It's frustrating, isn't it? You've been asked, yet again, to cut thousands from your training and development budget in light of fiscally challenging times. After all, ongoing education is merely a nice-to-have, right? It isn't really a necessity. Unfortunately, one of the reasons it's the first to be cut—and likely not missed—is that it has been so severely undervalued for far too long. Ironically, businesses large and small have loudly bemoaned the skills of entry-level workers for decades. Yet if businesses truly valued academic success, wouldn't they at least request a high school or college transcript as part of the job application process? In fact, very few do. In many U.S. high schools, more than half of the students work part time. How powerful a message would it be to students to know, at this early age, that potential employers actually do care about how they perform in school? The message they receive instead, unfortunately, is that it just isn't relevant.
No, it's easier and less messy for businesses to place the blame squarely on the shoulders of our nation's education system—which is by no means perfect either. In that environment, academic achievers typically aren't in the lead car at homecoming nor are they featured on the news like their fellow students, the jocks. Rather, they're pushed to the fringe of the social pecking order. You know who they are: the nerds. When their advanced-placement classes or extra-curricular activities are cut due to budget constraints or insufficient participation, you don't find a packed school board meeting like you would if a sport were cut for similar reasons.
And what about inside the actual halls of our esteemed learning places? Is academic achievement proudly on display? No, trophy case after trophy case of athletic achievements line most walls, and there is seldom an academic award in sight. Better yet, ever heard of an academic banquet? Athletic ones abound.
Just as businesses point the finger at the education system, schools often turn on the parents in traditional point-the-finger fashion. At least they have academic success as the top priority for their children, right? Some, sure. But consider the fact that most high schools are elated to have 50 percent of parents show up for open houses, parent conferences or the host of other opportunities to partner in their child's education. For every parent who shows up, there are two who don't. In recent studies, many parents could not identify the names of their child's teachers. In fact, many couldn't even identify which classes their child was taking.
So who is to blame? Well, a definite influencer of all things young and small is, of course, the media. News programs are far more apt to show highlights from the state basketball championship game than they are the state's debate finals. How often are "good students" portrayed in movies or on TV? Imagine if Bart Simpson was a straight-A student.
What's sad is that as adults we often don't even notice when this devaluing of academic achievement takes place on all fronts. Guess what? Kids do. They notice what gets our attention, and academic achievement is often far down on the list.
So just where did this blatant devaluing of academic achievement come from? Clearly, it has happened in myriad places, by myriad people, over a long period of time, so there is no single answer or entity to blame. Wouldn't it be wonderful, though, if the blame game stopped, and we, as a society, began placing a priority on education and definitively began to show the youth of today that academic achievement should be a young person's single most important priority? I don't think many people would be opposed to that suggestion. The catch is getting our business communities, parents, media and schools aligned in delivering that same message. Then, just maybe, education wouldn't be among the first budget cuts ... in the private or the public sector.
Tammy Galvin is the executive editor of Training. email@example.com
ON A SEPARATE NOTE: As the industry-leading publication, we realize that Training magazine must continue to evolve with the ever-changing and challenging business world in which our readers operate. To that end, we are debuting a revamped editorial package and fresh look in this issue. You'll notice a greater variety and quantity of feaures, including a new "What Works" quick-results monthly piece, as well as enhanced departments—all of which presents more thought-provoking and timely solutions that our readers can immediately adapt to their unique situations and implement today. As always, let us know what you think.