Barrie Greiff and I have been writing our newspaper column, As We Live and Work, for 10 years now. Hard for us to believe it’s been that long. Our columns often manage to strike a chord with our readers, but perhaps never as strongly as with our article (“It Doesn’t Add Up”, 4/2/2010) about the computer failure at a Los Angeles food court. We’ve done great columns (in our humble opinion) about baseball, the economy, and the fundamentals of leadership – but who would have guessed our food court column would generate one of the biggest responses. Here’s the story: a large-scale computer failure affected all of the food concessions at LAX Airport; when I attempted to purchase a salad, the cashier told me I’d have to wait for the manager to drive in from an hour away “because he’s the only one who knows how to make change”. At another concession, I was told that I couldn’t order more than one item because “employees can’t add columns of numbers and can’t figure the tax”. When someone nearby offered the use of a calculator, the manager said “I’m not sure that’s going to help because I don’t think the employees know how it works.”
Despite legislation that students must graduate high school with proficiency in basic math, our minimum standards fly out the window when they enter the real world.
In our column, Barrie and I suggested that every high school student should take a course on “the basics of life”: simple medical knowledge (CPR, first aid, nutrition, exercise), basic home repairs, fundamental automobile maintenance, and basic money management. Readers practically came out of the woodwork, praising us for saying something everyone knows but never admits: we do a pretty mediocre job training our children on the basics. What do you think? When you deal with a service organization, how do the employees handle the basics?
Written by Dr. Richard Levin, President of Richard Levin & Associates. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.