Toddlers With Hormones

I actually saw a commercial on TV in the wee hours one morning a month ago that made me stop in my tracks and watch, it was so compelling.  It featured a young toddler (you know, the ones who struggle for balance and walk like Godzilla), teetering from side to side in slightly slow motion as he walks down his home’s long corridor toward the glass paneled door.  The ad is for Air B&B and though many thought it creepy, I love it.

That little human, so proud to be up on two legs, struggling to hold his balance as he moves towards the object of his desire (what’s out there in the big world?) reminds me of teenagers getting ready to apply to college.

They say that human development is one big spiral, repeating over and over as we age. Teenagers go through toddlerhood (you’re not the boss of me!) but in a more sophisticated way. They share the same biological imperative to move on up, albeit with much more fear than they had when they were two and learning to literally keep up with the others around them.

When they were two and fell one hundred times learning to stand upright, modern teenagers were greeted by smiles and loving encouragement from the adults around them.  No adult would think of criticizing a little cruiser trying to walk.

But God help them if the same Big Toddlers fall when they are in high school.  All hell rains down on them.  They are most often medicated to adjust their attitude.

I’ve had several students call me in a panic over the past month.  They were over-committed in their senior year and their grades went down this spring after their college acceptance because “I was hurrying to get all I could from my high school experience”, meaning “I was struggling to meet everyone’s expectations of me.”  The colleges they committed to on May 1 were suddenly not as committed to them.

It used to be that seniors’ grades slipped due to ‘senioritis‘, as they blew off school to do nothing.

Now their grades drop as they try to finish the many commitments they developed in order to please the adults in their world and get admitted to college.

Sorry, college admissions colleagues, but you guys are culpable here.  You can’t expect teenagers to be perfect over-achievers in order to give you bragging rights when you admit them and then cut them off when they struggle to keep up at the end.  Kids live in the real world where things are complicated and genuinely unforgiving.

Admissions officers live in a vicarious one, making decisions on applications – not real humans – and think they understand KidWorld because they read so many essays.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Kids will always tell admissions officers what they think they want to hear.  They inflate their applications and have many other adults write their essays.  I’ve experienced applicants one way as an admissions officer and a completely different way as an educational consultant in the trenches with them.  All admissions officers should spend a year or two as an independent consultant before becoming Gatekeepers again so they can get rooted in the reality of applicants’ lives.

The focus on pleasing the Gatekeepers (admissions officers) supercedes everything because in this era, it’s about spin.

Kids just want to keep moving and are doing what adults tell them is necessary to get in.  Admissions officers want to admit “the best” to leverage their position on USNWR and to brag to their board of trustees, alumni and specific audiences.  Gone are the days of the real and true ‘match’.  It looks to me that all of the nations’ best universities, maybe even including my own beloved MIT, have been usurped by a business model and so are driving down the wrong road, however well-intentioned.

If all of us adults involved in college admissions would see applicants as Big Toddlers (or better yet, Toddlers with Hormones), we would be more likely to do things right and train the next generation of human beings to revel in their authenticity.

And their authenticity is why they have come.

Freedom Is The New Black

It’s July 4th weekend and so of course I’m thinking about the concept of freedom.  I even went back and re-read the Declaration of Independence with the reverence others might hold for the Bible.  And it strikes me that we need a major refresher on that seminal document.

Can we offer Declaration Of Independence study groups the way others run Bible studies?

Our society is quite sick, actually, with our nation running off the rails, engaged in endless wars that make no sense.  I truly believe that sociopaths are running America, for how else to explain how we could be in this mess?  We stand by helplessly and watch banks that are too big to fail almost bring the world down with no punishment.  No banker went to jail.  We watch Monsanto, a company that used to be a weapon manufacturer and now ‘weaponizes food’, and many other multi-national corporations destroy our food and water supply.  We cannot stop the geoengineering that has changed weather patterns, sending the most important agricultural states (CA, TX) into severe drought and driving up the price of food.  We look up and see unmarked airplanes pump out huge plumes of chemicals into the atmosphere in criss-cross patterns, turning the blue sky to milky white.

We don’t know who is doing this or for what reason, but according to emergency room data, many of us get sick right after the spraying occurs.

We adults are raising kids to focus on the short-term material wins, keeping them so busy doing things strategically designed to secure a win.  In fact, I find that this wonderful generation of beautiful kids is living in stun-mode, with no free time to speak of and an inability to take time for contemplation thanks to 24/7 technology.

Millennials are energetic, fun, book smart and, ultimately, asleep.

