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PERFECTION IS FLAWED

Hitler was an idiot.

Hitler strove to create a perfect society, the Arian race, but if he ever reached his goals, the very fact of having a perfect race would mean that this race is perfectly flawed. The very fact that it is “perfect” suddenly makes it flawed, because by being perfect, it is now vulnerable.

This is because “perfection” is dependent on external conditions. A “perfect product” is matched to a person’s wants and needs. A “perfect coat” is matched to a person’s body. A “perfect species” is matched to its surroundings. But because perfection is dependent on this ideal match between an object and its environment, any changes in the external conditions will change the match between the object and its environment, and thus making it no longer “perfect”.

Since external conditions change, what was once perfect is now flawed. A perfect gene pool will never exist because the external environment changes. Sure, if you lived during the Ice Age and you were a dude who was so harry that you had to shave your back on your 11th birthday, you were perfectly matched to your environment. However, the environment has changed. A hairy back just isn’t quite the social symbol (and survival symbol) that it used to be. Read more »

IF YOU WANT A BETTER SCHOOL, TALK TO YOUR CUSTOMERS

Some people reject the idea that a school should be thought of as a business. Thinking of schools as a business apparently conjures up haunting images of greased-back hair, “market share”, and Enron. However, where there is the exchange of money for resources, there exists an institution that is influenced by the properties of a business, and any viable business knows that it should listen to its customers. In the business of school, the customers are the students (not the parents), but we usually do a pretty poor job of serving them. We spend a lot of time making the parents happy, the school boards happy, and the teachers happy, but the students who should be receiving the education often get put to the side as a secondary concern. This is problematic for (hopefully) obvious reasons.

There is one customer that is a product of American education to whom I think teachers should pay special attention. Her name is Jessica Mah. Her website states “Jessica started her first internet company at the age of 13, finished high school at the age of 15, and studied computer science at Berkeley. She is a member of the TED conference and has been featured in TechCrunch and Inc. Magazine for her work on internshipIN.com. She's now the founder and product architect of Indinero.com (a company that helps businesses manage finances).” So in case you missed it, she graduated from high school early and she continues to dominate college while ALSO running a successful business that she started. Is it just me or does anybody else think that this independence, entrepreneurial savvy, and desire to learn is something we should be striving to cultivate in our students?

When I run my own school (if I ever get around to it), I’m going to talk to people like Jessica. People like her are going to be the fundamental rudders that help steer the ship to uncharted lands. Instead of waiting for the day when I run my own school, I figured I would ask her some questions now, and she had some profound insights. Read more »

SCHOOL VS. EDUCATION IN "WEAPONS OF MASS INSTRUCTION"

Our nation doesn’t need more school. We don’t need more classes, more principles, and longer days. We just need more education. In “Weapons of Mass Instruction”, John Taylor Gatto explains just how far removed “school” and “education” are in his experience in 30 years of public school teaching, and if you care about the future of this nation, you should read what he has to say.

A note of caution: if you get your feelings hurt easily, if you want to read books that are non-confrontational, or if you think compulsory education is the greatest thing since sliced bread, then you probably should not read this book and instead return to doing homework.

However, you are a probable candidate for finding value in this book if any of the following are true:
1. You have surmised that working hard and gaining valuable life experience are more important than getting perfect grades.
2. You felt that the work you did in school was disconnected from your life outside of school.
3. You have met a lot of people with college degrees and certifications who you would never hire in a million years.
4. You think that a reference from someone who has a brain is more valuable than a list of past accolades on a cookie-cutter resume.
5. You sat in a classroom and asked yourself, “Why I am I learning THIS?”

If this is you, then read on... Read more »

MEMOIR OF A SOUTH AMERICAN SOCCER GAME

It is amazing what you learn when you are by yourself.

A few summers ago, I went to Santiago, Chile to improve my Spanish and to visit a foreign country. There were many things that I wanted to do in Chile, but I was most excited about the opportunity to go to a big-time soccer game.

I had been told by other Chileans that soccer in Chile is "just not as exciting" compared to soccer in other South American countries, but after attending this game, I realized that South Americans have a radically different understanding of the word "excitement".

Allow me to set the scene. I am about 2 miles from the stadium, and my first sign of "crowd enthusiasm" was a group of 30 Colo-Colo fans. At first, I just thought they were loud and excited and simply thought that throwing toilet paper and paper confetti EVERYWHERE was a good idea, 2 miles away from the stadium. Then, when one of the buses refuses to pick them up and tried to drive right by, they started spitting at the bus, kicking it, and throwing their whole wads of toilet paper at the windshield. Luckily the light turned green before they could do too much damage, and it sped off.

I knew it was only going to get more interesting from there. Read more »

A BRIEF INTERVIEW WITH MAYA FROST

Maya Frost, author of “The New Global Student”, has spent a significant amount of time encouraging those who might be interested to explore alternative pathways to education, such as going on a global romp. While this may not be an attractive option for some students, there are some key insights in her book about how this sort of experience can have huge benefits for those who are willing to go on the adventure. As more and more schools talk about creating “21st Century Learners”, her insights and her experiences have more and more relevance. It turns out that traveling to Buenos Aires for a semester (even while you are in high school) isn’t as complicated as you think as long as you have a little moxy.

