Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

What’s best for you?

Recently, I penned a piece about respect and dignity. Without rehashing the entire thing, it was about a time when I felt disrespected by a high school teacher who, in effect, told me to go get a full-time job in a grocery store because I’d never amount to anything. Thinking on it, she not only disrespected me but everyone who works in retail…across the board. Evidently, she didn’t think much of people who work in that field…and that’s wrong.

Disrespecting people because of what they do with their lives – other than people who are criminals – is disrespectful of all classes of people. In her case, the thinking was, “If you don’t go from high school to college, you will never amount to anything good.” Even many of the surveys that you see emphasize the importance of a college education. According to Market Watch, a college graduate will make $1 million more than someone with a high school diploma, and depending on the field, that amount may be as much as $3 million. Oh, those poor, lowly high school graduates. Oh, what bullshit are we selling today.

It may be true in some cases that some college graduates make more money over their lifetime than some high school graduates, but I firmly believe that this is just another case of statisticians skewing results to favor something that not even they know is a fact. That is a forty-seven-word sentence that means just about as much as some college degrees. I say that because there are fields where a high school diploma can earn you buckets of bucks. Unfortunately, too many people are choosing to go to college, graduate with anywhere from $37,000 in loans to pay back, and don’t begin to profit until they’re two-thirds of the way through their first year of work.

Our granddaughter went to college and graduated in the traditional four years. She went to work at a pretty decent salary and, after two years, decided that the business world was just not for her. Sure, she had been a great student, a terrific athlete, and obviously a qualified job applicant. Her decision was to go back to nursing school because she wanted to give back. When she came to this realization I haven’t a clue. She’s probably going to earn a hell of lot less money as a nurse than she would have as a business executive, but that’s beside the point. It’s just further ammunition for my argument that high school graduates very often don’t know what they want to do, but opt for college purely because it is the track du jour for today’s youth…and that’s the bullshit part of my thinking.

Not everyone belongs in college. People who wish to become doctors or dentists; people who are going into the family business; people who are certain that they would be great in the field of law, sure, these are people who belong in programs that will lead them to their goals. However, there are others, those who want to go into accounting, for example, who graduate and within five years ask themselves, “What the hell was I thinking?” I cannot tell you the number of young CPA’s who have come up to me in the gym and asked, “What do I do to get into some other area of business?” or “How did you get into public relations?” If you really want me to give you a number, I’d say it’s been around ten young college grads who have asked the questions. The sadist part is that each of them admitted that they still had college debt to pay.

A fellow I know was the headmaster at a vocational school. He gave me a tour of their facilities one day and proudly showed off the carpentry, auto mechanic, plumbing, electrician, and other “labs” that they featured. There was also a cosmetology studio, a kitchen for those wishing to pursue jobs in any area in that field, as well as classrooms to pursue the necessary studies that were integral to the field students were pursuing. These graduates would go from high school to some form of apprenticeship, without debt, and begin earning immediately. If you’ve ever needed a plumber, roofer, or electrician in an emergency, you know well what the cost is. Tell me that many of these people are making a million dollars less than some college graduates and I’ll laugh in your face.

The biggest problem right now is that people are not going into the trades. For every two people who are retiring from the building trades, less than one cardboard cutout figure is replacing them. If supply and demand economics holds true, I would venture to guess that many people who do enter these fields are going to be making a hell of a lot more money in the future. Perhaps advances in building, plumbing, electrical, and other materials are being made that will simplify some of these tasks but the key is still people who can do the jobs. The gentleman we hire to do things around the house that we can’t do is a college graduate. He considers himself a “handyman.” The fellow who mows and cares for our lawn and plows our driveway in the winter holds a master’s degree and owns his own landscaping business. Our underground sprinkler system is tended by a man who saw an opportunity and with his engineering background, jumped at it to begin a highly successful background. Did all have college debt when they began? I don’t have a clue. Did they feel a college degree was necessary? You’d have to ask them, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they didn’t feel the same thing that our granddaughter and those accountants felt…I just want to do something where I will feel better about what I’m doing.

