Monday, December 31, 2012
It reminded me of the concept of "Loose-Tight" principles that author Jim Collins uses to discuss successful companies. These companies strictly adhere to a few key principles, but have a high degree of autonomy as to how the principles are carried out and achieved.
Hope you enjoy the article. (By the way- I got if off of the "Most read articles of 2012" via @WSJ [the Wall Street Journal] on twitter.)
Thursday, December 20, 2012
America is an exceptional country. Exceptional does not mean perfect. We can be exceptional overall, and still acknowledge that we don't have the best approach to every single issue.
Allow me to use sports to make a brief analogy:
Every year, the NFL awards the Lombardi Trophy to the Super Bowl Champion. (One of these years- my beloved Minnesota Vikings will be that team) The winning team is widely regarded as the best team in the league. Sometimes, a team gets on a roll and achieves an even more enduring legacy as the best team of an era. An exceptional team.
Even exceptional teams, great as they may be, aren't the leader in every statistical category. The Pittsburgh Steelers of the early 70's were a dominant team. It pains me to say this, but so were the Green Bay Packers of the 60's, and, even more painful, the Cowboys of the 80's. These teams were exceptional and loaded with Hall of Fame players, but even these teams didn't have the best player of the era at every single position, or the highest rated unit in every category.
We are a great country, but we simply must find a way to engage in a meaningful discussion about guns, mental health, and a culture that celebrates violence. We must be able to talk with each other, as Americans, about making some reasonable changes.
I don't have a specific plan. Quite frankly, I'd be OK if every American had a gun- if it had the same characteristics as a Revolutionary Era weapon. Need a few good weapons to use for hunting? Cool. Some kind of smaller caliber handgun for personal protection? Fine. But, come on already, there has to be a line in the sand.
What about "gun enthusiasts?" What about them? I like to drive fast, I'm a "speed enthusiast," but there are limits on how fast I can go. I'm a free speech enthusiast. There are limits to what I can say. Why can't I be a nuclear warhead enthusiast? People can have all kinds of passions and interests- it doesn't mean there can't be some limits on their ability to exercise those passions and interests.
We outlaw drugs, people still get them. We have speed limits, people still drive too fast. We have DUI laws, people still drive while intoxicated. The notion that we shouldn't even try to place some kind of reasonable limit on guns and ammunition because "people will still get them" is a classic red herring argument. If that's the best you've got- I assume your argument extends to a whole host of laws, limits, and regulations that might as well just be repealed. Right- I mean, why even bother?
I've worked in schools with armed police liaison officers. No problem with that.
I've heard some proposals calling for school personnel to carry guns. Please- no. There is no correlation between a trained professional and a guy like me.
It's not a matter of doing some target practice- I can go to a range and hit a target. Big deal. I haven't hunted very much, and the last time I did I shot a squirrel. So what? I haven't undergone first responder training involving weapons. I haven't pointed a gun at a human being. On and on it goes. It is simply not sound thinking to believe that giving me a handgun and some target practice training will make a school safer.
Monday, December 17, 2012
Sunday, December 16, 2012
"I am certainly not an advocate for frequent and untried changes on laws and constitutions, I think moderate imperfections had better be borne with; because, when once known, we accommodate ourselves to them and find practical means of correcting their ill effects. But I know, also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times." Thomas Jefferson
We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors." Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson was in Paris when he read the first draft of the Constitution- and he had some concerns. "There are indeed some faults which revolted me a good deal in the first moment: but we must be contented to travel on towards perfection, step by step." Thomas Jefferson The Art of Power, by Jon Meacham
We all want schools to be safe, and those of us who work in schools do our best to keep them safe. Schools can't own the problem of senseless violence, often exacerbated in this country by the easy access to weapons.
Read the Jefferson quotes again. And again.
Can we talk?
Friday, December 7, 2012
that once "...someone has reached an IQ of somewhere around 120, having additional IQ points doesn't seem to translate into any measurable real-world advantage."
Note: This is a short blog post, it can't possibly address all of the subtleties of a topic this complex. Please accept these inherent limitations. I'm going to try to make a few basic points, but freely acknowledge that many questions will be raised and left answered. This post will deal with the discrepancy in "success levels" amongst people with IQ scores at or above 115-120.
In essence, Gladwell makes a compelling case that an IQ of at least 115-120 puts one in the 'Smart Enough' category to venture into any kind of advanced studies and career paths. It's not that there aren't some intellectual horsepower distinctions between someone scoring 120 and 150, or 150 and 180, but they "...are generally of lesser importance for success in the popular sense than are certain traits of personality and character."
Gladwell cites an example of the colleges and universities that have produced the last 25 American Nobel laureates in Medicine and Chemistry. Some of the schools are no surprise- Stanford, Harvard, Yale, MIT, Notre Dame, and other elite names are represented. So are the Universities of Washington, Minnesota, Illinois, Texas, Nebraska, and Florida. All good schools, to be sure, but not necessarily elite. And that's the point.
Gladwell argues that to be a potential Nobel Prize winner, you need to be smart enough to get into a school like the University of Florida. That's good enough. He goes into much more detail and makes a strong case for a radical change to the college admissions process. It is a fascinating read. (Buy the book- or at least check it out from your local library)
So, if IQ isn't the predictor it has been made out to be, what else matters? Gladwell gives an example of a "divergence test," which is a measure of creativity and imagination.
Sample question: Write down as many different uses that you can think of for the following objects:
1. a brick
2. a blanket
He then shares examples of various answers, all given by people above the 115-120 IQ threshold. The differences are stunning. Some responded by simply identifying a few common functions, while others provided vivid imagery, humor, and- let's just say- free thinking. (pp.86-89)
Which students have the best chance of winning a Nobel Prize, or making a breakthrough medical discovery, or winning a court case, or landing a plane in an emergency, or (insert a critical issue facing you right now).
