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Tuesday
Dec132005

Keeping Kids in their Place

The ugly list called “Dumbing Down Our Kids”  (or is it Keeping Kids in their Place?)  attributed to Charles Sykes is making the rounds again. I detested the thing when I first saw it and it still creeps me out. Sykes’s original is in bold; my response is not.

Rule 1: Life is not fair; get used to it.  Life is absolutely fair. We all get the same odds of absolutely arbitrary good and bad things happening to us.

Rule 2: The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself.  The world doesn't care about anything. Only people have the capacity for caring and there are plenty of caring people in the world. We should teach people to feel good about a much wider scope of "accomplishments" than that narrowly defined by the business world: artistic talent, empathic gifts, being a good friend, being healthy, etc.

Rule 3: You will not make 40 thousand dollars a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice president with a car phone until you earn both.  I know kids who come out of high school (or a year of technical college) Novell or Cisco certified that make 40K easy. Artistic, athletic, entrepreneurial, and musical talents are rewarded at an even higher rate. Age and experience are not an indicator of earning power. Talent and rare or valued skills sets are.

Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss who doesn't have tenure.  Very funny. Have you ever seen an employee evaluation done in the private sector? They are a joke. We have a negative unemployment rate here in our area of Minnesota in many sectors of our economy. (1 applicant for every 25 manufacturing jobs.) Good bosses aren't tough. They are teachers and coaches and mentors. At least the ones who wish to keep good employees are. (And that's driving the old white, bald, cigar-chomping, I-say-jump bosses nuts!)

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger-flipping; they called it opportunity.  Depends on whether it is at MacDonalds or Chez Bovine. Any work into which a person cannot bring imagination, creativity, and personal-goal setting should be automated. I hate seeing humans doing the work of machines nearly as much as I hate seeing machines trying to do the work of humans (Internet filters, telephone automated responses, etc.)  

Rule 6: If you screw up, it's not your parents' fault so don't whine about your mistakes. Learn from them.  You haven't seen some of the parents my students deal with.  Sometimes it IS the parents' fault.

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way paying your bills, cleaning your room, and listening to you talk how about how idealistic you are.  I thought they got that way because they lost their idealism by for working for people like you, Mr. Sykes.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life has not. In some schools they have abolished failing grades, they'll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. This, of course, bears not the slightest resemblance to anything in real life.  Really? Then why do I always read about the number of times people like Harlan Sanders (KFC) failed before making it big. Good schools never give up on kids. We've learned that some people take a little more time to perform at an expected level of competence, but given time, energy and motivation, everybody will eventually get the "right" answers. Schools can't afford to be social sorting devices anymore, since there aren't places for D and F kids in society anymore.  

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off, and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself.  Do that on your own time.   If you are smart and talented enough you can have as much time off as you wish. If you are not finding yourself though work, you are in the wrong job.

Rule 10: Television is not real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.  Unless you are a writer, consultant, salesperson, or work from home (or with a cell phone and laptop out of a coffee shop). I would agree that television is not real life. Real life is a whole lot better. Thank goodness.

Rule 11: Living fast and dying young is romantic-only until you see one of your peers at room temperature.  But living fast IS romantic. If you aren't a little wild while you are young, you'll have to be a little wild during a middle-age crisis when it's a lot more expensive and you'll look a great deal more foolish. The longest book is not always the most interesting book.

Rule 12: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for them.  Be nice to everyone. Chances are true "nerds" will be working for you. Learn what motivates them and makes them loyal and productive.

Mr. Sykes, lighten up and get a grip. 

Internet denizens, stop forwarding this crap.

I’m feeling rather contrary lately. Have you noticed? Must be all this Christmas, no Holiday, no Christmas, no Holiday, no ... Whatever shopping getting to me.

Monday
Dec122005

May I See Your ID?

Jacquie Henry, librarian at Gananda Central School District, Macedon, NY, sent the following plea to LM_Net: I have Jacquie’s permission to quote her here.

I have been trying to come up with criteria for evaluating blogs. I am at a loss as to how to grade [unattributed] sites according to the first two criteria on my grading rubric: Accuracy and Authority and Advocacy and Objectivity.

In a follow-up e-mail, she writes:
I … get disgusted with the lack of information about the author's credentials. I am sure that sometimes it is sheer laziness on the author's part. Other times, I think the author actually wants to be anonymous. [It’s] so much easier that way to say outrageous things and not be held accountable. I teach my students that if they are unable to find anything about the author or if there is no reputable organization standing behind the information, then the site is unacceptable for research. Period. End of story.
Jacquie, I share your feelings. After exploring a number of new blogs over the weekend, I found over half of them contained no link to the author/creator’s biography, credentials or affiliation. "What are they hiding?" asked meself.

I left a brief, and I hope polite, note on those blogs, expressing my concern about the lack of credentials easily found on the site. I’ve just decided I won’t read anybody who doesn’t tell me where s/he is coming from. Why should I pay any attention to a person who does not have experience or may have some sort of hidden agenda that colors her/his writings? (If the agenda is stated, no problem. See My Biases and John Pederson’s biases . Will Richardson has his “Disclaimer” .)  Damn fine and shining examples of good behavior, we are.

As I remember when I did my little study on blogging ethics, a blogger should state his biases upfront. How about a campaign to get a little more transparency in blogs. If all of us left a polite note on a blog which has no link to either biography or bias, asking the author to include them, might we, the readers, be better able to more quickly determine if a blog is worth perusing - eventually?

Transparently yours, Doug

(December 21 - Excellent follow-up post by Liz Ditz.) 

Sunday
Dec112005

Apology to tech directors

I just re-read my last entry and it sounds like I am beating up on tech directors. This was NOT my intent. Brother and sister tech directors, we are truly caught between a rock and a hard place with our goals. My department's lament (taken from some advertisement) is "maximum expectations with minimal resources." Much of what we want and need to do is frustrated by school administrators, legislators and a plain old lack of funding. From Machines Are the Easy Part; People Are the Hard Part:

If you can't afford the whole cure, don't even start it.

I call this the Antibiotic Law of Educational Change.

If you get a prescription to kill a germ, you are sternly warned to keep taking the medicine until it is gone – not just until the symptoms disappear. If you don’t, the bug can come back, strengthened by new resistance to the antibiotic.

We in education kill ourselves by ignoring this rule. We formulate a budget for a program, a grant, or a project then happily accept less than the full amount of the funding request without changing the promised result. We then get half-assed results that demoralize the participants and increase the skepticism of those who funded us.

Don’t accept project funding if it is not for the full amount or make clear that the reduced amount will affect the outcome, and redefine your objectives.

As a tech director, I am more than willing to take responsibility for some of the unmet demands in the Manifesto below - but not all of them!