I seen quite a few. I was at a high school science fair recently and stumbled upon a bright high school senior whose project was to determine which remedies were best for heartburn. Although she failed to tell me her methodology, she concluded that carrot juice worked just as well as TUMS.
“So now what?” I asked her. She seemed a little puzzled by my question.
“So why should I care? Now what?” I asked again. Still no reply.
My intent at these occasional science fairs isn’t to berate kids into thinking their hard work of running through the scientific method is pointless. It’s actually quite the opposite. What I’m hoping to do is something their science teachers fail to do. And that’s to help them think beyond the project, add some real world relevancy to it and look at opportunities as a result of their outcomes.
“Let’s think about it, ” I told her. “As a consumer, I might be apt to pop a natural supplement full of beta carotene to relieve my heartburn rather than a couple of TUMS. But the challenge is a bottle of TUMS has a decent shelf life and a bottle of carrot juice (that I never have in the house) does not. And I really don’t think that if I’m doubled over in chest pain that I would be willing to rummage through my vegetable bin, grab a bag of carrots, whip out the juicer and gulp down some juice. The $3 bottle of TUMS is a much better option.”
“So do you see a possible opportunity here in the supplement market for heartburn sufferers?” She just stared at me. I moved on to the next presentation.
I never participated in a science fair in high school. Looking back, I figured it was probably because I opted for Physiology and Aquatic Biology over Chemistry and Physics. I came to find out that, at least, at this science fair, it was for the brightest science students. (Too bad for those who didn’t get A’s in science on their report cards. They probably don’t have much to contribute anyway.)
Each science fair project is relatively the same. There’s a problem, possible solutions get tested and findings are reported. No one ever says, “So what?”
For those of you who have long completed your formal education, you know that there’s a disconnect between what and how our kids are being taught in school and what the real world demands from them. In a job interview, no one will ask you what grade you got in your high school Chemistry class or inquire about your data on carrot juice as a decent antacid. What you will be asked is, “What can you do for this company?” In other words. “So what?”
Yet, our educational system is still bent on producing factory line workers who follow the rules and label outcomes with “critical thinking” and “creativity”. We’re good at fostering the bright ones who show interest in science, engineering and math with well-funded robotics clubs and math and science academies. But no one ever says, “hey, here’s a kid who can think outside the box, has an entrepreneurial mindset, can bring new innovations to the marketplace and who can quite possibly create jobs for the factory workers we’re so good at creating.”
Do You Want a Future Factory Line Worker?
When I asked my daughter, a junior in high school, what she does all day in school, she told me she essentially takes notes, memorizes things and takes tests. I’d bet to say millions of kids across the country spend their days doing the exact same thing.
If you don’t want your child to be a factory line worker, step back an assess what you know now as an adult. Can your child find opportunities, make decisions and build relationships? Can he or she think outside the box, communicate well and plan strategically?
Realistically, in a world of “so what’s”, how prepared is your child to answer that question?