Are the most effective people in our organization the "smartest" ones? Probably not. They are 'smart enough' in terms of IQ, but I'd be willing to bet that the things that truly set them apart are imagination, creativity, relationships, and overall character. In fact, highly intelligent people without much imagination or relationship skills can be, um, 'challenging.'
Are the people you most enjoy spending time with the "smartest" people you know? Again, probably not. We may admire someones intellect but, if we truly enjoy being around them, it's likely because of various personality traits- the so called 'soft skills.'
I'd love to go on and on, but will close with a few quick points:
1. Schools must provide opportunities to students that allow them to develop their imaginations and their character. Their "divergent thinking," if you will. An IQ score pretty much is what it is, and certain threshold scores may open some doors and close some others, but it is only one piece of the puzzle. There are lots of other things that are extremely important and deserve the time and attention of educators.
2. We need to stop saying someone who is currently struggling "will be fine" just because we know they have a reasonably high IQ. That attitude inflates the importance of intellectual horsepower beyond its' actual value.
3. This is more evidence of the flaws with the current Wisconsin Report Card system that is used to rank schools, and the entire line of thinking that goes along with it.
Saturday, December 1, 2012
Last night, my beloved Minnesota Gopher Hockey Team, the Pride on Ice, winners of multiple Conference and National Titles, lost to Nebraska-Omaha. Minnesota, the State of Hockey, lost a hockey game to a team from Nebraska. Inconceivable.
The World Turned Upside Down.
Next you're going to tell me that students don't have to go to the public schools in their own neighborhoods, or don't have to be in school to learn- that they can access information anywhere and anytime. You're going to try to tell me that teachers are no longer charged with telling students things they can't find through any other means, but are instead supposed to function more like "guides." Inconceivable.
Logically, I get it. Nebraska-Omaha has been quietly building a powerful hockey program for years, and they are actually one of the better teams in the country. But still. Really? For a guy who came of age when Minnesota was a perennial power and there wasn't a hockey rink within 100 miles of Nebraska- it's tough to take. Occasional losses to the hated team that shall not be named, from the barren wasteland of a state to the north and west that shall not be named, while painful, can at least be understood. They love hockey, the entire state is basically a rink anyway, and they import 24 year old Canadians to wear their hideous green uniforms and masquerade as a college team.
But, there are more powerful forces than logic.
Logically, I get it. Schools need to change. The instructional delivery model needs to be tansformed
A recent post included a clip of John Cleese talking about Creativity. Have you ever watched a comedy show or movie and wondered how much fun it must be to be a writer on the set? Oh, it would be work- but there have to be times where they just laugh themselves silly. I don't mean a quick smile or giggle, I mean side splitting, milk out the nose, 'till it hurts kind of laughing.
I've seen some clips from the d school at Stanford- where students are charged with designing and making stuff. Lots of collaboration, lots of short term failures, lots of 'pondering.'
Neither of those situations looks anything like a traditional classroom, anything like 'school.' At yet, there is learning, there is innovation, there is creativity.
The (Educational) World Turned Upside Down.
Friday, November 30, 2012
Schools were founded when information was scare. Information is no longer scare. There are those, however, who would have us believe that the trick to educational reform is to use the new technological tools to deliver the old curriculum more effectively and efficiently. As Will Richardson notes in Why School?, this idea amounts to "...old wine- or, in this case, old thinking about education- in new bottles. How does this serve out kids at this moment of abundance?" Short answer- It doesn't.
Rather than a process that still places students as consumers of content that is no longer scare, Richardson advocates for using technology as a discovery tool. "...it's about asking questions, working with others to find the answers, doing real work for real audiences, and adding to, not simply taking from, the storehouse of knowledge that the Web is becoming...the emphasis shifts from content mastery to learning mastery."
This is hard to quantify.
I'm all for learning!! I'm all for supporting teachers who are helping students learn- and pulling the plug on those who aren't. I am very wary of the standards, accountability, and efficiency crowd.
Richardson believes that we "...desperately need to revisit the thinking we've developed around assessment that, as Harvard researcher Justin Reich says, 'optimizes the measurable at the risk of neglecting the immeasurable.'"
What a beautiful quote: "optimizes the measurable at the risk of neglecting the immeasurable." That pretty much sums up my fears about where education is heading right now. The standardized assessment and accountability crowd are gaining key footholds by the day. There are voices advocating a different way. The safe way forward is to ignore them, I hope that I have the courage to listen. I want to be among those who are supporting new structures that better serve the LEARNING needs of the day.
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
No easy task. The book was recently given to me as a gift. A few selected sections are included here. Leave it to Dr. Seuss to drive home the point that standardization is not the answer.
Buy the book!!!
I've always lived in Dinkerville,
My friends all live here too.
We go to Diffendoofer School-
We're happy that we do.
Our school is at the corner
Of Dinkzoober and Dinkzott.
It loos like any other school,
But we suspect it's not.
My teacher is Miss Bonkers,
She's as bouncy as a flea.
I'm not certain what she teaches,
But I'm glad she teaches me.
One day she taught a duck to sing-
Miss Bonkers teaches EVERYTHING!
There are many other people
Who make Diffendoofer run.
They are utterly amazing-
I love every single one.
Our music teacher, Mrs. Fox,
Makes bagpipes out of straws and socks.
In science class with Mr. Katz,
We learn to build robotic rats.
We were ...Telling jokes and making noise,
When Mr. Lowe appeared and howled,
"Attention, girls and boys!"
"All school for miles and miles around
Must take a special test,
To see who's learning susch and such-
To see which school's the best.
If our small school does not do well,
Then it will be torn down,
And you will have to go to school
In dreary Flobbertown."
"Not Flobbertown!" we shouted,
And we shuddered at the name,
For everyone in Flobbertown
Does everything the same.
Miss Bonkers rose. "Don't fret!" she said.
