1989 Jackling Lecture - Quality where it counts

Born, C. Allen
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 3
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1990
There is a saying, the greater the gratitude, the shorter the speech. That puts me in a quandary, because while I am grateful for the honor you do me today, I also want to talk about a subject very important to all of us. A few months ago, when I was asked to submit a title for my talk, I chose "Quality where it counts." I did so because perhaps the most important thing we at Amax did in our restructuring was to commit to quality in all our businesses - quality people, assets, and operations. Together, they create quality performance, which produces quality growth and increased shareholder value - our prime corporate mission. We are dedicated to quality. At Amax, quality means everything. Today, I want to discuss quality in another context - the need for it in American education and what we have to do to achieve it. If we ignore this need, we will all suffer the consequences. And they will be upon us far sooner than the next century, barely a decade away. I think almost everyone in this room works for an organization that had to restructure in the 1980s. Mining companies that did not, just didn't make it. Well, we did. As an industry, we are seeing improved profits, positive cash flow, and a more competitive position in the world marketplace. But all the restructuring we have done, all the hard work, and all the pain that was part of it, will be in vain if, down the road, we do not have the educated people we need as workers. We need them to design, manufacture, and market the products that use the basic materials produced by the mining industry. Simply put, we are at a crisis point in education today. That is no new revelation. Nearly six years ago, the National Committee on Excellence in Education published its report, "A Nation At Risk." Since then, things have not gotten better. The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, US News & World Report, and Fortune have all recently published stories about the sorry state of education in the United States. The subject has become the topic of TV talk shows as well as national commissions, and for good reason. The pool of young people entering the US labor force is dwindling. In the next decade, 10 million fewer will enter the job market compared to the 1970s. But fewer of them will be qualified to do the jobs available to them. Here's why: • 20% of today's high school students drop out before they are 18 and another 20% graduate functionally illiterate; 40% of today's fourth graders think the world is flat; • 20% of today's sixth graders cannot locate the United States on a world map; • one of every three ninth graders cannot figure the change for a two-item meal - and I'm talking about a Big Mac and fries. These are not just problems of minority kids in big city ghettos. Fully 40% of all young working Americans cannot add up their lunch bill. Three out of every five college freshmen need some kind of remedial work. These statistics are frightening. Particularly so because, while the work force is becoming less qualified and our public education system is getting worse, our products and technologies are becoming more complex. We are approaching a time when we will have machines that recognize handwriting but people who cannot write. We will have technology to take voice commands, but people who do not know what they are talking about. The accelerating pace of technology is changing the nature of the job market. The fastest growing jobs now, and in the years ahead, are in professional, technical, and sales positions requiring the highest education and skill levels. Most of these jobs will require the use of a computer. Yet, 95% of today's graduating high school students have never laid a finger on a computer keyboard. While our education system is failing the students it is supposed to serve, other countries are doing far better. In a
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