The analog still rules. My takeaway from #140conf NYC 2012

140conf The State of Now

140conf The State of Now

The #140conf was held last week at the 92Y in New York City. We were there.

It seems like every year, going to the conference is like being at Woodstock; the one in 1969, not the fake ones that tried to recreated the magic. At some point in the future, my ability to say “I was there” will stop and define a moment of time.

When you find yourself in a room filled with geeks, the point of view tends to change somewhat where the technology begins to get worshipped far more than the humanity that created and used it. I guess that is human nature to see your point of view as holding an answer to problems but most of life acts as a potentiometer, not a switch. Sometimes what you know or can bring to the table is in the off position or dialed back really far. Other times, it is full-on. Wisdom is in knowing the difference and being able to apply it correctly.

As I was listening to each of the talks, I realized that no matter how great all this twitter and facebook connection stuff is, nothing happened until someone with a belly button cared enough to reach out and touch; using “old media” like a telephone or television or in some cases, a letter scratched out with a pen. Then — and only then — did the wheels turn and the train start moving forward.

To hug a friend during a chance meeting in the hallway; to hear music created with the tips of ones fingers; to extend a hand to an old gentleman climbing the few stairs to the entrance of the building; to feel your butt fall asleep even as the sessions went on; to hear the clamber of the trade show right outside the door, competing with the speaker on stage, to feel your stomach growl. These are the things that are most memorable even though they maybe shouldn’t be. These are the things that have almost nothing to do with the digital marvels that brought us all together in that one place.

Yet it is the digital marvels that we use to justify why we are there.

The more we immerse ourselves in this digital stuff, the more we crave analog contact. Eventually, it will be this very thing, this very messy analog that digital was supposed to bring order to which will once again define us.

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My pick of the 2012 conference is Kevin Honeycutt (@kevinhoneycutt). His presentation* was the right mix of excitement and skill without dipping into the overly-exuberant. He lives and breathes his message and attempts to infect every student, every teacher, every one of us in the audience with an enthusiasm for learning. His story is also told with an analog pivot, a phone call. Read his story, watch the video below and then make something happen in your school, even something really small. But I dare you to just sit there afterwards.

One frustrating note: The speaker who came after him Andrew Rasiej (@Rasiej) wrongly concluded that education in America would be better if every student had access to an iPad.

NOOO!!

In one sentence, he negated the entire point of Kevin’s presentation.

Every student should have access to teachers like Kevin. It is Kevin who is the variable here, not the iPad. I’ll bet Kevin would have been just as effective motivating kids to get excited about music with a couple buckets, some string and a gum wrapper. How very, very sad this was so very wrongly interpreted.

Invest in people first; invest in the analog and the digital will follow. The people you invest in will see and use digital in creative ways. If you just invest in the digital, you will turn students into robot users, not creators.

Kevin’s presentation is between 1:47 and 2:06 below. Kevin’s “conclusion” follows briefly afterward.



Video streaming by Ustream | 140conf Day 1, Session 1

*The harmonica app is awesome, but as an accomplished player of the real thing, I got bored. The banjo tuner was fun only it that is annoyed @chirn9980 when I claimed to be able to play a foggy mountain breakdown in the key of G. He claimed it was just a tuner and I was an idiot. It was still fun.

I apologize, Governor Kasich

Northmont Kindergarten Sign

Dear Hon. John Kasich, Governor of Ohio;

I apologize for my sight-sightedness with respect to my opposition to your state education budget cuts and SB5, which sought to limit bargaining rights for teachers. Clearly these were bills designed to give smart-ass bloggers like me an endless supply of content for free.

Please forgive my lack of vision. I look forward to the endless bounty of your labors.

I remain your loyal subject,

Rufus Dogg

Northmont Kindergarten Sign

I became an artist because I hate math

CMYK

During my stint at the Dayton Daily News, I used to do career day at local schools. I think everyone at the paper just wanted a day off from me which is why they always nominated me to go. That’s ok; give me an open mic and a stage and I’m all over it!

