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The Blueberry Story
November 18, 2002

" People only see what they are prepared to see."
–Ralph Waldo Emerson


In the March 6, 2002 issue of Education Week (www.edweek.org), James Vollmer, an executive of a famous ice cream company, related how he once told an auditorium of school teachers, "If I ran my business the way you people operate your schools, I wouldn't be in business very long!"

As soon as he finished this statement, a woman's hand shot up and observed, "We are told, sir, that you manage a company that makes good ice cream."

He smugly replied, "Best ice cream in America, ma'am."

"How nice," she said. "Is it rich and smooth, using only premium ingredients?"

"Super-premium! Nothing but triple-A," Vollmer boasted.

"Mr. Vollmer," the teacher continued, "when you are standing on your receiving dock and you see an inferior shipment of blueberries arrive, what do you do?"

"I send them back," he responded.

"That's right!" she barked, "and we can never send back our blueberries. We take them big, small, rich, poor, gifted, exceptional, abused, frightened, confident, homeless, rude, and brilliant.. We take them with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, junior rheumatoid arthritis, and English as their second language. We take them all. Every one. And that, Mr. Vollmer is why it's not a business.  It's school."

Vollmer concludes by commenting...

"Since then I have visited hundreds of schools. I have learned that a school is not a business.  Schools are unable to control the quality of their raw material, they are dependent upon the vagaries of politics for a reliable revenue stream, and they are constantly mauled by a howling horde of disparate, competing customer groups that would send the best CEO screaming into the night."

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