Rhee: Today's kids must learn to work hard

Michelle Rhee is Founder & CEO of StudentsFirst.  Rhee was previously former chancellor of Washington D.C.'s public school system.
Michelle Rhee is Founder & CEO of StudentsFirst. Previously, Rhee served as chancellor of Washington D.C.'s public school system. Rhee told CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley, "Oftentimes when I talk to folks on either side of the party line, in terms of policies, they're actually not that far apart. What's driving them further apart is the politics."
CBS News

PHILADELPHIA - America was born 235 years ago, and it is still a work in progress. With most Americans unhappy about the direction of the country, CBS News decided to go back to where it all began: Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

Where the founding fathers met, CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley gathered a panel of some of the wisest people of our time to ask them how they would move the country forward.

Included on the panel were Mary Frances Berry, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and former Chairperson of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights; Mick Cornett, Mayor of Oklahoma City and President of the Republican Mayors Association; Michelle Rhee, CEO of StudentsFirst and former Chancellor of the Washington, D.C. public school system; John Bogle, founder of the world's largest mutual fund company, the Vanguard Group; Arturo Vargas, the Executive Director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials; Matthew Segal, co-founder of OurTime.org, an organization focused on empowering youth; Eileen McDonnell, President and CEO of Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company; and Dr. Pedro Jose "Joe" Greer, Jr., Assistant Dean of Medicine at Florida International University.="http:>

The panel spoke out about the importance of the next generation. Rhee stressed the importance in teaching them about work ethic and discipline. Vargas said 51 percent of California's entire population under 18 years old is Hispanic. He said if we don't invest in them today, the "state can not succeed tomorrow. Bogle is hopeful -- calling the next generation, "brilliant."

Here's how the conversation went:

Michelle Rhee: We've lost the American competitive spirit. If you look at how we're raising our kids today and the culture that we are creating, we are spending so much time trying to make children feel good about themselves, that we've lost sight of putting the time in that it takes to actually make them good at something.

You know, I have two little girls. They play soccer. They suck at soccer. (laughs) They really do. But if you were to go into their rooms today, you would see trophies and medals and ribbons and plaques.

You would think just based on that, that I'm raising the next Mia Hamm. And I feel like part of that is actually not doing a good service to our children because we're not teaching them that in order to be great at something, you have to put the time in. You have to put the effort in. It's about discipline. It's about work ethic.

PICTURES: Meet the panel

Eileen McDonnell: Frankly, it's personal accountability. It's the student, it's the teachers, it's the parents all working together. We can throw money at education, but it falls short when it gets to the home if that education isn't reinforced and continued.

We know that kids at school learn to read from their teachers. But they learn to love reading from their parents.

Watch Pelley's first report: Panel of leaders on how to move the U.S. forward

Matthew Segal: Well, I fully agree that a lot of this does come back to the family. However, the cost of higher education has outpaced the cost of living exponentially the last several years. When you graduate 30, 40, 50, $60,000 in debt, which so many of my friends have, you are compelled to take the highest-paying job possible. So, where do they go? They go to Wall Street. And that is sucking entrepreneurship dry in this country.

Pelley: Jack, you have created more wealth that just about anybody in this country. How do you create jobs today?

John Bogle: The most popular engineering course in the major colleges in America is not civil engineering, it's not electrical engineering, it's not mechanical engineering - it's financial engineering, which is an attempt to beat the other guy at a game in which you ultimately together lose. And that makes no sense.

Pelley: Big corporations in this country at this moment are sitting on a trillion dollars in cash, that they could invest in jobs and plant and equipment. But they're not doing it.

Mick Cornett: There's no customers. I mean, you're not going to expand your inventory if you can't sell the product. And you're not going to hire people if you can't get people to employ those services.

Pelley: Mick, your city has the lowest unemployment rate of any major city in America.

Cornett: That's correct.

Pelley: How do you create jobs in this country? In the rest of the country?

Cornett: Well, from a long-term perspective, I think the comments about education are right on. But from a shorter-term perspective nationally, we've got to understand that government has gotten too big. We take on the welfare of all mankind as a practical objective. And it's just not. Capitalism requires winners and losers. And we get uncomfortable with the losers.

Arturo Vargas: I just want to make sure that what's not lost in this conversation is the fact that the crisis, the economic crisis has not affected every community equally. Unemployment rate is the highest among Latinos. The educational system is affecting Latinos more than any other population because of our youthfulness.

California, for example, the largest state in the union, 51 percent of the entire population under 18 is Hispanic. If we do not invest in those children today, that state can not succeed tomorrow.

Berry: We need to do something now about people who don't have jobs now. Employers say they have millions of jobs, and that there's a skills mismatch. and our people cannot fill those jobs.

I am saying that some of those employees ought to get up off the cash they have and hire some people and train them on-the-job for some of those jobs. We need to do something now.

Pelley: Tell me one thing that is working well. One thing that gives you hope.

Bogle: One thing that gives me hope is the incredibly wonderful quality of this next generation. They are brilliant, they seem to be willing to put the interest of the community before their personal interest. In my generation, we've mess things up. And we have this new generation coming along and I'm absolutely confident that they're good enough to fix it.

  • Scott Pelley
    Scott Pelley

    Correspondent, "60 Minutes"