Saturday, June 14, 2014
Not long ago I had a rather pleasant conversation with one Mr. Charlie White, candidate for Tennessee House District 27, the seat belonging to We The Peeps being vacated, thankfully, by Richard Floyd. Now some might say Richard's retiring, which begs the question... how does one "retire" from elective office? That's a subject for another day but as a small businessman who doesn't seem to particularly bow either to the Republican Party or Chamber of Commerce hierarchies, Charlie's at least worthy of speaking with further. Though not willing to climb in his wagon yet, I'm standing on the sideboards. Any person who answers the phone to have some yahoo ask "What kind of nutcase are you to want to run for elective office?" and laugh about it deserves a good, hard look. But he's stolen one of my favorite expressions.
Too many people today are looking for positions when they ought to be looking for jobs.
I've always found the process people go through to settle into careers interesting. As adults it isn't too difficult. We're exposed to a wide variety of career fields in our day-to-day interface with others. Unless we're in a position like a lawyer I once met at my daughter's Brownie Scout cookout, a guy who truly hated his job but admitted he wasn't good with his hands or with numbers so he felt trapped, living the lifestyle so he couldn't chuck it and start over, and the pain in his eyes as he spoke about it was, well, it was painful to watch. But unless we're in a situation like his, we have options to change if we don't like what we're doing today. We can speak to friends or see others working as machinists, plumbers, electricians, engineers, secretaries, truck drivers, customer service representatives, or any number of other types of jobs, then go for it. This holds true even for more exotic jobs like a friend up the road here at Yonder Mountain I knew was a BikerBabe in her younger days, but who used to be a professional hooker too. Sometimes we're forced down a different career path than what we choose, decide we like it, and stay the course.
Waylon and Willie once admonished mothers not to allow their babies to grow up to be cowboys. I don't know too many parents who look at their newborns and say "This child's going to grow up to be a professional salesman," or welder, I&C technician, auto mechanic, carpenter, computer programmer, HVAC technician, chef, technical writer, fork lift driver, draftsman, butcher, baker, soldier, sailor, or candlestick maker either.
Neither do our schools.
Joey Garrison's article in the 8 May 2014 edition of the Nashville Tennessean, "Tennessee lags in high school math, reading on 'nation's report card',"cites from the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress that only 17 percent of last year's (2013) 12th-grade students in Tennessee reached the proficient level in math, while 31 percent did the same in reading. But it gets worse. Black studii in Tennessee scored 27 points lower, 22 points lower for Hispanics, than white studii. National averages were 29 and 21 points lower, respectively.
Seventeen percent in math, 31 in reading... how do our children and grandchildren present themselves for jobs, good jobs, with proficiency scores like these? How do we Tennesseans attract, or keep, employers when our children can't do better than this? It's easy if our elected officials hang a steak around our necks, which translates to buying the business with our TaxBucks, but why should taxpayers have to pay businesses to settle here when we're already paying for the supposed infrastructure? Tennessee claims an 86 percent high school graduation rate, but with proficiency scores like these what good is that high school diploma?
I know of at least one web site that proclaims, in bold letters, on its contact page "There's no need to Dial 1 for English. That's all we speak." But doesn't this presume those coming to their page can speak and read English in the first place? Our children are required to attend school until age (whatever). Parents are subject to legal sanctions if they don't. Do those children learn? Do those children have an environment conducive to learning? 17 and 31 percent...
Our elected officials bloviate about what they're going to do if elected or re-elected. Then what? Who among them presents us with a plan for improving our schools, or any other issue for that matter. Not many of them. Would it be a fair statement that all we hear, in general, is what they're going to do, not what their plan is for getting there? Oh yeah, and it's going to cost this much more than we're already spending.
Nationally, 40 percent or more of incoming college freshmen require remedial classes in order to meet basic course requirements. Degrees costing big bucks, financed with borrowed money, and our schools don't send studii ready for college without extra work. If they aren't ready for college, how can they be ready for an employer? If they aren't ready to join the workforce, how can they even begin to think about what they're going to make their careers?
I heard a recent interview with Lieutenant Colonel (LtC) Oliver North in which one of the interviewers commented "I've watched you over the years and in my opinion you've got a big ole pair of brass ones." This was a comment regarding LtC North's history of reporting news of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from hot fire zones after a distinguished career in the Marine Corps, and his response was "It helps to know where you're going and why you're going there."
How many of our politicians have a goal, where they're going, and a plan for getting there, why and how they're aiming for that goal? I submit... not many.
A goal... a plan... working the plan...
I had occasion to speak with my budette the former BikerBabe recently. I call her Butterfly because she's so little. Someone apparently dumped a couple of, we think, malamute dogs nearby and they'd taken up residence in the woods near her home. She was going to catch them so we could either locate their owners, if they'd wandered away from home, or, well, they'd be safe with The Gang. Like kids, 4... 6... there comes a point where it just doesn't matter any longer. Somehow the subject of careers and career changes came up and I had to ask "Butterfly, how did you get out of the hooking biz?" She grinned and said "Well, that was back in my 20s, in Florida, and I heard the local auto parts store needed a counter clerk. So I made an appointment and went over to apply for the job. I forgot to take off my badge and when I sat down with the owner he got real quiet. Then he asked about me being a professional hooker so I told him 'Yeah, well, I work down at the tomato packing plant and my job is hanging boxes on hooks to run down the conveyor, so that's my job title." He hired me right on the spot, before he could even get up off the floor from laughing."
And people call me a smartalec...
Royce Burrage, Jr.