So I showed up at a Dayton elementary school to speak to a classroom full of fourth-graders. There was the usual collection of policemen with their uniforms and shiny badges and fireman in hats — with firetrucks parked out in front for the kids to climb on later — lined up ready to speak.

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Mercedes Benz shoulda hired an English major

This is the latest commercial for Mercedes Benz:

Ouch!

I’m not sure how much money they spent on the special effects, CGI or any of that, but they should have spent more on copywriting. The only copy in the commercial is painfully grammatically incorrect.

It should have said “fewer doors” not “less doors.” Of course, they could have said “less door space.”

While the misuse of “few” and “less” is grating and painful to my ears, I’m sure few others noticed. But if Mercedes Benz is a premium brand that buyers trust to handle all the small details on the car, shouldn’t they also handle the details of their commercials with the same care and fanaticism?

Its brand promise of “the best or nothing” to their customers insists it does.

When we fail as readers, we fail as writers

I read this article in the NY TImes this week about e-books adding music to the “experience.” Champions of this technology justify it by saying it adds to the experience, enhances imagination, meets readers where they are, blah, blah, blah.

I have not yet worked out all the feelings I have about this, but I am down to one thing: Parents and teachers need to teach young readers how to hear the sounds that words on the page produce through the ear of their own imagination. Readers need to be able to create the characters and the settings in their minds through imagination. They need to learn how the cadence, rhythm and rhyme of the words produces the “soundtrack” that propels the reader through the book.

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Public sex is just for animals, not humans

Northwestern University Logo

Apparently there has been a big bruhaha over a Northwestern professor having a live demonstration of a sex act* performed for students as part of a human sexual psychology class.

Ok, so what.

Sex is part of nature. It’s primary function is for procreation. But, unlike animals, humans have the good fortune (or mis-fortune) of also having a brain with curiosity and a need for recreation attached to the same body as their genitals. When we deny that fact and refuse to study the psychology behind human sex, we’re not really exploring our entire humanity. What’s wrong with demonstrating a sex act as part of an academic exercise for the purpose of studying emotional and psychological reaction? Was it the practical application of a theory that upset people the most or was it just the fact that it was sex? Or maybe it was the modification of a perfectly good power tool?

Studying the psychology of human sexuality without a practical lab is like studying architecture and never building a bridge. Do you really want that guy in charge of the project?

Oh my god, dog, you are going to hell for those thoughts!

Actually, all dogs go to heaven, so I’m not really worried. And even if you believe God made you in His image, certainly He knew what He was doing when He gave guys danglies and women innies. He did it a lot so with your logic, He is either a genius or a pervert.

Secondly, sex acts are neutral. They are neither good nor bad. What makes them good or bad is all this morality and cultural crap we attach to them.

Thirdly, sex is a very large part of who we are (unless of course, you are married.) Why not study it more fully? Why would we not want to know everything about what makes us tick? Why does something like sex make us all giggly or nervous or outraged or ….

The rules of sex are not established by nature. They are established by the class of humans in power. Like every species in nature, the ones allowed to procreate are the ones best suited to advance the species. In the animal kingdom, we have the most cunning, the fastest, the most powerful, etc. In the human world, we have the class most willing and able to dominate the others. That class will use social norms, religion, laws, peer pressure, shame or any other means necessary to impose their will on others. Depriving the “weaker” classes of the means to procreate is the ultimate dominance one human can have over another. (Don’t even get me started on non-hetrosexual sex. I have no idea why anyone wants to prevent that or why they feel it threatens them. Maybe that deserves more study.)

Ever wonder why virginity is prized above all else in some cultures? There is no natural reason for it. It doesn’t destroy a woman or make her any less fit for companionship or procreation. Yet a “ruling class” gets that idea impregnated (pun intended) into a class (women) which prevents them from consenting to intercourse outside of a sanctioned union, i.e., marriage. When a women violates the rules, she is ostracized and in some cultures, killed. A population is now controlled by their own morality. Really simple crowd control, ain’t it? That statement is over-simplified, but you get the idea. You can apply the same kind of thinking to any type of sex. Attach a moral penalty to it and you control a population. Start from there and study outward.

