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Cultivating the work ethic

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

When I travel I like to pick up a local newspaper and read to find what is happening in that community. Last week I glanced through a copy of the Omaha World Herald.

I used to subscribe but that company decided not to distribute to Southwest Nebraska, evidently thinking we no longer were interested it their product. Nevertheless in their June 9th edition I found an opinion article by Dr. Gene A. Budig that stirred a passion in my heart.

Gene is a McCook native and has had a successful career in academia. He is the former president/chancellor of three major state universities, a retired Air Guard major general and past president of the baseball's America League.

Major accomplishments to say the least from the younger brother of one of my high school classmates, Richard Budig. When Gene speaks, I listen but don't always agree. Imagine that!

The crux of Dr. Gene's opinion piece is that in this time of 9 percent unemployment, kids are having a hard time finding summer jobs. He states that of 16 million high school students on summer vacation only 27 percent, or about one in four, of those seeking employment are able to find jobs. The economic recovery has been slow. Federal and state governments have not provided funding for teen jobs as they have in the past. Jobs are tight in the private sector and teens are competing with out of work adults.

Now comes the typical solution for all problems; spend more government money! Dr. Gene suggests that the school year be extended. He states that American students annually have fewer school days than do students from many other nations. We have 180 days of school. Finland has 190, South Korea has 220 and Japan has 243. Then he says that this partly explains why our students do not do well on international comparisons of education.

Let's see, extend the school year. That probably would require more teachers and administrators, all at added taxpayer expense. Nothing was said about trimming all the teacher mini-vacations -- they call them workshops or continuing education -- that seem to happen about every two weeks during the school year. Nothing mentioned about looking at the school curriculum and cutting out all the fluff feelgood courses that really have little educational value. Missing was anything about concentrating on the core values of the students learning to read with comprehension, being able to write coherently and push for understanding basic mathematics leading to proficiency in scientific subjects like physics and proficiency on using the power of computers, those productive tools for success in life. Nothing about teaching history as it actually happened rather than strained through the eyes of social liberals. Teaching geography would be good too.

I've noticed an effort lately to greatly expand pre-school, sometimes reaching back clear to the womb. Again more jobs for teachers, more government money spent and less of a role for parents in educating their own children.

Personally I am a fan of home schooling. There I see a parent, usually the mother, spending great amounts of time with their children. Moms who are vitally interested in preparing their children for life. I see a large portion of those home schooled children better prepared for higher education in the colleges and universities than many of their public schooled contemporaries.

Now don't get me wrong. Most of the public school teachers with whom I'm acquainted are wonderful people. I feel that they have the welfare of their students at heart and are teaching to the best of their ability. Unfortunately they have constraints put on them by administrators that are more interested in preserving and expanding their bureaucracy than the real welfare of our youth of today. I also think that teachers' unions with their self-serving agenda are an abomination.

What Dr. Gene didn't address was any of several reasons that students are unable to find summer jobs. The government decreed minimum wage, a staple of liberalism, is hugely responsible for keeping kids out of the work place. Their inexperience alone keeps many of them from being able to produce enough value to compensate their employer for the high starting wage required. A reasonable entry level wage would allow our youth to gain valuable training and experience to make them able to be productive enough to earn the going wage. It is tough to gain work experience when no jobs are available due to needless restraints.

Then, too, wonderful OSHA and other government agencies as well, have decreed most jobs where the worker interrelates with machines and equipment too dangerous for a young person to operate. Never mind that the youngster drives an automobile to work yet isn't authorized to operate a forklift on the job. The list of prohibited work tasks is long and for most part make absolutely no sense. How about training the young mind to operate the equipment required, supervise him/her and allow them to gain valuable experience?

It is a shame that we deprive so many of our youth today of the chance to labor in the workplace. To work where they would be required to show up on time and stay until the job is done. They would experience responsible fellow adult workers getting to know them and encourage them in their labors. They could experience the pride in a job well done. And yes they would experience the satisfaction of earned money in their account, money that they can apply to furthering their education when it is time to return to school again.

I'm reminded of a conversation that I had this week with a local businessman. He was expressing pride in his recently high school graduated daughter. She had managed to get a job, only for a few weeks duration, at a local manufacturing plant. It is the night shift, working from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. Wonder of wonders, after a week or so she told her dad that she liked it. She is pulling down $8 an hour and proudly informed her dad that she was doing 12 percent over the standard in production for her assigned job.

To me that is a real success story. Sure it is a job that she probably won't want to do all her life, but already she has developed a work ethic. She has found satisfaction in a job well done. For sure, she has earned the praise and encouragement of her fellow workers. And yes, she most likely will be a success in life due to encouragement from her parents, a budding work ethic and a record of work experience.

In my mind the summer job is a more valuable education tool for preparing for a productive life than adding a few more weeks to the school year. And best of all, Gene, it can be done with no expenditure of government money if you liberals would just take the shackles off an eager summer vacation potential work force.

That is the way I saw it.

Dick Trail


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Alas, I fear the days of young folk finding 'experience' generating summer work is but a memory. I never wanted to say this, having heard enough of it, as a youth, but, ""In my young days,"" like yours, Dick, we could find jobs everywhere, if we worked cheaply enough, or hard enough (strong back an asset to teenager, then), but, like you say, the system has so many restrictions, and rules, no one can afford to hire, so the young folk don't learn a good work ethic.

The old folk, when we were young folk, thought we might not be worth a Tinkers pay, but, somehow we were. Today, however, I think the Tinker is back...(^8 with the shoe on the other foot. I can't find any young folk willing to work, and those willing, I cannot afford to hire.

I fear that most of the whole system is badly dented, if not broken. The future is going to be interesting, what with technology doubling faster than the young can learn in the classroom.

It is going to be a bumpy, Social Ride, me-thinks.

-- Posted by Navyblue on Tue, Jun 14, 2011, at 2:18 PM

I like to read what you have to say, Dick, and appreciate your unabashed opinions. On that note, I will make a couple of points. Hopefully I am not missing the forest for the trees when I say that continuing education is necessary. Allow me to relate this to pilot training as I am aware of it: a pilot needs x-hours in a cockpit with an instructor with x-number of landings/take-offs and x-number of hours alone before he even earns the right to his licnense, am I right? Moreover, he must log a given number of continued hours flying solo to be able to carry passengers. Should that pilot discontinue his training after having earned his license, he might want to brush up and log a few more hours before he/she carries passengers (I am only referring to a single engine aircraft at this point) again. The whole point I am making is that if you don't use it, you lose it. Enough on that point though, hopefully what I said makes some semblance of sense.

On a different note, I have a really hard time believing that there are NO jobs to be done. I can think of very few shovel handles that don't need polishing if we didn't instill such entitlement into our society/children. This is clearly an opinion on my part, but I hope that I can instill into my children that they are not above moving a pile of dirt to earn what they want/need.

I agree with the OSHA statement. I was in the grocery store the other day at the deli counter. I noticed the meat slicer in plain view. Less notable was the chrome of the machine because it was COVERED in red and white stickers screaming no one under 18 allowed to use the machine. Let me get this right: we allow 15-year-olds under the supervision of adults to operate machines at 75-80 miles per hour on an interstate every day, but they can't cut cheese in a grocery store. As I read what I just wrote about cutting cheese, I realize what it says in the slapstick sense, but I'll leave it!

-- Posted by speak-e-z on Wed, Jun 15, 2011, at 1:58 PM


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Dick Trail
The Way I Saw It