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A Culture of Obsession

It has been said that it starts and ends with education. That education cannot be the same kind of education that got us to where we are.

In 2015, I stumbled across a YouTube video presented by a high school student that talked about his inability to be valedictorian because he took choir in high school. It would seem that the grading system is based on only the academics being of utmost importance and those classes only had the ability for weighting as more important. This articulate young man describes education’s culture of obsession and is worth listening to so the video is included here.

It is not just academics in school that is the problem. My own family is obsessed with their credit rating. I guess that is kind of important. It would seem that a number assigned to your credit would be kind of important. It is also indicative of the fact that you need more money that you have access to at a given moment.

In a speech by Daniel Pink, he describes America as doing very well financially. His reasons are that our level of comfort and well being compared to our previous generations have increased. Additionally, compared to countries across the world, we have an amazing level of prosperity. Yet there are still many people that are out of work and devalued and this is startling.

It has been said that it starts and ends with education. That education cannot be the same kind of education that got us to where we are. We need a different kind of instruction. A kind of instruction that leans on the creativity that exists in both arts, sciences, and technology.

Free College

making an undergraduate degree or even an associates degree free would just be like extending high school for another 2 to 4 years rather than getting the young people to begin their useful productive lives sooner.

The entrance of Bernie Sanders into the presidential race has thrust the idea of free college back into the spotlight. The popular thinking on the pro side of free college is that it would level the playing field and allow all students to get the advantage of a college education. The opposition says that it is another hand out for those who don’t deserve it and it hurts the free market. They also say that there is no realistic plan to fund this education and that is true.

Where this issue is concerned, I am not an idealist nor am I a pessimist, but actually more of a pragmatist. The actual belief that college is the key to your ultimate success is far from the truth. Since a college degree is necessary to “compete” for the limited jobs that are available and the need for a skilled workforce in any field cannot be guaranteed, it is not a good bet anymore. Furthermore, the colleges themselves say that the solution is even more education. In reality, making an undergraduate degree or even an associates degree free would just be like extending high school for another 2 to 4 years rather than getting the young people to begin their useful productive lives sooner.

Maybe the key is to look at our high schools that are boring the hell out of the average and the above average student and ultimately killing any motivation from the student who is academically challenged. In Finland, a country often praised for its education practices, students decide on their career before they enter their junior year. Exercising the decision making muscle earlier in life would be a far better idea than putting it off until graduation or even beyond.

I always end my classes with students, particularly those that I don’t know with the quote, “make good choices.” I don’t even know if the students really know how to make a good choice concerning their education and their future.

Winter Blues

My worry now is that it will go immediately from cold to blistering heat.

When the cold weather happens in the northern states in the Winter, you can expect that there would be a degree of melancholy. When that same weather happens in typically warm areas, you definitely can get the blues.

My first winter in California began last year at the end of the Super Bowl when my beloved Eagles won their first Super Bowl championship. I returned immediately to southern California from southern New Jersey. The mornings were cold but the temperature regularly hit 70 and sometimes even 80. This year, we have not had 80 degrees since before Thanksgiving.

I suppose that it is unfair to complain but, this is not why I wanted to move to the California desert. My worry now is that it will go immediately from cold to blistering heat. That would be very depressing. One could hope.

The Year of the Pig

I think that a pig is a perfect metaphor for my life. No, it’s not what you think. Over the Christmas holiday, I actually played a game with my brother-in-law and my son. It was called “Pass the Pigs”. It may just have been a stupid little game, but it also happened to speak to a part of my life and my being that I may just have been ignoring. My strategy, no matter how much of a good hot streak I was on, I never deviated from my goal of not losing and having a winning turn.

I have been reading up on Day Trading. This is a post retirement career that has been intriguing me for some time now. The thing that I have always been frightened of is the prospect of losing a lot of money gambling on the market. The more I read, the more that I find that it is farthest from the truth. In reality, it is the mentality and staying true to your plan. You also have to keep emotion out of it.