"You've learned the things you need
To pass that test and many more-
I'm certain you'll succeed.
We've taught you that th earth is round,
That red and white make pink,
And something else that matters more-
We've taught you how to think."
Good news: They did very well on the test, and everything is fine at Diffendoofer School!!
They did well on "the test" even though they did not "teach to the test." I thought of trying to pull off a Dr. Seuss-like prose but, to borrow a classic line from a Clint Eastwood movie "A man has to know his own limitations." So, I'll just close with "Amen to that."
Here are some lessons we can learn from Finland- oh so close to my family roots in Sweden! C'mon Sweden :)
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
If you're in a tremendous hurry- just watch the last two minutes of his sarcastic rant about how to make sure employees (or students) are not creative. The first 10 minutes or so is OK, but most of his best points occur after the 10 minute mark.
Starting around the 12 minute mark, he talks about 5 key conditions that lead to creativity. It's a section (8 minutes or so) worth watching.
More Pondering Time leads to more Creativity. But, the people who are better at being consistently creative must be willing to tolerate ambiguity for a longer period of time, not to just jump at the first plausible solution. We have a tendency to not like ambiguity or uncertainty- so we stop as soon as we find a solution. Cleese argues that there is a time and place for decisiveness- but most people are too decisive, too early. In the process, they rob themselves- and their organizations- of the potentially better ideas that could emerge if we 'pondered' a little longer.
I'm not going to explain the concept of "intermediate Impossibles," you'll have to watch the clip for that!
This post from Curt's blog was recently nominated as one of the best of 2012. Worth sharing:
Monday, November 26, 2012
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
I interviewed a candidate for a teaching position the other day who referenced the book in one of her answers. Earlier today I received an email update on a book Seth Godin is writing and he provided a link to the books that he used for inspiration. Yup, you guessed it- Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was on the list.
Clearly, these were signs that it was time for blog post VOL II. Right!?
Disharmony. There was a minor difference of opinion between friends, the author and John, his friend and riding companion, on the seemingly small matter of how much one should maintain one's own motorcycle. The author loved to do quite a bit of the tune ups and repair work himself, while John always believed in deferring to a qualified mechanic. Nothing particularly unusual there, and certainly something to be said for both viewpoints.
But they spent a lot of time together, riding and then talking about the ride. The performance of the machine was, by nature, a frequent and recurring theme even though both knew the resulting conversation would not go well.
And, of course, when you discover something like that it's like discovering a tooth with a missing filling. You can never leave it alone. You have to probe it, work around it, push on it, think about it, not because it's enjoyable but because it's on your mind and it won't get off your mind. And the more I probe and push on this subject of cycle maintenance the more irritated he gets, and of course that makes me want to probe and push all the more. Not deliberately to irritate him but because the irritation seems symptomatic of something deeper, something under the surface that isn't immediately apparent.
I could preach the practical value and worth of motorcycle maintenance till I'm hoarse and it would not make a dent in him...He doesn't want to hear about it...And the more I try to fathom what makes me enjoy the mechanical work and him hate it so, the more elusive it becomes. The ultimate cause of this originally minor difference of opinion appears to run way, way deep.
The author later discovers that this 'hands off' approach extends to other things as well- and to both John and his wife. He stops by their house and discovers a leaky faucet. Drip, drip, drip. He remembers that the faucet was dripping the last time he was there, and the time before that. Then he had one of the "AHAA moments:"
It's not the motorcycle maintenance, not the faucet. It's all of the technology they can't take...To get away from technology out into the country in the fresh air and sunshine is why they are on the motorcycle...for me to bring it back to them just at the point and place where they think they have finally escaped it just frosts them."
The author starts putting together conversations he has had with the couple- vague comments like There is just no escape from it... the whole thing... the system. The "it" is a kind of force that gives rise to technology, something undefined, but inhuman, mechanical, lifeless, a blind monster, a death force.
He is using technology in a broad sense- the industrialized society that simultaneously makes our life better and easier while also taking us further from our 'roots.' Some people seem to have a natural inclination to a "stop the technology" sort of mindset. It is an understandable, if not fully logical, position. But there are human forces stronger than logic. (How true is that!)
How many times have you either thought or said that someone else "just doesn't get it?" I've said it a lot. Too often, actually. Others have certainly said it about me. At times, both ways, it's probably been true. At other times, I wonder if what is really going on is similar to the scene described in the book, where the true cause of the argument goes much deeper than it initially appears.
Where the real issue is that we are seeing the same thing, but from different dimensions. We think we are seeing the same thing- because we each what we see so very clearly that we assume it is the only valid description. It is so clear to us. There can be no other explanation, no other dimension, no other way of seeing it. Or is there?
Monday, November 19, 2012
I was reviewing tweets from the conference over the weekend (#NCTE12) and decided to post some of the highlights from Robinson's speech. As these are via twitter, I don't know if they are exact quotes or close approximations. It's not really a 'top ten,' just the best ones I could find:
You compose your life by the choices you make.
We plan as if life is linear, it is not.
The life our children are moving into is nothing like the life in which the current education system was conceived.
We celebrate Independence Day by shutting the blinds, starting a fire, and looking at old pictures of the Queen. (Not sure exactly what he means, but I love the imagery)
Contrary to what politicians believe, standardized testing goes against the principles of economic progress
Death valley is not dead. It is dormant. Right below the surface are the seeds of possibility. It's the same with teaching and education.
Life is a process of creative responses
If we personalize education, many of the problems we have invented will cease to exist.
Teaching is an art form, not a delivery system. Teaching is a creative, artistic profession.
Education is organic. Teaching is much more like agriculture than it is like engineering. When the conditions are right, growth is inevitable. We must create a climate for growth.
I am the educational system for my students. It is up to me to build a culture of creativity.
Every child who sits in front of you is on a unique journey.
Bonus quote from unknown source: Failure, when it's an option, makes it more interesting. (Sounds like my fishing trips...)