So it’s time to offer those DOI study groups to remind us that America is not just here to consume products and to support those multi-national businesses who poison us and do their best to keep us all asleep.

America is a bold idea.  Its brand is ‘personal freedom’.

Read these words carefully: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  Our Republic is being usurped by business interests, including all that college admissions silliness where the truth must not be told.

Forget the Common Core, folks.  That’s just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. It would make way more sense to hold DOI study groups to wake up and energize an entire generation so we can get this train back on the tracks.

Well, It’s About Time

After many seasons of disappointment and downright despair felt by many of her people, America has finally done something right.  Something stereotypically American.  Yesterday, in a firm and unequivocal statement, the US Supreme Court ordered all 50 states to issue marriage licenses to both straight and gay couples alike,  upholding Thomas Jefferson’s iconic branding of the new nation in the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Gay people are equal to straight people?  The very thought is hilarious in its stupidity because anyone who has been alive for more than 20 years will tell you that there is no one-size-fits-all sexuality, as if ‘gay’ or straight’ are hard-edged, well-defined categories of human beings.  We have learned in this modern era that we are each all of that and more.  How else to explain girl crushes and bromances.  And the entire range of sexual expression on view across all 7+billion people worldwide.

Gay and straight equal?  Duh.

Finally, America is free to be progressive again, a beacon of hope for the rest of humanity.

Finally, we got it right again.

Make no mistake, folks.  This was a landmark case, maybe the biggest legal case of our lifetimes.  America will never be the same and thank God for that.

Now maybe we can take the Republic back from the multi-national corporations and the cabal that seem to be in charge, the ones who have been poisoning our food and water on purpose through GMOs and geoengineering.  Have you noticed the chemtrails yet that are disseminating  aluminum, cesium, barium, nano-bacteria and other toxics substances into our air for reasons unknown to anyone but Raytheon, DARPA and the CIA.?   Start looking up and paying attention.  We’re under siege, friends, and it’s hidden in plain sight.

But that’s a topic for another day.  Today is for all of those fellow citizens who are busy this morning planning weddings they have yearned for their whole lives.  Today is about LOVE.

God bless us, everyone.

On The Radio Again

I woke up this morning with anxiety in the pit of my stomach, that old familiar fear of being judged.  Last week I’d agreed – rather reluctantly – to an interview with Rachel Martin from NPR about how one recovers from a public shaming, a timely subject coming off Brian Williams‘ lie exposure.  The NPR producers had read one on my blog postings and liked my take on it.

While I am a crusader for truth in advertising in college admissions and in all things, I’ve grown wary of both the press and public reaction, having had more than my share of hate mail over these 8 years since leaving MIT in such a public way.  But I agreed to the interview because I’m distressed over the suppressive effect social media shaming has on kids, shutting down their desire to be unique and extinguishing creative effort.  It’s even done that to me.

Social media creates virtual mob rule and in a free country we have no way to stop it.  We have freedom of the press here.

As a result, though, we stand by helplessly while others get shredded by haters and trolls who have their way until they focus on another victim, smelling blood in the water.

Rachel Martin was wonderful and I enjoyed my time with her.  It’s a hard subject to discuss and she created a zone of safety that allowed me to relax and speak sincerely.  Now, after the interview has aired,  I’m getting so many tweets, both supportive and not.  It would be fascinating if it wasn’t so personal.  I feel grateful to the writers of the supportive ones.  The non-supportive tweets make me angry, but to be honest, they just hurt.

It’s a lonely place to be, exposed on the internet forever more, never allowed to fully heal or to forget.

I personally know no one who shares this experience, so I have visions of starting a club of people who have been scandalized on the front page of the NYT, well-known people caught doing something terribly human.  The poster children of the-human-as-walking-contradiction.

So now my goal is to do a presentation at a major media conference where I can share with reporters and producers what it’s really like to be on the receiving end of their often insensitive attention.  Maybe after his dark night of the soul has passed, I’ll ask Brian Williams to join me in that.

Am I The Only One Mad About This?

Stanford’s Math Tournament, the largest high school math tournament in the US and maybe the world, was abruptly cancelled within 36 hours of the event this past weekend.  The 2015 competition was the largest ever with over 1000 registrants from across the US, China, Russia and India.  It’s safe to say that some of the best young mathematicians in the world were planning to duke it out for the pure love of math.

What happened?

Evidently there was a White House Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection on Stanford campus scheduled for the same time (Obama was a speaker) and the university decided not to risk…I don’t know what exactly.  Too many seriously smart kids doing their thing within 1 mile of White House personnel maybe?  Are they kidding?