It would appear that education is the biggest problem when it comes to something like this. I am talking about self education. Traditional schooling will instill far too much fear. Learning, real learning is for yourself.

Schools prepare you for work

Let’s celebrate this school and its desire to prepare its students for life after school on their own terms.

Finally, a school is celebrating the triumph of graduating its students into the work force. This is what schools should be about. This article shows a school bucking the trend of celebrating academic accomplishments driven by college acceptance statistics.

Students in school should go directly into the workforce and earn money. They should find out while they are still young if it is enough money. The motivation for getting a higher paying job will also include information that you can’t get in school.

No one knows for sure if they will even like working in their chosen field. Quite often, their chosen field is not even entirely their choice. Let’s celebrate this school and its desire to prepare its students for life after school on their own terms.

GPA and Class Rank

“I am not paying for my child to retake high school English at college.”

Recently, the way that class rank was calculated has changed in the Coachella Valley School District. This made the news because it “knocked out” some people from the coveted “Top Ten”. The news reporter interviewed affected students and they claimed that they couldn’t afford college without scholarships and the designation of Top Ten definitely gave them an increased chance at the scholarship.

This news story led to a conversation at a local middle school faculty room lunch table. The argued that Advanced Placement Classes should weigh more than Honors classes and certainly more than College Prep classes, which they argued are not really College Prep. Their reasoning is that when the students from College Prep and even some Honors Classes are forced to take placement tests, they are put into remedial classes anyway just so that they can be in the college. The frustration was borne out by the comment of a teacher who said, “I am not paying for my child to retake high school English at college.”

Sadly, we only retain what we are taught for a short period of time in the current model for education and the very nature of these “diagnostic” tests will often have the student come up short. This sad situation was created by our desire to “get the student ready for college” more than it was to get the student ready for their 21st century life. If the low end of our academic offerings are labeled college prep, then aren’t we saying that our schools are only a vehicle for going to college and that “everyone should go to college”?

As far as I am concerned, that is the biggest problem with our system. We are far too concerned with class rank, GPA, college acceptance and the prestige that we feel it brings over practical considerations of schooling. Public education was good enough for the industrial age. It should be good enough for the information age, but we need to rethink our priorities. It’s high time to change the conversation at the lunch table.

The NAMM Show

The NAMM Show is the annual conference for the National Association of Music Merchants. It is, by far, the largest music event that I have ever attended. It brings together performing artists, buyers, sellers, manufacturers, music agents, and music education advocacy groups all under one conference.

Mike and Karen McCausland at the NAMM Show.

It was held at the Anaheim Convention Center and attracted thousands of people. It was just a stones throw from Disneyland. I stayed for 3 days and I still haven’t been to all of the vendors. I have also been to many workshops, most involving education where I still have a passion.

One of the great things that I was able to do was to meet new and aspiring artists in the field of music. I spoke at length with a couple at a round table discussion for the industry. We met an AR guy who gave many insights to those there. I was pleased to meet a delightful young lady from Oklahoma named Ciara Brooke. She was typical of the countless number of people following their dreams.

I will certainly go again to this amazing event. It was well worth the trip.

College, a social imperative

As far as I am concerned, making college a social imperative is a form of institutional bullying.

If you are in high school these days, you are probably more than aware of the environment being geared toward college. Yes, the college requirements are everywhere. They are on posters around the school, in guidance offices, in handbooks and on the lips of just about every teacher you encounter. They have all attended college. There may be evidence in pennants located on the wall.

There are schools, actually entire districts, (I know from experience) where they actually play college or university fight songs in between classes. There are walls dedicated to the students that made the decision to enter a specific college early and even before graduation, some students are feeling left out. If you know anything about student behavior, they want to fit in no matter how much they cry for independence.

Schools have been trying to tamp down bullying in the recent years. Sadly, this was a few decades too late for me. They don’t see that when you push college so hard, you put an enormous burden on those students whose socioeconomic situation precludes them from considering college but they try anyway. As far as I am concerned, making college a social imperative is a form of institutional bullying.