Saturday, November 17, 2012
Go see this movie.
If you haven't already read Team of Rivals, read it.
No lines to see Lincoln, long lines to catch the Twilight movie. I have nothing against pure entertainment movies, but still, on some level, a little sad.
The movie is awesome- any well told story of Lincoln will be great, because he was great. It focuses on the effort to pass the 13th Amendment, but also shows some glimpses of the Presidency at the time and the private relationship of Abraham and Mary Lincoln. They were people, after all.
It also provides details, some unseemly, into how complex alliances are forged in order to pass legislation. It's not always pretty.
Politicians could take hundreds, maybe thousands, of votes over the course of their legislative career. A few of those votes may give them a chance to be on the right or wrong side of history.
It's easy to watch a movie portrayal of the characters we know are on the losing side of history with a mixture of bewilderment, anger, amazement (at their ignorance), and maybe even a little bit of pity. How could they be so wrong? So pigheaded? So focused on some idiotic detail that they totally miss the big picture?
Yeah- how could they be all those things? Good thing I... oh wait...
Friday, November 16, 2012
I noticed that Sir Ken Robinson was giving the keynote address at the NCTE Convention, and then found someone who was "live blogging" from the event. I started reading their entry and then realized it was still "live." Kind of interesting to watch them type and edit directly from the speech.
Anyway- here it is:
Fiji is in the South Pacific. It is actually a nation of about 300 islands- 100 or so are inhabited. Most of the population is on the two largest islands. We were on the largest island- Viti Levu, or big land, in a village on the 'wet' side of the island.
The capital city is Suva- a beautiful and bustling port city with an international flavor. Our village was about a two hour open-air bus ride on narrow, winding gravel roads up into the interior. After disembarking at the bus stop, it was about a half mile walk to the edge of a river. A man in a dinghy was there to push people across the river using a long bamboo pole.
In the 'dry season' this river crossing was kind of fun, almost mystical. In the 'wet season' this trip was terrifying. I love boats. I'm a strong swimmer. No matter- this trip could be truly harrowing. We would start with everyone grabbing at anything along the shore as he edged the dingy well upstream of the intended landing on the other side. At the appointed time, he nudged the front into the swift current and we hung on as we were propelled downstream as he tried to push us across. No life jackets. Ultimately, we would reach the other side- though usually downstream of the mark. Slowly and carefully, we would turn the dinghy into the current and pull it up to the landing.
At times, the river was impassable.
From there it was about a two mile walk to the village. No indoor plumbing. No electricity. There were three faucets within the village.
The interior of a tropical pacific island is beautiful. One thing a picture cannot capture is the flies. Flies, flies, and more flies. Flies here, flies there, flies everywhere. Food, cups, plates, everything was covered with flies. All the time.
Wounds don't heal quickly in the tropics. Any cut, scratch, or bite- however small initially- was subject to fester. Flies like blood. Open sores, massive amounts of flies- bad combination. Most Fijians were covered with boils- wounds that festered, became infected, and left a distinguishing mark.
Subsequent posts will deal with our time there.
I'm going to jump ahead to the near the end of our first year. June 23, 1985- which also happened to be our first wedding anniversary. We "celebrated" in fairly unique fashion. Joan boarded a plane and headed to Washington, D.C. She was too sick to remain in the country, so she was medically evacuated. Ultimately, it was determined that she could not return to Fiji. I was given the choice of completing the second year or returning home.
I went home. I had spent the last year living in third world conditions- and the last six weeks living alone in those conditions. I had grown accustomed to flies.
Joan was now staying with her parents in Waukesha- so I flew to Milwaukee and went there for a few days while we figured out what to do next. Minutes after entering the house, her mother noticed a fly. Instantly, several people mobilized to attack the fly. Poor thing had no chance...
I can still remember laughing and making a snarky comment. A year prior, I would have joined the mobilization team attacking the fly and never given it a second thought. To this day, I can not go after a fly without recalling the scene.
It's a small thing- killing flies. It's instructive though, in the sense that so many of the things- small things and big things- that we take for granted are not universal 'givens.' Conditions that we would term completely unacceptable, unbelievable, even inhumane are known to about 40% of the world's population as "Tuesday." In other words- the living conditions they face on a daily basis.
I try to remember this before getting too upset about things. I forget sometimes.
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Before sharing her group's report, one of the teachers noted "It took us a little while to get going."
What stuck me was how accurate that statement was for lots of groups this morning, and is often the case in these types of settings. Even though-
1. We're adults.
2. We're working on something in our self-selected profession.
3. We're working on something in which we all have lots of professional background knowledge.
4. We're working with a high level of professionalism and trust.
And yet, it took us a little while to get going.
We shouldn't be surprised or disappointed when we turn students loose to work on something, and it takes them a little while to get going.
Things not to do:
Remind them of how many times you've already reminded them about "X"
Constantly stop them to 'refocus' or provide yet another idea or remind them of how important this skill is or how many points it's worth
Call it off and blame them for not being "ready" or "mature" or "focused" enough to handle this type of project
Things to consider doing:
Wander around, listen for clues
Provide specific feedback to a group and then leave to go to another group.
It might've taken us a little while to get going this morning, but, once we did, we accomplished quite a bit!
We're moving towards the second stage of a 1:1 program, and have a chance of being a "1:1 School" at every grade as early as next year. All very nice, and all essentially meaningless, unles we use the devices to achieve these types of outcomes.
Monday, November 12, 2012
My guess is that if any of them read this blog, they saw the title aren't reading this post. So, this may qualify as one of the least read posts in the history of the Internet. I'm OK with that- I still love the book.
I'm going to periodically post a few thoughts from the book- here is "Vol I".
