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October 14, 2008

Comments

Alex Kollitz

The True American Educational Path For Global Economy Dominance
By Alex Kollitz © 2008


Hello Bob,

First I want to thank you for showing the screening for Scottsdale Basis School. I wish I had been more articulate in my responses to your questions, perhaps here I can do so.

I think the film does a good job at raising the issue of a disparity in the quality and expectations of our students in our education system. However, it infers quite a bit which I believe to be incorrect and misdirects the issue in the process.

I think we can both agree that our education system needs to be set at a higher level of performance than it is. The question I believe is not “Should we concentrate more on math and sciences as the answer to being globally competitive?” which seems to be the theme of the film with the answer being a resounding “Yes”, but rather, “What do we need to be teaching our kids that will keep America a leader in the global economy?”

If we work our students as hard as India and China in becoming scientists, we’ll develop scientists who will lose their jobs because they are being exported to China and India. OK, I know that is not entirely true, but my point is that there is something else that needs to be taught that will make a difference for our economy in addition to math and sciences for those that go in that direction. Further to that, there are other areas we need to develop our kids where a background in the sciences does not play such a prominent part. To think that everyone needs a background in the sciences is to ignore the real attributes that make America unique and position us favorably in the global marketplace. Products require science, people require the soft sciences. We sell products to people. Corporations don’t buy, people buy.

In your film you stress preparation for a career. I submit that it isn’t the career that separates us from other countries, but the entrepreneur. Careers are cogs in the machine, the entrepreneur is what puts the machine together, gives it purpose and creates value. The entrepreneur is what advances our society; a career scientist is simply an enabler in a certain market segment.

If you accept this, then we have an area to concentrate our education on….but there is another link in the chain before we see a system that truly can stand out from the rest of the world, and that is sales. If you want a leading economy, you have to sell a lot. The nation that can learn how to grow businesses, not provide the workers or even to start businesses, but to grow them, that is the country that will dominate.

In many businesses, having a solid math and science background is important, but not in all businesses and it is not the critical component. It is business that drives the economy and business is all about sales. Sales is all about psychology, a very soft science and right now left mostly to art. This is our opportunity, this is our lever to pull. If we teach our younger generation how to become an entrepreneur, how to create value, how to build a business around their value and then how to sell, they can hire all of the inexpensive Indian and Chinese engineers they need to make their dreams a reality.

What creates an entrepreneur? Drive, ambition, passion, an ability to envision a new way of doing things, and then the ability to put together the resources to get it done. Education is certainly and absolutely key to this, but not to the extent and subject of your film.

A simple test of this theory is for you to put ten students through a curriculum of the sciences and I put ten students through my curriculum for becoming a value add entrepreneur sales person and see who adds more value to our economy over the life of that person. I think you will find that the entrepreneurs will come out on top every time, especially if they are taught well! The scientists will be their employees.

To counter your argument that every student can benefit from the sciences so it should be required, I agree, but would add that every scientist can benefit from the arts. The question is not could they benefit, but is it the best way to spend that time? By spending more time in an area of study, a person will go places others will not due to the increase in knowledge of that area. This is true on the entrepreneurial side of things also. My feeling is that we need people with all types of mixes in their education so all areas of thought can be explored.

I like the original thought behind your film as I feel it is very important for us to change the way we do things here in the US if we want to maintain an edge on the world economies, however, I think a lot of your film can be reshot and edited to not only highlight the need for change, but provide a roadmap for change in our educational system that will lead to a sustainable competitive advantage. Our educational system should be as much about shills and culture as it is about knowledge. It is our culture and skill set that enables us to become a successful entrepreneur and create the change we seek.

