Yesterday, President Obama announced an expansion to the STEM program, designed to engage the private sector in proving public education. No matter which side of the aisle you consider home, this is an important issue and a positive direction.
No one, outside of our children of course, stand to gain more from a strong education system than private industry. Preparing tomorrow’s workforce is critical, and asking industry to help shoulder the load makes perfect sense. But there is more that can and should be done than participation in STEM.
Public schools everywhere are struggling. Private too, in some cases. It’s not hard to find stories of children showing up to class without so much as a pencil with which to write. Be it the fault of parents who cede their role of educator to the school, an economy that has hit some families so hard they struggle to provide the basics (let alone the luxury of a backpack), or ingrained cynicism of a society that assumes if a teacher is asking us to send our children to school on day one with tissues, shaving cream and wet wipes, they must somehow be profiting from the deal. The truth is teachers have been doing more than their part for less than they deserve for years, and we can all do more to support them.
If you have school age children, you owe it to them (and each other) to be engaged. Not just in getting them to school, but being active when it comes to their education. Be interested in their homework, in getting them to read on the weekends, in their relationship with their teachers and friends, in how they spend their free time. Commit your personal time to being involved.
This can also be applied in the workplace. Too many kids leave school having no idea what the “real world” holds for them. There are ample opportunities out there to mentor high school students, let them intern over the summer, work on projects with them for their own education. Just call your local schools and ask how you can help. Even just providing the aforementioned tissues and supplies can be a big help, but we should be able to make sure they have the necessities in the school and still have more to offer. If you aren’t sure how you can get involved, follow the old Dr. Demming advise to “go and see.” Draw your own observation circle in the hallway and spend an hour. You’ll get the message. And they’ll get the chance to make fun of the adult standing in the circle. Everybody wins.
None of these are revolutionary ideas, of course. But how many of us are doing them?