There was a time when I said that no one should be allowed to attend college right out of high school. I believed then, and to some extent, believe today, that secondary school graduates should either work in retail for two years, join the military for a two-year stint, or perform a community service job for minimal pay for a couple of years. First, it will teach them what they probably don’t want to do for the rest of their lives. Second, it will give them a better focus about where their strengths can best be used. Third, they will not waste money by going to college with any idea of their future plans. Seems to me that if the first question a guidance counselor asks is, “What colleges are you thinking of,” they are not doing their students any favor. Perhaps the question should be, “Do you have a clue to what you wish to do for the rest of your life?” At 18, I was completely clueless, and had my mother not asked that question, well, I’ve always said while father may know best, mother knows the right questions to ask.

Read Full Post »

Spoke with an old friend today. We generally miss each other at the gym, but we reconnected today and it was damned good to see him. Fact is, I remember him when his wife was first pregnant.

“Gee, the kids must be in high school now,” I said

“Yeah, Jeannie’s in her junior year, and we’re starting to look at colleges,” he responded.

Since I’m quite certain he doesn’t read this blog, I didn’t bother to ask him if he’d read To Go or Not To Go [January 18, 2017].

“What does she want to do?” I asked, knowing full well what the answer would be.

“She’s not really sure,” he said, adding, “One minute she’s talking about nursing and the next minute she thinks she likes forensics.”

“Watching a lot of CSI, eh,” I laughed.

“That’s probably about it,” he frowned, and went on, “She talks to the counselor at the high school, and we’ve talked with her too, and their big thing seems to be not the courses or the majors, but the price. Counselor told us last week, ‘This is a very fine school…and it’s $60,000 a year.’ “I don’t know, but I sure as hell can’t afford to spend that kind of money over a four-year period.”

Let me give you a little history on this man. He’s a dedicated teacher and therapist who works at a school for special needs children. He does not make a great deal of money. I don’t know his salary, nor do I need to know, but I’m will to bet that it’s way, way, way below six figures. He has another child who’s not too far behind his daughter, so he and his wife will have two in college for some part of the four year curricula. It’s tough.

He told me that he’d read some studies by psychologists and psychiatrists that indicate the human brain is not fully developed until 24 years of age, “And yet they expect us to send our 17-year olds to make decisions about where, when, and what they’re going to do while their brains are still not fully formed. It doesn’t make any sense,” he correctly interpreted.

“Tell her to go get a job until she makes up her mind,” I suggested.

“That doesn’t work,” he said. “There’s some kind of a social stigma, at least in this town, if a kid doesn’t go directly from high school right into college.”

“That’s not limited to this town,” I told him. “It’s actually a great marketing ploy that’s been pushed by the high schools to show how well they’ve prepared their students, and by the colleges who want to keep their doors open by filling enrollment quotas. When you throw in on top of that these standardized tests that they all have to pass, I begin to wonder what the hell is being taught these kids in the first place. I’ll bet that some of those psychological studies about brain development were even written by academicians…and it probably pissed off a whole lot of administrators!”

He just laughed and said he had to get back to the machine he was working on. We shook hands and bid each other goodbye, but our conversation bothered me. When I returned home, I Googled the development of the human brain. Here’s what one study at the University of Rochester had to say: “It doesn’t matter how smart your teen is or how well he or she scored on the SAT or ACT. Good judgment isn’t something he or she can excel in, at least not yet. The rational part of a teen’s brain isn’t fully developed and won’t be until he or she is 25 years old or so.

“In fact, recent research has found that adult and teen brains work differently. Adults think with the prefrontal cortex, the brain’s rational part. This is the part of the bran that responds to situations with good judgment and an awareness of long-term consequences. Teens process information with the amygdale. This is the emotional part.

“In teen’s brains, the connections between the emotional part of the brain and the decision-making center are still developing. That’s why when teens are under overwhelming emotional input, they can’t explain later what they were thinking. They weren’t thinking as much as they were feeling.”

