The student as customer

And just to follow up on the earlier post on business tools and education: let’s talk about the metaphor of student as customer.

I think there is some power to this metaphor, but I offer a specific reading: Let’s think of our “business” (education) as akin to another business–a fitness center (think of us as a fitness center for the brain).

So to extend the metaphor: I can join a gym. I can join two or three. I can pay money to belong to those gyms (like tuition). But it doesn’t matter how much I pay or how many gyms I belong to, unless I actually ACTIVELY PARTICIPATE at the gym.

So–back to education: We at times hear the statement, “I paid for this class–I deserve (fill in the blank).

Well, yes–you paid for this class. What you deserve is the opportunity to learn, and what is required is active participation in the learning. Neither type of fitness, physical or mental, is passive–there is no osmosis of fitness by hanging out at the gym, and while there could be an argument made about mental fitness osmosis (hang around smart people who talk about their topic and it might actually rub off on you), learning only really takes place by activity, just like physical fitness.

So yes–a student is a customer, and we provide a service. But the relationship between “customer” and “business” in education is not like Starbucks or Target or Best Buy or Apple.

We are the “Y” of the mind, and unless you climb on the treadmill or lift the weights, nothing will happen. And unless “customers” of education take an active role in the learning process (and the weights are just as heavy and the treadmill is set at a pretty high incline and quick pace), nothing much will happen.

The “business” of mental fitness? Happy to be a part of that business.