Education in the United States is mainly provided by the public sector, with control and funding coming from three levels: state, local, and federal, in that order. A child education is the biggest assets that a American society has, education has always be the cornerstone to any great society. Beauty, we have been reminded many times, is in the eye of the beholder, and so is education reform. Reforming anything goes far beyond improving it because reform demands fundamental change, not mere tweaking. The notions of education reform spread across an incredible spectrum of opinion from children being in a literally “unschooled” educational context to children being in highly structured schools with explicit standards in every aspect of their educational experience. For some, education reform means incorporating technology into children’s education in every possible way. For others education reform means eschewing technology in favor of developing what we term. For still others education reform calls for incorporating a religious orientation into children’s education with the potential for the wide variety of religious orientations that characterize American society. The possibilities are endless. So education reform obviously has no universally accepted meaning. Conceptions of education reform spring from the complex interactions of the values, experiences, observations and opinions of each one of us. Here in Shelby County Tennessee we have the opportunity to shape education and improve our community and make a major impact on our local economy for years to come. But we have spent millions of tax payer dollars to find a way not to improve education, because of consolidation and being uneducated about the real facts. We have been misled down roads of no return because of people that are supposed to be leading our community and look out for the wellbeing of the children and the children have been an afterthought of this process.
Education reform is a hard-to-achieve goal for many who feel American public education isn’t what it ought to be even if they can’t quite nail down concrete solutions and a threat to lovers of the status quo. Adherents to the status quo are obvious opponents of education reform. Genuine education reform is also stymied simply because there is such a broad spectrum of conflicting opinions about just what education reform ought to be. Opposition to education reform is ever more formidable today because the education establishment has morphed into an education-industrial complex of considerable dimension with the electronics and pharmaceutical industries added to the others that produce supplies for schools or have an influence on them, the rise of powerful teacher unions plus ever larger bureaucracies at every level of government, and interest groups with agendas that impact education. The sole essential element in education is the teacher, the key to significant education reform. In the deepest sense, nothing else really matters, not even a school building! Obviously wind, snow, sleet, rain, extreme cold or heat and other external problems or dangers make the importance of secure school building a no-brainer. However, as happens from time to time, if classes have to be held outdoors al fresco in benign weather, students’ education will still move forward when they have the guidance of a competent teacher. Any adult and any savvy student knows that the first thing they look for when they want to learn something is a talented teacher. They might desire all the other trappings of their educational experience: buildings, equipment, etc., but if there is a choice to be made between a competent, talented teacher and any other element in education, the choice will always be for the competent teacher. Education reform requires enrichment of each teacher’s intellectual competence. Education reform also requires putting classroom teachers where they belong, at the center of American public education, with the administration and the rest of the education establishment serving as assistants to the teachers in carrying out their all-important classroom duties.
Educational administration is the most burdensome weight on American public education, the part of the establishment that stands most in the way of education reform. The three basic paths to education administration are: 1) promotion of successful athletic coaches; 2) promotion of highly successful classroom teachers; 3) unsuccessful classroom teachers working their way into administration through the required courses in educational administration that will lead to official state certification in administration. And, of course, the old boy network plays a significant role in smoothing those three paths for their favorite buddies. None of those paths comes close to being an ideal means to choose administrators, but even if any of those paths does sometimes produce a competent administrator, that shouldn’t mask an unspoken reality: administrators in general are less competent to do their assigned job; administering, than teachers are to do theirs: teaching. This is an inherently unhealthy situation: the less competent and more highly paid to boot exercising authority over the more competent. Proposals for education reform virtually never recognize, let alone attempt to address, this severe problem. Attempting education reform without scrapping the prevailing top-down false industrial model of education, with teachers as assembly line workers on a factory floor, supervised by less-than-competent administrators, is fatuous.
A favorite mantra of the education establishment has been: “We don’t teach subjects; we teach children.” That, in a nutshell, is an unconscious confession of a key weakness of American public education: the exaltation of methodology over content. With vigorous education reform, professional educators will be able to turn away from their enfeebling mantra: “We don’t teach subjects; we teach children “and proclaim “we teach subjects to children.” Logically, content — that is subject-matter — is at the center of all education, but without thorough education reform, the American education establishment will continue to ignore this essential reality, focusing instead on methodology, how subjects are taught. Content obviously changes over time, with some aspects changing rapidly with new developments and discoveries, but the underlying aspects have staying power, reaching over decades and even centuries or millennia. Changes in content are likely to be an evolution from older knowledge. Newton and other noted intellects, when praised for their great discoveries, have said that their discoveries were possible because they “stood on the shoulders of giants.” Methodology changes rapidly, descending into education faddism. It is generally imposed top-down on teachers and is fueled not only by theorists in schools of education but also by commercial education interests book publishers, for instance for whom ever changing methodologies are a choice means to fatten their bottom lines. Education reform requires a mastery of content with methodologies that don’t water down that content or fritter away classroom time so that the content gets lost in the process.
Schools are the designated vehicles through which the society arranges to perpetuate, and hopefully improve, itself. The schools are expected to provide a continuous flow of citizens prepared with the knowledge, skills and values regarded as necessary and desirable. When education reform is deemed important, society looks to the schools to provide it. Unfortunately, schools are no more eager for education reform than are police departments for police reform. Since reform requires fundamental change, not just mere tweaking, the potential pain engendered by reform makes self-reform unlikely. Theoretically, parents might be looked upon as likely spearheads for education reform, and there are indeed a fair number who throw themselves into the fray, but the majority doesn’t. The reasons are many, and not hard to understand. The most basic is that most parents are usually satisfied with the education their children receive. The parents are likely to have received a highly similar education; one tailored to American culture, and sees no need for fundamental change. Many parents don’t want to rock the boat, fearing that outspokenness on their part could bring retribution upon their children, either from the schools themselves or from the satisfied majority. Some parents are in awe of any governmental authority, while others have never learned the job of parenting and/or just don’t care. In the current economy there are many parents who do care but who are enmeshed in long, involved work schedules that preclude them from getting involved in education reform. The impetus for education reform will come first from dedicated parents who can recognize what the problems are and are willing to take steps to deal with them.