The Young Adult Development Project at MIT adds, “According to recent findings, the human brain does not reach full maturity until at least the mid-20s. The specific changes that follow young adulthood are not yet well studied, but it is known that they involve increased myelination and continued adding and pruning of neurons. As a number of researchers have put it, “the rental car companies have it right.” The brain isn’t fully mature at 16, when we are allowed to drive, or at 18, when we are allowed to vote, or at 21, when we are allowed to drink, but closer to 25, when we are allowed to rent a car.”

So, you parents of teenagers who are getting ready to make the big leap from high school to college, let me ask once more, “What the hell are you thinking when you’re preparing to send a child with an underdeveloped brain off to the tune of God-knows-how-much-money-you’ll-be-pissing-away when the kid doesn’t have a clue in hell about what he or she wants to do for the rest of his or her life?” Are you that insecure that you can’t stand up to the next door neighbor and say, “My kid’s not ready for college, so he/she is going to work for a while until she/he understands what it is he [generic] understands more about when he wants to do with his life.

Are some students more ready to tackle higher education than others? Of course they are. Are their brains more ready to face the challenges of higher education? Eh, that’s open to debate. If studies have shown definitively that waiting a year or more before beginning a complex program of study or a curriculum that requires a certain amount of maturity, what is lost by allowing that childhood brain to develop in the frontal cortex and a few other areas of the brain?

Hey, the call is yours, parents and children. As for me, I’m just happy that we didn’t have to pay tuition for any of our kids, and so far, they’re doing just fine.

Read Full Post »

Is a college education really worth the cost? Ha, you might as well ask, “Can tea leaves really predict my future?” As far as the answer to the question about college is concerned…yes…and no. A college diploma isn’t worth the powder to blow it to hell unless (a) you worked your ass off to earn it; (b) you recognized immediately upon entering the hallowed halls that every decision made by you would influence whether it was worth it; (c) you understood all of the advantages of gaining a college education; and (d) you were willing to put in the effort to gain that degree. Let’s face it, if you aren’t ready for college, it’s a friggin’ waste of money whoever may be footing the bill.

“You’ll make a million dollars more over your lifetime than someone with just a high school diploma,” has been said enough times to make me want to puke. It’s pure, unadulterated bullshit. Why? Because it’s just too broad a statement. If you are planning to attend a state school in your own state, you can figure on tuition, room, board, and fees at approximately $125,000 for your four years. If you attend a public institution outside of your own state, you’ll have to increase that cost to about $175,000 over the four year period. Want to go to a private college or university…good luck…you’re looking at well over $200,000…and that’s the low end of the scale. How long will it take you to make that money back and to begin to turn a profit? Sort of makes you stop and think a bit, doesn’t it?

Yet, despite all of this negativity, colleges and universities pour out thousands, perhaps, tens of thousands of newly-minted B.S., B.A., M.S., MA, MBA, and a whole pile of other initialed pieces of paper each and every year. President Calvin Coolidge said, “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.“ Therefore, if you are insistent that you are going to get a college education, you’d also better be persistent in your willingness to sacrifice yourself and persist as you move from level to level.

What does all of this mean? It means you’d better have a damned good reason about why you wish to attend college, what it is that you wish to study, where the best opportunities lie for you to gain the knowledge you need, and how it is going to help you reach the financial goals that you damn well better already have set for yourself. Wow, gee, golly, that makes the decision of whether you go to college or not a bit more difficult, doesn’t it? Most people don’t really talk about college that way, do they? Well, I’m not most people, and I’d hate like hell to see you piss away one hundred, two hundred or even more thousands of dollars just to get a piece of paper that does nothing for you if you haven’t paid your own dues. Remember, a degree is nothing more than a license to hunt for your dream…and too few of you will reach that dream because you really have no idea of what a college education really is.

