MUSKEGON, Mich. – There are dangers to teaching conformity.

teacherIt stifles innovation, creativity and the thought process itself. I was thankfully educated prior to the creation of the Department of Education and have benefited from the early system. I’m an entrepreneur and small business owner and have created or jointly created three companies. I have patents and inventions that have changed the way people interact with their world. I have been published nationally and internationally. I have hired and fired products of our education system. As a user of the product (graduates), I have witnessed first hand what has worked and what hasn’t. Trust me, as a consumer of the educational product, America is going in the wrong direction. I’ve been employed from mom & pop small companies to Fortune 100 corporations and at all levels from intern through senior management. I think I know what the consumer (business) needs when it comes to quality graduates.

Education is a free market process. There are producers (schools) and consumers (employers) and the product is the graduate. Producers are creating graduates and consumers are hiring and using graduates. The big problem today is that the product lacks quality and consumers are looking elsewhere to find a quality product. In the real world, companies that produce an inferior product do not last long but, with education, the government steps in and free market economics no longer applies. The government alters the producers rules and actually inhibits the production of quality graduates.

Today, educators are trying to force all students to be equal and, they are not. They are individuals, not a collective. We are attempting to use a one-size-fits-all mentality and that just plain won’t work. It never has and, it never will. While we attempt to use standardized tests to measure results, the tests don’t reflect equality at all. Common Core is one of the worst concepts I have ever read about regarding education. It is a failure right out the door.

Working in high-technology research and development, I required quality engineers and technicians who could think outside the box. They couldn’t look things up in a book because, the book didn’t exist – we were the ones writing it. The employees had to be capable of creative thought and innovative insight. Today, few graduates can do that. Something in our education system has destroyed that ability. The system is broken.

I trace it back to when I was young. Everybody, and I mean everybody, had a hobby. They used their minds and their hands to create things. They built things mentally and physically. Girls had hobbies. Boys had hobbies. Parents had hobbies. I can’t think of anybody who didn’t have one. From music to Amateur Radio to terrarium gardens to trains to woodworking to sewing to cars to the arts to whatever. Everybody had their own individual interest and passion. The key word being passion.

The hobbies allowed us to explore our universe in our own unique directions and interests. We would find others who shared our passion and that became our social network. Hobbies developed the desire to create things. To build what didn’t exist. To have what you could not buy. Clubs existed for a broad multitude of different passions. These were concepts beyond sports or education. These were real passions of learning. A concept lost in the majority of young people today.

After I hired and ultimately fired the first female engineer into a Fortune 100 company microelectronics center, I learned about the failure of education. Here was a woman with a Masters in Semiconductor Physics from MIT and she didn’t know how a simple transistor worked. She had earned a degree on transistor theory but didn’t understand even the most basic of concepts of the device. She didn’t last a week. She was replaced by an engineer with a Bachelors degree from a Midwest state college. That was in the early 1980s.

Today’s graduates aren’t any better. They can’t do basic mathematics much less, algebra, trig and dimensional matrices. Don’t even expect them to understand multi-dimensional analytics and statistics. Economics are apparently not even a hindsight today because they certainly have no concept of profit margins, economic flow and return on investment or return on assets. How can schools possibly think graduates are ready for the real world when they lack most real world concepts. Where do educators think they will learn these things if not in school?

There is a significant gap between what employers need in high level employees and what the education system is providing. There is no junction of the sets. There is no fit. The supply model is broken. It is because of this that I am not surprised by college graduates doing menial labor jobs. The education system failed the student as they do time and time again. The graduates are just not what the real world requires today. The education system refuses to fix what’s broken. Until they do, nothing positive is going to happen to turn the system around. Employers will fill their demand of quality graduates from other resources.

There is also another serious issue with today’s graduate. Work Ethic. Todays people entering the workforce seem to believe that it is acceptable to talk on their cell phones on company time, text throughout the day, surf the Internet on company computers, take long breaks and other bad habits. They seem to believe that the employer owes them something for just being there.

They don’t even comprehend the fact that it costs an employer roughly three times the employee salary for the employee. Some more and others less but three times is a good estimate after benefits, social security, a place for them to work, operating overhead and other employee related expenses are factored in.

I had one employee who took cigarette breaks every hour or so while others only got their two breaks a day plus lunch. He was always disappearing and seemed to think that it was OK to take frequent breaks and also to do it on company time. He didn’t last long. He soon had a very long break. Business is business – not some social function. Social interaction is fine but it must be handled professionally and ethically.

So, today employers get poor graduates with poor work ethic and people can’t comprehend why employers are looking to foreign labor or graduates from non-traditional educational routes. It is time our educators got an education in real world business.

Authored by Bob Cherry

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