The author, his son, and another couple are on a motorcycle trip out west. That forms the background storyline for one theme. A few of his opening thoughts:
We want to make good time, but for us now this is measured with emphasis on "good" rather than "time" and when you make that shift in emphasis the whole approach changes... that means lots of backroads ...We did this time after time before realizing what should have been obvious: these roads are truly different from the main ones. The whole pace of life and personality of the people who live along them are different. They're not going anywhere. They're not too busy to be courteous. The hereness and nowness of things is something they know all about... I've wondered why it took us so long to catch on. Now here comes the boom We saw it and yet we didn't see it. Or rather we were trained not to see it...It was a puzzling thing. The truth knocks on the door and you say, "Go away, I'm looking for the truth," and so it goes away. Puzzling.
Come on. That's good stuff.
We saw it and we didn't see it. The truth knocks on the door and we say go away. We're too busy being busy and too busy looking for the truth to recognize the truth when it is right in front of us.
If only I could recall actual real world examples from my own life when that applied....
Sunday, November 11, 2012
The route rolls through Kankakee. I can't pass through Kankakee without starting to sing the lyrics from "City of New Orleans."
...Illinois Central Monday morning rail
Fifteen cars and fifteen restless riders,**
Three conductors and twenty five sacks of mail.
All along the southbound odyssey
The train pulls out at Kankakee
Rolls along past houses, farms and fields...
So now I'm driving along through the farm fields of rural Illinois alone in thought. Dangerous.
I started thinking about song lyrics that tell stories. It takes a special creative ability to combine lyrics and music to tell a compelling story. My favorite singer/storyteller is Bruce Springsteen, and one of my favorite Springsteen 'story telling' songs is "Youngstown." It's also a song I think of every summer as our fishing trip route takes us through the Mesabi Iron Range of northern Minnesota.
Anyone up for a car ride? I've got lots of songs I can sing for you!
Here in northeast Ohio
Back in eighteen-o-three
James and Dan Heaton found the ore that was linin' Yellow Creek
They built a blast furnace Here along the shore
And they made the cannonballs
That helped the Union win the war
Here in Youngstown
Here in Youngstown
My sweet Jenny I'm sinkin' down
Here darlin' in Youngstown
Well my daddy worked the furnaces
Kept 'em hotter than Hell
I come home from 'Nam worked my way to Scarfer
A job that'd suit the devil as well
Taconite coke and limestone
Fed my children and made my pay
Them smokestacks reachin' like the arms of God
Into a beautiful sky of soot and clay
Here in Youngstown
Here in Youngstown
My sweet Jenny I'm sinkin' down
Here darlin' in Youngstown
Well my daddy come on the Ohio works
When he come home from World War Two
Now the yard's just scrap and rubble
He said "Them big boys did what Hitler couldn't do.
"These mills they built the tanks and bombs
That won this country's wars
We sent our sons to Korea and Vietnam
Now we're wondering what they were dyin' for
Here in Youngstown
Here in Youngstown
My sweet Jenny I'm sinkin' down
Here darlin'in Youngstown
Here in Youngstown
From the Monongahela valley
To the Mesabi iron range
To the coal mines of Appalachia
The story's always the same
700 tons of metal a day
Now sir you tell me the world's changed
Once I made you rich enough
Rich enough to forget my name
My sweet Jenny I'm sinkin' down
Here darlin' in Youngstown
Comment from a song meanings site:
The song is about the collapse of the blue collar America, the collapse of the American steel industry, the collapse of the working class and their dreams, hopes and aspirations.
Taconite, coke and limestone are the feedstock of blast furnace making pig iron, and the stacks reaching the sky refer to the stacks of open hearth furnaces for refining the pig iron into steel. "Sweet Jenny" is not a girlfriend or daughter, but Jeannette Furnace, the blast furnace of Youngstown Sheet & Tube Brier Hill Works.
"The big boys did what Hitler couldn't do" refers to an ex-steelworker's words when he saw the Republic steel six blast furnaces being demolished. Mismanagement, bad business practices and greed drove many steel giants into bankruptcy - and gone also were the jobs, prosperity and American way of life. The big boys managed to do what Hitler tried and failed - destroy the soul of the American working class and middle class and destroy their jobs, sense of security, hopes and the American dream.
Yup- a little dark. The stark, driving guitar riffs reinforce the lyrics. I love the opening verse- he manages to distill a complex story down to the essential elements- Guys found some ore, built a furnace, helped win a war.
The last verse also contains a classic line: 'Once I made you rich enough, rich enough to forget my name.'
Side note: We should give students more opportunities for truly creative types of expression. I've talked to several friends recently about how much better our respective children are at expressing themselves via Twitter than any of us are- the 140 character limit requires a different thought process. The old five paragraph thesis support paper is a dinosaur.
I hear a lot of talk in some circles about building "Pathways to Prosperity." In essence, reframing the American educational model around the European design. I get it. I think there are elements of this model that make sense, and there are elements of our current educational model that don't make much sense. These thoughts will have to be explored more fully in subsequent posts.
I will say this- I have some fears that "The big boys did what Hitler couldn't do" might also apply to American Public Education. Education does need changes, but I wonder what the big money boys- the ones who are rich enough to forget our names- really have in mind.
Education shouldn't be about the adults, it's not a jobs program for people with teaching/administrative degrees. Public education also needs to be more than baseball's equivalent of the "Farm System." That is, it's not just about providing a skilled labor force of workers who work for people educated somewhere else. We need to provide educational opportunities for students in public education that give them the foundation to compete against anyone, from anywhere, at any level. Isn't that the American way?
*Spoiler alert: The Gophers won!!! We were befriended by a group of Illinois tailgaters who invited us to their party, we got our picture taken with Goldy, and we high-fived virtually every player in the post game celebration. Fun day. This year, a lower tier bowl game. Next year, the axe leaves the rental trophy case in Madison and returns home.
**Marks the spot where Joan typically reaches for her ipod and ear buds.
Friday, November 9, 2012
Good news: I know lots of really smart and talented women
Bad news: Why should they care...