I’m going to assume that a junior in high school is interested in attending college. Mother and Dad are college graduates. Mom worked until the kids came along, but decided to stay home after the third child was born. Dad must have a good job because you go to the Cape, the mountains, the lake, wherever for a week or two in the summer…or perhaps go skiing in the winter. There’s the stage, but what about this junior? What does he/she want to study in college? Has he or she talked to teachers or counselors in addition to talking with parents? A high school student I knew wanted to be a doctor…but passed out when he saw blood. Sorry, don’t think that’s gonna work for ya! Making a decision about what you want to do for the rest of your life is hard! I don’t care how mature others think you are, this is a really tough decision for a 16-or 17-year old to make. All of this makes the question of whether to go to college or not even more difficult.

Career decisions or not, college is a good choice for many people, not for all, but for many. There are many fields that require not only a baccalaureate degree, but further education and training, and even internships before one is ready to become a part of the field. If our junior wishes to become a doctor of some type, a lawyer, an engineer, pharmacist, minister, or any other profession that demands additional training beyond the typical 12-year education, then college is a necessity, and expense be damned. If our junior doesn’t have a clue but is going to college because Mom or Dan went there, they have great athletic teams, it’s where the person of the opposite sex in whom you have an interest is going [whew!], then forget it and get a job at Walmart or elsewhere, while you are making some money, growing up, a reaching a decision on how you will achieve the American Dream.

What everything comes down to is that being a college graduate does give one a leg up. Holding a degree, particularly from a prestigious institution, does crack open a few doors that would otherwise be closed. If our junior plays his or her cards right, he or she will achieve a couple of other benefits. Independent living “grows you up fast.” Residence hall living is a world apart from living at home, and exposes you to an entirely new group of people, customs, and cultures…some good, others, eh! But, you, our junior, will learn who and how to get along. You may or may not discover a BFF but you will mature. College teaches one how to learn, how to perform research, how to become a member of a team…or not. Finally, if our junior goes to college and has to work hard to get that degree, he or she is going to develop a feeling of “can-do-confidence” that will last for the rest of his or her life.

Read Full Post »

Birds and Geese

Have you ever watched a large flock of birds’ murmurate? Don’t bother, I had to look it up and be surprised too. In giant flocks they turn as one, swooping, diving, climbing, and banking, as choreographed movements as the best dance troupe in the world. How do they do that thing that can be so mesmerizing to the watcher? It happened to me again this morning. I was sitting in my car, waiting for the gym to open when this dark swarm flew over the parking lot, all but disappeared in the distance, came back again and performed several more of those we-move-as-one maneuvers before alighting on a long line of high tension wires across the street. I wanted to get out of my car and applaud, but there were other people waiting, and I didn’t want them to think that I’m any crazier than some of them already think.

Grainger Hunt, a senior scientist at the Peregrine Fund, calls these large flocks murmurations. They are “a dazzling cloud, swirling, pulsating, drawing together to the thinnest of waists, then wildly twisting in pulses of enlargement and diminution,” he writes. It’s certainly worth stopping your car for, or stopping to watch a video like the one recorded over the River Shannon in Ireland. It can be found on YouTube and it’s worth the watch.

The bigger question is, “Why don’t these birds smash into one another?” With flocks as large as the one I watched, it was as if everyone knew to change direction simultaneously. The flapping of their wings would make impossible for the lead bird to chirp out, “Swarm…to the left, or dive to the telephone pole.” I mean, c’mon, it doesn’t work that way. So, how does it work? In 2010, a group of researchers at the National Council of Research and the University of Rome found that, “Surprising as it may be flocks of birds are never led by a single individual. Even in the case of flocks of geese – more about them later – the movement of the flock is actually governed collectively by all of the flock members. But the remarkable thing about …flocks is their fluidity of motion.” The research team indicated that, “…the group responds as one and cannot be divided into independent subparts.” If this isn’t a prime example of teamwork, I really don’t know what is.

