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Business and education: partners in progress.

Partners in Progress

An Interview with James B. Hayes, publisher of Fortune magazine and national chairman of Junior Achievement

UB: How did Fortune editors select Salt Lake City as the best business city in 1991? JH: When we researched that cover story, we looked at the level of education in the workforce. We tried to measure the level of sophistication, the number of workers, the number of quality educational institutions. We looked at the tax base, at the economy, and at the quality of life. And we tried to put qualitative measurements on all those areas. We looked at unemployment, at the mix of the population, at crime rates. We did a very thorough analysis and tried to provide managers with all the information they need to analyze various markets for possible plant relocation.

Last year, we identified Salt Lake City as the city that had the most conducive climate for business. We would not have ranked Salt Lake City as the best city in America for business if this community and state did not pull together the way it does.

UB: What trends in business do you see? JH: In the seventies, most people didn't pay much attention to business concerns, and they cared even less about business leaders. On those rare occasions when business was allowed out of the closet, the average businessman--and back then it was always a man--was either portrayed as a blustery fool or a bald, gray, stodgy old boss.

Then came the '80s, and suddenly everyone's hero was the business executive with the condo and limo and lots of dough. What a difference a new decade makes: in the nineties, greed is not good, and Wall Street is no longer the road to instant riches. The end has come to what Fortune once referred to as the "money society."

UB: Do we stand today at another turning point in education? JH: Definitely. For decades we Americans have provided our children with a quality primary and secondary education. Now we find that our society has allowed that great system to erode to the point that when businesspeople, political leaders, and even educators talk about our educational system, they speak with a sense of urgency. And they use words like breakdown, failure, and crisis.

We have discovered that a large number of our young people are poorly prepared to carry on the work of our nation. It is not just the 700,000 kids who drop out of high school every year, or the other 700,000 who graduate unable to read the words on their diplomas, or the countless numbers of youth who, after 12 years of schooling, can't read at a ninth-grade level or do seventh-grade math. It is more than all that. Tens of thousands of American children show up on our college campuses not knowing what the Magna Carta is, what the Reformation was, or who wrote the Emancipation Proclamation. Freshman English and mathematics are often reduced to remedial reading, writing, and arithmetic.

What makes matters worse is to shrug our shoulders and say, "It is not my problem"

The tragedy of that attitude is this: If we become a society so caught up in personal success, so blind to everything else, then we lose sight of our ability to ensure that the golden circle of success is ever-widening.

If we find that our young people are unable to read after 12 years of school, and we see that it has to do with methodology, that's one thing--it should motivate us to find better methodologies. But if our schools are producing illiterate graduates--and this is the case--it's a sign that our society is not working.

UB: Are the solutions to these problems a matter of policy and programs or are the solutions based on something else? JH: I believe that deep down, the problems have far more to do with leaving the problems for others to solve, far more to do with making cars, clothes, parties, and money the be all and end all of life. We have libraries of books about restoring competitiveness in American industry and about education methodology. Much of this makes sense, but in some ways they are like cookbooks filled with recipes--and that's where they fail. The issue is not that we don't know how to be competitive or what good education is all about. We know those things better than any people on earth--we wrote those books. I fear that we don't understand that quality education has more to do with the will to make the effort and the sacrifice to be internationally competitive.

It's easier and more profitable in the short run to trade and move companies around in a mad scramble of acquisitions and buyouts than it is to run them with an eye toward long-term growth, quality, and competitiveness. It's easier to put pictures of hamburgers on cash register keys than it is to reform the education system so that those who run those registers know how to add and subtract.

UB: What can we do as individuals to be part of the solution? JH: Well, the moment is filled with challenge, opportunity, and enormous hope.

Each of us can engage in a private war against indolence and sloth. Each of us, all of us who live in this world where tens of millions of people are newly free, must realize that it is the best it has been since we have lived on this planet--we can all work to make it even better.

UB: What would make education better? JH: More corporate dollars must be spent on education. IBM spent 2 percent of its gross revenues last year on educational activities for its employees and for the employees of its clients. That amounts to just over $2 billion. We also need to clean up some of our social issues so corporate America can spend more funds on research and development.

