Wednesday, June 27, 2012

“Greetings, Public Education! Welcome to (the backroom of) Wal-Mart!”

How Public Education will fit into the new business model

Dear Education Associates,

We’re glad to have you aboard finally.  We’ll need to tell you a bit about how we do business here so you'll know how things operate.  

Start by imagining school as a business. Those little kindergarteners are the raw materials.  Your job is to take that raw material and create a product out of it.  It’s a long process, but when you’re done, the product you make is a graduating senior.  Now, you should know we asked you to imagine this, because some of you are more idealistic about it.  Well, we’re here to tell you now, don't imagine. This is the way it is.

It shouldn’t come as some big surprise. We’ve hired important spokespeople on all sides to spread the word. 

“Mr. Romney’s plan for education reform ensures a chance for every child from kindergarten through their careers.”  --- Indiana State Superintendent Tony Bennett

“Last September, we opened an innovative new school in partnership with IBM that focuses on computer science… so students graduate with a Regents degree and an associate’s degree and they also get a place in line for a job at IBM.” --- New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg

"A world-class education is the single most important factor in determining not just whether our kids can compete for the best jobs but whether America can out-compete countries around the world. America's business leaders understand that when it comes to education, we need to up our game.”

If you don’t recognize that one, you really need to start reading your boss's main message board.  Do note what's not mentioned; life long learning, wellness, pursuit of happiness - you get our point.

Lesson #1:  School is business.

Now, as we begin the next lesson, it has two parts that go together, so follow closely. I want you to think about Wal-Mart.  Since nearly everyone has shopped at a Wal-Mart once this year, we’ll use it as an example.  The most common mistake made once you accept school is a business is to think you are the retailer, like Wal-Mart.  You are not.  If you picture your graduates leaving to go forth in the world, you are mistaken.  You are a factory, and your product leaves still in the box.  That’s where we come in.  We take your product from this point. Stop here and reread the quotes above if this part of the lesson didn’t sink in.

Here’s the second part of this lesson:  You don’t create a product and ask us to sell it.   That’s not how business works in the information age. We tell you what we need, and how much we’re willing to pay for it.  Remember our Wal-Mart analogy.  This is the way it works in the backroom of Wal-Mart.  This is the new business model for education. 

Lesson #2.  Schools are factories.  We decide what you need to produce.

The next lesson will be the hardest of all the lessons for you, our new associates, to accept.  We no longer need your product at such high costs. This is not personal; it is what the market demands.  Remember, Wal-Mart is our example.  It is the largest, most successful corporation in the world because consumers have demanded the cheapest product at the lowest price.  Wal-Mart always delivers more savings for a better life. Always.

So, it’s not that we do not need teaching associates in the future.  We will.  We just do not highly-skilled teaching associates creating a quality product at a high cost.  With today’s global economy, we can go overseas and get a more-suited product at a much lower cost. 

Lesson # 3.  Schools will produce a more suitable product at a lower cost.

We’re sure you have plenty of questions about how to create your product at a lower price.  Next time we will delve into lowering costs through information tracking and database management, integration of technology, elimination of skilled labor on the floor level, and higher volume on lower margins. 

Again, welcome aboard.


The 1%

1 comment:

  1. Horace, again you bring out such good analogies to show what is happening to our profession, because it is already Is happening in the regular business world.

    Just like anything, you get what you pay for. In this case the business associates (teachers) are replaced with people that will de-skill the profession and save the company (school corporation) money. It reminds me of a quote from the movie "Tommy Boy", where the character that is portrayed by Chris Farley, tells the brake pad manager that if you are just looking for a warranty, he will take a crap in a box, slap warranty on it and sell it to him. However, if he wants a quality product stick with what you can trust.

    My point is ... we can disguise bad teachers and new local, state and federal initiatives in a "box", slap a warranty on it and try to make people feel good. But if you don't trust your product (seasoned teachers) and let them provide the quality education that every child deserves, all you end up with is a box full of nothing good.