Ah, but since teamwork is the new subject at hand, let us talk about geese. Say what? Yes, I could hear you all the way over here. Now, geese are another example of perfect teamwork. The following is taken from A Gift of Inspiration:

“Lesson 1 – The Importance of Achieving Goals – As each goose flaps its wings it creates an UPLIFT for the birds that follow. By flying in a ‘V’ formation the whole flock adds 71 percent extra to the flying range. Outcome: When we have a sense of community and focus, we create trust and can help each other to achieve our goals.

“Lesson 2 – The Importance of Team Work – When a goose falls out of formation it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back to take advantage of the lifting power of the birds in front. Outcome: If we had as much sense as geese we would stay in formation with those headed where we want to go. We are willing to accept their help and give our help to others.

“Lesson 3 – The Importance of Sharing – When a goose tires of flying up front it drops back into formation and another goose flies to the point position. Outcome: It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks. We should respect and protect each other’s unique arrangement of skills, capabilities, talents and resources.

“Lesson 4 – The Importance of Empathy and Understanding – When a goose gets sick, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to the ground to help and protect it. Outcome: If we have as much sense as geese we will stand by each other in difficult times, as well as when we are strong.

“Lesson 5 – The Importance of Encouragement – Geese flying in formation ‘HONK’ to encourage those up front to keep up with their speed. Outcome: We need to make sure our honking is encouraging. In groups and teams where there is encouragement, production is much greater. ‘Individual empowerment results from quality honking’

“The original version of Lessons from Geese was written by Dr Robert McNeish in 1972”

Thus endeth the lesson regarding murmurations and the lessons taught to us by geese.

Read Full Post »

“Vote yes on question #2 and allow more choices for 32,000 children for a better education!”

“Vote no on question #2 because it has already drained $400 million from other public schools!”

Wait a minute. Why do we even need a question #2? If we vote to lift the cap on the number of charter schools, aren’t we saying, in effect, that our current public school system is failing? And if our current public school system is failing, shouldn’t we first go about fixing that? It seems to me that when the Governor of our State goes on television to support the yes vote on this question that he is admitting that we, as a state, are failing our students. If this is true, the question is “Why.”

I asked that question of my partner/companion/lover/friend/care-giver, and a whole bunch of other things. Juli spent her career working in public education. Her initial reaction was that tenured teachers are difficult to fire. Where you get bad teachers, you get bad results, and good teachers become discouraged by the bureaucratic nonsense, only to leave the profession after a short period. Charter schools, she maintains, are run more as a business and not burdened by much of the bureaucracy that operates in public schools.

Okay, so now I had a couple of directions in which to go. The first concerned tenure and the difficulty posed by such a system. The second concerned the bureaucratic hogwash that those of us involved in any level of education, public or private, have experienced in our lifetime…but in Massachusetts? According to an editorial in The New York Times, “The Massachusetts public schools consistently rank at or near the top in the nation for performance on the rigorous, federally backed math and reading exams known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress.” The editorial goes on to note the problem that occurred in Lawrence, a relatively poor community north of Boston that actually was put in receivership under a law passed by the State Legislature in 2010. Lawrence has made tremendous strides in improving its system. However, political corruption and union troubles appear to pose threats to its continued improvement. Oops, add a third factor in the “directions to take” agenda, and that is political influence and corruption.

