Parkin’s Lot: Stupid in America
Godfrey Parkin takes the notion (supported by a study) that America’s public schools, on average, produce substandard education, and applies it to corporate environments.
As he says, the condemnation of America’s school system is nothing new. I’ve heard it all my life. In fact, my friends even joke about understanding things “despite our public school education.” The study lists the usual reasons: lack of funding, teacher-student ratios, lack of teacher effectiveness measurement, etc.
One interesting point he makes about funding that I hadn’t heard before:
. . . there is evidence to show that more money often leads to poorer performance â€“ schools tend to spend budget increases on offices, sports facilities, computers, security systems and so on, rather than on better teachers and better educational processes. By contrast, smaller low-budget schools led by passionate educators who have no computers, gyms, or even janitors are producing exceptional results.
Though sad, that makes sense to me. When you don’t have money for the bells and whistles, you focus on the essentials.
Here’s the best part of his post, though:
I donâ€™t buy the argument that the blame for the dumbing-down of Americaâ€™s youth falls exclusively on the educational system. It seems clear to me that culture, particularly the culture in the family, has failed to instill a strong enough veneration for learning and corresponding intellectual curiosity. Parents abdicate responsibility for educating their kids, particularly when they get a little difficult in their early teens. It is easier to concoct a host of external reasons for a childâ€™s learning problems than to acknowledge personal failure. But learning takes place within an evolving ecosystem, not in isolated instances.
Companies make the same mistake â€“ they think that performance problems should be solved by training, and if that doesnâ€™t work, training gets the blame. How many times do we hear trainers bemoan the fact that the environment to which trainees return almost guarantees that what was learned will never be reinforced or applied? It was only after I left school that I understood the real purpose of homework was not to keep me from going fishing, but to get my parents engaged in the education process. We should do more to integrate learning with the workplace and engage managers and the immediate â€œwork familyâ€ in supporting the ongoing development of new skills. Blended learning should blend what happens in class or online with what happens back at work, and that means getting the learnersâ€™ immediate colleagues engaged as a support network.
Corporate training departments need to find ways to get more informal learning happening in their organizations. The biggest problem with that, though, is measuring it so they can justify their existence (and I firmly believe they do need to exist). Tough to pull off.