ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

July 1998


Creating A Workplace Community

Finding Your Way Through Performance Measurement

A Quality Vacation On The Jersey Shore

The Honda Dirtbusters Cleaned Up In Nashville

Consolidation Processes Save Time, Money And Win Awards


As Goes The Follower, So Goes The Leader
by Peter Block

Off -Target Marketing - Can We Talk
by Bill Brewer


Brief Cases
Business News Briefs

Views for a Change

Book Review

Views For A Change

H. James Harrington Responds:

I agree that our primary and secondary education systems are in big trouble. That is not just an opinion, it has been proven in study after study.
A recent international study revealed that of all the students in countries surveyed, U.S. high school graduates scored the poorest in math and science. In other studies of students ages eight and 12 it was concluded that out of 16 developed countries analyzed the United States ranked fourteenth in knowledge and application of learning. Meanwhile, the San Francisco school board ponders the very important issue of the correct ratio of minority authors in school libraries instead of addressing why many students are incapable of reading any of the books.
The United States spends more money and gets less results from its education system than any other developed country. The United States spends 6.8 percent of its GNP on education, compared with Japan’s 6.5 percent and Germany’s 4.7 percent. Only 7 percent of our 17-year olds are prepared for college level science courses. The real problem rests in defining the role that the school system should play. Is the faculty there to be children sitters or teachers? Entertainers or educators? It would seem that we could make major progress by benchmarking almost any other country in the world.
However, I do not believe that it is the education system that is the biggest problem. The problem is not the size of our classes or the number of computers that are available per student. Of course they help when you consider the disadvantages you place our teachers under. The real problem is the input materials (students) that are provided to the system. The education system is designed to handle the inputs it receives. The education system that receives hard-working, disciplined, respectful, eager students will function extremely well even with bad equipment and large student to teacher ratios.
I was absolutely appalled to see on the United Airlines ABC News on April 30, 1998 that a school in New York was teaching morality to their students because the parents do not have the time to do it. You may question, was this the right thing to do? Well, the results have been very positive. The number of students expelled from school in one year’s period dropped from 125 to two. Sure, morality is more important than reading and writing, but is it the school’s or the parents’ responsibility? I believe that the education system’s first responsibility is the three R’s and the parents’ responsibility is to prepare their children to be hard-working, disciplined, respectful, eager students. Without correcting the deficiencies in the input to a system, you cannot expect that system to produce excellent results.
We all know that there are some excellent outputs from today’s education system. Ask yourself why most of the valedictorians come from first generation American families. Do not misunderstand me, the highest percentage of our children are really good kids that want to learn but they are faced with major distractions:

1. A small percentage of the students, that do not care about learning, distract the other students and set the culture for the whole class. This small percentage of students also receive the majority of the teacher’s time. Remember the adage, “One bad apple spoils the barrel.”

2. Parents are too busy to take an active role in their child’s education. They are more interested in the TV or the basketball game. Parents are like top management, what they are interested in, gets done.
The median number of hours adults spend at work per week has increased over the last 20 years.
1975 40.0 hrs/week
1997 49.5 hrs/week
This represents a decrease of 23.7 percent of available time parents have to spend with their children. In addition, 70 percent of executives, business owners, managers, and salespeople work in excess of 55 hours per week. Where has all that time gone that computers were suppose to have saved us?

3. There are many activities competing for their time, most of which are more fun than studying. The basic attitude that prevails today is, “Enjoy life while you are young.” “Work” is the worst of all 4-letter words.
Ask yourself how many board of education meetings you have missed in the last year. You may reply that you do not have any children in school but that does not relieve you of your obligation to help ensure the excellence of our education system. If American adults truly cared about the educational system there would be standing room only at all board of education meetings.
I believe that a Malcolm Baldrige type award and benchmarking will provide minimum overall improvement in our education system. A more effective approach to improving the output of our education system is to improve the input to the system. The best way to do this is by:


Maybe what we need is a Malcolm Baldrige type award for families, along with a tax break for any family that gets more than 500 points.

John Runyan Responds

July '98 News for a Change | Email Editor
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