While Maya’s book is written mainly to parents, it has consequences for everyone involved in education. As a teacher, I was curious about how some of her experiences related to my fellow teachers. I asked her a few questions via email and she was generous enough to respond with the following: Read more »

IF YOU CAN'T BEAT THEM, PLAY A DIFFERENT GAME

A few weeks ago, I decided to go by the education section and browse the titles. I usually don’t read books from this section because I usually strike out with the books that I find (how many classroom stories can a person handle?) In the process of browsing through the section, I miraculously stumbled upon one of the best books about education I have ever read.

The book is called “The New Global Student” by Maya Frost, and the book contained ideas to which every educator should pay attention. I’m not going to condense a 220 page book into an entire blog post, but here is the scoop.

The author and her husband decided to take their four daughters (three of whom were in high school at the time) for a year of living abroad. They weren’t sure how the credits would work out and what they would do about graduation or college admissions, but they knew they wanted to go on the trip. After trying to make it work out, they ran into red tape that just wasn’t convenient for their plan. So what did they do? Did they try to change the system? No, they just bailed on the system all together. They stopped listening to what the system said they should do, and they just made decisions that were right for their daughters. They packed their bags and headed on their journey as a family, figuring they would worry about standardized tests, graduation requirements, and earning credits at some point further in the future.

Fast forward to 2-3 years later, and the question is: did the escape work? Were their daughters left to disarray and destitution after “losing” such a grand opportunity to be trained by the American Educational System? Are their daughters some of the thousands of college graduates with freshly-minted degrees but no job offerings? Nope. Their daughters are all-stars. They all entered college early (and didn’t even mess with that whole SAT/ACT thing, leaving the standardized tests in the dust), they were TA’s at the age of 17, and they finished college early. They also accomplished something that is dear to my own heart: THEY DON’T HAVE COLLEGE DEBT! Read more »

THE GREATEST MARKETER OF ALL TIME: MUHAMMAD ALI


Photo: Time Archives

Muhammad Ali is the greatest marketer of all time. He simply told people, “I am the Greatest.” He made it known, loud and clear, that he was the greatest in the sport of boxing, and he was saying that at the age of 20.

And at his retirement, after winning the heavyweight crown three different times (a record that remains this day), he proved his comments were true. Even to this day, he is acknowledged by everyone in the sport of boxing as the Greatest of all time.

One of my favorite quotes from Ali: “Some people say I’m cocky, they say I talk too much, and that I need a good whoopin’. But anything I say, I’m willing to back up.” This is why I think Muhammad is one of the greatest marketers of all time: his product delivered as promised. He talked a big talk, but he backed it up every step of the way.

Marketers and companies are really good at promising great things. A business claims that their product is going to help you, a politician claims to change society for the better, a school claims to build life-long learners. However, the business, politician, and school often do not deliver as promised. In many instances, the marketing is much better than the product. People get the word out, they claim that their product is amazing and going to change things, but it just doesn’t deliver. The problem is that many organizations spend more time developing their marketing instead of developing their product. Read more »

GENERALS ARE MADE IN BATTLE. TEACHERS ARE MADE IN THE CLASSROOM.

There is a “teacher crisis” in America because the number of people preparing to be teachers is significantly under the projected number of teachers that are needed. This is already true in math and science, where teachers with this skill set are highly sought after and given significant federal incentives (scholarships, loan forgiveness, etc.) to pursue this path. The question, then, is how to get more teachers into the field, and once you get them to pursue the field, how do you best prepare them?

One suggestion is to take people who already know something and have spent years in many different industries (business, government, law, etc.) and just get them into a classroom. These people already have the skill set, they already know content and even better, they know how this meaningful content can be used in the real world in which they worked. They have what many teachers do not have: experience with the application of knowledge. This experience is priceless.

But some people (usually professors in the Education Department of some University) don’t want these people to teach until they have taken 20 credit hours of pre-requisites and spent $30,000 on university classes. Furthermore, these people have a significant voice in the creation of licensing standards, and therefore, they are in a position to oppose non-standard routes to licensing.

This is a problem. Read more »

DEAR CORPORATE AMERICA: PLEASE STOP BEING FAKE

Dear Corporate America,

Please stop being fake.

Please stop making fake advertising.

Please stop making fake products.

Please stop hiring fake employees who pretend to care about me but really don’t.

Please stop faking a smile when I enter your store.

Please stop making fake customer service call centers that send me to people who do not care about what I need or want.

Please stop pretending you care about something besides your company.

Please stop sending me updates about how you are donating 0.0001% of your profits to preserve one acre of old-growth forests in Mongolia. Read more »

THE FUNDAMENTAL FLAW OF SCHOOL

Schools play an odd role in society. They fulfill many different functions for many different people, but perhaps their most important function is to provide an environment of learning. However, there is a fundamental (and irreversible) flaw to schools that inhibit the level of learning that can occur within their walls. What is this flaw?

School is not real.

School is only a simulation. Read more »

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