Let me first tackle the issue of tenure. Tenure has been around since the Middle Ages as a protection of scholars principally from those who might disagree with them in a rather terminal manner. More recently, it has been defined as a means to certain ends; specifically: (1) Freedom of teaching and research and of extramural activities and (2) a sufficient degree of economic security to make the profession attractive to men and women of ability. Freedom and economic security, hence, tenure, are indispensable to the success of an institution in fulfilling its obligations to its students and to society. This was particularly understandable during the era of the Vietnam War when academics and administrators, particularly in higher education viewed the actions of the government of the United States from widely differing viewpoints (That’s about as politely as I can say it). Even then, however, tenure had another meaning…it protected deadwood faculty members from being dismissed for nonperformance, eg, there was no such thing as nonperformance! I personally view tenure as an outmoded form of protection that is a potential danger both to faculty and to students. The world is changing so rapidly and shrinking so quickly that there is greater pressure than ever before on faculty, students, and administrators to “keep up” with newly emerging teaching/learning/technology and administration of education. If our schools are failing because complacency has set in due to tenure, then our schools will continue to fail until we find an alternative. Anecdotally, I can speak of a number of faculty members who, when granted tenure, refused it, preferring instead to be given five year contracts, renewable at the end of three and a half years. As one told me, “There’s no tenure in business. If I’m not pulling my weight in the classroom, I should not be allowed to stay. This will keep me more on my toes and ensure that I do the same with the students.” It sounds like a decent plan to me. However, there is one factor that still overrides the contract vs. tenure argument, and that is bureaucracy. At the higher education level, there is a hierarchical structure that deals with what I will call bureaucratic bullshit – sorry, no other word for it. The Vice President for or Dean of Faculty is the poor person who must deal with the forms, paperwork, requirements, and whatever other words you might wish to use in dealing with state and federal requirements as they may regard faculty information. There may be other administrators similarly charged with doing the same thing for other areas of activities. Department chairs, who may or may not teach, have the primary responsibility for knowing and understanding, working with and disciplining, caring for and tending to their faculty. All of this being said…

…Our public elementary, middle, junior high, and high school, structures do not have the luxury afforded to colleges and universities. They did have something similar at one time. It was called “The Principal.” This person knew every member of his or her faculty. S/He probably knew the names of wives and husbands, the names of the children of each member of the faculty as well as the names and parents of each kid in his or her school. Today, particularly in urban centers and inner city schools, the Principal (the capitalization of this word is merely a sign of respect) is so strung out dealing with bureaucratic bullshit that he or she barely has time to stop filling out forms during the day, much less time to talk with teachers or students…and this is wrong. Times have changed since I was in school in the first half of the 20th Century, and I know that, but I did stay in touch when my kids were in school. Teachers and administrators back then were complaining about the bureaucratic nonsense that occupied much of their time and I cannot see it as having gotten anything but worse.

Before I ramble on too long, let me close with this: If tenure and bureaucracy are the two major causes of our failing schools and our call for charter schools – and they may or may not be – then let us begin by trying something different. Let’s restructure our public schools to reflect that we will endeavor to ensure that our faculty are first class and up-to-date; that they teach and respect the students…and that’s a two-way street by the way. Second, let us get our Principals back where they want to be, administering what happens in the classroom. Forget this idea of a vice principal whose duties are to be the disciplinarian. If you want a head knocker, appoint a retired member of the New England Patriots defensive line! In any event, get a person in the administrative structure whose sole job is to handle the bureaucratic bullshit that comes from school boards, superintendents, local, state, and federal officials. Let’s take away some of the authority that we have sacrificed and put it back into the hands of the people who are on the front lines, ie, “The Principals.”

Let us find a way to make every single public school a charter school in its own right. Will it increase your taxes and mine? You’re damned right it will, but there has to be a method that those with children benefiting from this new type of school pay a bit more than the elderly or those who have not and will never use the school system. Is all of this complicated? Of course it is. Is it possible? Absolutely. Will anything be done about it other than more bitching and wailing and gnashing of teeth? Nope, because that’s too much work, and therefore, all we will do is to cry about our failing schools and demand that we have more charter schools, thus making those who attend public schools second-class citizens. Gee, is that the new “American way?”

Read Full Post »

Tell me, please, because I really would like to know…are you as sick and tired of this year’s elections as I am? Forget for a moment the contentiousness of the Presidential election, but look at some of the “lesser knowns.” I happen to live in Massachusetts, land of the bean and the cod, where the Lowell’s speak only to the Cabot’s, and the Cabot’s speak only to God…actually, the original poem referenced the City of Boston and not the entire state. The lesser knowns in our case consists of two races in the adjoining state of New Hampshire. The Republican candidate for senate is trying to tar her opponent with the untrustworthy Hillary Clinton brush, and the Democratic candidate is hanging the Donald Trump/Koch brothers’ nasty noose around her ‘enemy of the state.’ Similarly, the governor’s race in the Granite State pits a famous name Republican, who doesn’t appear to be doing any television ads at all against a Democratic opponent who is doing everything short of calling his rival the Devil incarnate.

