The Blueberry Story
I ran my business the way you people operate your schools, I wouldn't be in
business very long!"
I stood before an auditorium filled
with indignant teachers who were becoming angrier by the minute. I represented a
Business Roundtable dedicated to improving public schools. I said that public
schools were antiquated and that teachers and administrators were a major part
of the problem: they resisted change, hunkered down in their feathered nests,
protected by a monopoly. They needed to look to business. We knew how to produce
quality. Zero defects! Continuous improvement! TQM! As soon as I finished, a
woman's hand shot up. She appeared polite, pleasant - she was, in fact, a razor-
edged, high school English teacher who had been waiting to unload.
quietly, "We are told, sir, that you manage a company that makes good ice
I smugly replied, "People
Magazine chose our blueberry as 'The Best Ice Cream in America,' Ma'am."
nice," she said. "Is it rich and smooth?"
percent butterfat," I crowed.
ingredients?" she inquired.
"Superpremium! Nothing but AAA." I was on a roll. I never saw the next
Vollmer," she said, leaning forward with a wicked eyebrow raised to
the sky, "when you are standing on your receiving dock and you see an
inferior shipment of blueberries arrive, what do you do?"
In the silence of that room, I could
hear the trap snap. I knew I was dead, but I wasn't going to lie.
send them back."
"That's right!" she barked,
"and we can never send back our blueberries. We take them big, small, rich,
poor, gifted, exceptional, abused, frightened, confident, homeless, rude, and
brilliant. We take them with ADHD, junior rheumatoid arthritis, and English as
their second language. We take them all! Every one! And that, Mr. Vollmer, is
why it's not a business. It's school!"
In an explosion, all 290 teachers,
principals, bus drivers, aides, custodians and secretaries jumped to their feet
and yelled, "Yeah! Blueberries! Blueberries!"
And so my
long transformation began.
I have learned that, unlike business,
schools are unable to control the quality of their raw material, they are
constantly mauled by a howling horde of disparate, competing customer groups,
and they are dependent upon the vagaries of politics for a reliable revenue
of this negates the need for change. We must change what, when, and how we
teach to give all children maximum opportunity to thrive in a post- industrial
society. But these changes can occur only
with the understanding, trust, permission, and active support of the
surrounding community. For the most
important thing that I have learned is that schools reflect the attitudes,
beliefs, and the health of the
communities they serve, and therefore improving public education means more
than changing our schools, it means changing America.
Most teachers and administrators
have never done a better job; they are teaching more students in
more subjects to higher levels than ever
before. Millions of Americans are convinced, however, that our public schools
used to be better. They are suffering from a debilitating mental condition
that I call NOSTESIA* — an hallucinogenic cocktail of nostalgia and amnesia
that results in the glorification of a past that never was.
Miracles occur in America's classrooms every day. We must fight
nostesia and celebrate success. It is time to stand up for America's public
*Use the following equation to
an individual's nostesia quotient:
A represents a person's age and 0 is number of years he or she has
been out of school. Further multiply this number by 2 if the person works in
Anyone with an NQ over 2000 will likely
be beyond rational thought on the topic.
invite Jamie to speak
please call 641-472-1558,
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
COPYRIGHT 2002, VOLLMER AND ASSOCIATES