Advice for President Elect Obama on setting expectations
Max’s advice for January 11, 2009
Dear President Elect Obama,
Max grew up as the son of a man who knew ‘ALL’ the answers to the problems of the world. Max’s father said so! Many times, his father let everyone know that anyone who didn’t know that he had the answers was a turkey or a knucklehead.
The famous MA Bell, the second most powerful force in the world (next to God of course), thought so much of Max’s father’s opinions, that she made him ‘Supervisor of Troubles’. This is true!
The advice Max promised you, Mr. President Elect.
Promise less and deliver more!
In time of crisis and limited resources, it is important not to get peoples’ hopes beyond where you can realistically deliver. Max understands the concept here and how it is applied (unlike many other things he talks about).
People do need hope, but the hope has to be far enough out in the future that they do not sit back and wait for relief to come from the heavens.
Max observed that in the recently ended drought in North Carolina, many communities did not do anything to alleviate the drought when it was slowly torturing the life out of their towns. The state government bemoaned the drought but did not move quickly to use technology to end it. To this day, efforts to secure the future are tied up in small disputes.
The drought is a good example of the problem because it is so much a result of human nature. Someone else is always going the fix the problem. If we don’t find that someone we just sit there, like a frog in a cool pan of water over a hot stove. By the time we figure it out, our goose (or is that frog) is cooked.
The threat of a future drought still exists but it is forgotten by most law makers. They are worried about the new problem; shrinking revenues. If the drought comes back we have fewer resources to do anything about it.
During the drought we learned that 65 million gallons a day of clean abundant underground water is being poured into the ocean from a large mining operation. Why this isn’t instead piped to cities close to the mine and perhaps to reservoirs further upstream makes one wonder why we think people should invent anything. Even the Romans and the Indians of ancient Peru knew how to move water from one place to another. A drought resistance system would allow farming states to produce crops reliably. A system of moving water from place to place using solar power for the electrical needs would be a saleable product to places like the oil kingdoms, Israel, Sudan and any landlocked nation.
The news media in North Carolina reported about the dumping of fresh water, but the drought has passed for the time being. The political will to do anything about it passed as well.
Promising less than can be done may get individuals involved as opposed to sitting there waiting for the magic from Washington. Helping fund creative initatives in the states and cities, rather than funding the whole thing, would increase the total amount of resources available to the nation.
Successful projects depend some on the basic funding, but they depend a lot more on the heart that people put into them. You can create the ‘hope’ people need to help them understand their part in the solution. It is not just your nation, it is ‘our’ nation.
A national program, “No Child Left Behind” is a good example of a well intentioned idea where the expections were too high, the goal too general and non-specific, and the resources not provided.
Though you may believe you can raise the graduation rate in high schools, you have to wonder what good that will do if to do so you have to use the resources needed to create jobs. Education is the key to the future of the nation but setting the wrong goal will just create the wrong expectations.
Realistic expectations might be that most parents will have an opportunity to help their children succeed. This places some of the burden on the parents themselves. It also places the burden on school districts to assign students close to home where parents can participate. It would change the focus from the school to the community, where it might be better placed. It is the idea of how an expectation (all children will get x percent) can be changed to all children will be educated to the maximum extent of their, their family and their community’s willingness and desire for education (a bit longer but better for each child).
As an ‘A’ student who was kept back once in an early grade due to age, Max knows well the folly of holding children back who have already covered the material. It demoralizes even the best students, causes disruptions (frogs and bored minds) that take time away from teaching, causes the child to be teased (fun for the successful kids) by classmates and is generally bad all around. The goal may be right, but the idea of keeping thousands of children back, versus requiring summer school, just doesn’t make sense. It also contributes significantly to the drop out rate, making it harder for school principals to meet their own lofty goals.
Max wishes you well in setting us in the direction we need to succeed.
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Link one is an example of the need for expectation setting.
Link two is an example of Microsoft’s attempt at expectation setting.
Link three is an article in a magazine on the issue.