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Tuesday, October 1, 2013
As a well-traveled international business person who has worked closely with many companies and people globally, I have frequently been amazed by the well-educated, intelligent, logical and very erroneous arguments in favor of inaction when strong action was required.
Often, it seems easier to ignore problems than to address them because choosing to do something is painful and uncomfortable, and less appealing than doing nothing. Unfortunately, without fail, all the organizations that chose to wait waited too long and failed.
Most of us have heard, some for decades, about how our high school students’ test scores were falling behind those of students in other industrialized countries. This, too, was frequently rebutted by the learned with thoughtful and logical arguments.
Somehow, we continued to be No. 1 in the world economically. Our industries seemed to be competitive and making profits. Our standard of living almost seemed guaranteed. Many might have concluded that the alarms about test scores really did not matter.
However, many of us in business have seen how, too often as older workers are replaced by younger ones, something beyond work experience is missing. The American work ethic simply is not the same in many younger workers.
Some of us have read how the percentage of able-bodied applicants capable of passing the armed services exams, especially the physical exam, was steadily declining, to the point where the military was sounding the alarm about a future man- and woman-power crisis. Yet our loyal, dedicated men and women in the military, thankfully, made short work of the opposition in recent wars.
Perhaps many believe this, too, is another sign we can choose to ignore. However, many employers have also seen it in the large numbers of applicants who are unable to pass drug tests and have not graduated from high school.
Some may take comfort that these are national issues, and we can be OK — immune in our part of the country, wherever it may be.
Unfortunately, there is no place in America to hide. It can be seen in children playing Little League sports and in the classroom who do not listen and refuse to take direction. And in coaches and teachers who are reluctant to reprimand lazy, poor performers out of concern about parental intervention.
It can be seen in other areas where parents do the work for the kids because they see more value in advancement than in the sense of accomplishment and character children earn when they struggle to get it done on their own.
It is evident in students who approach college as a party and graduate without competency and marketable job skills.
There can be little doubt as to how we got here and that there is a price for failing to demand performance, accountability and self-reliance in children and ourselves. The self-reliance, frugality, strong work ethic, family values and responsibilities, care for neighbors and love of country of our forefathers has given way to something else for many Americans.
I am reminded of an incident while I had the privilege of being in the Rotary Club. I was head of a fund-raising activity that required tickets to be printed. I sent the draft to the printer and included the Rotary slogan, which I admire very much: “Service above Self.”
When the tickets were returned they read, “Service for Self.”
It is time for all of us to think about what we have, how we got it and how we collectively are going to keep it from those, and there are many, who want to take it from us politically and economically.
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