Copyright © 1995,1996, Louis Schmier and Magna Publications.
Subject: Random Thought: What "Business" Are We In?
Date: Sun, 23 Jun 1996 09:00:19 -0400 (EDT)

Hot! Hot! Hot1 Humid! Humid! Humid! It's insane down here. Even before the sun rose, the south Georgia temperature and humidity had. It's 78 degrees with a 98 percent humidity, and it's only 5:37 a.m.!!! The heavy rain last night didn't help. I had to wade--maybe swim is a better word--through unending, thick wisps of steam from the wet streets that glistened in the lamp light like sparkling ethereal stalagmites rising before my eyes. My awashed body was loudly gurggling, "get me back to the cool, dry streets of San Francisco and Ottawa." To drown--no pun intended--out its screams, I was thinking about a bunch of allied things: what business are we in, the myopia of education, and what I do for a living. I'm not sure why I was thinking about this "business" and "making a living" stuff this morning. Maybe it's the remnant effect of the festivities this past weekend of proudly celebrating my oldest son, Michael, graduatation from Stanford's School of Business.

Anyway, let's start with, "what 'business' are we in?" Strange question? Dumb question? Prattle? Maybe, but I wonder how many of us individually have sat back, with a Tootsie Pop in mouth, and have really reflected on that simple inquiry much less articulated an answer for ourselves. I wonder if its possible to get a concensus. Well, what business do you really think we're in? Are we in a business? Is that too mundane, materialistic or a sordid word for us in the hallowed ivory tower? Is what we do a "profession", an "art", a "craft", a "calling", on a "mission?" Never mind what we publically say. What do we privately and honestly believe and how do we act accordingly? Are we each in the business of academics, more specifically something soley subject oriented, engaged in a variety of separated and segreated fields like mathematics or french horn or ancient Mayan history or german or latin or criminal justice or or medieval poetry or clinical psychology or neurosurgery or physical geography or accounting or political science or whatever? Are we in the research and scholarly publication business, and whatever goes on in the classroom is that not-serious-but-needed-to-feed-the-family-job? Are we in the business of disseminating and distributing information and/or knowledge and/or wisdom? Professoring? Teaching? Training? Education? Each answer has a different meaning and different connotation for our outlook, what we believe, how we perceive ourselves, how relate to those--especially students--around us, and an understanding of what it is we do or are expected to do. I mean it makes a difference in terms of perceptions, service, operations, products and success--survival--if an airline executive said that he or she was only in the airline business as opposed to the transportation business. I would think an electric utility executive would act differently if he or she thought of the company as a power supply business rather than an electricity business. How would a men's clothing store operate differently if it's owners redefined their operation as a retail department store? Would it matter if an oil executive felt the company was in the oil or an energy business? And, what about a telephone company being in a telephone or communications business, a movie studio being in the movie or entertainment business or a cosmetic company being in the cosmetic or "youth enhancement" business? Look at how the AAA changed and went once its executives decided they were in the travel and tourist business not just the roadside service business. Why should it be any different for us in education? So, what business are we in?

Suppose, as an example, we were a performing pianist or a research chemist. Would be see ourselves as a performers or researchers thrown into the classroom to justify our presence on campus as well as our salaries, or as teachers of piano or chemistry, or as teachers of music or science, or as educators here to "provide students the hope and faith that they have the ability to weave their own dream catchers?" How would we shift our thinking, change our attitudes, alter our perceptions, develop our techniques, allocate our time and energy and attention, set our priorities, modify our performances as we danced along this progression of identities and beliefs and perceptions?

This is why I think each of us consciously ought to give serious thought to the question of what business we're in.

Make it a good day.


Louis Schmier  (912-333-5947)
Department of History                      /~\    /\ /\
Valdosta State University          /^\    /   \  /  /~ \     /~\__/\
Valdosta, Georgia 31698           /   \__/     \/  /     /\ /~      \
                            /\/\-/ /^\___\______\_______/__/_______/^\
                          -_~     /  "If you want to climb mountains, \ /^\
                             _ _ /      don't practice on mole hills" -\____

Return to the Random Thoughts of Louis Schmier
Return to Arbor Heights Elementary School