Want a sure bet? Here you go: What is the probability of yours truly actually making an effort to read an article on the website for the EE Times?
Actuarially impossible, right?
I mean we are talking here about someone whose aptitude for things mechanical, much less electronic, is something slightly to the left of absolute zero. Indeed, I have been known to be found at the desk of our company’s LAN administrator on the verge of tears because I can’t find the ON/OFF switch on my PC.
So how is it that I found myself on the EE Times site engrossed in an interview they did with James D. Plummer, Dean of Stanford’s School of Engineering?
The blame falls to Nick Corcodilos of Ask the Headhunter fame and a Twitter post he sent this week that caught my attention.
"Stanford's top engineer says our K-12 problem is serious."So, what made be follow the link? First of all, I follow Nick because I know that he is worth listening to, and second, anyone who follows this blog with any consistency will know that things educational catch my attention big time.
I know we all have things we worry about, in fact we had a really interesting discussion going on this week in our General Management Roundtable about “what keeps you up at night” and as you might guess there was a long list of the usual suspects like cash flow management, sustained profitability, long term growth potential, people issues, etc.
Interestingly enough, at least from the posts I’ve read thus far, an educated workforce wasn’t showing up. Maybe because respondents weren’t really thinking about the K-12 space, but to my mind, that’s really the focal point and represents vulnerability we can ill afford.
(Okay, I know that's a bit much given that short term survival is the first order of the day for most of us, but I was just trying to make a point.)
Be that as it may, here is just a taste of what Plummer had to say about the K-12 situation:
"...So we need to help K-12 understand the opportunities in science and engineering, and then change the way we admit students to universities. Some engineering schools think that’s impossible. They say students have to take calculus and physics as freshman or they are history. I say we can rethink the curriculum. If we don’t do that, we have shot ourselves in the foot."While Dean Plummer’s focus was on the science and engineering space because that's his gig, for myself, I think the issue goes well beyond just science and engineering.
"…You can debate if it's five or 50 years away--my view is it's probably 25 years out--but they will get there. As they get closer, the numbers of students who want to come to the U.S. will decline—especially as students see world-class economic opportunities at home. So in the long term, we have to have a different strategy."
While the politics of education continue to seemingly paralyze our ability to make progress, there is ample data to demonstrate that there are many other developed countries who have decided that the quality of education of their citizens is paramount to their ability to continue to compete in the global economic game.
If sustained profitability and paths to long term growth are on the list of what our business leaders are worried about then we better start leading. The engine that will drive to the answers of some of those sleepless nights is education, and I mean K-12 education in particular.
In the U.S. we keep hearing that our ability to lead the world in innovation is what will sustain us. But if Plummer is right, and I believe he is, we not only will be unable to compete in numbers but the numbers we have will not be motivated enough to take on the challenge.
Worse, even if they had the motivation and/or innate intelligence, the educational foundation needed for them to succeed will not be there.
Talk about the need to fix our infrastructure!