compared to children from other nations.  Just how poorly?  By senior high our kids rank near the bottom in performance in math and science tests. This Nation will never be able to effectively compete in the global marketplace if this trend is not quickly reversed.

While there are a myriad of reasons for the poor scholastic performance, such as poverty, the disintegration of the family unit and the fact that teachers are now social workers as well as educators, the major issues cited by experts is the US approach to education itself—the timing and the method in which math and science topics are taught in most US schools.  I’ll not take the time to elucidate the particulars here, but I’ll provide a link for those interested in more information:

I strongly believe that that each of us should be part of the solution and not merely harbingers of the tragedies that will overtake us if no one steps in. If you have school-age children or grand-children, engage them. Help them with their homework and encourage them to excel in all of their subjects by taking an interest. (An interesting experiment was performed in the 1930s during the “childhood” of Industrial Psychology. It was set up to determine the effect of lighting on productivity. As was common protocol at the time, those being studied were divided into three groups—those whose work environment received greater illumination, those whose work environment was altered to diminish the then-current illumination and those whose work environment remained the same to serve as a control. The results were interesting:  all three groups showed a statistically significant increase in productivity. The reason hypothesized? The sheer act of taking notice of the workers increased their productivity.)  Children today are no different at their psychological core than those factory workers of eighty years ago. Taking time to involve yourself in your children’s learning will very likely yield beneficial results. 

Other tips: make certain your children get adequate nutrition and plenty of rest. Let your children’s teachers know that you care and are there to assist whenever you can. Maintain an open dialogue with their teachers. And participate in your school by letting school board members know that you take a personal interest in the academic health of your community’s school.  Consider joining a mentoring program if your schedule permits it. Whether they are your children or those of your neighbor, children are our future. Let’s do all we can to wisely invest in their success.