The Competitive Edge

November 15, 2010

America has been losing the competitive edge after so many years of being on top.  We saw it in the schools when the byword was that it’s more important that students should feel good about themselves than learn useless information in their classes.

I’ve spoken to teachers from the elementary school grades up through college level and they are all saying the same thing.  The “leave no child behind” policy that we embraced was the most misguided policy we could have ever adopted.  It goes right along with the dumbing down of America.

My main concern with this emphasis on students feeling good about themselves is that they aren’t being given the opportunity to fail or succeed according to their own strengths and efforts.  They are developing entitlement issues at such a young age that will make them unable to meet life’s exigencies.

They won’t be able to hold a job that demands the best of them; they will always be looking for the easy way out and expecting that everything should be given to them with very little effort on their part.  And most of all, I’m concerned about how they are going to survive in these difficult economic times.

I didn’t realize just how far we had fallen until I went back to a store where I had bought some books.  I told the woman at the Customer Service desk that the new book had a couple of chapters missing and that I wanted to exchange it for one that was complete.  She told me she couldn’t exchange it because the store policy was no returns or exchanges after 48 hours.

I showed her my receipt and pointed out that I bought it two days ago.  She said, “I told you that our store policy is 48 hours for all returns and exchanges so I can’t take it back.”  I was dumbfounded.  I said to her “Two days equal 48 hours.  She looked blankly at me so I said, “A day equals 24 hours so 24 hours plus 24 hours equals 48 hours.”

She let me exchange the book but looked at me as if I were speaking in tongues.  Shortly thereafter, the store changed its policy to not allowing any returns or exchanges on books.

In another store, a man in his late twenties or early thirties was waiting on me.  I gave him my credit card and signed my name a little above the signature line.  He didn’t want to accept it because I hadn’t signed on the line.

At first I thought he was joking and I started to laugh.  His face froze and he was adamant about not being able to accept my signature because my name wasn’t written exactly on the line.  I tried to explain that it didn’t matter where I signed the sales receipt as long as my signature matched the signature on the credit card.  He wouldn’t budge.

I finally told him to call the store manager and it was hard not to laugh at the manager’s facial expression when he heard what his employee was saying.  Needless to say, my signature was accepted but the employee was livid.

We used to have a competitive edge in education.  Now we have graduates who can’t even count out change at the cash register.  In the old days, cash registers just tallied the cost of the person’s merchandise and the cashier took the money and counted out the change in the customer’s hand.

Nowadays, the cash register prints out a receipt that tells the cashier how much money the customer gave and how much change he should receive.  Is it any wonder that our graduates can’t compete in the global arena for mathematical skills?

I shudder to think that these same people who can’t count out change might not be able to reconcile their bank statement or figure out their credit card debt.  And I quake at the thought that these same people might go into government and be in charge of our national debt when they can’t even figure out their own debt.  And I tremble at the thought that someday these same people might be in charge of making a decision about a bailout that will cost all of us billions of dollars and not even know anything about their own credit card APR.  But we can take heart; at least they will feel good about themselves.

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