Economic Multipliers (106)

Do you know what these are?

They help CREATE wealth in systems.

A college degree is not necessarily an economic multiplier for every student but continuing education always can be.


The following commentary was reprinted in Techniques magazine in April 1998 regarding the value of continuing education, whether it is a college or high school degree, work-related training, independent study, classes or any other form of ‘useful’ education. Most of the techniques are now being applied in educational institutions in varying forms:

  • teaching kids to teach kids (based on recognized competence … not age) …

  • building ‘solid’ education into vocational training (particularly math, science and technology basics)

  • developing lifelong learners

  • using audio/text-based learning for reading, comprehension and language development

  • applying modular education

  • creating out-of-school independent learning options for diploma and/or non-diploma endowed kids who want to strengthen their knowledge base even if they aren’t pursuing further formal education

Fortunately, technology has made it much easier for anyone of any age to learn the things they want to learn simply because technology makes it easier to access every kind of learning and teaching strategy.

What’s even more amazing is all the individuals (perhaps even you) who are willing to share what they know: If you lacked parents or teachers who had any particular skill, someone may even now be creating an online opportunity for you to fill that gap.

If you have access to an Internet connected computer, you just need to type in: How do I … [fill in the blank] … ?


When That Piece of Paper Fails

Millions of students graduate from high schools every year. They receive a piece of paper — a diploma. In the adult world, that piece of paper is supposed to be a passport to getting jobs and/or going on to school.

That diploma today may be a requirement for going on and doing other things, but I also believe that piece of paper prevents many children from being educated and learning. I believe we still graduate students from high schools who cannot read at an eighth-grade level. I also believe we still limit students who could achieve at higher levels from having those opportunities because we are not adequately equipped to teach them. Joining those two realities are adult perceptions of education and learning and how we teach children to see others.

For example, this is an unacceptable scenario to many adults: a second grader working with a fourth grader to help the fourth grader learn to read. If the fourth grader is the poorer reader, this is a NORMAL thing to do. Even though these kids are only two years apart and quite young, they can already tell you there’s something ‘wrong’ with this picture because that’s what we told them. Yet if a 35-year-old was teaching a 55-year-old to operate a computer program, we wouldn’t think twice.

Many educators and parents also worry about ‘tracking’ kids in schools. Some of their arguments are valid. Kids tracked into lower-level academic classes and vocational programs will many times get a lesser education because we expect less of those kids. We also tell kids over and over that college is the only ticket to opportunity. If that’s the only ticket and they’re not academically inclined (or if they’ve got other things in their lives they need to deal with besides school), we’ve already made sure they know they’re not going to be making the trip.

I’ve often wondered why we — educators, parents, citizens — think less of children who are going to grow up to be backhoe operators (or any other skilled individual) and why we don’t see those jobs as opportunities for them.

If a child has an interest in heavy machinery, why can’t they be excited about and learn about geology, soil stability, hydraulics, maps, surveying and machines? If they decide they want to do something else, why can’t they take what they learned and apply it somewhere else?

I’ve also wondered how children can come out of school thinking they can do only certain things and that they’ll only have certain opportunities. An 18-year-old today could easily live another 80 years. A person could learn algebra at 24, physics at 30 and airplane piloting at 45. Of the things on this list, the only one most individuals might consider doing past 18 — if they did not do it in high school — is learn to fly an airplane. Why? Because flying an airplane was not a requirement for earning a diploma. And there’s nothing in their minds saying they were too dumb to learn it when everyone else did.

Someday I believe our educational systems are going to look completely different. I also believe technology is going to help us get there. For example, we know that some kids can comprehend language but have difficulty reading. A sixth grader reading at a third-grade level may not be able to read a sixth-grade science book, but they certainly can listen to it and follow the words on the page. That’s a great way to learn how to read.

Technology also gives us a greater ability to set up educational modules. If education were geared toward completing educational modules at a particular proficiency level (and not moving onto modules that require basics not yet learned), we could get rid of standardized tests. When any child graduated from high school, after putting in 12 to 13 years of good educational time, they could receive a diploma that would note the skill levels they had achieved — academic and vocational.

Likewise, if one child would be more likely to learn physics while manipulating car engines and another child would be more likely to learn physics while taking apart computers, why can’t we provide both learning environments? And if ever a school system did not have the capacity to get those kids to a certain proficiency level that we’d expect high school graduates to achieve — particularly in reading comprehension and math — we could give those students the option (and the dollars) to continue their education for a year or two so they could get there if they so chose.

For kids who are not academically the best for whatever reason — family, schools, society, innate ability — we still are geared more toward grinding out graduated students versus educated students. As a society, we say we’ve done our job educating children if they walk out the door with a diploma in their hand. I disagree.

I believe we’ve done our job as a society when all children know that if they work hard, they’re going to have opportunities. Education will always be there for them, and each piece of education is simply one more piece.