3rs

“Prepared” a book by Diane Travenor introduced the concept that today’s schools are about preparing our children for the future and not just about the three R’s of reading, writing and arithmetic. I think this new area is called the “soft skills.” And the process of learning in school needs to be more than “chalk and talk”. I agree that we should be preparing our kids for their launch into life. We need to provide project based learning and help in developing the student’s keen sense of curiosity, self-direction and a purpose in life.

I taught Benchmarking, Pricing and Quality for many years at DuPont and learned it is better if the students discover knowledge for themselves than if I try and force it on them. The best way to learn often is not in a lecture but actually getting out and doing it.

I was fortunate to have the experience of being an Industry Fellow in Residence at Penn State University. It was one of the high points of my career. I was chair of the first Learning Factory board of directors and we built a factory on campus to practice making stuff and were recognized for our success. “The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) has awarded the prestigious Bernard M. Gordon Prize to developers of the Learning Factory program, a curriculum that challenges teams of engineering students to confront actual technology needs facing industry today.”

Dr. Al Soyster, chair of the Industrial Engineering Department at Penn State, at the time, was the driving force for this idea after participating in three days of training by the DuPont Co. on quality and customer service. One of the lead professors on the Learning Factory, Dr. John Lamancusa, said; “You don’t learn how to play baseball in a classroom.”

Traditionally we need a career of work to pay for our lives and that includes understanding team work, collaboration, leadership, self-awareness and the ability to take on the roller coaster of life. I did what people have been doing for thousands of years; I went into my father’s business. He was an engineer at DuPont and so that is what I became.

But none of my four kids are engineers, though a granddaughter wants to be a NASA scientist. There are 7th generation farmers in the Midwest that are working on their family farm where their parents taught them the skills and knowledge of farming. But in my grandfather’s day 80% of the population were farming and today it is closer to 5 percent.

Over a thousand Chinese restaurants in the US have closed in the last five years because the kids don’t want to follow in their parent’s footsteps and their parents are proud that they are making better lives. So the long tradition of Guilds, trades and passing this practical knowledge down from generation to generation is less useful in the 21st century as the market place constantly changes.

It is likely that your consumption of Chinese food in the future will be served by something more like a Taco Bell than the family owned restaurant of today.There are 600 toll takers on the PA Turnpike and most of them are going away. The transition is everywhere.

After college I had a four year detour for a war in Southeast Asia that included being Liquid Cargo Officer on the USS Sacramento where I ran the largest gas station in the world, supporting threeCarrier Battle Groups on Yankee Station.Then I settled down for a 42 year career withthe DuPont Co. But even within that career I had at least seven different jobs; engineer, supervisor, business analyst, comptroller, salesmen, quality expert, and corporate sales process educator and leader. I was fortunate that I didn’t have to change companies to do this, but this is the exception and not the norm. In today’s world, we need to teach kids how to handle transitioning to a new job or career and not take being fired personally. They need toconstantly be building new skills for the evolving economy.

I don’t want to lose the forest for the trees. The National Assessment of Educational Progress showed that only one-third of American fourth and eighth graders can be considered proficient readers. We need to get much better at the three R’s. But that is not the bad news. This assessment showed that only 14 percent of American students could distinguish, reliably, between fact and opinion. As we would say in the Navy. “Stand by for heavy rolls”in taking on these issues.

A shout out to the Moms of the world because they seem to be doing much of the heavy lifting preparing our children. Mom’s get a lot of flack for being over protective. You have the Tiger Mom, the Helicopter Mom, the Snow Plow Mom and the Curling Mom.

My favorite being the Curling Mom, after the sport, where the player sweeps or brushes the ice away in front of the stone, (or child), to make sure they have a smooth path. But it is inspiring to me to see the mothers who have full time jobs meeting early in the morning for an education foundation meeting to raise money for the school programs and teacher’s grants. I was especially moved by the sacrifices of a mom from Mexico who brought her son to Kennett Square so he could get a world class education.

The schools are adding a lot to the sense of community; Unionville High Schoolrequires a number of hours of volunteer services for each National Honor Society student; Kennett High School’s largest club is the Humanitarian Club, andAvongrove gave an award to a graduating senior, Karina Lopez Garcia, who made a movie on what it was like to be an immigrant in the AvongroveHigh School.

We are asking a lot of our school districts; keep bullying under control, ensure the kids are safe, prepare them for a changing future, teaching them to think and act independently with a greater good in mind. We should never lose sight that it is a collaboration between the family, the school, and the community, with the child at the center leading his or her quest.

The Story of Kennett may be purchased on Amazon and at the Mushroom Cap or Resale Book Shoppe in Kennett. You can contact Bob at Georgert@gmail.com.
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