Recently, Thomas Friedman wrote an Op-Ed piece in The New York Times called The New Untouchables in which he argued that the economic crisis can be attributed to, in part, our poor educational systems. Here’s an excerpt that I think is key:
A Washington lawyer friend recently told me about layoffs at his firm. I asked him who was getting axed. He said it was interesting: lawyers who were used to just showing up and having work handed to them were the first to go because with the bursting of the credit bubble, that flow of work just isn’t there. But those who have the ability to imagine new services, new opportunities and new ways to recruit work were being retained. They are the new untouchables.
That is the key to understanding our full education challenge today. Those who are waiting for this recession to end so someone can again hand them work could have a long wait. Those with the imagination to make themselves untouchables — to invent smarter ways to do old jobs, energy-saving ways to provide new services, new ways to attract old customers or new ways to combine existing technologies — will thrive. Therefore, we not only need a higher percentage of our kids graduating from high school and college — more education — but we need more of them with the right education.
The “right” education is likely one that doesn’t just deliver content to a student who is an empty head waiting to be filled with facts. Instead, the “right” education is one that develops people to be critical thinkers, good communicators, problem-solvers, and as Friedman alludes to, to be self-directed. The untouchables use their imaginations, see things unseen, question the “way things are done,” and take initiative to do things differently. Untouchables don’t watch the clock, don’t wait to be told what to do, and don’t blame others for their own weaknesses or mistakes. Untouchables do learn! In my mind, these are the qualities of the untouchables, and these are the kind of people I would fight hard to keep if they worked for me (and I have!).
So give it some thought: Are you an untouchable? What are you doing to be or become untouchable? What could you do differently to try to be more untouchable?
It may not only be worth your job or your paycheck; it may, in fact, be worth your mind!