American society needs education reform. To say it truly wants education reform is more problematical because American culture resists the rigorous education that prevails in the schools of our worldwide competitors from Ireland through to Japan. As a society built on immigration, America has been a proverbial melting pot, flawed perhaps in various ways, but a rich amalgam, nevertheless, and one that has blessed the world through the dynamic national personality that developed here. Throughout its history America has been the beneficiary of a brain drain from foreign shores to our country, the most spectacular probably having been the towering intellect of Albert Einstein, along with scores of other great intellects who fled the moral insanity of Nazi Germany. Now, however, the positive (for America) brain drain has gone into reverse, with an outflow, a brain drain from America back to the old world, driven in no small part by America’s broken public education, a system sorely in need of education reform. The question our nation must face is: Do we have not just the will to change, but the energy to do it!
Education reform should produce an ideal program, but what does that mean an ideal program? A little reflection should remind us that since children obviously vary in countless ways particularly by interest, ability and personality — what’s ideal for one child may well not be ideal for another. So education reform must take these and sundry other differences into account. Yet, as a nation with a large and diverse land, education reform also demands that the nation must have a common core so that we can all talk to each other. America’s motto “e pluribus unum” one from many” epitomizes this need, this great American ideal. Education reform demands that we have both a core curriculum — an American standard that joins us all together and an additional program suited to each individual so that all children can develop their abilities and interests to the benefit of themselves and their families, producing a strong, prosperous society that is both diverse and united. Unfortunately, education reform gets deflected, even subverted, through supporting and adopting false solutions. Support of false solutions is largely sincere, but sincerity won’t make the solutions better, and some of the support is self-serving. For example, small classes are extolled almost universally as the ideal for classroom effectiveness in the popular mind, the sine qua none of education reform. Because class size governs the number of teachers needed in a school, it becomes the most significant element in the school budget. When small class sizes are mandated across the board, costs rise precipitously while not necessarily increasing educational effectiveness. The problem is that America has lulled itself into confusing the comfort factor of small classes with educational need.
•Small classes are needed when children are very young: the younger the children, the smaller the classes necessary.
•Small classes are needed for children with particular problems: intellectual, emotional, behavioral, and physical.
•Larger classes are desirable for the most intellectually gifted students, who are afforded the opportunity for the interchange of ideas with each other.
Education reform would bring rationality to the fore, adjusting class sizes to the needs and capacities of the students, and other relevant factors, such as safety in laboratories, etc.
The first step in achieving real education reform is a sober recognition of the phalanx of opposing forces — a virtual Great Wall of China: teacher and administrator unions and associations as well as a variety of other professional education associations who see education reform as a threat to their personal and professional comfort; the plethora of commercial interests who fear education reform would disrupt their profits as suppliers to schools; laws on the local, state and national levels designed to thwart real/true substantive education reform; apathy on the part of too many citizens; an American cultural resistance to any substantive change in the way schools are structured and operated. After recognizing the forces opposing education reform, we can then turn to the avenues actually open now to work for change. The home school movement and the charter school movement, along with magnet schools, are current realities that can and must be built upon. In some instances, there has been momentum towards enriching the teacher base through having qualified professionals join teaching staffs. There has also been at least some move towards allowing parents a wider choice through vouchers, however limited at present, a small step toward the goal of recognizing a free education as an entitlement that belongs to children, not to a school bureaucracy. Now that would be real education reform!
The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States, a set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility achieved through hard work. In the definition of the American Dream by James Truslow Adams in 1931, “life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement” regardless of social class or circumstances of birth. The idea of the American Dream is rooted in the United States Declaration of Independence which proclaims that “all men are created equal” and that they are “endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights” including “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” In the last few years we have seen The American Dream, as fallen apart cause of our lack of morals. Not cause of different religions or skin color, but because we have failed to remember what made this nation great hard work, a real fair chance at opportunity. We have lost ideal of what it takes to be an American. Some my ancestors came here in chains, some came here from the inland of Sicily and Ireland. I stand on the shoulders of my family.
“I am standing on the shoulders of the ones who came before me
I am stronger for their courage; I am wiser for their words
I am lifted by their longing for a fair and brighter future
I am grateful for their vision, for their toiling on this Earth” by Joyce Johnson Rouse.
I have pray that I have honored my ancestors with my work and what I have contribute to this world. I must make America brighter for children and grand-children so some day they can remember who they are and stand up straight. To their cost, American conservatives have forgotten Winston Churchill’s famous distinction between left and right—that the left favors the line, the right the ladder. Democrats do indeed support policies that encourage voters to line up for entitlements—policies that often have the unintended consequence of trapping recipients in dependency on the state. Republicans need to start reminding people that conservatism is about more than just cutting benefits. It’s supposed to be about getting people to climb the ladder of opportunity and giving a fair chance to pull you up by your boot straps.Inequality and social immobility are, of course, related. But they’re not the same, as liberals often claim. Let’s start with inequality. It’s now well known that in the mid-2000s the share of income going to the top 1 percent of the population returned to where it was in the days of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby. The average income of the 1 percent was roughly 30 times higher than the average income of everyone else. The financial crisis reduced the gap, but only slightly—and temporarily. That is because the primary (and avowed) aim of the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy since 2008 has been to push up the price of assets. Guess what? The rich own most of these. To be precise, the top 1 percent owns around 35 percent of the total net worth of the United States—and 42 percent of the financial wealth. (Note that in only one other developed economy does the 1 percent own such a large share of wealth: Switzerland.) By restoring the stock market to where it was back before the crisis, the Fed has not achieved much of an economic recovery. But it has brilliantly succeeded in making the rich richer,and their kids. According to Credit Suisse, around a third of the world’s thousand or so billionaires in 2012 were American. But of these, just under 30 percent were not self-made—a significantly higher proportion than for Australia and the United Kingdom. In other words, today an American billionaire is more likely to have inherited his or her wealth than a British one is.