It seems that everyone except for the SUMO (Stanford University Math Organization) students who organized this world-famous math competition knew about the presence of the White House event on campus for months. So why did university officials notify the SMT 2015 organizers at the last possible minute?   The timing couldn’t have been worse.

The Beijing teams were already on the ground when the plug got pulled and many teams were en route.

Luckily, an organization in nearby Santa Clara called A-Star, working in conjunction with Rice University and Johns Hopkins, literally created a math tournament overnight to fill the void.  They ended up with a smaller 50 team event but the best players got to compete as planned.

Meanwhile, there appears to be no statement from Stanford about this.

Am I the only one who thinks of universities as sacred sites in the secular world?  That education itself is sacred?  Universities are there for their students, not to kiss up to any president for any reason.  Obama and his team could’ve gone anywhere, but it’s clear that ego won the day and the Stanford president was all too keen to say yes to the DC Big Dogs and no to the best young mathematicians on earth.

I have no particular beef with the US President, but there was that disturbing event over the holidays when a couple had to move their wedding in Hawaii, scheduled for the next day, because the President wanted to play golf at the site on their wedding day.  The Feds alerted the couple at their rehearsal the day before.  Thank God they were both Army officers and were OK with that decision.  And not to worry, Obama called them to apologize and congratulate them.

What, he didn’t offer to pick up their tab?  Or send a gift or host them at the White House later to make it up to them?  His wife Michelle didn’t say, “You did WHAT??” and then quickly act to make it right, since her own focus is military families?

I guess just a call from a busy president is all it takes to make it all better.

But be honest.  If your wedding had to get moved at the last minute because somebody else wanted to play golf, wouldn’t you be angry?  Or if you had been planning an A-list party for 1000 superstars for months and your landlord cancelled it the day before because somebody more special than you and yours was in the house, wouldn’t you be angry?

There’s an arrogance here that just dissed high school math stars, the kind of people universities compete for and White House administrations should want to reward.  But come to think of it, when was the last time you saw a White House reception for the US Math Olympiad team instead of NCAA basketball or Superbowl winners?

How are these same math stars supposed to think about Stanford now?  Maybe when the time comes to apply to college, they’ll remember just how important they were to Stanford on Valentine’s Day 2015.

Can MIT Cut the Gordian Knot?

That deep rumble you feel is the sound of foundations cracking and giving way.

The education system as we’ve known it is undergoing a deep change because it can not be financially sustained into the far future.  There are too many factors affecting the relevancy of it’s ‘form’ – class sizes limited by the size of housing stock; the standard length of 4 years to earn a bachelor’s degree; required classes per major; unionization of faculty at some universities that enforces professional duties based on job descriptions; the financial aid structure; changing research funding sources; rapidly changing research priorities.  Feel free to add about thirty others.

Now once again,  MIT is leading the way by admitting that fundamental changes must be made to the undergraduate education provided there in order to maintain fiscal solvency long term.

I’ve been waiting for the elite universities to ‘fess up to this situation, so kudos to MIT.

Even with deep endowments, they are susceptible to the same economic forces that smaller colleges and large state systems have been confronting for a decade.  No one is immune now.

This is not trivial.  Knowledge is being created at a faster-than-logarithmic pace (what’s faster than that?), when, according to Google’s Eric Schmidt, the entire human knowledge set doubles every two days.  Holy sh*t!  Imagine Lucy on that iconic chocolate faculty assembly line.  Humans can’t possibly keep up with it all.  This includes university faculty whose job is to pass the knowledge torch along to the next generation.  No surprise that most schools’ faculties are teaching information that has long since changed.  It often takes a generation for new knowledge to work its way into college curricula.  Think quantum physics and epigenetics, for example.

Like with most crises, this is the perfect opportunity for the Big ReThink of education.  What should college students be taught now?  What is relevant?  How long should it take to teach it and what form would that take?

What should a first college degree actually mean?  What’s its ROI?

We know that college rarely prepares students for specific jobs.  It’s supposed to prepare them for a changing employment scenario by teaching resourcefulness and critical thinking.

So how will tenured faculty who are their own CEOs be pressured to change their ways?  What’s the incentive for them to drink from that fire hose of new knowledge and decide what must be taught now?  Will department heads and Provosts be strong enough to demand the highly focused teaching of relevant material in order to shrink that standard 4 years for a BS/BA to 3 without creating the illusion of a watered-down curriculum? Because that’s what it will take to create an affordable residence-based college experience by decade’s end.

