Sunday, May 01, 2011

How to handle America's critical problems

Suppose America had two sets of problems that threatened national security. Also suppose they took two different approaches to dealing with those problems.

The first approach is to bring in experts, assign them as leaders and make them personally responsible for the overall results. Then task them to select the very best personnel, reward them well for taking the job, give them the best training at government expense and provide them with all the tools required to do the job in an outstanding manner. Measure the accomplishment of the job carefully. Carefully provide social support to the employees for the work they are doing and tell them repeatedly that the job they are doing is of great importance and that the nation is proud to have the services of such employees. Then, when the job is not being done adequately change the managers because they were made responsible. The leaders are considered ultimately responsible for the results.

The second approach is to Elect whoever promises the best results if you make the radical changes in the way the job is done that they demand. Offer low pay to the workers even when there are many alternative professions that are more rewarding, less work and pay much better. Then provide as little in the way of tools as can be afforded and demand that the employees get their own training at their own expense. Then carefully measure the jobs they do and castigate them repeatedly for every failure especially when the tools they have and the raw materials they are working with are substandard. Micromanage the employees efforts. Blame the employees for the overall results even though they are working long hours and skimp on financial support while not penalizing the leaders they work for. The employees are considered ultimately responsible for the results.

Which approach do you think is more likely to get world class success?

It should be no surprise that the first approach is the way America operates its military and the second approach is the way America operates its public schools.

Dave Eggers and Ninive Clements Calegari have written an excellent OP-Ed in the New York Times which makes exactly this point with pointed information to back it up.I strongly recommend reading the OP-ED.

Both military and education functions are essential to society and both are mission driven and require a large contingent of well-trained and motivated professionals to succeed. That is, they do not fit into the money economy in any self-supporting manner. Instead both functions are required for the money economy to function well. The military quit trying to fight wars profitably after the repeated failures of mercenary armies (and the government that hired them) during the Thirty Years War. When do Americans realize that public education is as essential to the nation as military and policing and similarly cannot be operated by educational mercenaries?

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