It’s Time to Deliver a New Message

Something’s happened here, over time, and it simply doesn’t make any sense. Yet, it’s become reality and, like the weather, it impacts everybody.

Perhaps the blame lies in what’s become Long Island’s favorite sport: political infighting. Or, maybe this whole thing was meant to alleviate a fear which simply spun out of control and promptly turned into an urban legend.  The truth is probably somewhere in between but no matter. Blame isn’t what this is about.

This is about the truth. And the truth, as I know it, is this: Long Island is home to a great school system. Schools that have worked tirelessly and put plenty of hard-earned tax dollars to work to secure bragging rights on advanced placement scores, Regents Scholarship, Ivy League acceptances and Intel finalists – 5 at last count, no, including that former homeless student?

So proud are we even our media boasts about winners who did the scholastic equivalent of a drive by:  ‘Top Intel Winner Did Research at Stony Brook’ read Newsday’s March headline, about a Michigan teen.

Why then, when we systematically design a generation of students to be smarter, faster and more accomplished by the age of 17 than we ever were – or could’ve ever hoped to be – why do we build them up and, one day, turn around and say, “You’ll never make it here. You better move.”

Isn’t that simply the ultimate mind game? Doesn’t that make us all frauds?

Sure, Long Island has issues going on everywhere you look — but encouraging its youth to flee the scene may be the single biggest problem we face. 

How the concept became a self-fulfilling prophecy is nothing less than a case study in the power of perception. It’s also a brutal wake up call to those who take communication strategy lightly: Please, explain the next play. What happens to Long Island when its future walks out the door?

The message has to change.  Let it be one that shows how much they’re needed – isn’t that why we invested so much in them in the first place?

Let it be a message that tells them what we did right. What went wrong.  Where they need to get to work.  And why they need be better than us.  But, more importantly, let it introduce a new self-fulfilling prophecy — one that focuses on paying it forward.

Jaci Clement is executive director of Fair Media Council. This article originally appeared in Long Island Business News, Aug.16, 2012.

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