Did you have a strong reaction to Professor Bailey’s demonstration? Why? Like him, do you eventually arrive at a logical, academic reason for not being curious about the psychological basis of sex-toy-induced orgasm? Did you recoil? Did you ever ask why you had that reaction? You probably should.

It seems an unfair symptom of our culture to know what sex is all about almost five decades into life rather than in the prime of youth. It not only robs you of some great interactions with other people, but also a deeper understanding of works of literature like The Awakening, The Scarlet Letter or Sister Carrie. Read them when you are young and intimidated by sex because of fear or confusion and you learn nothing. Read them when you are older and know a bit more and it produces anger and resentment. (Maybe I’m just projecting here.. sorry.) When we fail to give sex cultural or moral power it does not naturally posses, we also free ourselves from the power others wield over us.

And before you go on about “think of the children” and other such nonsense, I am not advocating sex awareness that is not appropriate for children. But as a parent, have you crafted your exit strategy on sex before your child turns 18? Why not; it’s your job. Why are parents getting involved with the class demonstration that happened at Northwestern? Didn’t you give your off-spring the skills to determine his or her own sexual choices? If not, shame on you. You had eighteen years!

Ok, your turn. I’ve already said my piece.

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*Apparently the sex act was a dildo attached to a modified reciprocating saw where the woman disrobed and consented to the man using the device to penetrate her vagina. I’m not sure what the class was studying, but if they were studying reactions to facsimiles of a penis during intercourse, I’m pretty sure they got some interesting ones. Does my saying penis and vagina upset you? Does my description of the act above? Why? Be honest with yourself, please, even if only in your head. It’s the only way we grow.

And the title? It was a tweet I received yesterday from a fan in response to my 140 opinion on this mater. I promised I’d write more today. It wasn’t really public sex; it was in a classroom, as an academic study with everyone in the room an adult and with full consent.

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Destroying a legacy

Signature wall at Marple Newtown High School in Pennsylvania

Yesterday, we participated in the #letsblogoff about legacy. You can read all the articles submitted here. This morning, I opened the Wall Street Journal to this heart-breaking story of a legacy about to be erased from history. Apparently English teacher Thom Williams encouraged students at Marple Newtown High School in Pennsylvania to write on the walls. But the teacher died of cancer in December 2010 at the age of 63 and the school plans to repaint and renovate the classroom.

While the true legacy of Mr. Williams will always be the students he taught and inspired, there seems something wrong in being quick to wipe out years of written record so blithely, especially in a digital culture that seems intent on removing ink and physical medium and replacing it with transitory screens. Stories like this make me wonder why we are in such a rush to remove those quirky things that make us human and replace them with neat, orderly banality.

If the walls can not be preserved, we should at least make a record of it by photographing every square inch of the walls and recreate them on a memorial site or historical display at the school. To do less would be to marginalize Mr. Williams’ life and vocation.

Be creative, kids! Reach for the sky! You can win the future. But you’ll learn to do it in an environment of neatly painted institution-white walls.

PHOTO: Ryan Collerd for The Wall Street Journal. Please don’t sue me for using the photo. Thank you.

How do we measure good things

couple not measuring a good thing

I have an instinct that my random conversations and connections with people on twitter is a good thing, though I would be hard-pressed to find some measurement that says I’m right. I also know when I am clicking with someone in a conversation, though there is no “clickomoter” that confirms my intuition. I just know.

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If money were no object, here is what I would gift to you #letsblogoff

First, I would buy health care for everyone who was willing to take care of themselves. If you don’t have health, you have nothing. Then I would buy an education for everyone willing to learn. Educated people influence others around them to want to learn. Lastly, I would buy a home for anyone who is homeless and wanted one. Everyone should have some place to call home.

Then I would figure out how to save time in a bottle and give it to all the writers and artists who left works unfinished. The world is a poorer place without artists and the art they create. Most often, they just need more time.

And I would create bottles of compassion, wisdom and patience to give freely to those who need each. Because there is no such thing as a self-made man and those who think they are need to be reminded from time to time.

Happy Holidays from Rufus, Sallie, Charlie and our intern Zoey. We wish you and yours lots of cold noses and many long, pointless walks.

