Saturday, July 30, 2011

Better be prepared for the 'new normal'

Also published in the Tuscarawas County edition of the Bargain Hunter.

Dover City School District asks this question of prospective teachers:

“What do you think the main objectives of education should be in the United States today?”

The district provides about a dozen lines of space on its application for teacher candidates to answer the question. For sure, it’s a good question to ask. Educators need to have some idea of the big picture if they’re going to help provide our students with skill sets that ultimately will provide them some kind of job security in this “new normal” economy.

That “new normal” economy, if you haven’t been paying attention, is shedding jobs as fast as it adds them. And no sector appears to be safe from change. Today’s teenager probably will hold a number of different jobs in his/her lifetime in professions that have yet to be created and needing skills yet to be determined.

The HR Policy Assn., headquartered in Washington, D.C., recently provided an extensive answer to Dover’s question with its 126-page “Blueprint for Jobs in the 21st Century” and I would encourage educators, parents and policy-makers to spend the time reading it.

The HR Policy Assn. describes itself as the lead organization representing chief human resource officers of major employers, representing more than 300 of the largest corporations that employ a total of 10 million people.

Much of the “Blueprint” is focused on the need for our system to do a better job educating students in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math (acronym: STEM). No debate there.

Anecdotally and ironically, the report also underscores Amazon’s Kindle as a metaphor for what is occurring in the “new normal.”

Last week, Borders, the once dominant book seller in the United States, announced that it was closing all stores because it could not emerge from bankruptcy with any viable business plan. And that announcement came on the heels of one from Amazon a few months ago that it was selling more e-books this year than the traditional kind – paper pages between two covers.

“In just a few years, the rise of e-readers has made much of the work traditionally associated with publishing books, newspapers, and magazines obsolete,” says the report.

“The Kindle and other e-readers are replacing book stores, printing presses, and printing companies; all the materials such as ink, paper, fabric, and glue that go into book printing; the trucking companies that transport all of the materials used in the printing process and the final product from that process; and all the workers associated with all the activities of traditional book printing, such as publishing, warehousing, and operating retail stores.”

So, do you think we ought to be teaching kids what you were taught in school? Or should we ramp up the exercise a bit?

The Board of Directors of the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District seemed to surprise at least some of its critics last week when it put the future of the Atwood Lake Resort and Conference Center back on the table.

“You deal with it,” was their message to those who were protesting plans to raze the 104-room lodge that was opened in 1965.

The board indicated that it would be willing to turn the lodge over to the Carroll County commissioners (and/or others) for virtually nothing if they were willing to operate it and assume any debt that would be incurred.

And there’s the kicker. In its official news release issued after last Friday’s meeting, the MWCD offered this:

“Board members have stressed that because of the historical financial losses suffered by the operation of the resort since its opening in 1965, the MWCD will not provide any funding to assist in future operations by any new owner(s).”

So, in other words, if it is so important to the Carroll County economy, perhaps its citizens would go along with their commissioners pumping taxpayer money – millions of dollars – into the place to make it a more attractive destination. Like I said before, maybe it’s worth it to take a hit on revenue if the lodge produces as much or more revenue in other places.

And if none of that works, then the Carroll County commissioners can vote to raze it.

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Anonymous said...

Do some research for me. What is the average per capita spending for special needs students in elementary and secondary schools in Ohio? Then tell me what the percapita spending is for students who are deemed gifted. Anticipating a significant difference in what we spend on the extremes of the student population, where is the ROI going to be realized?


Dick Farrell said...

OK. From a couple of sources, this is what I gleaned: Ohio spends about $550 million on special education students and about $50 million for those considered "gifted." The argument could be made, of course, that proportionally something is out of whack. I'm not sure about that. An estimated 15 percent of Ohio's student population is considered "special need." I'd like hear from a few educators on the ROI issue...