Work and Effort... A Solution For Winning the Future

If one is looking for an easy, "it just will happen" solution that will win the future without work or effort, try again, you will not find it in this Column. Your columnists subscribe to what Thomas Jefferson said, "I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it." Work, the work ethic and effort is the subject of this column and we have chosen to write on this topic at this time because of two emerging calendar events of the next several days. First, the celebration of Labor Day is only a few days away. And secondly, within a day or two after that holiday, school bells will ring out and will mark the opening of another school year.

Millions of boys and girls across this great land of ours will join other students who have already returned to their halls of learning. And so, while many working adults of our society are on the job " laboring in their vineyard" so to speak, so will students of all ages be back at their work site hopefully busily doing their job of learning.

On the job, at whatever age, requires discipline. It requires diligence, stoicism, patience, creativity, and effort. And with creative effort can emerge a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, and happiness. There is little happiness to be found merely lying on a couch, doing nothing, waiting for something good to happen. Happiness and accomplishment go hand- in -hand and is something one must work at and pursue. Happiness is acting creatively, doing things with purpose, working hard on things for which one is responsible. And with hard work and discipline, opportunity is often next in line to arrive. Thomas Edison said it well: "Opportunity is missed by some people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." This, we believe, is true in whatever "vineyard" of work you find yourself, be it in school or in your place of employment or when involved in recreational activities. Greek dramatist Euripides once said, "Much effort, much prosperity." And clearly, this can be demonstrated in schools today.

On July 14, 2005 The National Assessment Governing Board released the "2004 Long-Term Trends in Academic Progress" report. For the first time in recent memory, the results were relatively positive. In the past five years, students throughout the country have made significant progress in reading and math. According to "The Economists," "This year's report contained two striking results. The first is that America's nine-year- olds posted their best scores in reading and math since the tests were introduced in 1972. The second is that the gap between white students and minorities is narrowing substantially."

These improvements are encouraging but the question for policymakers is: Why?

The push for real educational accountability - holding schools, educators, and students responsible for educational results, has taken off in the country. Starting with state standards and assessments with consequences in the early 90's to a recent push for developing a serious "work effort" responsibility on the part of all...educators and learners. And, many of the nation's schools along with serious learners have positively responded through a process of consistent effort and demonstrated work output. In fact, in these cases, focusing on the job of teaching and learning has been high on the priority list and favorable results are beginning to emerge. Schools and other institutions that have in place a strategic plan which addresses this very purpose have been reaping commendable results. Someone has said "Put your heart, mind and intellect into even the smallest of acts even a plan...that is the secret of success." We believe that bit of advice holds true.

Parents and other child care providers are very much partners, along with the school, in the educational development of their children. "Children are influenced by the attitudes of others toward work" so writes sociologist L. Braude. If a parent or other child care providers demonstrate a dislike for a job, children will tend to assimilate these attitudes. Parents who demonstrate a strong work ethic tend to impart a strong work ethic on to their children.

Among the mechanisms provided by society to transfer the culture to young people is, the home and the school. One of the functions of the schools is to foster student understanding of cultural norms. However, in the absence of fostering early socialization within the child's home which supports good work attitudes, schools find it increasingly more difficult to completely transform a young person's work ethic orientation. We call for schools and other institutions of learning to put in place a strategic plan which addresses this immediate need. Schools can and should enlighten students about what the work ethic is, and provide a learning environment so that all students experience... through work and effort... the great satisfaction of accomplishing all of which that learner is capable of achieving. Thomas Jefferson's advice of two-hundred fifty years ago is still relevant today: "I believe in luck, the harder I work the more I have of it." And that is how we see it FROM OUR PERSPECTIVE.