As an investigative reporter and a teacher who's spent more than 20 years helping both high school and college students learn how to write, I've often been puzzled by the ongoing economic morass of recent years.
Fact: America used to be a world-class center of economic innovation -- a "can-do" Land of Opportunity where workers and managers traditionally put their heads together in order to come up with enterprising solutions that made life better for everyone.
So what went wrong? How did the supremely competent society that rebuilt Europe after World War Two and then put the first human on the moon end up fumbling its way through an economic debacle that shows few signs of ending in 2014?
For me, the answer to that scary question arrived during a shocking afternoon a few years ago, as I volunteer-taught a 12th-grade class in journalism at the local public high school where my two daughters were students.
On that deeply disturbing afternoon, I witnessed a scenario that spoke volumes about the decline in our economy and the paralysis that seems to have overtaken our workforce.
It happened when the director of the school's new "Writing Lab" dropped by our Journalism 101 classroom to introduce the kids to a brand-new computer system. The high-tech machines were supposed to be the Next Big Thing in education . . . and we were assured that with the push of only a few buttons, the students would be able to write their stories electronically and then quickly publish them online.
But that didn't happen.
Instead, the beleaguered IT manager spent the entire 50-minute writing period in a hapless quest to make the computers work. After countless failed attempts ("Okay, now try typing a question mark at the end of the link and then hit ENTER twice!"), the bell mercifully rang and the kids headed off to their next class -- without having written a single word.
Changing the Way Schools Prepare Students for the Workforce
I thought of that moment a few weeks ago, when I heard about a recently launched, not-for-profit organization -- the Digital Learning Alliance (DLA) -- that about a year ago kicked off a nationwide campaign to help fix our economic (and unemployment) woes.
The DLA solution: tap into the managerial savvy and the engineering know-how to be found at some of America's most successful, blue-chip digital technology and education companies (IBM, McGraw-Hill Education and Follett Corporation, among several others) in order to help all of America's schools (kindergarten through college) build the kind of truly effective, state-of-the-art education technology programs that can best help students succeed. These programs, when effectively implemented, will help lessen the workload of teachers and make them more effective at educating students with 24x7 metrics, intervention, and instructional support.
At the DLA, operated by retired leaders in education and technology, the energizing motto is crystal-clear: "Education IS Economics!"