PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE: Martin Luther King Jr. once stated, “Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.”

One might say the late Dr. King is being too hard on humanity. I think he is right on target, and I believe his sentiment on this issue would have only deepened if he were alive today.

I had a statistics teacher who told us at the beginning of class, “There are no free lunches in this course. You are going to have to work. For some of you, you are going to have to work really hard.”

He went on to explain that over the 20- plus years he had been teaching math and statistics, he has seen a steady decline in critical thinking skills. If there is not an exact sample of a math problem in the book, students cannot seem to figure it out. He continued on by saying that the principles of math and statistics are no longer being taught, only the mechanics.

He then made a chilling statement that I took personal (and still take personally), “I used to teach undergraduate, freshman students harder stuff than I will be presenting to you in this graduate quantitative statistics course.”

I had a hard time believing this, so I found several other longtime professors who had taught at both the undergraduate and graduate levels and asked them if they too had seen students’ critical thinking skills degrade over the years. Without hesitation — and without exception — the answer was absolutely “yes.”

I have been in presentations or heard lectures where people are often denounced when they criticize the academic results of Maine’s K-12 system or certain colleges. “If you don’t like it, leave. Our kids — and our teachers — are doing the best they can.” After all, our state’s academic scores are pretty good overall.

To the “best we can” and “pretty good” comments, I say “cow manure.” Our kids need to be excelling and developing critical thinking methods and problem solving techniques that are world class. Why? Because that is who they are competing against for jobs: the world. China and India have more honor students with 4.0 averages than America has students. Think of that for a minute. If we aren’t giving our kids the right tools, who will?

For the folks that aren’t willing to admit this is a problem we all need to solve, you’re not looking at the outcomes. At the end of the day, it really is the result that matters, not the effort.

It was Albert Einstein who said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” This implies we need to not only spend time thinking, but thinking differently about tomorrow’s issues and problems than we do today. That requires the ability to think critically. More importantly, if our present system isn’t teaching the current generation to develop these skills, who will teach the following generations?

I end this column with a question, perhaps even a challenge: What are you doing to help ensure our kids — our upcoming surgeons, economists, scientists, doctors, etc. — are top-notch? We can all do more. If you have ideas how the business community can help, please email me directly at [email protected]

UPCOMING EVENTS: Tonight is November’s Chamber After Hours from 5 to 7 p.m. The best in the region for networking, it is hosted by La Bella Day Spa & Hair Salon and Simply Susie’s Catering at 16 Monument Place, Topsham. The event is free and chamber members and their employees are all welcome.

Please go to the chamber’s website (www.midcoastmaine.com) and its scrolling calendar for more information and to register for all of these events. For some the seating is limited. Don’t miss out.

The chamber proudly serves 760 businesses and organizations in the following communities: Arrowsic, Bath, Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, Brunswick, Dresden, Edgecomb, Georgetown, Harpswell, Phippsburg, Richmond, Topsham, West Bath, Westport Island, Wiscasset and Woolwich.


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