digdeep

digdeep

If nothing else, we talk a good game about placing a high value on the education of our youth. I think it is well-documented that a nation that wants a bright future, must invest in the education of their youth. As a nation, we could argue if we invest enough, or if we invest it effectively … or if we use it efficiently.

I’m sure the answers to these questions would vary widely as we move from school district to school district … and campus to campus. What is less likely to vary is an agreement on actually valuing education.

Beyond the content we teach on various standard subjects, the experience we create in our education system has far-reaching implications on the society that will exist in the decades to follow. I believe it is a consistently fair question to ask … “does a nation really value education?” Yet, I also think it is just as fair, at any point, to completely turn that question around:

Does education value values?

I’m not asking if our education system looks like they value values. I’m asking if they are teaching and constantly creating an experience that values core values. There are clearly examples where this is the case … and often it is not in a classroom.

Mike Stine, the Head Varsity Football Coach for Naperville Central High School, in Naperville Illinois, is a prime example. Mike knows football, but his mission is creating an experience that teaches values far beyond the “X’s and O’s” of the game. Football is the context for teaching. It just so happens, this past year, that the Naperville Central Redhawks won the State Championship of Illinois’ top 8A Division. Winning the Illinois State Championship will be memorable for sure. But it won’t be championships upon which Mike will hang his legacy. It will be his attempt to teach the importance of something much deeper.

Championships fade, but the lessons learned on the way to the championship continue to grow.

The same is true for grades and test scores. And classroom experiences too. For many years now, in corporate organizations, I have been raising the red flag on being careful what you measure … because whatever you measure, you will get! The problem isn’t measurement. The problem is unintended consequences of the measurements unchecked. This becomes ever more relevant as technology increases our ability to measure more and more … deeper, wider and continuously.

Numbers become the most tangible and easiest results to measure. Yet, when we define our progress and “success” primarily (and is some cases, do I dare say solely) on the “measurable results” … a subtle shift begins.

The emphasis on “how” we achieve the “success” becomes a slow fade.

I would propose that the challenges around core values in our corporations didn’t necessarily start there. Some of our most prestigious universities, that are regularly held in high-esteem, have certainly contributed to the problem in the education of promising leaders throughout the 80’s, 90’s and into the new millennium. I remember a luncheon conversation with an Ivy League graduate a decade ago. I’ll never forget her commentary on the experience of her education there … everything was about money. I don’t recall her reflecting on a class that deeply explored core values and the potential enhancement they would bring to her leadership. Fortunately, that has slowly started to change. Harvard’s Clay Christensen with his article and eventual book, How Will You Measure Your Life, is a good case in point.

There is value in education … when education values core values.

Some educators fully embrace this and I’m grateful to know many of them. Unfortunately, they seem heroic rather than the norm. That’s a problem. And it’s a problem when they feel incredibly burdened by the relentless focus on test results. Some things can’t be measured on a test … relationships, gratitude, integrity and trust are a few from a long list. You might be able to measure what you know, but it’s much harder to measure who you are … on a test.

It is precisely the same issue that top executives face in a short-term, “what-did-you-do-for-me-today” market mindset. The impact, however, is even greater because it directly impacts the leaders of tomorrow. Let’s be clear … I fully understand the importance of measurements. I also realize, unchecked, you can measure yourself into a culture of misery.

I do believe that values start in the home.

But they are nurtured and cultivated throughout our educational experience. Our educational system needs to be as much about “who” we are becoming as it is about “what” we are learning.

I’m afraid that may be just a little to vague for those who need stats to measure success. Unfortunately, our real success ultimately will be defined by what is hard to measure … yet what is easy to develop, over a number of years, when education consistently values core values.

How we ultimately measure our life will have very little to do with all the things we measure in education … or business for that matter. The very earliest stages of our educational system would be a great place to make that clear!

As we close this school year, I am deeply grateful for the many educators who fully embrace the development of those entrusted to them … developing them all the way to their core! May your heroic contributions become the norm sooner rather than later.

Today’s post is the featured article from the May 2014 issue of The Front Porch Newsletter. If you would like to automatically receive The Front Porch e-newsletter on the last Thursday of each month just click here to sign-up for your complimentary subscription.