published in The Lakevlle Journal, June 18, 2015
One of the recurring complaints we hear from politicians is about the health of Small Businesses.
The Lakeville Marshall Plan could work wonders for small businesses that are constantly searching the job market for adept, intelligent newcomers to begin their careers, whether in a garage, a retailer, a factory. These may be the kids who slide through high school without all the tools to enter the job market and find success, let alone a useful (to them and their employer) job. It is these kids who make up the basic statistics of where we stand in education, in reading, math, science, technology.
But if addition to underwriting – and these are not loans, these are grants, pure and simple – education is exchanged, we can change this state of affairs. We can have, gradually, a well-trained, thoughtful, ambitious group of young people already knowledgeable about their futures.
For the sake of our narrative, think how often we hear kids complaining that what they’re being forced to learn in school has no realistic use in their lives. Why do they need to read “Moby Dick?” or study calculus?
Yet with continuing attendance, The Lakeville Plan makes class time more meaningful. Students can make the tie-in between what’s in front of them on the white-boards as early as fifth grade. They can begin to sense their own direction, their genuine interests. Perhaps even begin to get a feeling for what it is they want to do at the end of their high school careers. And they are not immune to the dreams and desires of their classmates.
What, for example, would be the impact of the media showing rioting and looting in a locality in which the miscreants were actively patrolled and controlled by men and women of their own membership? If young people follow their iPhones, texting machines, and local television to see what others are getting their hands on, there’s a terrific temptation to go out and get theirs, too. But if, at the same time, they see the impulses deadened by people of humor, well-meaning disciplinarians and people they already know in their community, might they not be persuaded to (a) either stay at home or (2) join the peace-keepers? The television exposure is all the same.
Immediately after World War II, Ford and General Motors, among others, instigated periodic visits to schools through the country to introduce their operations and values to young students. Further, they oversaw annual competitions in design, engineering, model building. And there were prizes, including visits to Detroit and summer camps devoted to teams working on common projects. Yes, of course this was self-serving: they were looking for the next generation of Ford/GM employees who could strengthen, broaden and make more vivid and appealing their own wares. It worked. (“Everything old is new again.”)
After our board solicits a “winner, “negotiations” can begin between the two and a Board of Education. We are looking for a simple system of payment and division, of agreement on sum and terms of contract. The Donor will want to build a research/development team with which to help educate the school classes they want to instruct.
Remember that the Lakeville Plan is to assist pockets of poverty and unrest in urban areas, large or small. The Plan’s donors could select an endangered suburb, or even a portion of one. Anywhere in the country. Any place where poverty breeds anger and violence. Anywhere police and civic organizations face Molotov cocktails thrown by people who have spent their years hopelessly.
The Donors can be more than industrial Santas. With thousands of employees as parents themselves, the value of the Lakeville Plan has to be a meaningful challenge. They can develop materials to trumpet their importance and value to us all, but they can do more. They might perhaps begin with tours of some of their facilities; send out the more glamorous “engineers” and “designers,” drivers and chemists, to inspire kids of differing abilities. In effect, donors can lead a new wave of patriotism which cannot help but inspire their own workers, their stockholders, their boards. And with access to an academic IT center, the Plan can help donors be as up-to-date and “with it” as a young person could want.
An international company hauling in boatloads of profit declares its expertise to the world. We don’t need that much of the profit portfolio…just a fraction of a percentage point. (Exxon/Mobile brought in NET profits of 32 billion dollars in 2014. That is so much more than we need.)
Please note: we do not plan to carry kids onto and into and through college. Young people who might be enrolled in the Lakeville Plan face the same obstacles as always. If they do well, they may be offered whole or partial college scholarships. How fast they progress and how well is up to them. Not every student will want to press onto a university. Many may be eager to get into the mainstream and start earning a.s.a.p. And their Donors should be prepared to welcome them eagerly into their workforces.
Also, please note: not every student who benefits from the Plan is needy, nor every family. But one thing the Plan does not do is increase the gap between haves and have-nots. Psychologically, this is as level a playing field as one can get.
The Lakeville Plan is for families and their communities. Its goal is a simple one: to raise all boats, period. Ideally the Plan will make it more likely that a family will become an economically viable part of its surrounding. It will, we hope, become more of a consumer, more of a customer, more of a proudly involved unit.
More, in fact, of what America has come to mean around the world since its founding.
Next: Can we really do it?