Economic Multipliers (34)

Do you know what these are?

They help CREATE wealth in systems.

The lack of ‘a sense of time’ is a negative economic multiplier in kids (and adults) educational materials.


In one sentence I can tell you that kids educational materials are a positive economic multiplier. In the next sentence I’m more than happy to tell you that they can also be a negative economic multiplier IF kids and adults don’t pay attention to the fact that many educational materials lack the component of ‘time.'

I’ve been down a few manholes over the years (storm and service) but I never said to myself: ‘I want to ‘hang out’ in underground drainage systems.’ The work was always part of a project.

Usually the first few times you do something are absolutely fascinating from a learning perspective – particularly if you work with people who not only know a lot but also know how to and are willing to share their knowledge.

Since I had never been in a sanitary sewer (and never had any aspirations to go down in one either), I jumped at the chance to watch Popular Mechanics for Kids' DVD: ‘Slither and Slime and Other Yucky Things:’ I got a chance to take a tour of a sanitary sewer without actually taking a tour.

The DVD was great and then I’ll say: BUT – I watched a ping pong ball get flushed down the toilet, meander through the sanitary sewer system, go all the way through the treatment processes (more than one) and exit to a local waterway all within a two minute timeframe.

An adult who is familiar with ‘systems’ would take that in stride and say, ‘Well of course, it’s a video: You have to keep it moving and keep it engaging. Everyone knows that it would take longer than that.'

Kids don’t.

I think we need to start adding things into the educational materials that are available for kids that reflect real time (and real dollars).

An engineer once told me that when I estimated how much time it would take to do individual tasks in the field, I should make the estimates and then multiply them by three. He knew that every task usually involved time that wasn’t accounted for.

Simple tasks like putting a screw in a wall take almost no time and aren’t terribly difficult to learn. But if you need to drill a pilot hole, you need a drill, a power source, the right size drill bit, the correct location and ultimately the right size screw and screwdriver. You may even need to talk to someone to make sure the location is correct and verify that no electric wires or plumbing run in the wall (that you might drill into).

Another enjoyable kids DVD I watched recently was entitled: 'The Milk Makers' (Lancit Media Productions). A young man noted that he wished he lived on a farm so he could feed the animals. It wouldn’t surprise me if many ‘farm kids’ today would say they wished they lived in the city so they could live everyone else’s ‘normal’ life.

When you’re a kid and you live on a farm, most of the time it’s like you’ve already grown up and have your own family. You normally are responsible for some segment of the animal population’s care – EVERY DAY. Care doesn’t just include feeding: It includes acquiring and providing bedding, feed and shelter for the animals, buying equipment and supplies, cleaning and maintaining buildings and equipment, and a whole lot of other things (including record keeping).

In the United States in the early 1900’s, daily responsibility for some animals was the norm for over 50 percent of the kids and most kids had a pretty clear idea of the time it took to get work done (because they were routinely doing it).

This sense of time has been ‘fading’ and we need to figure out how to add it back in.

For educational DVD’s, it’s easy (BUT it takes time and money … because … it’s extra WORK). Letting kids and adults and educators know how they can link to sites which contain ‘real time’ and ‘real dollar’ information is the first step.

For instance, I’d want a ‘kid’ to know that just suiting up to go down a manhole (in the manner they did it in the Popular Mechanics for Kids DVD) takes 20 to 30 minutes (and that’s AFTER you’ve been fitted for everything … including your respirator).

Equipping a truck so it can be used as a supply area and a dressing room is expensive which means the money must come from somewhere. If a private business is doing the work, their ‘contracts’ (their revenue streams) need to cover the cost. If the government is doing the work, tax money must be available to pay for the equipment. If the government is contracting out for the work, tax money must cover the private contracts. None of this is ‘cheap.'

Positioning a truck and putting out cones for safety requires education.

It takes longer than two minutes for sewage to get from your toilet to the local waterway if treatment is involved (and you definitely want treatment to be involved).

I’d want a kid to know that feeding an animal is no fun at all if that animal does not want to get fed (but must). Animals get sick just like people do and when they do, they need extra care. If you yourself are not feeling well on the day they get sick, they still need to be cared for and the animals can’t care for you.

When people work in certain fields, they acquire a ‘sense of time’ and a ‘sense of cost’ through their work. But it’s always easier to commit to and get work done when you already have a really good idea of how long it will take and how much it will cost in the first place.

If we expect kids to ‘get work done’ in the future, we need to make sure they know what it takes.

If they don’t, everything (to them) will seem TOO HARD.