The American Dream has become a nightmare of social stasis. According to research by Pew, just under 60 percent of Americans raised in the top fifth of incomes end up staying in the top two fifths; a fractionally higher proportion of those born in the bottom fifth—60.4 percent—end up staying in the bottom two fifths. This is the America so vividly described by Charles Murray in his bestselling book Coming Apart. At one end of the social scale, living in places with names like “Belmont,” is Murray’s “cognitive elite” of around 1.5 million people. They and their children dominate admissions to the country’s top colleges. They marry one another and cluster together in fewer than a thousand exclusive neighborhoods the enclaves of wealth that Murray calls the SuperZips.
At the other end, there are places like “Fishtown,” where nobody has more than a high school diploma; a rising share of children live with a single parent, often a young and poorly educated “never-married mother.” Not only has illegitimacy risen in such towns, so has the share of men saying they are unable to work because of illness or disability or who are unemployed or who work fewer than 40 hours a week. Crime is rampant; so is the rate of incarceration. In other words, problems that used to be disproportionately associated with African-American communities are now endemic in the trailer parks and subprime slums inhabited by poor whites. You get born there; you stay there—unless you get sent to jail.
What has gone wrong? American liberals argue that widening inequality inevitably causes falling social mobility. This was what Alan Krueger, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, had in mind back in January, when he came up with the “Great Gatsby Curve,” showing that more unequal countries have less social mobility. (Hang on, wasn’t Gatsby a self-made bootlegger?) But to European eyes, this is also a familiar story of poverty traps created by well-intentioned welfare programs. Consider the case highlighted by Gary Alexander, Pennsylvania’s former secretary of public welfare. A single mom with two young kids is better off doing a part-time job for just $29,000—on top of which she receives $28,327 in various benefits—than if she accepts a job that pays $69,000, on which she would pay $11,955 in taxes. Another good example is the growth in the number of Americans claiming Social Security disability benefits. Back in the mid 1980s, little more than 1.5 percent of the population received such benefits; today it’s nearly 3.5 percent. Nor (as used to be the case) are the recipients mainly elderly. Around 6 percent of the population aged between 45 and 54—my age group—are SSDI beneficiaries. Payments to disabled workers average $1,130 a month, which works out as $13,560 a year—just $2,000 less than a full-time wage at the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour.
Maybe we really are unhealthier than we were 30 years ago, though the data on life expectancy tell a different story. Maybe work really has got more physically demanding, though the shift from manufacturing to services also suggests otherwise. The more credible possibility is that it has become easier for the mildly unwell or unfit to get classified as disabled and to opt for idle poverty over working poverty, which pays only slightly better and means working with that niggling backache or mild depression. Significantly, after two years on disability benefit, you qualify for Medicare, swelling the ever-growing number of beneficiaries of the federal government’s most expensive welfare program. Right now, federal spending on health care, according to the Congressional Budget Office, is around 5 percent of GDP, but it is forecast to double by the 2040s. Needless to say, this reflects the great demographic shift that is inexorably driving up the share of seniors in the population. But consider how the combination of an aging population and welfare programs is working to reduce the resources available to young people. According to the Urban Institute, the current share of federal spending on the young is around 10 percent, compared with the 41 percent that goes on the non-child portions of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Per capita government spending—including state and local budgets—is roughly double for the elderly what it is for children. Perhaps not surprisingly, the child poverty rate is more than double the poverty rate for seniors. Ask yourself: how can social mobility possibly increase in a society that cares twice as much for Grandma as for Junior? The only mystery that remains is why this generational conflict has not yet become a serious issue in American politics. Bafflingly, young voters still tend to line up with the very organizations that seem most intent on ratcheting up the future liabilities of government (not to mention the teenage unemployment rate)—notably the public-sector unions.
Writing in 1960, the economist Friedrich Hayek made a remarkable prediction about the ultimate consequences of the welfare state. “Most of those who will retire at the end of the century,” he wrote, “will be dependent on the charity of the younger generation. And ultimately not morals but the fact that the young supply the police and the army will decide the issue: concentration camps for the aged unable to maintain themselves are likely to be the fate of an old generation whose income is entirely dependent on coercing the young.” Hayek was right that by 2000 the baby boomers would expect the young to bear the rising costs of their protracted and generously funded retirements. Almost alone among postwar economists, he saw the generational conflict implied by the welfare state. But he was wrong about how the younger generation would react. Far from rounding up the old and putting them in camps, it is the young who are the docile victims. One possible explanation for this docility lies in the other main reason for declining social mobility: the disastrous failure of American high schools in the places like Murray’s imaginary Fishtown. Despite a tripling of per-pupil expenditure in real terms, American secondary education is failing. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, three quarters of U.S. citizens between the ages of 17 and 24 are not qualified to join the military because they are physically unfit, have criminal records, or have inadequate levels of education. A third of high school graduates fail the mandatory Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. Two fifths of students at four-year colleges need to take remedial courses to relearn what they failed to master in high school. In international comparison, the United States is now somewhere in the middle of the league table for mathematical aptitude at age 15. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s most recent Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) study was damning: in math, the gap between the teenagers in the Shanghai district of China and the United States is as large as the gap between American teenagers and Albanians.
