Stuck at the gate for the second hour, I sit on my plane listening to the captain thoroughly explain what is causing the delay, and something occurs to me. Humans like transparency. Better yet, we need it.

If the captain’s voice comes over the loudspeaker and just says “Sorry folks, we’re delayed”, I am furious. I am furious at the situation, but also about the lack of information. Why are we delayed? How long will it be? Are there any alternatives? My mind is racked trying to make sense of the tiny piece of information I’ve just received. Instead, this particular captain explains that one of his monitors was blank and just had a diagonal line across the screen. I don’t know if it is just a switch they need to pull or what, but that can’t be good for the plane,” he explained. Honestly,” he continued, it would be optimistic to think it’s just a switch, so it will probably be a longer delay.” Now that is a proper explanation.

“There is a diagonal line on my monitor, and that can’t be good...”

The amount of detail he provided—that diagonal line—somehow made the delay okay for me. Well, don’t get me wrong, I was still angry, but it was least I wasn’t angry and confused.

I used to do this in my classroom when I taught, too. When kids would ask me why this grammar rule had that weird exception, I would look it up in front of them and have them see what I saw (there usually wasn’t a good reason by the way, in which case I would explain that the English language just doesn’t make sense sometimes… Hey, we all know it). If they asked me why they got a certain punishment, I would walk through all of the different steps that led to it, including feelings involved, rules, general human nature…etc. I would break down anything and everything that led to this particular student getting that particular punishment. And you know what? When students understand why they are punished, they’re okay with it! Well, again, as “okay” as I am with being delayed for two hours, but you get the idea.

Humans NEED transparency.

Aside from SuitUp, my other full-time job is working for an amazing digital literacy application, LightSail, that gets kids truly enjoying reading. Can you guess what kids love the most (aside from the amazing books)? The data! I kid you not. They love seeing where they are and understanding not only why they are there but also concrete steps that will progress them. Transparency.

If teachers can be transparent in their classrooms and education is moving towards offering both teachers and students transparency through data, answer me this: Why isn’t there more transparency with the connection between education and the job market?  It doesn’t get any LESS transparent than “Go to college to be successful.” There are so many steps from applying to college to getting a job, not even including being successful at that job.  HOW does college lead to success?! What does success look like?!

I was lucky enough to have two parents who went to college and entered the job force successfully thereafter. I could ask all the questions I wanted about to demystify this journey. What about kids who don’t have parents that went to college and/or have successful careers? The kids whose parents work double shifts and night shifts at subpar jobs to make sure their kids are getting a better education than they got to get a better job and have a better life.

Where is their roadmap?! Where is their transparency?!

Hence, SuitUp. Just as my captain explaining the diagonal line across his screen brings transparency and ease to my delay, SuitUp exposing students to careers and helping chart a path to those careers brings transparency and helps uncloak this mysterious ‘journey to success’ kids hear about all the time.

We can’t keep answering the age-old question of “Why should I study right now?!” with “To get into a good college.” We can’t keep answering the question “Why does college matter?” with “To get a good job.” These incredibly opaque answers are NOT helping kids, just as a captain answering a plane full of people sitting in the same seat for two hours at the gate asking “Why are we delayed?” with “We don’t know but we’ll tell you when we do.”

SuitUp is the “There is a diagonal line on one of the monitors on my dashboard” for the path to success.