I find this entire 2016 political process to be nauseating, repugnant, disgusting, despicable, and detestable. How grown men and women can engage in such filthy rhetoric is beyond belief. I suppose that the ‘public figure’ exemption will disallow any liable or slander suites following the outcomes of these elections, but frankly, I’d like to take all of these candidates for all of these offices – one at a time, of course – out behind the woodshed and give them a paddling they would never forget.

I cannot help but wonder if the behavior of our politicians isn’t merely an outgrowth of what else has been silently simmering in American life for some time. When I speak with school teachers at the gym, they tell me tales of kids in elementary, middle, and high school who have no qualms whatsoever of being disrespectful, both in language and attitude toward the entire educational process. Disrespectful to a teacher? You have to be kidding me. One friend told me of a third grade teacher who left the profession after three years. Why? She couldn’t control…get this…the parents who would come in and defend their child’s rude behavior. “Where do you suppose they learn to act that way?” she was asked, and her answer was, “Where else, in the home.”

What has happened to us as a nation that we feel so empowered that we care nothing for the rights of others? Someone gets cut off on the highway. Rather than utter a string of obscenities at the “cut-or,” the “cut-ee” takes out a gun and begins wildly firing. A police officer attempts to pull over a vehicle for a traffic violation and instead, receives two bullets through his windshield from the fleeting car. A fourth grade teacher tells a student that she failed a test and the kid picks up a chair, charges the teacher’s desk and throws the chair at her…and the mother has the chutzpah to tell the teacher she shouldn’t have failed the kid! Say what? Kids walk out of class to protest a dress code that certainly appeared to sound realistic to me, but the principal has to meet with some who are offended. Uh-uh, not in my world. In my world, if you want to walk out, keep on walking, and if parents wish to protest, they can keep on walking too. My school; my rules. How you act or how you dress at home has nothing to do with how you act or how you dress when you’re in my shop. State boards of education, however, appear to have stopped defending their teachers, their principals, their coaches, or any other employee of the board. Are there poor teachers, principals, coaches, and other employees? Of course there are. Who wants to go into a profession that pays so poorly? It is truly a wonder that we have any teachers, administrators, or staff working in our schools.

It’s not only our political and educational systems that are messed up. I saw a T-shirt recently that read, “Why people who wear a helmet and carry a gun are paid so little while those who wear a helmet and carry a football are paid so much.” I may be paraphrasing a bit here, but you get the gist…and it’s a fair question. Now the military is demanding that those who received ‘re-up’ signing bonuses return the money with interest…because the military made a mistake. It’s bad enough that military pay is so poor, but now the military wants to penalize its personnel for its mistake? This is a horror show. Men and women in the military, just like police officers and firemen/women never know when they are going to be called upon to lay their lives on the line. Those in combat areas don’t know if today will be their last, and some bloody bureaucrats want another pound of flesh? What have we become? Where are we going? It seems to me that we have lost our moral and ethical compass. Our priorities are not what they should be, and why is this?

It appears to this old man that over the past several decades, we have begun to use such words as “empowered and entitled,” without explaining sufficiently what these words mean. Certainly, I wish to see people empowered, but with that empowerment comes responsibility and accountability, and that seems to be lacking. Most assuredly, you are entitled to certain rights, but your rights end where my rights begin. You have the right to be respectful and well mannered, whether at home, in school, on the job, or anywhere else…and I have those same rights and responsibilities.

Let us just get this election out of the way. Then, let us reassess what our priorities are as a nation, as a state, and as communities. We darn well better or America is on its way to the scrap heap!