But the real shocker is the differential between rich and poor kids. At the ages of 4 to 5, children from the poorest fifth of homes are already 21.6 months behind children from the richest homes in the U.S., compared with 10.6 months in Canada. The proportion of 15-year-olds who are functionally illiterate (below level 2 in PISA tests) is 10.3 percent in Canada. In the U.S. it is 17.6 percent. And students from the highest social-class groups are twice as likely to go to college than those from the lowest classes. Meanwhile, there are disturbing signs that America’s elite educational institutions are reverting to their old role as finishing schools for the children of a hereditary elite—the role they played back when F. Scott Fitzgerald was partying at Princeton. In a disturbing critique of Ivy League admissions policies, the editor of the American Conservative, Ron Unz, recently pointed out a number of puzzling anomalies. For example, since the mid-1990s Asians have consistently accounted for around 16 percent of Harvard enrollments. At Columbia, according to Unz, the Asian share has actually fallen from 23 percent in 1993 to below 16 percent in 2011. Yet, according to the U.S. census, the number of Asians aged between 18 and 21 has more than doubled in that period. Moreover, Asians now account for 28 percent of National Merit Scholarship semifinalists and 39 percent of students at CalTech, where admissions are based purely on academic merit. Perhaps those in charge of Ivy League admissions have good reasons for their decisions. Perhaps it is right that they should do more than simply pick the most academically talented and industrious students who apply. But the possibility cannot be rejected out of hand that, whatever their intentions, the net effect of their pursuit of “diversity” is in fact to reduce yet further this country’s once unique social mobility. Nor can we dismiss the hypothesis that the “legacy” system may be the key here, as the cognitive elite discreetly rig the game in favor of their offspring with well-timed benefactions.
To turn The American Dream around and place America back at the head of the class we need to truly begin to educate the people. Invest in the American family and its people. Every night I pray that God can please help rebuild this great nation and return give us back our pride, dignity and hope for a better future for The United States of America! God Speed!
America is facing many problems, leading to a downward spiral towards economic collapse and colonialism (by foreign control). Most Americans are oblivious of the facts, but need to know them if we are ever to recover as a nation. Here are just ten problems America is currently facing. Be warned–this list may shock you!
1. Our Pledge of Allegiance states we are “one nation under God” therefore if someone is offended by the word God that isn’t our problem: it’s theirs! We aren’t asking anyone to accept our ways, but one person’s problem is only one person’s problem, not the rest of society.
2. Thanks to NAFTA many of our other trading partners have relocated facilities to Mexico to circumvent other trade agreements with the U.S.
3. Illegal immigrants in the U.S. have increased to 12 million today from 3.9 million in 1993, accounting for an overall increase of over 300 percent.
4. Thanks to the WTO, since 1993 we have lost jobs: 561,000 in computer and electronic products; 153,000 in apparel and accessories; 139,000 in administrative support services; and 128,000 in professional, scientific and technical services just to name a few. (Numbers current as of 2008)
5. We give China free reign to enter our county to sell its products to us as cheaply as they want until we can’t compete in our own country due to Chinese mercantilism.
6. The U.S-China trade deficit is exploding, and more job losses are forecast every year.
7. American manufacturing has lost over 3 million jobs in the past 10 years as U.S. companies have also moved to Mexico, China and other foreign countries for lower wages and lax regulations
8. 300,000 American family farms have been put out of business. Overall, net farm incomes are down 13 percent
9. States fight each other to the benefit of foreign companies. We give foreign owned companies subsidies to insource their production in the United States. These foreign owned factories provide very few American jobs in relation to their output since nothing is produced in these factories – they are merely assembly facilities that put together imported foreign parts whose total cost winds up being much less to produce. We are shooting our own American-owned auto facilities in the foot for a few menial jobs in foreign-owned car plants. American subsidies give foreign car companies an even greater advantage against our few remaining companies
10. Be Proud to be a AMERICAN! We start becoming Americans again and telling our elected officials who is the boss, and who is the employee. Somehow this has been “lost in translation” and we need to change this quickly. It starts with the American idea of Democracy! , because if it doesn’t then they wouldn’t be in office. This one recognition will start the turn around, which we desperately need in our nation today!
American ideas and products were valued around the world because of their quality that came from our ingenuity & hard work, as well as our values, traditions and customs. America you can’t simply give up on our youth and children. When my generation has left this world we would have been the generation that could have saved and turned this nation around. We must not let other nations act with predatory intent as they currently are now, which prevents us from competing on a global scale. Our “free trade” agreements are only giving our competitors the freedom to deliver their goods to our country with prices deliberately devalued to predatorily put our companies out of business. This has made us jobless – a servant economy reliant on foreign debt and foreign products. It is time we started negotiating new trade deals with these foreign nations, ones that will benefit American workers and American employers. We need new deals that will make it profitable to manufacture and produce in the United Sates again. If we do not, our nation may never recover from the damage we are doing to ourselves. God Speed!
Disparity reflects society’s cultural changes
Single fathers may be younger, poorer and less educated than married ones, but they raise eight percent of households with children — that’s nine times higher than the same amount of single-father homes in 1960.
Those numbers are according to Pew Research Center’s analysis of Decennial Census and American Community Survey.
“The number of single father households has increased about ninefold since 1960, from less than 300,000 to more than 2.6 million in 2011,” Pew’s Center for Social and Demographic Trends said in a report. “In comparison, the number of single mother households increased more than fourfold during that time period, up to 8.6 million in 2011, from 1.9 million in 1960.”
The trend has been ticking upward, what with more and more women choosing to, among other factors, advance their careers.
“For a long time, men saw parenthood as a package deal,” said Stephanie Coontz of the non-profit Council on Contemporary Families, according to the Los Angeles Times. “If they didn’t have a wife to help them, they tended to not be interested or not feel capable of dealing with the kids.”