I like a good quote. Sometimes a quote strikes just the right chord to give me the impetus to do something I know I should do- but don't have the courage or energy or time or knowledge base or (you get the idea)- if just left up to my own devices.
My personal favorites are in bold.
*A link to the site is at the bottom of the page
2. "Security is mostly a superstition. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." -- Helen Keller
3. "It's not because things are difficult that we dare not venture. It's because we dare not venture that they are difficult." -- Seneca
4. "Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far it is possible to go." -- T.S. Eliot
5. "What you have to do and the way you have to do it is incredibly simple. Whether you are willing to do it is another matter." -- Peter Drucker
6. "Go out on a limb. That's where the fruit is." -- Jimmy Carter
7. "I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it." -- Pablo Picasso
8. "Life is being on the wire, everything else is just waiting. -- Karl Wallenda
9. "If things seem under control, you are just not going fast enough." -- Mario Andretti
10. "Don't be afraid to take a big step. You can't cross a chasm in two small jumps." -- David Lloyd George
11. "It is only by risking our persons from one hour to another that we live at all." -- William James
12. "Do one thing every day that scares you." -- Eleanor Roosevelt
13. "Trust your own instinct. Your mistakes might as well be your own, instead of someone else's." -- Billy Wilder
14. "The dangers of life are infinite, and among them is safety." -- Goethe
15. "Do not fear mistakes. There are none." -- Miles Davis
16. "A man would do nothing, if he waited until he could do it so well that no one would find fault with what he has done." -- Cardinal Newman
17. "Test fast, fail fast, adjust fast." -- Tom Peters
I've read just about everything Tom Peters has ever written- the guy is a human quote machine.
18. "Never let the odds keep you from doing what you know in your heart you were meant to do." -- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
19. "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." -- Mark Twain
20. "Leap and the net will appear." -- Zen Saying
21. "The way to develop self-confidence is to do the thing you fear and get a record of successful experiences behind you. Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved." -- William Jennings Bryan
22. "Pearls don't lie on the seashore. If you want one, you must dive for it." -- Chinese proverb
23. "Nothing will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must be first overcome." -- Samuel Johnson
This speaks to the critical line between a hasty decision that needed to be thought through just a little more carefully, and becoming paralyzed by an eternal quest for that "last" piece of data needed before making a move.
24. "And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." -- Anais Nin
25. "Are you placing enough interesting, freakish, long shot, weirdo bets?" -- Tom Peters
26. "Take calculated risks. That is quite different from being rash." -- General George Patton
27. "I can accept failure. Everybody fails at something. But I can't accept not trying. Fear is an illusion." -- Michael Jordan
28. "Opportunity dances with those on the dance floor." -- Anonymous
29. "Yes, risk-taking is inherently failure-prone. Otherwise, it would be called 'sure-thing-taking.'" -- Jim McMahon
30. "People who don't take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year. People who do take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year." -- Peter Drucker
31. "Necessity is the mother of taking chances." -- Mark Twain
32. "99 percent of success is built on failure." -- Charles Kettering
33. "Progress always involves risks. You can't steal second base and keep your foot on first." -- Frederick Wilcox
34. "What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?" -- Robert Schuller
35. "Every society honors its live conformists and its dead troublemakers." -- Mignon McLaughlin
It can't be said much better than that!!
36. "You can only be as good as you dare to be bad." -- John Barrymore
37. "Anything that is successful is a series of mistakes." -- Billie Armstrong
38. "Give me the young man who has brains enough to make a fool of himself." -- Robert Louis Stevenson
39. "If it's a good idea, go ahead and do it. It's much easier to apologize than it is to get permission." -- Rear Admiral Grace Hopper
40. "If you risk nothing, then you risk everything." -- Geena Davis
41. "Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most." -- Fyodor Dostoevsky
42. "Remember, a dead fish can float down a stream, but it takes a live one to swim upstream." -- W.C. Fields
I'm always susceptible to a quote that references fish or fishing, takes me to a 'happy place'
43. "Take risks: if you win, you will be happy; if you lose, you will be wise." -- Anonymous
44. "To dare is to lose one's footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself." -- Soren Kierkegaard
45. "You'll always miss 100% of the shots you don't take." -- Wayne Gretzky
46. "It is only in adventure that some people succeed in knowing themselves." -- Andre Gide
47. "Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson
48. "One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time." -- Andre Gide
49. "Danger can never be overcome without taking risks." -- Latin Proverb
50. "I'll play it first, and tell you what it is later." -- Miles Davis
Thursday, November 8, 2012
A few clips:
Like I said before, he doesn't hold back.
Yes, yes, and yes. Educators and parents often get way too focused on a grade. "My daughter got a 'C' on the (4th grade) Social Studies test, and that is unacceptable." Really? It's 4th grade. Relax. Let's focus on what she learned, and didn't learn, in the unit. It may have to do with content, it may be a life lesson. (I'll do a grading post later)
Will Richardson says we should (almost) never ask a question that can be answered with a Google search, which supports Kohn's point about 'yes/no' type questions.
Rewards- especially when used to modify behavior. In very specific situations- OK. In general- not a fan.
I agree. If I say much more, I'll get in big trouble. Oh well. Go back to what he said earlier- Great learning is organized around problems, projects, and questions. Homework in this context might not even have to be assigned, if it's tapping into an area of high interest- or just "bugging" someone to the point of continuing to seek a solution. Even when it is assigned- it takes on a much different feel.
Seht Godin talked about checking email while on 'vacation.' He could tell that some onlookers viewed him with pity. He explained it as pursuing a passion- it doesn't feel like work when you're having that much fun. (He says it better...) Now, it may be a little naive to think that a bunch of 11 year olds are going to be continually passionate enough about a project to do indepenedent research- but isn't that a better goal than compliance over completing soulless worksheets?
Guess I might be in trouble now...