I don't necessarily think that education reform is a financial issue. I think that the public education system in this country needs and requires a massive restructuring. There is enough money being spent already to do the job. We just need to spend it better. Business very definitely needs to take a role in this. The leadership has not come from Washington to date. The business community must step in to provide managerial advice, mentoring, and role models. Business has to get involved because it has the resources and the vested interest. Business must realize the enormous threat that we face internationally.

UB: What would you do if you were the Secretary of Education? JH: If I were LaMar Alexander, the Secretary of Education, I would assemble all the governors and say, "Gentlemen, we have not really made much progress on this issue that we have all identified as being so severe." I would form 50 different partnerships with the 50 different governors, and I would want each governor to identify the specific needs that his state has in terms of workforce. How is the educational system going to provide for the needs of that specific state? At the same time I would have a national standard test, where kids would be expected to perform to certain levels. Parents should be able to choose where their kids go to school. Our kids are in school for too few hours each day and for too few days in the year. In Japan kids go to school 220 days each year; our kids go 180 days a year. In Japan kids are in school 8 hours a day; ours are in school 6 hours a day. In this country, a high school student can often have 50 percent of his courses as electives. In Europe, it is 10 percent. If we give someone the same credit for drivers education as we do for physics, not many students are going to rush into physics. We have relaxed our standards too much. Bands and football need to be secondary to preparing someone well for today's workforce.

UB: What's happening in Russia between business and education? JH: Well, after a year of negotiating with various partners there in Junior Achievement, we launched an educational program to start teaching kids in Russian schools. We are going to be in 1,000 schools in the next six months. Teachers have been trained. The purpose of the program is to teach Russian kids how capitalism works.

UB: How has the program been received? JH: Enthusiasm for the project is great at all the levels. The kids, and their parents, are most excited about it--because they realize the future of their nation is free-market economy based. Nobody knows how it works, but the fact that their kids are learning about it excites the parents.

UB: Why the concern for education? Why reach into the lower age ranks? JH: Our social outreach is largely driven by the fundamental belief that business had better get involved in educational reform. Business has a vested interest because of all the challenges in the workforce. It's almost a survival issue for business. And so our outreach is based on the realization that there is a tremendous need for education reform in this country, K-12.

UB: What is Fortune magazine doing to promote business-education partnerships? JH: Besides dedicating an issue a year to education, we also sponsor an annual education summit and involve several CEOs of major corporations--people like John Pepper of P&G. We have done that for four years now, and it has become the most important gathering of business leaders, educators, and government officials to define the role that business can play in education reform. That is something we are very much committed to--we are already working on our 1992 education summit.

UB: What gives you such hope for the future? JH: I am encouraged to see more resources directed to the need for quality education and to see more and more intelligent people become aware of that need and to see more people actually take action to address that need. If all that comes together, there is reason for tremendous optimism. I an very excited about LaMar Alexander as Secretary of Education, about David Kearns, and about the America 2000 program. But in truth much yet needs to be done.

UB: In your role as National Chairman of Junior Achievement, you must serve and sound as head cheerleader for education reform and for business education partnerships. Will such programs make any real difference within this decade in terms of a resurgence of entrepreneurial and corporate America? JH: Such programs as Junior Achievement will make a major economic impact in about 10 to 15 years. Unless we do make a lot of difference and a lot of progress, we run the risk of losing our position in this world.

UB: I can't help but think of President Bush and his entourage of automobile executives in Japan. Several editorial cartoons have characterized these chief executives as cry-babies. Is your answer to create a new generation of achievers who can build and rebuild our industries, not just cry over spilled milk? JH: I, too, could get very worried about our current and future economic condition, but I am very hopeful, in part because of Junior Achievement and education reform in general. I don't think there has ever been a social issue that has galvanized the business community as much as education has the past couple of years. There has been a lot of talk, and now it is time for some real action.

UB: Are executives becoming more action-minded in regard to education reform? JH: The tone at this year's Education Summit was very action-oriented. We have great hope in our secretary of education, and we think that President Bush is finally beginning to put some substance behind his wish to be the education president. The America 2000 program is in place. We are debating the right issues--choice vs. no choice, accountability vs. no accountability. And so we all walked away from this last conference much more hopeful and optimistic.
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Title Annotation:interview with James B. Hayes, 'Fortune' magazine publisher and national chairman of Junior Achievement
Publication:Utah Business
Article Type:Interview
Date:Mar 1, 1992
Previous Article:Education: what business can do.
Next Article:Education and the bottom line.

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