What Keeps Ann Fudge Up at Night

The former CEO of Young and Rubicam thinks about her grandchildren and can’t help but be passionate about education reform.
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TRANSCRIPT

Question: What are you passionate about these days?

Ann Fudge: My passion right now is fixing our education system. I have five grandchildren ranging from 14 to 3 months and they’ve all been to public school. I went to private school. My husband went to public school. We split it for my kids. They did part public, part private. And I have to tell you I thought that was a really good approach and in fact, sometimes I wish I had gone to public school at least for a couple of years just for a different experience. There is so much to do in education and so many opportunities and the complexity of the challenge is enormous.

I know health care is sort of the topic of our time. And we will get a resolution to that, but I think people really need to focus on education and our future because when people understand the facts and how we’re getting behind the rest of world, and that is a fact, everybody would step back and say we really need to put a great deal more energy and we need to do it in a way that again, it’s not just education for a select few in certain communities, but it really is a right of all children to get the best education possible. It’s really the future of our country. If we don’t develop the talent that’s going to help our country grow in the future then we’re in huge trouble. I am just all over the education issue.

Question: What needs to happen?

Ann Fudge: I have two things that are very important to me and I want to talk about one and that is, I’d like parental engagement. Because there is such dichotomy in the education of children of a certain class versus the poor and when you have parents who are worried about survival, family survival needs, it represents a unique challenge. Because they don’t always have the time to spend with their kids, so how do we help that? How do we support the poorer in our community so that we don’t lose their talented young people? Because for whatever reason parental engagement is not there. And we know students cannot be successful without the engagement of their family and their community answer, so how do we boost that? How do we reinforce that? And there are a lot of initiatives at work, whether it is giving parents a stipend if they attend a PTA meeting or they help their children or somehow they’re taking a program that helps them help their children with their study skills. But it’s just that whole parental engagement, because unless we fix that we’re going to perpetuate at least among the less fortunate in our society, it’s just going to be a generational problem.

And then secondly it is getting appropriate training so that our educators understand the link between public policy and how they can lead and help in the public policy frame as well as being educators as well as understanding the business of education. So there are programs that are being developed even at Harvard right now to have that whole comprehensive learning between understanding public policy, understanding the financial and business elements around education and understanding the curricula and academic needs to make the whole piece work.

Recorded on September 3, 2009