How does a university break the Gordian Knot of the modern era?

It’s a moment for real ingenuity and MIT is all that.  Fingers crossed for them to get this right for the rest.

The Power and Destruction of MSU*

We’ve all been there, finding ourselves in a situation that didn’t make sense, without a full set of real data, leaving us confused and worried.  To regain a sense of control, we start connecting the pieces of info we do know, filling in the gaps with our imaginations.  In other words, we Make Sh*t Up (MSU), creating the reason for this situation that’s confusing us.  Believing that we now know what is going on, we proceed to act on the story we just MSU’d.  And we make our own weather.  And it’s always wrong.  We screw it up and make the situation worse.

MSU is the basis for soap operas, failed love affairs, international relations and college admissions ranking systems.

MSU brought that Malaysian Airliner down over Ukraine.  MSU makes Israel and Hamas launch bombs at each other and kill children and completely innocent citizens who would actually like each other if they were allowed to mingle and connect as human beings.  MSU shatters half of the nation’s marriages.  MSU is the reason why the average private college applicant applies to 12 schools now, sending the entire college admissions process into imbalance, leading to more MSU.

Making Sh*t Up always leads to heartache because when we’re left to figure out what the other party is thinking and doing, we’ll always default to the fear factor.

Examples?  How about:

Why didn’t they text me back? (MSU= I knew they didn’t like me.)  Why did they walk right by me when I said hello?  (MSU= they’re a snob.) Why did that school put me on the wait list? (MSU= they just rejected me because I’m not good enough. )

In reality, they didn’t text you back because they were in meetings all day and haven’t gotten the chance to get back to you.  They walked by you because they are myopic and don’t like to wear glasses in public.  They put you on the wait list because they want to take you after May 1 if they have the space because wait list is “admitted pending space” and not a “soft rejection” as urban legend would have it.

Our culture trains us into the MSU mind set, asking us to vote online to judge people and situations we know nothing about.  It encourages opinions at the end of news articles and allows the anonymity of haters.  It has raised celebrity gossip to a high art, dishing the dirt over the air waves about the perceived foibles of public people.  We make sh*t up about strangers and friends alike, judging them with great emotion.  Feeling all righteous and right.

But MSU is stupid.  It always leads to the wrong conclusion, bringing misunderstanding and pain.  Worse, it reinforces the notion that there are good people and bad people in the world, instead of the real truth that there are just people, each of us wired to be both good and bad.

It makes imperfection a sin when, in fact, imperfection is the genesis of creativity.

So the next time you find yourself making sh*t up (you can substitute ‘stuff’ if you aren’t vulgar like I am), stop and ask yourself what you actually know to be true.  Do you know that they didn’t text you back because they don’t like you?  Do you know for a fact that they are a snob?  Do you know that you were just rejected when in fact you were actually waitlisted?

Time to use our gray matter.  Clarify instead of MSU.

When Right is Short-Sighted

In a conservative blog The Campus Fix (“Student Reported.  Your Daily Dose of Right-Minded Campus News and Commentary from Across the Nation”), a young reporter interviews a UCLA faculty member who has written a book about the use of race in admissions at UCLA.  Since The Campus Fix is covering it, you can assume that this particular faculty member disagrees with how things are done at his school.  In reality, Prof. Tim Groseclose, is a conservative political commentator and author about liberal bias.  He used to be on UCLA’s admissions oversight committee and had reason to believe that the staff there was violating CA state law by using a more “holistic” selection process to increase the number of black and hispanic students enrolling at that top state university.

As Benjamin, my hair dresser/favoriterabbi would say, Oy Vey.

In my long experience doing college admissions, I found that most faculty who join an admissions oversight committee have agendas; some have children who have entered high school and they want to learn how admissions works, some are frustrated by the quality or composition of the student body.  At some schools, it seems, a few fall under the Groseclose-nightmare-category of committed partisan who is looking to write another book to supplement his media career.

You know this kind of person…the “believing is seeing” kind,

the one who feels they are the only rational person who will speak out about this.  The one who believes that numbers, alone and out of context, can fully describe a human’s past experience and future performance.  Thank God I didn’t have this type on any of my Committee on Undergraduate and Financial Aid (CUAFA) committees over the years.  Thank God MIT faculty are legitimately interested in fact first and then make rational and mature decisions from what is learned through a human perspective.