Eric Sheninger is a person I follow on twitter. He posts some amazing things, and this is no exception. We've all seen posts on "Top 10 apps" or "Best Sites for.." This is like that, but in a whole different dimension.
I don't know where he finds all this or how he put it together in this fashion. I've been intermittently looking at the various sites since about 7:00 am. Part of me says I should look at more of the sites and write a few highlights about the ones I found most interesting. Then I think- why wait? I trust the source. I've briefly looked at a few of the sites. I feel like sharing.
Hope you find some of these sites to be useful- either directly or worthy of sharing with someone else.
If anyone knows how to put this sort of thing together- I'd love some help!
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Application Security Manager (ASM) will be used to authorize access to the PTP.
The DSA, using ASM, will assign the identified individual(s) to the PTP Application Administrator role.... Click ASM User Guide for an overview and directions for using Application Security Manager.... The PTP Application Administrator must have a WAMS login ID and password.
The memo closes strong: We are confident your district will find the PTP an easy to use application...
I laughed, and then I tried to figure it out. Suffice it to say that their "confidence" in the 'ease of use' was misplaced.
Whatever you do, dear reader, do not click on the ASM User Guide. (I kept the link offline as a public service)
I know, everybody gets memos full of technical jargon- this example can probably easily be trumped. It wasn't meant to be an all-timer, just an example of a centralized policy from someone allegedly "here to help."
I really don't know what problem this is supposed to solve, but it must be a whopper.
Lesson for me: When I am asking people to do something, I hope I can articulate an understandable vision of the Why and the How. I my directions ever resemble this memo, I have failed. Badly.
A blog post on politics and religion? Have I lost my mind?
Sort of (to the first question). No comment to the second.
I mentioned in a previous post that I had been following the fivethirtyeight blog for some time. I don't begin to understand all the math behind his model- but I do understand that projections based on statistical analysis are likely to be more accurate that projections based on a passionately held ideology.
TV News is hard to watch. Here is a synopsis of a scene repeated (literally) hundreds of thousands of times:
Host: "There's a new poll out showing 'Candidate A' now trailing 'Candidate B' by 5%. Let's go to "Dave," a spokesman (or former spokesman, or wanna be spokesman) for 'Candidate A' for his analysis."
Dave: "We all know that poll always favors the other side- usually overrepresenting their party by 5-8%. We have our own polls clearly showing that we have all the momentum. The American people are responding to our message... Yada, yada, yada"
Host: "Thanks Dave. Now Let's turn to "Bill," a spokesman (or former spokesman, or wanna be spokesman) for 'Candidate B.'
Bill: "Well, Dave is spinning the story again. I feel sorry for him. The new poll obviously shows that the American people are responding to our message of... and rejecting their failed agenda of.... yada, yada, yada."
Host: "Thanks Bill. We'll be right back after these commercials."
Hour after hour after hour of this. No analysis, just blather, posturing, and spin. The commercial breaks are even more painful- as the respective Super PACs play fast and loose with reality and smear the other side. Enough already.
We live in a great country.
Some were calling Nate Silver, the brains behind the fivethirtyeight model, a partisan hack in the closing days of this election cycle. Why? Because his model was clearly pointing to a Democratic victory. I went back and looked at some of his posts from 2010. He called those elections very accurately as well. 2010 was a very good year for Republican candidates.
I have no idea what his personal political views are- but I really want to learn more about how he builds a statistical forecast model. No one is right all the time- and 'upsets' are part of any equation. Mr. Silver, however, is establishing a track record of accuarcy based on rigorous and detailed anaylsis. What a concept!
I wish we could focus more of our time and energy on people who have real data to back up their views, and less of our time and energy on the "Professional Polemicists." You know who they are- the folks with big mouths, an ideology to sell, and just enough "facts' to sell the ideology. Everybody has to make a living, but these folks are making a living by trying to convince us that we should constantly be fighting with each other- and that the 'other side' is corrupt and has nothing to offer.
We have some disagreements. I'm not promoting a rose colored Pollyanna vision that those disagreements aren't substantive. I am suggesting- no I'm not suggesting- I'm flat out stating for the record, that there are people making good money by trying to convince us that we are more divided than we really are.
Those people are not going to shut up, but I am going to turn them off. I hope others do as well. We live in a great country! Freedom of speech is wonderful, silence is priceless. I think I'm going to spend more time "listening to silence." Oh, and trying to remember the old adage of seeking first to understand.
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
The clip is only about 4:00 minutes long. My favorite section is near the beginning as Thomas Friedman (another of my favorite authors**) provides examples of how much has changed in the last decade or so.
Speaking of Change, another new phenomenon is MOOCs, a potential game changer development that I'm struggling to understand. More on MOOCs when I get a better handle on the implications. Given the pace of play these days, I better do that fairly soon.
*If you see this, a reminder about the Makers video clip- either you use it or I will!
**The World is Flat, Hot, Flat, and Crowded, and That Used To Be Us are all bestsellers that you've probably read, but check out From Beirut to Jerusalem if you want an interesting perspective on the Middle East.
15 Awesome Quotes on CollaborationAugust 23, 2012
1. "It is the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed." - Charles Darwin
2. "Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much." - Helen Keller
3. "If two men on the same job agree all the time, then one is useless. If they disagree all the time, both are useless." - Darryl F. Zanuck
4. "If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself." - Henry Ford
5. "Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up." - Oliver Wendell Holmes
6. "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." - Isaac Newton
7. "It takes two to speak the truth -- one to speak, and another to hear." - Henry David Thoreau
8. "If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas." - George Bernard Shaw
9. "Politeness is the poison of collaboration." - Edwin Land
10. "I never did anything alone. Whatever was accomplished in this country was accomplished collectively." - Golda Meir
11. "It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed." - Napoleon Hill
12. "No matter what accomplishments you make, somebody helped you." - Althea Gibson
13. "The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team." - Phil Jackson
14. "Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success." - Henry Ford
15. "The lightning spark of thought generated in the solitary mind awakens its likeness in another mind." -- Thomas Carlyle
Link to the site:
One modification to the quote about the exchange of ideas. It would seem to me that if two people exchange ideas, the possibility is that some synergy and collaboration could yield additional ideas that neither had thought of before. I like the quote as it is, but think it stops sort by just noting an idea exchange. The real value in exchanging ideas is in the dynamic conversation that yields brand new ideas.