“We’ve seen a real decline in the number of dads who walk away from their kids after divorce,” Coontz said. Some men have also asserted their rights as parents outside of marriage.”
On June 15, Face2Face Africa, a premier media and events company that supports and highlights leaders of African descent in the Diaspora, will host its annual F.A.C.E. List Awards, honoring women and men of color who have shown excellence in their industries. The event will take place at The Times Center in the heart of New York City.
Sponsored by State Farm and Arik Airlines, and hosted by Eric J. Henderson of the Huffington Post, the night will also include music performances and surprise guests.
Pan-African leaders will receive awards including Carlos Lopes, Ph.D., executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa; Peace Anyiam-Osigwe, CEO and founder of the African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA); George Ntim, founder and president of the African Development Foundation; Korto Momolu, Bravo TV’s Project Runway contestant and award-winning designer; Aziz G. Adetimirin, founder of The Network Journal; and award-winning actress Jackie Appiah.
As an organization devoted to being “The Voice” of the emergent generation of African descendants, Face2face Africa established The F.A.C.E. List Awards in 2011 as a platform to acknowledge, celebrate, and honor the outstanding achievements of Africans and friends of Africa who are contributing toward a more dynamic and advanced global community.
“A component of State Farm’s mission is to help people realize their dreams,” says Michelle D. Hare, multicultural business development specialist at State Farm. “State Farm’s support of the 2013 F.A.C.E. List Awards celebrates the richness of the African diaspora and recognizes the accomplishments of those who have fulfilled their dreams as entrepreneurs, leaders of community-based organizations, and trendsetters in the fashion and entertainment industries.”
Media partners include BlackEnterprise.com, ETV Ghana, Bronxnet TV, and Face2Face Africa Magazine.
A portion of the proceeds from the awards ceremony will be donated to Raising HOPE Foundation for their work with orphans and disadvantaged children in Africa.
All registered guests will automatically be entered into a sweepstakes for the chance to win two round-trip tickets to Africa via Arik Airlines, a $500 State Farm Visa Card, and a complimentary insurance and financial services consultation by a State Farm agent.Continue Reading
President Obama’s Africa strategy has moved forward as other countries invest more into the continent.
President Obama just ended his whirlwind multi-country tour of Africa. Traveling to Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania over six days, his first major trip to the continent included moments both powerful and poignant: The First Family’s tour of the famous slave trade memorial, Maison Des Esclaves (House of Slaves) at Goree Island where millions of enslaved Africans passed through the “Door of No Return”; a trip to Robben Island, the former prison where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years of incarceration for defiance of apartheid; and Obama’s visit to comfort the Mandela family as the revered leader fought for his life in a Pretoria hospital. The historic meeting between the first black president of the United States, the son of a Kenyan, and the first black president of South Africa would not take place though.
As expected, Obama’s trip was chock full of meetings with dignitaries and business leaders as well as speeches designed to deepen US-Africa relations. But his visit, along with Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, to the Ubungo Power Plant holds special relevance to entrepreneurs. It was at that facility — a public-private partnership between the Tanzanian government and General Electric Africa — that Obama witnessed a demonstration of the Soccket ball, a soccer ball that harnesses the kinetic energy generated during play to provide a source of renewable, off-grid power. In fact, a single bulb LED lamp can be plugged into the ball to provide hours of light. This revolutionary portable generator was invented by 25-year-old Jessica Matthews, co-founder and CEO of Uncharted Play Inc., a two-year -old company that grossed $1 million in 2012. Matthews, a dual citizen of Nigeria and the United States, developed Soccket with her partner Julia Silverman when she was just a 19-year-old Harvard University student.
She’s no stranger to BLACK ENTERPRISE. This year at our Entrepreneurs Conference in Columbus, Ohio, Uncharted Play received the Innovator of the Year Award for using Soccket to bring power to rural, off-grid areas of Africa as well as Latin America and the United States.
Matthews represents the type of tech innovators the president believes can help advance one of his major strategic initiatives for the continent: Power Africa. In an address to students at South Africa’s Capetown University a couple of days before the Soccket demonstration, Obama pledged $7 billion in U.S. investment, along with gaining $9 billion from the private sector, for electricity projects to bring “light where there is darkness.” The energy program seeks to impact as many as 20 million new African households and businesses in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria and Tanzania.
Power Africa was the centerpiece of Obama’s message: “Let’s do business.” But he didn’t stop there. He also announced another initiative — Trade Africa — to increase commercial exchanges with and within Africa, starting with the East African Community. As part of that effort, he maintained his administration would negotiate a regional investment treaty with the EAC and work with countries to modernize customs and reduce other barriers obstructing the flow of goods to market. Moreover, he pledged to convince Congress to support extension of the 13-year-old African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which allows Southern African countries to ship certain products to our country tariff-free. The act expires in 2015.
The president has made such moves as China has increased its footprint in Africa. Since 2009, China’s trade with African countries has grown to roughly $200 billion a year, surpassing America for the first time in history. And other foreign countries that ignored the continent only a decade ago have discovered the profit potential in its emerging markets. In 2010, South Africa joined the industrialized growth economies known as BRICs, which includes Brazil, Russia, India and China. As of 2013, the five BRICS countries reportedly represent almost 3 billion people, with a combined gross domestic product — output of goods and services — of $14.8 trillion; currently South Africa chairs the group.
During his trip, the president said: “Africa is home to many of the world’s fastest-growing economies. Sectors like retail, telecom and manufacturing are gaining speed…The world is investing in Africa like never before. In fact, we’re close to reaching a historic milestone where foreign aid to Africa is surpassed by foreign investment in Africa.”
So what does all of this mean for you? In a word: Opportunity.
