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promote a social good marketing campaign-education redux

Education System

U.S. education system

by Kenneth Rudich

Famous science fiction writer H.G. Wells once made his own quaint observation about the role of education.  “Human history,” he quipped, “becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.” 

I’ve written before about the soon-to-be widely released documentary “Waiting for Superman,” directed by Davis Guggenheim, who is also known for directing “An Inconvenient Truth.”  Some believe this work will raise awareness about the dilapidated state of the U.S. education system in a manner similar to what “An Inconvenient Truth” did for global warming. 

At the same time, however, it also offers some cause to hold out hope for a rebound and recovery.  And for that reason I don’t mind taking a moment to help market and promote it, of my own free volition. 

grave issues abound in all directions

Admittedly, there is no shortage of issues begging for urgent attention in our contemporary world.  I think most of us, if not all, truly get that.  In fact, it very much seems like this moment in human history, the here and now, is ripe for either untold good or untold bad to happen.  It’s like an inflection point, and we’re awkwardly tottering along with barely a sense of what lies ahead.

Still, we can’t lose sight of the central role education plays in all of this.  It’s a cornerstone piece.  All else is pretty much destined to collapse without it.  Consequently, it must continue to remain right up there with every other thing that also beckons our concern.

the marketing of a marathon

H. G. Wells’ metaphor of a race is better served if it is thought about in terms of a marathon rather than a dash.  It’s one that spans generations, and the legacy each current generation leaves for the one that follows will be the true measure of its greatness…or not. 

So it’s a marathon, but it’s also one that involves the successful handing off of a baton, hopefully.     

The race itself is about trying to eliminate the elements that threaten (or inhibit) our social, economic and environmental well-being, and instead replace them with alternatives that lift us to an ever better place: things that make us more successful, healthy, happy, safe, and secure; things that help us transform our businesses and foster improved trade; things that save us time; and things that contribute to our understanding, appreciation, preservation and enjoyment of the world in which we live. 

Averting catastrophe is certainly part of the goal, but making our lives better is the ultimate prize.  

Now I’m not going to suggest education is a be-all-end-all solution; that it is a guaranteed panacea; or that all other concerns will cease to exist if only we can right the ship. 

But I do agree – verily – with the assessment made by Nicholas Negroponte, Co-founder of MIT’s Media Lab.  He asserts, “If you take any world problem — any issue on the planet, peace, the environment, poverty — the solution to the problem certainly includes education.  And if you have a solution that doesn’t include education, than it’s not a solution at all.”        


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  12. Kenneth Rudich says:

    Hello Stacy:

    Thank you for the response. I can sense your passion and frustration about this.

    It is a dilemma, made all the worse by the current state of the economy. I’ve grown to believe that capitalism, along with the consumer mindset it tends to foster, has radically altered the way we view education and, for that matter, life in general. As you said, education has devolved into becoming a product rather than thought of as a social good. It’s an unfortunate shift in thinking, but it has happened nonetheless. Consequently, I think we have to deal with the reality as is, rather than bemoan the absence of what should be.

    With that in mind, it seems only reasonable that due consideration be given to the notion of how best to market it, in light of this circumstance. Part of the difficulty stems from the fact that education is unlike a product in a very substantial way. It cannot be inventoried, nor is it physically possible to measure (and possibly dispute) quality, performance and functionality before an investment is made as you might do when buying a hard good product. Nor does it produce instant gratification, as is often expected these days.

    As a result, it must be marketed like a service rather than a product. There is a difference between the two, and I have published a post that might deepen your understanding of what that difference is and how it applies in this case.

    In addition, I think that changing the public’s perception will require a multi-prong strategy that includes local grassroots efforts, corporate involvement for the sake of the social good rather than for the sake of selling, and also a national effort like Michelle Rhee is spearheading. If all three can be smartly integrated, then there’s a chance for positive change. But it will take time, and the road ahead will remain a bumpy one.

    I hope others like you will join in on this discussion, so that perhaps something fruitful can be started here. I would enjoy nothing more than to be a part of such a movement.

    Best Regards,


  13. Stacy says:

    I am a teacher who has recently been researching ideas for starting a marketing campaign for Education or Educators in 2011. We need it now more than ever! This post completely “hit the nail on the head.” It makes me feel inspired to recognize the potential that we have to truly make a difference, when I hear other like-minded people out there. So…what do we do about it? Education can not continued to be a scapegoat for all that is wrong in this country! We need to stand up for the quality of education that our country is known for, and we need to regain the respect that we so deserve. It is sad to say, but education is now a “product” that needs to be “sold” to the American people. The hard work of educators no longer speaks for itself! We are being absolutely trashed in the media, and it’s time to fight back! We must expose our true value in a way that the public can understand and support! I am willing to start or join any group of individuals who are passionate about making a difference.

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  25. Philip Odegard says:

    What I want to know is why you didnt think to include the other side of this issue? There are so many things that youre missing here that I dont see how you could actually form an intelligent opinion on the subject. Its like you didnt even consider that there me be another side here. Im kind of disappointed.

  26. Kenneth Rudich says:

    Hi Tonette:

    That’s quite a response. Thank You!

    I love the Einstein quote. It’s all in the ability to apply knowledge, not just possess it.


  27. Tonette Shilleh says:

    Education is certainly a vital field, because almost everything in civilization depends on knowledge. I saw that on a website someplace — a non-profit organization in the Philippines. Teachers bust their tail at their craft (most of them, anyway). But there are a few who appear to have a gift to inspire. My high school world history teacher was one particular. She had lived in China as a kid. When she taught in Rockville, Maryland, you could potentially feel the wisdom of all her experience. She didn’t have us memorize dates. That had been the first truly great thing I had been told by a history tutor. What she said next took the subject several magnitudes higher in value. She wanted us to understand the motivations of history — the deeply visceral, human aspects of what can somewhat be a deadly dry subject. Jaime Escalante of “Stand and Deliver” fame, dared to dream big. Calculus for the typically dropout crowd? Pushing them to go on to college? Wow. And I have this book called, “Calculus Made Easy,” by Sylvanus P. Thompson, first published in 1910. It’s been through lots of printings all for making an uncomplicated subject simple. What are we able to do to create more tutors who inspire world-changing excellence? Einstein once declared that imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge can provide you with the foundation. Imagination will take you to the stars. Don’t our youngsters ought to get better?

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