Are our kids learning how to succeed?
It’s a beautiful morning and I’m headed to a meeting when — oh no, a school bus!Well, I’m stuck. The bus stops every 50 yards or so for the little darlings. The lights start flashing and everything stops. The kids are in no hurry to get aboard. They don’t seem to be aware or care they’re holding everybody up. The line behind me is getting long. The stench from the bus’ exhaust is overpowering.As I watch the scene repeatedly, I can’t help but wonder what kind of people these kids will grow up to be. Some forget their school bags and Mom comes out to bring it.Aboard the bus, a bunch of kids gang up on one, beating him with their school bags. The driver seems impervious, and the melee continues as the bus moves on. Perhaps it’s OK as long as it’s not cyberbullying?One group stands silently awaiting the bus. They start a conversation after the lights go on. Everybody waits as they chat about something before even approaching the bus. The guy behind me looks like he’s ready to run them over. I hate to admit this, but I understand how he feels.I used to walk over a mile to school. If I forgot something, I had to go back and get it, so I didn’t forget. If I was late, I was in trouble, and my parents always sided with the teachers. This didn’t make me perfect by any means, but it certainly taught me to do a few things for myself.I feel badly these youngsters may grow up without ever learning to cross the street.Our workforce competes with people all over the world for their jobs, and I know these kids will have difficulty competing with their counterparts in other countries. Our SATs were the lowest on record this year.A chance to learnYears ago I was in Tokyo as a school was getting out. The kids were all neatly dressed, respectful of each other and carried armfuls of books. A few weeks later, I was near one of our high schools getting out. Only a few of our kids had any books. Many couldn’t even figure out which end of a baseball cap was the front. And respectful? I was amazed at the number of obscene gestures.Thinking back to Tokyo – we haven’t got a chance.Inveterate fixer that I am, and still stuck behind the bus, I fantasize about how we could make it better. Suppose the school buses had to wait for the traffic. If these kids had to wait for others, they would learn something about being inconvenienced. They might even promise themselves they wouldn’t grow up to be inconsiderate. Of course, they’d have to be eager to get to school for this to work.If they miss the bus, which shouldn’t wait, perhaps they should have to walk, or if that’s too dangerous, incur a severe penalty from their parents, who have to drive them.Yes, I know all this is cruel and unusual, but these kids would adopt the right behaviors very quickly, if we just gave them a chance.A few years ago, a colleague asked me to help her son find a job. I asked her to have him send me his résumé. Well, it came from Mom. A quick review revealed spelling and grammatical errors. The kid had an engineering degree, but that’s no excuse.I sent a note back to Mom suggesting the kid might want to fix it. She sent me his phone number and asked me to call him. Against my better judgment, I called, explained what was needed and made suggestions.”You sound like you’re really good at this! Could you put those changes in and send it back to me?” he asked.”No!””Why not? It would only take a few minutes.””You’re right, but unless you learn to do these things for yourself, you’re not the kind of guy I could recommend.”There was a long pause and a sigh. “What were those changes again?””I’m sorry. I’ve got to go.”Could you recommend this kid? Should his future boss hire Mom too? Too many of our kids aren’t even learning the basics, and they’re going to need a lot more than that to find jobs in the future.Ronald J. Bourque, a consultant and speaker from Windham, has had engagements throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. He can be reached at 898-1871 or RonBourque@myfairpoint.net.