African American businesses can no longer afford to shun global trade. Ron Kirk, U.S. Trade Representative during the first term of the Obama Administration, told me a few years back that “the United States represents about 5% of the world’s consuming population now. That means as a practical matter, 95% of our opportunities lie outside our own borders…What a lot of people don’t know is 95% of our exporters are small to medium-sized businesses.” In fact, during his tenure, he used the annual AGOA to connect African senior representatives and some African American entrepreneurs.
Although there continues to be great reluctance for African Americans to access global markets due to perceived risks, African government officials have come to the U.S. to seek out their ingenuity. Two years ago, I met with Mpho Parks Tau, mayor of Johannesburg, who came to the U.S. to identify a diverse group of entrepreneurs to help create a “green” presence within the city.
BLACK ENTERPRISE has also covered entrepreneurs who have profited from global exploration, many who have spread the gospel at our events. For instance, former Goldman Sachs investment banker Teresa Clarke, a speaker at our Women of Power Conference, has built Africa.com into the fastest-growing Africa-related website, with about 5 million page views per month from visitors in more than 200 countries throughout the world. (You must read her blogs on the president’s trip.) Critically-acclaimed actor Jeffrey Wright spoke at our 2011 Entrepreneurs Conference about the creation of Taia Lion resources, a company that owns rights to land targeted for gold exploration and mining in Sierra Leone and devotes a percentage of its operating budget to local economic development efforts. Entrepreneur Briggette Harrington, who appeared in our December 2009 cover story on global business, launched successful golf pro shops in Ghana as well as brought a group of entrepreneurs from the country to the Black Enterprise/Pepsi Golf & Tennis Challenge to build cross-continental relationships.
Those represent but a few opportunities connected to the motherland. Before taking the plunge, heed the advice of Rick Wade, former deputy chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Commerce who now heads a global business development firm that bears his name. As a part of National Small Business Week, he told entrepreneurs who want to join the global supply chain to partner with other small and mid-size companies that know the international business terrain to leverage human, technical and financial resources. Establish close relationships with trade agencies such as the United States Department of Commerce and Export-Import Bank. Moreover, minority-owned firms “must fight for a seat at the foreign investment table” and acquire funding from sources in China and other countries.
From sectors ranging from agriculture and energy to technology and energy, American entrepreneurs can indeed gain a foothold in Africa, but, to paraphrase, fortune favors the audacious and innovative.
Ask Jessica Matthews. She continues to grow Uncharted Play while developing solutions that can drive business development and reduce poverty over time. Her company’s next venture, Ludo, is a “smart ball” that uses an internal motion sensor to track playing time and convert it into points in which consumers can donate items to communities in need. Given Matthews’ orientation, it is destined to become an international play.
I strongly believe that more so than any group of businesspeople, African Americans, use links with Africa from a cultural and business standpoint. We must take advantage of new initiatives and emerging global trends to grow thriving businesses. At the same time, we can bringing innovation and entrepreneurial hustle to address some of the continent’s most critical challenges.
Only 2% of women and minority owned businesses break the $1 million revenue mark
One week after the national celebration of Small Business Week, Diversity Business Strategist Shayna Rattler is waving the flag for women and minority business owners. She shows them how to attract and retain lucrative corporate contracts.
Rattler says that only 2% of women and minority owned businesses break the $1 million revenue mark. Of those, 56% of their sales come from corporate clients. The trouble is, most women don’t know how to make a winning approach to earn or retain the business.
Guiding clients on both sides of the equation – corporate decision maker and small business owner to make solid connections to advance profits, gain efficiencies, and support economic development – is Rattler’s focus. As CEO and founder of Supplier Diversity Academy, her speaking and training programs have helped create scores and scores of winning connections to invite new possibilities, enhanced performance, and greater rewards since 2008.
“The list of things to start, stop and keep doing to earn serious consideration and rewards is long, and the upside for those who take action is huge,” Rattler says.
When pitching new business, stop tossing your needle in the haystack with hopes of scoring pay dirt. Narrowyour search for the right decision maker by visiting the “Contact Us” section of the website and finding the right name and department to make your first point of contact.For example, training and human resources departments are good places to start to pitch indirect purchases. Procurement and supplier diversity are good places to start to pitch direct purchases.
Pay attention, customize, and personalize. That means watching the news media, reading the corporate communications, and reviewing the corporate social responsibility report to determine how your services, philosophy, and approach are a great fit before making an approach.
Timing is everything. “The urgent issue always trumps the important,” Rattler says. “A company contending with sexual harassment lawsuits is going to be in the market for training to solve that problem right now.”
Don’t underestimate the importance of your business financial health when pitching corporate contracts. Rattler says that corporate clients will check Dun and Bradstreet and other risk profiles to determine that potential vendors pay their bills on time. This is especially important for small business owners with fewer than three years of operations.
Take care to demonstrate sound operational health, as well. The tools, systems, and staff supporting the enterprise need to be well honed to execute flawlessly. “Be prepared to describe and demonstrate processes and results in specific, terrific terms to earn client confidence that you have what it takes to deliver as promised,” Rattler advises.
Price your proposals fairly to be taken seriously. “Steer clear of being the low cost provider. Be the BEST VALUE and BEST RESULTS provider so you never leave good money on the table.” Rattler suggests.
Start communicating your value from the first point of contact so the benefits you offer your client are crystal clear.
Practice the fine art of follow up. This applies to both pitching the business and servicing the client after the sale. Get clarity around how much communication, reporting, and follow up the client expects from the start, and aim to meet and exceed that expectation with winning results.
Deliver a unique experience that is memorable, remarkable, and worth talking about. In doing so, you earn the privilege to obtain repeat business and referrals to new business.
Continue to invest in your own professional skills and development to bring best practices to life for your client.
HONG KONG – Swiss food company Nestle and French rival Danone are cutting the price of infant formula milk in China after Beijing launched an investigation into possible price-fixing and anti-competitive behaviour in the sector.