I’m sorry to hear that UCLA Admissions refused to supply Prof. Groseclose with the data he requested. My philosophy as dean was that members of CUAFA should have complete access to everything in admissions including all data because they were our check and balance, we all wanted to do the right thing and there was nothing to fear.

It just kills me, though, when guys like this – white, entitled, highly educated – judge people who don’t look like them as ‘other’, refusing to see that every coin has two equal yet different sides, that everyone’s unique experience in this world affects their behavior in life. I’ve read some of Groseclose’s writing and he has this simplistic thought process.  He seems to believe the SATs mean something and are predictive of future academic performance. He also doesn’t seem to accept that racism/sexism actually exist and that we humans compulsively judge each other by how we look.

Well, the data is out there if he wishes to find it.

Black kids are treated different from white kids in the US, just as asian kids are treated different from white kids.

The difference is that the stereotypes about these populations are not the same, having much to do with how they came to US shores.  White people love to say that slavery is over and should have no place in the conversation, but that is just not facing reality with the respect it deserves.  The legacy of this terrible national trauma is a lingering PTSD in the form of a concept called ‘stereotype threat’  in which the descendants of the traumatized absorb the culture’s view of them in a deep way.  The same can be said for some hispanic populations who are assumed to be illegal because of a history of border wars and illegal immigration patterns.

The worst thing about Prof. Groseclose, though, is his short sightedness, his lack of long term vision, his failure to think deeply about how his actions will affect the lives of his descendants.  In an era of insecurity, people like him seem to be winning the day.

Here are the facts.  We know that in America, education is the fastest way into the middle class.  We know that societies with broad, deep middle classes thrive in peace and prosperity, because people with homes and kids and jobs they love do not want to go to war.  We know that what we adults do now will affect life for the generations to come.

We also see with great alarm that as education has been usurped by a business model and colleges make admissions decisions based on reputation-building by leveraging their ranking on USNWR and no longer on what is good for the nation, the gap between the upper and middle classes is growing.  Precious financial aid funds that should go toward needy students are increasingly awarded by colleges in the form of ‘merit aid’ to affluent students whose parents can afford the cost of tuition. Every dollar spent on students who do not need funding is one dollar less for students who do.

Projected outward a generation, the US is clearly moving into a society of extremes.

Societies with little or no middle class, societies with extremes, are unstable and dangerous.  The truth is that we are becoming agents of our own demise.

If universities do not educate all races and socio-economic groups, do not dedicate themselves to moving students from the lower classes into the middle class, democracy as we know it will be done within 50 years.  We will have dissension in this country that will bring hardship and danger to our grandchildren.

Is this the legacy we want to leave them?

Affirmative action works, folks.  We are into the second generation of an evolution that will take a full three.  It’s a long-term solution to a long-term problem.

The real problem is, in modern America we’ve lost the knack of investing in a future that we will never see.

We have been acculturated into immediate gratification, which is not only selfish, silly and a relinquishment of our human obligation to leave this world better than we found it, it’s also a damn shame.

No black student is taking an education away from a white student.  There is plenty for everyone.

It takes moral courage to do the right thing here.  It takes university presidents who are willing to be educators and not Salesmen-In-Chief taking huge salaries and benefits to satisfy the needs of their trustees, 1/3rd of whom are business people with sharp pencils focused on short-term gains so characteristic of American capitalism 21st century style.

Education is not business.  Education is the ‘why’ to business’s ‘how’. It is sacred to the human race.

I’m still looking for that university leadership to rise. I’m looking for university presidents to understand that they are in service to the Nation , to Humankind itself, and not just to their own turf.

Hey, That Mistake Was One of My Best Creative Moments

I’ve had quite the 6 weeks.  Somebody somewhere posted the old story on Facebook about my resignation from MIT in 2007 as if it happened yesterday and many people chose to write to me with great emotion about that.  I got snarky tweets referencing me, hate mail from FB people I don’t even know, fan mail from FB people I don’t even know, and lots of phone calls from people I do know sending their love and admiration to buffer the vitriol.  This went on for several days around my birthday and I was struck by two things: how easy it is to manipulate crowds and how mistakes from the past are never allowed to be over, both compliments of social media.

Perhaps you are a more perfect version of me, but I’m guessing you’ve done a few things in your day that you wouldn’t want the world to know about, much less find exposed on the front page of the NYT.  As awful as my 15 minutes of fame was, it fulfilled its purpose of deepening my humanity, not by breaking me but by breaking me open in compassion instead.  When I do read the Times now and see the public scourging of others, my heart goes out to them and I send them a whole legion of angels to protect and carry them through. No one knows the hell they are living.