I had a friend share this article. The only thing that I am sad about is that it is a year old.

Brainwashing

It’s time to start treating high school like the education will lead to the desire to learn more of what the student is interested in learning. Yesterday, I was guest teaching a class of APUSH. That is Advanced Placement US History. They were learning the names of presidents. They were getting facts so that they could compete on Jeopardy or take a test. There was very little discussion. They were the smart ones who lacked the opportunity to use this class to become a more informed electorate and more responsible citizens.

AI in the eyes of a Venture Capitalist

Forty percent of the world’s jobs in the future will be displaced by technology that stems from the development of AI.

Yesterday, I caught a glimpse of a commercial that hit a nerve regarding AI (Artificial Intelligence), and a venture capitalist. I didn’t pay enough attention to record the episode of 60 minutes because I was engrossed in an activity that plagues millions of potential geniuses…professional football. Now that my team has lost…and essentially, that means nothing to me…I can concentrate on teams that matter. In particular, teams that matter to my life and my future.

Forty percent of the world’s jobs in the future will be displaced by technology that stems from the development of AI. Since this is being reported by a prominent venture capitalist and they are responsible for future economic trends, attention must be paid. This was not the lead story on the news and it is tragic. Time marches forward and this prediction is over the next 15 years. Far too many people have been sounding the alarm over this and yet, the news either ignores it or buries it.

Today’s students entering high school will begin making career choices as Freshman. These choices will be for college education, because that’s what educators know and by the time they graduate college in 8 years, we will be half way to the replacement of 40% of the jobs that are labeled routine. These students will rack up debt for a degree that is useless in the face of this kind of change and no one is warning them of the coming catastrophe.

As I write this, I have found this article blocked to me and I couldn’t reach it without logging on to their system and emailing this link. The kids are still sitting in rows and trying to become as standard as possible. When will this crap end? If you still don’t think that it is crap, go watch the piece yourselves and follow the links listed.

60 Minutes Piece Most Likely to Succeed

Safety is the parent’s responsibility

If you have responsibility for kids, be responsible. It’s about safety. Follow the rules. It doesn’t matter whether you are in a car, at a playground or at a wrestling event somewhere in America. Rules are for safety. They need to be enforced.

It is always the responsibility of the individual to follow directions or rules that are listed to protect someone’s safety. This should be the absolute truth. It is surprising how many parents ignore the rules of safety because they are willing to take that risk for themselves. The don’t seem to understand, due to ignorance or arrogance, that they are effectively making the decision for those who cannot judge for themselves.

Far too many people object to their “freedoms” being challenged by rules established to have a safe productive society when we have harnessed immense energies that put attention to laws and directions paramount to our own survival…both personally and in society. Texting while driving puts your own passengers at risk as well as others. Those to object to someone telling them what they can and can’t do in their own cars will also probably be the first ones to object to the self driving cars on the road.

The warning sign for exercise equipment.
Warning label on all equipment at the outdoor gym.

I moved to La Quinta, California over the past couple of years. One of the things that I absolutely love is the outdoor gym equipment down by the park in old town La Quinta. Just about 100 feet away from this adult fitness equipment is a playground with equipment appropriate for the kids. On every one of the pieces of fitness apparatus is a warning that states that no one under 14 is permitted to use the equipment. Knowing that kids who are extremely young can’t read, there is an additional warning for parents not to let the children in their care use the equipment. Still, seemingly responsible individuals continue to let kids play on this equipment.

I have seen children who are barely toddlers being allowed and even encouraged to play on this equipment. I have remembered cringing as they lean forward to grab a handle that is supposed to be an easy reach for an adult and the footing fails because the equipment moves. Item number 3 on the red warnings is that the provider provides no liability for the misuse of the equipment. Still, if an injury occurs, I am sure that a lawyer will be involved. This stinks.

If you have responsibility for kids, be responsible. It’s about safety. Follow the rules. It doesn’t matter whether you are in a car, at a playground or at a wrestling event somewhere in America. Rules are for safety. They need to be enforced.