by Dan Gershenson, VP of Brand Strategy
In the midst of the worst economic period in decades, there’s a perception that America doesn’t have jobs. That’s not entirely true.
As an article in Reuters explains, America has jobs and they’re waiting to be filled in the manufacturing industry. The problem is, those jobs need to be filled by qualified people in math and science. And companies aren’t getting nearly enough of those people.
This isn’t merely a recruiting issue in my mind. It’s a problem we need to address much farther back in how we brand the subjects of math and science to kids.
That’s right. Just as companies themselves need to be positioned as attractive brands, we’ve got to figure out a way to brand math and science as attractive to students in High School. Who is to blame?
One teacher, good or bad, can be all it takes to influence direction.
For me, the great divide came from one Math teacher in High School.
If you were to look at me today, you wouldn’t think I once was great in Math. But I was. In middle school, I got all A’s. I was taught by teachers who knew how to break down the principles of math and show me how A equaled B. They were patient with me when I didn’t know something and they didn’t get frustrated.
When I went to High School, everything changed. My freshman year high school math teacher was a man with tenure who had been teaching since the 1950’s. He seemed to enjoy yelling and when students didn’t understand something, he got angrier instead of patient. He would say, “I don’t know what’s wrong with these kids today. I don’t know why they don’t get this stuff.”
The subsequent teachers were calmer but not much better. They were good people who had taught for too long and grown too out of touch. They just didn’t know how to relate anymore.
More than anything, they didn’t know how to adequately answer the question that so many kids have on this subject:
“How am I ever going to use this stuff in the future?”
It’s a fair question, isn’t it? It’s not disrespectful. All we wanted to know was that there might be a practical application for what we were learning. What careers are there for people and what does that look like? We were thinking about our futures, my math teachers had an opportunity to address it and they flat out blew it.
They also missed the boat in bringing in people who used math and science in their careers. In four years, I never heard from one.
And because of that, a kid who had once gotten A’s in math couldn’t get away from the subject fast enough. I literally chose a major in Journalism not only because I enjoyed writing but because I wouldn’t have to take any math classes.
One lousy math teacher caused that shift.
It’s a little scary to think how much influence one person can have on a life, but it’s there.
That was just my experience, of course. Others had better ones and positive things to say. But there’s no way around saying this – those teachers absolutely killed math as a career possibility for me. For others, they merely proved to be uninspiring. Those people went on to become successful in other careers, like publishing, aviation, telecommunications, health care administration and more.
What can we do to build and rebuild the attractiveness of Math and Science so that we have a stronger Brand America?
Take a day or take a whole week or two to feature “Careers in Math” and “Careers in Science.” Have professionals from those fields come in who can captivate the imagination of students to show how there is a very real-world use for what they’re learning. And as you can imagine, because they have so much impact on our life’s direction, I believe we need to pay our principals and teachers much more.
Yet, rather than merely complaining and hoping, I thought I could take my own actions in a small way to shift our fortunes in the Math and Science Department.
Our new venture here at Boost Marketing – Made Here Made Well – highlights great people who are making exciting durable goods right here in the U.S.A. I’m looking forward to sharing a lot more about MHMW with you in an upcoming post. For now, know that for every product sale made on MadeHereMadeWell.com, we’ll give a percentage back to the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) Educational Foundation.
I’ve known the people at SME for a long time and am impressed by their work in educating students on the merits of a career in manufacturing. I believe when a strong foundation in Math and Science at the high school and collegiate level is connected to great programs that show career practicality like the SME’s, it is no stretch to say Brand America wins.