Monday, September 22, 2008

Post No. 44: At What Price Dumbing Down?

© The Institute for Applied Common Sense

One of the somewhat overlooked ironies of this campaign year is that a black man, who was born outside of this country and the product of a broken home, and who managed to beat the odds and become a reasonably well educated public servant after attending two Ivy League institutions, is currently being framed as an “elitist” in our society.

That this should occur should cause us all to pause.

Last spring I managed to get myself involved is scoring reading and writing competencies for some of the prospective graduates of one of our state institutions.


The state wide results just came in reflecting an, on average, 2% decrease in reading comprehension, and a 17% increase in writing communication.

Not surprisingly, the schools that scored worst are challenging the test.

Even less surprisingly, I will be spending the last half of October explaining my scoring.

My guess is that this anomaly can be explained by the Internet.

Computers have got kids writing, seriously, earlier than ever before in history... but to paraphrase Mr. Gossage (http://adage.com/century/people023.html), they write about what interests them.

If we continue to dumb down and politically correct our text books, year after year, to revise the content to match whatever we consider to be the prevailing political winds... we shouldn't be surprised if our children choose to read that which seems to be of more immediate, personal, value.

And the more we chose to force our teachers to keep to the politically correct curriculum of the day, the less opportunity these mostly right headed people will have to inspire and challenge their students...absent which we are well and truly screwed.

Advertising is not a bad example of what has gone wrong with our culture.

There is nothing more expensive in the marketing business than a failed campaign. But agency holding companies have gotten into bed with client purchasing departments, often offering to provide their services for free, and earned back their 20 - 30% margins by eliminating the people who actually do the work... not to mention any semblance of a training program

The result is often a single ad that offends nobody world wide... mostly because it is so innocuous nobody world wide notices it...supported by intergalactic media buys.... The Olympics come to mind...that cost nothing to negotiate... can be promoted as being available at some fictional discount only because of the agency's "massive media clout," and get bought on the discount rather than their effectiveness.

All of which we do under the umbrella of branding...and we ought to be ashamed of ourselves.

This is not the way people buy stuff.

Jim Jordan [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Jordan_(publicist)], a giant in the marketing field, once said. "It's not creative unless it sells."

Bill Bernbach (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Bernbach), also a giant, said, "It won't sell unless it's creative."

They were both right.

The problem is the people who now run their agencies got their jobs by buying things cheap... and that's what they talk to the client about when they sit down for their quarterly "state of the account dinners."

Unfortunately, expressing any of the above in front of current agency and client management can produce chronic underemployment.

More unfortunately, if somebody doesn't stand up pretty quick, we are on our way to becoming a supplier of natural resources to countries that have mastered the art of adding value.

In the immortal words of Jimmy Williams, "When you stop taking pride in what you make, you have hitched your star to a wagon."

Which I believe is Mr. Friedman's (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Friedman) point as well, in his discussion of innovation, global competition, and the future position of the United States. (http://theviewfromoutsidemytinywindow.blogspot.com/2008/09/post-no-41b-television-worth-viewing.html.)

At the end of the day, it really is all about creativity and innovation…. It’s what ultimately sells.

Always has, always will.

© The Institute for Applied Common Sense

3 comments:

  1. Thomas L. Friedman makes a convincing argument in his last book "The World is Flat", that competiton for jobs is now worldwide. We can’t complacent about having with the best school in the tri-county area. There are millions of well-qualified people in China or India willing to do our desk computer job for half the cost.
    He argues that innovation is the path to success.
    He has an excellent website http://www.thomaslfriedman.com/
    Thanks for the comment on my blog, Photos from the vault, Logisitician.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks much David for your comment. What is particularly troubling about our current leadership is the lack of a sense of urgency. I get the sense that a large segment of our population complains, and is concerned, about falling further and further behind in terms of tecnology and innovation, but that very little is actually being done to reinvigorate our educational system. Their appears to be a leadership void.

    I often tell this story. I taught a computer class from 6:30 pm. until 9 pm on Friday evenings at a local community college. My class was full of immigrants, and not one single native American born citizen. I went around to the daytime GED classes and virtually begged people to come to my class. There was only one taker. There is a different sense of urgency. It's troubling.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thomas L. Friedman makes a convincing argument in his last book "The World is Flat", that competiton for jobs is now worldwide. We can’t complacent about having with the best school in the tri-county area. There are millions of well-qualified people in China or India willing to do our desk computer job for half the cost.
    He argues that innovation is the path to success.
    He has an excellent website http://www.thomaslfriedman.com/
    Thanks for the comment on my blog, Photos from the vault, Logisitician.

    ReplyDelete

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