It bears remembering that we human beings are designed to make mistakes.  And because of this, we all deserve salvation. Period.

Moreover, consider the possibility that we Homo Sapiens were actually designed to create through mistakes, that our best creativity comes from our screw-ups.  Now that’s a mind-bender.  So once a mistake serves its purpose, it’s done and finished, water under the bridge.  Sorta like #36 of the 449 times we stood and fell trying to walk as toddlers.  Why remember that forever with shame when the fall was actually building neurons for balance so we could walk upright for the rest of our lives?

I’m choosing to let my mistakes serve their purpose.  I’m writing another book.

If you are someone wont to throw a dart at someone you don’t know because you don’t like what you think they did, hold your fire and ask yourself this question instead: “What part of me does this thing I hate and wish to see punished in the other? ”  How about you forgive that part and pay attention to how it’s actually trying to serve you?

In this Era of the Cyborg, let’s go all counter-culture and experience the pure pleasure of being imperfect for a change.

And then let’s get about the business of creating our lives for real.

So Are You a Bad Person If You Send Your Kid To Private School?

Let me preface this with a big shout-out to Parke Muth, a true Wise Elder in education, whose blogs I read religiously.  I’m on the hunt, you see, for the Deep Thinkers and Big Visionaries of education with the hopes that we can convene together one day and bring some wisdom and sanity to this greatest-of-all-human-endeavors.  I don’t feel comfortable criticizing from the sidelines…I want to actively engage in the solution.  Until then, I keep calling out to my kindred spirits out there, asking if you see what I see and what we might do about it.  Many people are in these discussions and I’m beginning to hear certain voices emerge.  Parke’s is one.  His is a voice of reason, compassion and intelligence and thank God he’s motivated to write for the rest of us, provoking the Deep Think stuff I love.

A few days ago he posted an op-ed from Slate entitled, “If You Send Your Kid to Private School, You Are a Bad Person.  A Manifesto.”  The author believes that all children in the US should be forced to attend public school in order to protect that system.  She attended public schools and admits that while she didn’t get a good education, she landed OK and so will everyone else.  She makes the argument that sometimes individuals should have to take the hit for the greater good.

I love this kind of piece because it’s provocative.  If we’re honest, we see the truth in her argument while also knowing that we might not’ve made the same decision because there are so many variables and humans are so darned independent and diversified.

Oh, and not everyone learns the same way, so one system just cannot fit all.

Now for the scary, heretical stuff…

That being said, I completely support her belief that all kinds of kids should be educated together.  I no longer believe in stratifying the classroom.  Slower learners should be elbow to elbow with quicker learners.  Kids with LDs should be working with kids who have none.  Advantaged ones should be seated next to poorer kids.  Think one-room schoolhouse.  Think we all learn differently and all help each other learn.

(I know, I know.  Please don’t send me hate mail. )

I hear teachers say that there is just too much to teach now and the stakes are too high with state exams and NCLB rules.  I hear that they often feel overwhelmed and disrespected and that this idea calls for a new skill set they might not have, so the status quo seems just fine.  And the ACT tells us this summer that according to their exam results, fewer than 39% of the test takers are adequately prepared for college…

I hear friends say how the gifted and talented students are neglected and need so much more because, well, they are gifted and talented (meaning that they’re worth more to society somehow) and they get so easily BORED.  Hmmm.  Yeah, I drank the kool-aid on that one long ago but I’ve since changed my mind.  I’ve met G&T kids who were just plain snobs or even worse, social brats.  They typically don’t need more intellectual stimulation – smart kids create their own – but they often do need the reality check that in the scheme of things, emotional IQ matters more than intellectual IQ.  (I wonder what would happen if the G&T teachers used their best skills with ‘average’ or ‘C’ students?)  Learning to accept and work with others is crucial to our survival in the future.

What kids need more than anything in this era is compassion for themselves and others, to develop respect and civility.  The learning will follow because kids are just as hardwired to learn as they are to walk.

Creating haves and have nots in education plants the seeds for civic discontent in the future.  We keep patching a system that needs a fundamental shake-up since we can all agree that we don’t all agree about what kids should actually be learning now.  In 1970, the US led the world in high school graduation.  Today we’ve slipped to 21st.  Only 21 states actually require mandatory high school attendance (there’s that state’s rights thing again).  While more kids are graduating now than before (thanks, grade inflation!), there is still an unacceptable difference.  80% of whites and asians are graduating while only 55% of black and hispanic students are.   Think about that.  What is going on here and why is this OK?