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Monday, June 9, 2014

JOB CLUB: Cleaning Toilets and Developing Character

Welcome to Job Club. The first rule of Job Club: you do not talk about Job Club. 

All apologies to author Chuck Palahniuk...just couldn't resist that intro!

As now-dessicated rocker Alice Cooper sang over forty years ago, school's out for summer.

But with only 84 days until Labor Day, it's not too early to start thinking about school—and Job Club.

The Grand Traverse Academy has its own Job Club, which pairs fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade students with school maintenance and administrative chores. Job club programs are available in schools across the country, where students have the opportunity to get a taste of the real world by earning money—and seeing it immediately taken away because program rules compel the little ankle-biters to pay rent for their desks.

The Academy's Job Club, featured in a recent Lake Superior State University Charter Schools Newsletter, is a component of the school's "character education" program.

The newsletter explains that upper elementary students have a chance to put their character skills to good use when they join Job Club and are "respectfully sharing in the upkeep of the school's facilities". (God forbid the little nippers are disrespectful during their drudgery!)

The Academy program has students spending up to 20 minutes each day completing jobs ranging from cleaning the entrance, vacuuming the halls and cleaning up the kitchen to recycling, cleaning bathrooms and helping in the principal's office.

To make the experience as realistic as possible, everyone in the Job Club receives a "paycheck" once a week (no real money actually changes hands) . Depending on the job (there are manual labor, office help, and supervisory jobs, just like the "real" world) pay scales are in the range between $4 and $7 a day, with different pay rates for different jobs. 

At the end of the week fees are deducted from the paychecks, including desk rent, insurance and utilities. The remaining money determines each student's grade.

The basic tenets of financial responsibility—saving adequately, living within your means, and delaying gratification of purchases— are important at any age. 

But, leaving aside the fact that a Steven Ingersoll-controlled shell company, GTAS, LLC, has already received hundreds of thousands in taxpayer dollars for "janitorial services" provided to the Grand Traverse Academy, shouldn't there be a larger span between childhood and adulthood?

And the irony that the Academy's Job Club is part of the its "character education" effort is not lost on Miss Fortune. 

Legendary basketball coach John Wooden once said that a true test of a man's character is what he does when no one is watching. 

Maybe, but what about how you behave when everyone is looking?

Who cares how you operate in private, when the result of letting your ethical guard down in public can be much more damaging.

Miss Fortune sees the story of knowing right from wrong when you're alone is less important than clouded judgement in the company of friends who do not speak up to the wrong they knew they were doing.

I would like to recommend the Grand Traverse Academy take its real "real world" experience and develop additional character education programs for its students. Here are just a few:

LOAN SHARK MATH: How To Calculate The Vig

The interest on a loan on the street or through a bookie is called the vigorish, or "vig". It is common to not pay back the principle but have to pay the vig weekly to keep your legs intact.  Any smart grade-school operator will see the beauty in putting money on the street, and just sitting back skimming the cream.

The interest paid in no way lowers the principle. This is why loans are given freely on the street, as most schnooks borrowing could never pay back the entire loan, but can usually come up with the vig every week. This also shows kids how loan sharks get their "hooks into you" if you borrow this money, as you will probably be paying it far longer than expected.

Here's a real-world math problem: a loan shark lends you $100 at 2% compound interest per week (that's weekly, not annual rate). How much will you still owe after three years? 

The smartest kid in the room will soon be sounding as street-smart as any member of the fictional Corleone family: "The vig is killing me and at this rate I'm never going to be able to save enough to get this thing paid off."

HOW GROSS ARE THESE MARGINS?: Warren Buffett's Buffet

With government grants plentiful and gross margins on sales hovering near 60 percent, a school cafeteria can be a gold mine—especially when child labor is free!

Learn real-world experience, like how to ensure your company meets its sales, gross profit and inventory goals.

The baby Buffett who writes the business plan for this project could soon be writing his/her own ticket to a full-ride scholarship at New York University's Stern School of Business.
LEVERAGE: Gambling With Other People's Money In The Wall Street Futures Market

In the United States, we make it easy to gamble with other people’s money—particularly borrowed money—by making sure that almost everybody who makes bad loans gets his money back.

Except when they don't. 

A story problem developed for this module shows how ethical lapses and tapping into a group's finances with the promise of large fee savings resulted in the loss of $2.38 million dollars of taxpayer money.

Wait...that one sounds familiar.

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