Assumptions:
Sales is about educating a prospect on the benefits of a product or service that adds true value to the prospect. Not selling an item or service not needed.
Being an entrepreneur is a way of thinking, a way of thinking is about culture, we need an entrepreneurial culture.
We can teach innovation
We can teach sales skills
We can teach vision
We can teach passion (via behavior exercises, not chalk on a board)
Three components are required to add value to an economy;
1) A method to produce a product or service (equipment, personnel (scientist included)
2) A person to put together the business pieces required to provide a product or service (entrepreneur)
3) Sales

Thank you for your time and effort,

Sincerely,

Alex Kollitz
President
Ezprintsite.com
877 746-8339

BOB COMPTON COMMENTS:

I agree with you that Entrepreneurship and Salesmanship are 2 of the 4 vital skills I think Americans need to be globally competitive in the 21st century. Here is what I tell my daughters will form the foundation for success in their careers:

1- Very High Technical Cognitive Skills - gained through extensive and rigorous math and science classes in high school and college - regardless of the career they choose. EVERY good paying job in this century will require higher cognitive skills than than the 20th century.

2- Be Entrepreneurial and Innovative - always be thinking about how things can be improved in novel and non-obvious ways. Also, learn to start and build your own company. The skills of innovative thinking and successful new venture creation absolutely can be taught. Fortunately, this is an area in which I am instructing them.

3- Learn to Sell - nothing is life happens until a "sale" is made - that may be selling your idea, your art, a product, a service, your talent, etc. Having been a salesman all my life, I'm able to instruct them in salesmanship.

4- Think Globally - customers and competitors will come from all over the world. Travel widely while young (not to Europe), read about other cultures, come to understand and respect other countries. Take the best ideas from where ever you find them and learn to serve all customers regardless of their nationality.

While there are a myriad of other skills, knowledge and experiences necessary for success - without these 4 foundational elements, one will be at a huge disadvantage.

Sadly, the US K-12 school system does not deliver high quality education in any of these 4 areas - nor do they have much interest in doing so. So, every American parent is on their own in getting their children access to these skills for their kid's career success.

The test you propose is already underway. India and China are delivering my #1 skill to the highest global standards - solid cognitive skills.

China and India are also rapidly delivering entrepreneurship education to their citizens, particularly China - the subject of my next documentary called WIN IN CHINA due out in March.

US Venture Capitalists are rapidly deploying capital and expertise to both countries to foster new venture creation.

Indians and Chinese are already very global in their thinking compared to Americans who tend to be more ego-centric.

And if you think Indians and Chinese are not among the best salespeople in the world, you have never bought products in India or China.

In short, yes your ideas are on target for what America should be doing. Unfortunately, we won't do it and India and China will.

Oregonreader

When I read this account, it sounded eerily familiar to me. When we went to India in 1996, I had a chance to introduce my then 6th grader son to my alma mater. My old chemistry teacher had become the assistant principal, so she let my son spend some time in the local 6th grade classroom.

Now, this school was not an upper class school by any means, but was created under an innovative public-private partnership where a private foundation would provide the buildings, and the government provided the curriculum and paid the teachers' salary. The net effect was that it was affordable to even the poorest of the families.

What my son remembered the most out of this experience was that he was in his 6th grade math class, and they were doing exponents. His school taught them in 8th grade, that too if they had time in the year to get to the final chapter of their Algebra book. He asked if they were in an "advanced' or "gifted" class, and was told everyone learned the same math. "But" the teacher added "those who show aptitude for maths usually take computer programming as an elective".

So, way back in 1996, they were starting to teach computer programming in 6th grade, and most students who started continued learning programming languages through high school. In addition, they learned two other languages (English was and still is mandatory), national and world geography and history, physics, chemistry, biology, PE and art.

So when executives like Bob go to India, and find so many well balanced "geeks", they are thrown off balance. What the culture in this country thinks is impossible - to be good in math, science, languages, arts and culture- is practiced every day, even in the most typical of schools. But then, that is what cultural difference is all about, I think.

In my own case, I had a natural gift for the arts and languages. I was writing novels and short stories, when I was in 8th grade, while simultaneously winning art competitions. If I were born in this country, I would have been pigeonholed as a writer or an artist at a very young age.

Not so back then in India. I was expected to excel in everything. The drive to excel showed in my math and science scores in the final high school exams, and I eventually landed in one of the IITs through the entrance exam. Being well rounded was pretty much guaranteed in my case. But then, there were so many more students in my IIT who were more talented in the arts than myself. It was a humbling experience.

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