Monday, November 5, 2012
One of the purposes of my modest little blog is to share things I find on the bigger stage that I believe are compelling.
Sunday, November 4, 2012
Beautiful. I would love to claim that quote as my own, but it belongs to Nate Silver and comes from one of his recent posts on the fivethirtyeight blog. Get it? There are a total of 538 electoral votes.
I've been following this blog for about eight months. I discovered it when it was referenced in another blog- that whole PLN thing.
As a bit of a political junkie, I crave detailed political analysis that isn't overtly spun to fit into a preconceived ideology. Tough to find much of that these days. I follow the blog because I find the analysis to be compelling. Mr. Silver provides one of the precious few spots for detailed and rigorous number crunching. To the extent he is selling anything, he is selling the accuracy of his statistical model, not an ideological favorite. We'll know soon enough if his model was able to accurately predict the results.
I think the paragraph quoted above is an excellent synopsis of the dangers of building any kind of predictive model, with widespread applications. In my own decision making, when does adding another layer of data provide clarity, and when does it just mess things up? When do I need to seek additional information? Am I manipulating the data to fit a preconceived outcome (even unconsciously), or am I allowing the data to drive the conclusion?
**You know how TV shows and movies often have blooper reels? Every blog post goes through some editing (some readers may think they could use a bit more editing), but this one has been the hardest so far. I literally have 2-3 pages of 'clippings' that were written, but edited out.
The only post that wrote itself was Maps- that was in one take as fast as I could type.
Friday, November 2, 2012
I forgot to tell you what is!
One of my daughters lives in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle. After reading the post, she reminded me that Fremont calls itself the Center of the Known Universe and is referred to as an eclectic mix between the 1950's and the 23rd Century.
There is one specific spot designated at the official center.
This picture is from the web:
This picture is courtesy of Anna:
The signs give the mileage from the "Center of the Universe" to a variety of destinations. Polaris, for example, is 430 light years away. If you're interested in something closer, it's 897 kilometers to Machu Picchu. Closer still? It's only a block to the iconic Lenin Statue- which is a story unto itself. Still too far? Noggin is at the top of your head. It's that kind of sign, and that kind of place!
It should be noted that the Center of the Universe is surrounded by bustling streets- you can get close, you can pause a moment, but you can't really STAY at the Center of the Universe. Hmmm...
Thursday, November 1, 2012
1. He stands in one spot the entire time.
2. His sole prop/visual is an index card (or two) that he uses as he reads a few quotes. That's it.
Most of us couldn't pull this off, but maybe that's one of the reasons he's a pro!
He quotes Lincoln (my favorite President) circa 1862:
"The designs of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulties, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves and then we shall save our country."
Robinson uses this quote to make the point that we must disenthrall ourselves with what we believe about education- in order to save it.
Sadly, I think that plenty of people who have very little idea what they are talking about are, none the less, enthralled with the sound of their own voice and their own solutions for what ails education. More sadly still, many of them are in a position to do something about it.
I will freely admit that I'm not 100% sure what to do, but I also am starting to feel a little more free in expressing what I think we shouldn't do.
My natural inclination is towards a more open, creative, mass customized approach towards K-16 education. My mind fills easily with bold quotes from Seth Godin, Tony Wagner, Ken Robinson, Will Richardson, et al and I can sort of "see through a mirrow dimly" towards a design that loosely resembles what is happening at the Standford d school.
Interesting story. My point in sharing is simply to point out that it is nice to see an example of people using good old fashioned objective research as the basis for their decision.
This will actually be an interesting story to follow. I am curious to see what happens to the referendum and to the political futures of the two Board members. Will they be seen as people who flip-flopped, who betrayed the wishes of the voters who propelled them into office- or as pragmatic realists who adopted a new vision after learning new information?
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Quick summation- I agree with him!
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
When we are this close to an election, it is especially easy to become totally focused on which political party/candidate will win- and the resulting implications. It is easy to forget about the amazing things that individual people have been doing, are doing, and will continue to do, no matter what happens at the ballot box.
It is also a reminder of what someone with passion and purpose is capable of achieving. It appears as though Emily pretty much just identified a need, figured out a way she could help, and found a way to make it happen. Quickly.
Monday, October 29, 2012
In 1976, Kodak had a 90% share of the photography business. (Thanks, Wikipedia)
Things looked even better though- becuase Kodak was one of the pioneers of digital photography. So here they were- controlling a 90% share of the existing market and with an early lead in the next big thing. What could go wrong? Kodak didn't view digital as the next big thing. Oops.
This was a headline in the newspaper today, "Kodak's dominant role disappears in a flash."
So what is Kodak? Is Kodak a victim of a rapidly changing marketplace, or is this a self-inflicted fall from grace? Was Kodak beaten by a superior opponent, or by the arrogance that comes from having a seemingly insurmountable lead?
I don't know what led to Kodak's demise. What I do know is that there seem to be plenty of "Kodak Moments" these days- and I'm referring to once dominant companies that either disappear or are reduced to a fraction of their former selves.
It's kind of like watching a horror film and wondering why the person about to be killed is doing such an obviously stupid thing. (Halloween reference #2 on the blog, for those scoring at home)
In terms of a post-mortem on companies- It's always so easy to see the signs after the fact and when it happens to someone else. I sure hope I'm learning from Kodak, and not on my way to overseeing the next 'Kodak Moment.'