Because we've been getting so much bad news from our public schools, it's easy to get the impression that there is something seriously wrong with our system, or worse, with our youth as a group. While there is room for improvement, the general impression is nonetheless significantly out of whack with the reality. All we are getting is anecdotal evidence of youth behavior, and almost all of it is bad.
So let's see if we can help tip the balance a bit the other way. I recently had the pleasure of attending an "A Team" ceremony at my daughter's middle school (grades 6-8). This is a public presentation the school makes to students who have maintained at least a 3.5 grade point average throughout each of the first three quarters of the school year and who have received, as the school puts it, no office referrals for serious behavior. These are the kids who both think and do well.
It's a great idea to conspicuously recognize students for excellent achievement, something that was rarely done when I was that age. And it was downright stunning to see how many kids had made the cut. Out of some 1,100 students in the school, 242 were on the A Team. Note that most of these kids are not from well-to-do families—the ones who are "supposed" to do well in school. The district is mostly made up of working class folks.
But, alas, as school district superintendent Dr. Dennis Devine pointed out in his comments to the packed audience of proud parents, there was not a single television camera or newspaper reporter in the house. Of course, had a fight broken out, they'd have been all over the place.
There's no point whining about it. The real issue is how to keep these students and their classmates on a positive track. We all have a stake in that, both as citizens and as business people. And we all have a responsibility on both counts. These kids are our future, and we all need to do what we can to be encouraging and supportive to their continuing achievement.
As for the metalworking community, a little long-range recruitment wouldn't hurt either. We are blessed to work in an industry that combines some genuinely interesting skills and technology with the satisfaction of making things. Expose young people to those qualities whenever you see an opportunity, and some quality people will respond.