Wyeth Nutrition, which Nestle bought last year, said on Wednesday it had been cooperating with a probe by China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and was responding by cutting prices and improving sales and marketing practices.
Danone said in an e-mail to Reuters that its Dumex business had also been cooperating with the NDRC and was preparing a price-cut proposal whose details would be disclosed later.
Both companies, along with Mead Johnson Nutrition Co and Abbott Laboratories, said on Tuesday they were being investigated by the NDRC.
Analysts see the probe as possibly part of a broader Chinese plan to boost consumption of local infant milk products. Mothers turned away from Chinese milk powder in 2008 when infant formula tainted with the industrial compound melamine killed at least six babies and made thousands sick with kidney stones.
China has since made efforts to crack down on persistent food safety problems that have included chemical-laced pork and infant milk contaminated with cancer-causing agents.
“Wyeth Nutrition decided to implement a price reduction of key products from July 8 through 2014. The average reduction will be at 11 percent with the biggest single product price reduction at 20 percent,” it said without giving more details.
The company said it would not raise prices on any new products over the next year.
Analysts said the investigation could result in fines and tougher rules governing imports into an infant milk market set to grow to $25 billion by 2017. The firms could face fines ranging from 1 percent to 10 percent of their annual sales, the state-run Xinhua news agency quoted experts as saying.
“It is part of the whole idea of a consolidation process,” said Renee Tai, a Hong Kong-based analyst at regional brokerage UOB Kay Hian. “It is pointing the same direction of supporting local producers, making it difficult for importers.”
Some Chinese infant formula companies have started forming partnerships with foreign firms to try to boost brand recognition and gain technical know-how.
Foreign brands may also soon have to rely on their Chinese partners if they want greater access to the Chinese market.
The Chinese government has expressed an interest in bringing the supply chain under the control of Chinese firms as part of its goal of reducing the number of local infant formula producers to 10 from more than 200 within two years.
The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said in June that THE integration of the milk powder industry was expected to involve 10 large companies with revenues exceeding 2 billion yuan in two years, according to the China Daily.
“They have to boost local consumption before they can proceed with the consolidation more smoothly,” said one retail analyst at a regional brokerage, who was not authorised to speak to the media.
As part of this consolidation, China Mengniu Dairy Co Ltd signed a second takeover deal in a month in June to buy Carlyle-backed Yashili International Holdings Ltd in a deal worth about HK$12.5 billion ($1.6 billion) as part of a plan to expand its milk powder business.
Domestic milk powder brands want to appeal to the rapidly growing middle-class, which can afford the pricier baby formulas made by their international rivals.
At supermarkets in big cities like Shanghai, a 900-gram tin of infant formula made by an international firm costs between 175 yuan ($29) and 275 yuan ($45), compared to about 100 yuan ($16) for domestic milk powder in lower-tier cities in China.
Milk producers boasting foreign ingredients have raised prices to the same range as global brands in an effort to distinguish themselves from the local crowd.
On Wednesday, China’s official Communist Party mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, said foreign and local players were equal before the law but foreign brands should not raise prices often without regard to the law and abuse their competitive advantage.
“From 2008, some foreign milk powder brands have increased their prices by up to 30 percent, nearly double that of local milk powder brands,” an editorial said, adding if local brands raised standards and won trust, they could replace foreign brands as the favourites.
Internet commentators on China’s Sina Weibo were not so sure. “This is practically forcing Chinese children to drink locally made milk,” said one Weibo user. “It’s really shameful that we can’t produce good milk and now we are preventing others from selling it.”
But analysts said it would be surprising if the major brands took a hit on market share.
“It is hard to believe that domestic challengers are going to take over from Danone and Nestle in the next couple of years,” Kepler Cheuvreux analyst Jon Cox said. “That is some time away because the issue is that consumers don’t trust the product rather than the absence of local competitors,” he said.
A major piece of farm legislation went down to a surprising and dramatic defeat in the House on Thursday, as conservatives joined with most Democrats to oppose the $940 billion bill.
The House voted 195-234, with 62 Republicans joining 172 Democrats, to defeat the bill. The vote was regarded as a surprise, and represented an embarrassment to the House GOP leadership team.
President Barack Obama had threatened to veto the House legislation had it somehow eventually reached his desk.
Democrats were angry about the heavy cuts to food stamp programs contained in the Republican-written legislation, prompting all but 24 of them to oppose the legislation. Conservatives, who had come under pressure from groups like the Club for Growth and the Koch Brothers-linked Americans for Prosperity, cited concerns about the legislation’s hefty price tag in voting down the bill.
Farm bills are typically authorized in five-year increments, but an agreement on the latest installation of such legislation has eluded Congress. Farmers are currently operating under a farm bill from the beginning of this year that was extended, in parts, through the end of September.
Lawmakers from both parties were quick to trade blame for the farm bill’s defeat, which would have set up negotiations with the Senate to resolve differences between the House proposal and the farm legislation passed on June 10 by the Senate. Republicans said that Democrats had failed to produce the necessary votes to pass the legislation, while Democrats blamed ideological disunity within the GOP.
Republicans were broad-sided when the final bill failed to garner the votes for passage, with House Republican Leadership Aides saying that Democrats “didn’t raise any issues before the vote, they came at the last minute and decided to play tricks.”
“The question is: are Democrats in the House willing to govern, and today’s demonstration proves that that might not be the case,” Rory Cooper, the communications director for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., told reporters.
In any case, Thursday’s vote is an unmistakable embarrassment for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and the rest of the GOP leadership, which has seen some of their previous initiatives scuttled when conservatives refused to support legislation sought by the leadership. Most recently, Republican leaders had to withdraw legislation rededicating funds from “Obamacare” to supporting high-risk insurance pools, a pet proposal Cantor’s.
