Eds Note: And now, batting cleanup, Drrrrrrrrrr. Rent!
By Dr. Rent
This past week I had the opportunity to participate in one of the discussions being held by the Wausau School District’s superintendent to help determine the direction of Wausau Schools for the next 20 years.
So, why does a single guy who is unlikely to have children care about Wausau Schools? These children are our future; and from a business point-of-view, there are issues that need to be addressed. The kids in school today are my employees AND my customers of tomorrow.
The Wausau School District (WSD) is ranked as high as 11th in the country by certain organizations that do such rankings. But one of the biggest obstacles to “great” is “good.” The WSD realizes that the world from 20 years ago is nothing like the world of today. Just think of some of the every-day items that were not available to the general public in 1987: the internet, e-mail, cell phones (available, but not to people of average income), even computers, and the list goes on. Let’s be honest, much of what we learned in school in 1987 did not prepare us for the technological advances of 2007.
The WSD wants to figure out what they need to do to prepare the children of today for 2027. To do this, the WSD is having 24 discussions with stakeholders throughout the Wausau Area to determine how the school district can best prepare students in the following general trends: Technology, Globalization, Social Justice, Demographics, and Innovation & Life-Long Learning. The School District is not only looking at what type of classes will help our students in these trends, but also is looking at how delivery of education may need to be changed.
I applaud Superintendent Stephen Murley’s personal involvement in helping with the future of Wausau’s schools. This is the kind of forward thinking that I honestly didn’t know a government entity was capable of. And in their planning, they are including businesses. The WSD realizes that their product is NOT education and the consumers students. They acknowledge that their product is educated individuals ready for the “real world” and WE are ALL the consumers of that product.
Although this forward thinking is great, what I found surprising is that EVERY MEMBER of the group that I participated with agreed that no matter what is done, there has to be a better focus on the fundamentals (reading, writing, math) and more importantly, their application. We have all seen that too many people are graduating not knowing how to apply these basic skills.
In my business this means people who can’t handle a simple personal budget to know what they can afford; it means people who can’t balance a checkbook; it means people who were just holding onto middle class when they got into a real estate mortgage deal that didn’t make financial sense – lost the house in foreclosure – and are now homeless and fighting poverty.
The purpose of this post?
1) To stress that good schools are important to all of us, they are just as important to those of us without kids.
2) To commend the Wausau School District on its forward thinking and including as much outside input as possible.
3) To stress the importance of students not only having basic knowledge, but knowing how to apply that knowledge.
4) To encourage all of us to get involved in education, regardless of what we do or if we have kids in the school system or not.
I have been a Junior Achievement volunteer for 7 years now, teaching 8th graders about our free enterprise system and the basics of being in business, and would not trade that for anything.