by Kenneth Rudich
I happened to watch both the NBC Nightly News and the CBS Evening News the other night. To my surprise (and gladdened heart), each did a series of special reports on the ailing condition of the K-12 education system in the U.S. As a matter of fact, NBC is sponsoring an education summit it calls Education Nation all week long.
Their sudden examination of the education system comes on the heels of the recently released documentary “Waiting for Superman” from director Davis Guggenheim, who also directed the award-winning documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.” This latest effort portrays an education system that is clearly teetering in the wrong direction.
Upon seeing these news reports, I sat back and wondered what had taken the networks – and other news organizations like them – so long before giving this matter the high profile attention it presently demands. This subject has been an object of attention here at Marketing Strategy Management for several months now as part of our Social Good Campaign (see the featured topics index to the left).
As we noted in one earlier piece, it’s important to keep these education issues squarely in the public eye, held high aloft where no one can ignore them. That’s the only possible hope for ever having the system restored back to its formerly respectable self.
the marketing strategy management coverage
In May 2010, we posted a blog titled “U.S. Education System Full of Woes-Stop Tolerating it Now!” in which we reported about the upcoming release of “Waiting for Superman” and shared some of the worrisome facts it contains. Of truly grave concern, for example, is that the U.S. ranks 25th in Math and 21st in Science among 30 developed countries. As recently as 20 years ago, the U.S. was ranked among the highest in both categories.
In June 2010, we visited this subject again with a post aptly titled “Education Redux.” This one starts off with a quote from famous science fiction writer H.G. Wells who once quipped, “Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.”
Then we added this: “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.”
the social purpose of education
One of our earliest posts about education came in April 2010. This was when we first began the “Social Good Campaign.” Not recognizing at that time just how much more coverage we would be giving to education, it was titled “Marketing the Social Good-Week 2.” In fact, this post offers a solid overview of the purpose education serves in society.
Passing on already acquired knowledge is surely a big part of its purpose, the post notes, but so is the development of critical thinking skills. These are the skills that empower people to move beyond the mere regurgitation of facts and information, to solving complex problems that require creative solutions, and also to make discoveries and obtain new knowledge. An often heard adage, which some claim is an old Chinese proverb, says, “The mind is a fire to be lighted, not a vessel to be filled.” Education is about lighting the fire.
But education does not stop there either. As this same blog post points out, it aims to do socially productive work, which means striving to be much more than just the studies customary for preparation in a trade or profession. Theodore Roosevelt once declared, “To educate a person in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace in society.” Consequently, education includes an effort to mold young individuals into well-rounded citizens – that is, tackling the task of what Penn State University President Graham Spanier describes as “developing character, conscience, citizenship, tolerance and social responsibility.”
In May 2010, we posted about a projected labor force issue that is directly related to the robustness (or lack thereof) of the education system. It was titled, “U.S. Labor Force Shortfall of Educated Workers by 2020.”
As is already abundantly evident, the work environment is undergoing a radical change. Where once the U.S. workforce was largely comprised of unskilled laborers (for manufacturing jobs), it now needs a disproportionately large percentage of skilled laborers (people with a capacity for critical thinking and problem solving).
The children in our crumbling K-12 system today will begin entering the workface by around 2020, and it is hard to imagine they will be well-prepared if we fail to act now.
But the real intent of this post was to draw attention to the fact that education today has been transformed into a lifelong learning process, what has been termed from-cradle-to-grave. As such, it requires the adoption of a big picture perspective about education, one in which the K-12 system is only a foundational piece. A truly robust U.S. education system will need to consider the higher education system as well – moreover, one that can readily meet the ever-growing demand for better access and lifelong learning.
So it all boils down to this.
If we as a nation care anything at all about remaining competitive in the global marketplace, or care about the sustainability of our economic, social and environmental future as part of a larger global community, then the U.S. education system (K-12 and higher education) must be given our fullest attention at this juncture in time.
how does all this relate msm?
Marketing Strategy Management is about…well…marketing strategy management. Consequently, there are three reasons this topic directly relates to all of us interested in msm:
- Social Marketing: it is always advisable for businesses to engage in marketing that promotes a greater social good or purpose.
- It’s the right thing to do: nuff said.
- External Forces Influence: It affects the influence of the external forces that are part of the value chain approach for marketing. It has future workforce implications, and also quality of life and discretionary income implications for the consumers of our products and services.