I Just Wish They Could Finish A Thought

At the ICT conference I attended yesterday we did an industry panel discussion.  The thirty year old VP of  a major printer company passionately responded to a teacher question: “What can we do to prepare students for the workplace.”

“I just wish they could finish a thought!  They can’t close sales, they can’t even perform basic customer service.  They get halfway through a sales pitch and forget what they’re talking about, and they don’t listen!  If a customer is telling them a problem, they respond by ignoring what the customer has just said.  If grads could just finish what they started, we could take care of the rest.”

I’ve seldom heard the distracted digital native described in such (frustrated) clear terms.  If business can’t use them because they can’t actually finish anything, then this puts older people at a distinct advantage.

Another of the panel told the story of a friend’s son who did an IT contract for him.  He started off great, but once the big install was done and he was in beta testing the system, he seemed to slack off.  About halfway through the contract he noticed the twenty something was on Facebook, so he made an account and befriended the kid.  His stream was full of comments like, “I’m doing nothing and getting paid for it!” and “another day on Facebook on company time.”  This manager contacted HR, revised his contract (which still had over a month in it) and ended it two days later, that Friday.

That guy’s inability to think through (complete a thought) about what he was doing (broadcasting his laziness), led to him being unemployed.  There is a direct correlation there that any thinking person would understand, why don’t these digital natives?  Because they don’t finish a thought.  Even cause and effect are magical happenings beyond their understanding.

This question came up again later from a senior federal government manager who couldn’t understand how fractured the thinking of recent Ontario graduates appears to be.  I suggested that Mcguinty’s in-school-till-18 program has resulted in a system wide lowering of expectations.  Rubrics start at level 1.  The implication there is that you pass if you do anything, anything at all.

Failing students has become almost impossible with student success and administration jumping in to offer alternatives (usually taught by teachers with no background in the subject).  A great example is a failed grade 11 English student who was taking our credit recovery program.  She got a B+ on her ISU paper, it had two grammar mistakes in the title alone and was marked by someone with no English background.  I had to wonder how much of it had been cut and pasted, but that wasn’t looked into either.

The example that federal government manager gave was of a student who had missed dozens of classes at a community college and hadn’t completed any work.  His argument?  “Can’t you just pass me?” He was confused when the college prof said no, his high school teachers had.

Apparently we’re graduating students who can’t complete a thought and have systematized secondary education to minimize (if not remove entirely) cause and effect.  I wonder how long it takes before we see persistent and ongoing economic problems related to this.  That young VP’s passionate plea for graduates who can finish a thought might just be the tip of the iceberg.