Read Full Post »

Choices…What an interesting word. Are you aware that the average adult makes 35,000 choices in a single day? That’s right; you read that correctly…35,000. Heck, we make 226.7 choices just about the food we’re going to eat in a single day. By contrast, children make only about 3,000 choices in a day. Much of the research, particularly about the food, was done at Cornell University, which is appropriate considering they have one of the best schools of hotel management in the country.

But…once more I digress, only to be pulled back to the subject at hand; in this case, “choices.” I’m willing to bet that without half trying, you could list 1,000 choices you make in a day. Consider your clothing, your mode of transportation, your job, your career, the television you may or may not watch, and of course let us not forget about the food you choose…or not. I suppose we could add the choices you make about what to do on the computer or, if you use a smart phone…oy, let’s not get started on those choices

I’d like to consider myself as a pretty average adult. Stop laughing right now! Okay, so I’m a bit older than average. Maybe I’m a bit taller than average even with my age-diminished-height. I could also be thought of as a bit heavier than average – although I have just lost 25 pounds, with 25 more to go. But here are some of the choices I have to make first thing in the morning: Gym clothing or street clothes; water or fruit juice; a protein bar or some fruit; go to the gym or not; if not, what will we be doing today and how do I dress for it; if going to the gym, is the battery charged on my I-pod or should I charge it while I’m getting ready to go. I could go on and on and on and I haven’t even been to the gym yet! Geez, all these choices, most of which we make without even considering that we are doing so. Are you getting my drift here?

If you remember Newton’s Third Law…”For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction,” then you will, perhaps, understand why we make those 35,000 choices each and every day. Making a single choice influences so many other choices that they quickly add up, and the number doesn’t appear quite as large as it initially did.

Along the line we may make some choices that don’t affect us at the time but that have a huge impact on us later. My decision to smoke for 51 years of my life has now resulted in emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). As a result, my choices of exercise are quite limited. On the other hand, my choice not to get involved in any criminal activities – yes, it was a choice – means that I didn’t have any kind of a record that would have prevented me from getting a security clearance or pursuing any number of professions.

Are there choices that I made that perhaps I should not have? Absolutely. Let me cite college as an example. In my undergraduate years, I never took the classroom all that seriously. That was a choice that, in hindsight, was about as dumb as I had to have been. Don’t get me wrong, I had wonderful collegiate experiences. They just weren’t in the classroom. By the time I got to graduate school I was married, had a full-time job, and truly recognized the value of higher education. To this day, however, I look back at my undergraduate days with some regret.

But enough about me. Let’s talk about you for a few moments. What choices did you make today? Were they choices that affected only you or were the effects felt by others? Were the effects on others positive or negative? Did your choices affect the choices made by others? The choices you make as an individual, ie, breakfast, clothing, etcetera, these only affect you. Supposing, however, that you are the head of a small or even large organization. Every choice you make may affect the lives of hundreds or even thousands of others. The choices you make compound over a lifetime and lead to who, what, and where you are. Your choices define you, and they define how others view you. This latter may not concern you at all, but you’d be wise to consider it. Let us return to you as leader, president, CEO, or whatever title you wish to hold. Your choices now become decisions and those decisions always affect the choices and actions of others. So how do you make those decisions? Do you go with the first choice that is offered and to hell with the consequences? Do you make the choice to go with what will please the majority, even though it may have long-term negative consequences? Or do you carefully weigh what is good for the organization, the employees, the community, and a host of others that will be affected by this one decision that is made up of complex choices?

It’s at this point that you begin to think, “Damn, I never looked at my choices this way,” or words to that effect. Our simple choices that only affect us are one thing, but when your choice has a ripple effect (damn, there’s that word again), well, that’s when things become complicated. If you’re on the top rung of the ladder, the choices you make cannot be made impulsively. Every single factor must be weighed. It doesn’t become a breakfast choice or a clothing choice, or the choice of a television program to be watched. Your choice becomes your decision. Can you live with it?

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »