Friday, March 12, 2010

How Many Times?

I'm starting a new blog category: The How Many Times? category of catastrophe.
As in the old Bob Dylan lyric, "How many times can a man turn his head, and pretend that he just doesn't see?"

Apparently the answer is: All the time.

Take today's NYT story on the decision by the Kansas City, Missouri school board to close 28 of its 61 schools, all at the same time.

According to the reporter, Susan Saulny, ". . . a closer look at the school board's history reveals a chaotic, almost nonfunctioning body that put off making tough choices and even routine improvements for generations. (my italics added) Experts said that in the board's years of inaction is a cautionary tale for school districts everywhere."

School districts? A cautionary tale for school districts!

How about for companies and countries?

How about the cautionary tale of GM that put off making necessary decisions for decades, until the nation's largest manufacturing giant woke up one day and found itself in Chapter 11?

How about the cautionary tale of Wall Street firms that put off making necessary decisions about the fundamental un-sustainability of their over-leveraged financial operations, until one day they woke up, well, dead.

How about the cautionary tale of the United States of America that continues to put off making necessary decisions about energy policy, our addiction to foreign oil, our un-sustainable transportation policies, our subsidies to the highway lobby--almost a guarantee that we'll wake up one morning wishing we'd had leaders with more courage and wisdom, who were willing to price oil at its actual replacement price (or closer to it) and invest ahead of time in mass transit and other alternative energy sources.

Choose the issue that keeps you up at night. Education reform and the sorry state of public schools in the US? The high school drop out rate? Obesity? Decaying infrastructure? A lack of jobs for kids coming out of colleges and universities?

There is much that needs doing today.

And in almost every case, the single greatest obstacle to getting after the work that needs doing is an institutional, systemic unwillingness to deal with the hard facts of life and make tough decisions that need to be made. The longer the situation festers, the worse it gets. Just ask the students and parents who depend on the Kansas City public schools.

How many times can a man turn his head and pretend that he just doesn't see?

The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind--and not just in Kansas City, Missouri.

All Rights Reserved 2009 (c) Alan Webber, Rules Of Thumb