The future of the Farm Bill is now very much in doubt, with no clear path forward on how to proceed. This bill was seen as a vehicle to go to conference with Senate Democrats, who passed their bill in June, and not as a final product, but House Democrats clearly thought that the message behind the bill involving food stamps had gone too far.
Senate Democrats, in statements following the failed House vote, called on the House to take up and pass the Senate legislation as-is.
Businesses fail all the time. SBA likes to throw statistics at you such as a 95% failure rate within a year of operation and so on. (But see the definitive small business failure rates.)
The reasons as to why businesses fail can be many. Here’s what I think. The reason most businesses fail is because entrepreneurship is a lifestyle shift, which most entrepreneurs do succeed in. It is, however, the mind shift that’s an integral part of entrepreneurship that remains incomplete. Most entrepreneurs do make mistakes during the startup phase.
Below are 9 entrepreneurship principles you shouldn’t forget, to help you be more successful.
9 Entrepreneurship Principles:
It’s Never About the Economy; it’s Always About You
It’s easy to blame everything on the economy. The reality is that entrepreneurship has nothing to do with your idea, previous experience, education and training. Although all of these do help you later on.
Entrepreneurship is always about you. It’s about how you organize resources and manage them. It’s about how you market your business and it’s all about your commitment to see it through to the end.
You Aren’t Playing if You Aren’t Playing by the Numbers, so think outside the box.
If you are in business, you have to make those sales happen. The first hat you wear as an entrepreneur, apart from conceptualizing and designing your products and services, is that of a sales person. A sale manifests itself in various forms and doesn’t always lead to a financial transaction. Wooing investors, convincing customers to buy from you and roping in beta testers for your new startup are all successful sales closures.
As long as it’s about sales, there’s a cardinal rule that applies to it: It’s always a game of numbers while you focus on doing it right. The more customers you talk to, the more you’ll sell. Apply that rule to first hires, venture capitalists and everyone else involved in the startup phase.
Needless to say, rejections will come with 9 out of 10 interactions. It won’t matter since the 10th person is likely to buy. Rejection is the fuel that should keep entrepreneurship alive. Are you letting it fan that flame in your belly?
Use Technology, the new economy demands new approaches to business. The Internet has already turned the tables around. So when you are starting up, is your approach going to be contemporary or traditional? The contemporary route is going to pull you towards the rewards of using technology. You’d typically start a website; create a blog, set up social media accounts and one of the many tools available to run your business. The traditional way still holds (depending on your business), but it still plugs itself into the contemporary way of doing business. That is, even brick-and-mortar business models will end up using technology.
Customers Are Humans; Not CRM Entries Customers are not serial numbers. They aren’t entries in your CRM solution or on your accounting ledger. When entrepreneurs come up with ideas, they could fall in love with their own ideas, concepts and product prototypes that they forget that they are selling it to humans with the aim to solve a pressing problem with an effective solution. That process ought to reverse. Find the problem, come up with solutions for it, launch your product or service and then look to serve customers for life.
Ok the story does not end after the sale. Serving customers to the best of your ability kicks in and stays over. In a Sales Process, You Aren’t Important, Entrepreneurs are people too. They have needs as everyone does. That’s where the fault line is. Nowhere is it more visible than in the sales or deal making process itself.
If small business owners need a better conversion ratio in their sales process, they’d have to do the gargantuan task of “removing themselves” from the equation. Your idea might be unique, you’d have invested money in product development and you’d have hired the best people your money could buy. Still, you aren’t important in the process; the customer is. So Just Shut Up Entrepreneur talking about you it doesn’t earn you bragging rights. Nothing ever does. The more you tend to give away in a sales process or while making deals, the more you stand to lose.
How familiar are you with these elevator pitches? For example “We are a edu-tech company with 8 different portals to facilitate online education in the emerging economies. We show up when learners demand better access to education. $8.5 billion in funding, and having bagged 3 prestigious Startup of the Year awards. ”That pitch does sound nice but it’s got “you” written all over it. It’s not personable, it’s not customer-centric and it doesn’t even say how it benefits your client or customer. All it does is brag about how quickly you grew.
Entrepreneurship without Vision is Abortive; Entrepreneurship itself is a visionary endeavor. While your broad vision for the company can change as you grow and explore opportunity, it should have one to begin with.
What do you aspire to be? How do you purport to serve customers as you grow? What, exactly, do you want to achieve?
What’s Your Plan? No, you don’t need a business plan. At least, you don’t need to create a 67-page business plan with financials forecast for the next decade. Your business plan puts your ideas onto paper. It gives you a document to go back and refer to when you need to refocus your entrepreneurial efforts. It’s not etched in stone. It’s printed on paper or it might even sit as a document on your computer hard drive. Change plans if you must. Dump the original plan and go for a completely new one. Whatever you do, print it on paper and keep it with you because it guides you along your way.
Not Knowing Is No Excuse, Most successful entrepreneurs are well-read, knowledge-hungry, information addicts. Reports, magazines, books and countless hours on the Internet are all in a day’s work for the typical new age entrepreneur. It’s actually a pretty simple trait that’s still so powerful. Entrepreneurs cannot rest on their laurels. Changes are the only constant that everyone has to deal with. The only way small business owners can keep track of changing trends is by keeping on top of what’s happening in the world, in their industry and elsewhere.
Entrepreneurship keeps the world’s economy spinning. It’s the reason why jobs are created and new products and services are launched. Entrepreneurship is the sum of all the work that goes behind the scenes to bring us everything we enjoy, use and experience. None of that would have been possible if any of those entrepreneurs behind everything we have today had not acceded to even one of these fundamental entrepreneurship tenets. So now what’s the plan, entrepreneur?
Kelly D. Price