This blog post is part of a blog-off series with a group of bloggers from different professions and world views, each exploring a theme from his/her world view. This was about “if money were no object, what would you gift.” To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.

One thing to consider on education reform

This has been education week on the cable news and talk shows and in true fashion, they have blasted out all sorts of opinions from tons of experts in the education field who purport to know better about how to reform education in America. Most of the advice is along the lines of; getting parents more involved, making teaching a more respected profession, giving schools more money. Blah, blah, blah we’ve heard this all before.

And I waited throughout the week to see if I could pick out some truly great ideas. I heard none. And next week, we’ll all go back to the same old stuff and next year about this time, trot out the same ideas on reform we had this week. This cycle of a week-long focus news programs do may be the most harmful thing we do, but I digress.

Instead of trying to propose a massive change to the entire education system, I think we should try just one thing; employ older people as teachers. Hear me out.

If you are 50-67 years old with a bachelor’s degree and you want to become a teacher, the Federal government would allow you to draw 70% of your Social Security benefits, enroll in Medicare and earn up to $25,000 in salary before it affects your retirement benefits. If you wished to continue teaching after the age of 67, you would be eligible to draw full Social Security and Medicare, but your salary allowance would cap at $20,000 (or something like that. Smarter people than me would have to run the numbers) You would be required to take a six month teaching course on managing a classroom.

Studies show first-year teacher turnover at a little more than twenty percent. If you visit any college campus and ask education students why they want to become a teacher, you will find some legitimately have realistic expectations of what the occupation is like, but for the most part, you will hear things like: I like working with kids or I want my summers and holidays off. You will also find a fair number of students who have delusions of becoming another Mr. Holland or reviving the Dead Poets Society.

And many recent graduates are woefully unprepared both intellectually and emotionally to handle kids who are formulating their own emotional identity. You do not have to spend much time in the classroom to see how this plays out every day in frustration and tantrums on both sides of the teacher desk. Young teachers with little confidence quickly grow into old teachers with obstinacy in an attempt to establish their expert credentials over parents. It becomes a tug-of-war which results in parents being effectively shut out of the classroom, relegated to sidecar tracks like the PTO or Boosters.

By employing older professionals who have more life experience outside the classroom — including raising kids of their own — school districts are able to tap into a richer experience and more emotionally stable teacher population than colleges are producing. And as older people have most likely built some wealth over their working years (this could be a qualification) and feel no pressure to repay huge student loans on a small salary, they would be a lower flight risk. Medicare would be available as a benefit so the cost to employ an older person as a teacher would be less. And we would be saving one more soul from the doors of Walmart or the counters and drive-thru windows of McDonald’s.

Young kids as teachers was a good thing several generations ago when learning to read, write and add were all the skills citizens needed to be productive. But this has changed and the world has gotten to be a far more competitive place. To entrust the educational future to young kids, fresh out of school also learning who they are is perhaps not the wisest long-term strategy.

I’m confident the teacher’s unions and colleges would discredit this idea on its face, but I’m hoping perhaps Education Secretary Arne Duncan will at least read this post and start thinking. We can’t start down the road of corporations owning the educational process like IBM is doing in New Jersey. Education is a matter of public trust and to allow corporations to craft the education of our citizens will eventually lead to them only producing workers that satisfy their need for profit. We tried that with health care and food production. When will we learn?

I’d sure hate to be back here next year during Education Week talking about the same old ideas. One can still hope.

Editor’s addition after publishing: I keep snippets in my head until I write and I sometimes forget them until days after I press the Publish button. But this is a bit too important to let go.

What young teacher truly understands the internal struggle of the characters in the Scarlet Letter or the quiet desperation of Edna in The Awakening or the social statements made in the turtle chapter in the Grapes of Wrath or the meaning of the other in The Secret Sharer? You can outline the plot, discuss themes, memorize lines in these works, but you don’t arrive at a full understanding until you are much, much older. And even then, you ache to understand. Each of these works holds a timeless lesson on navigating the human condition but without the benefit of a life lived with purpose, they are just another book the teacher checks off as the class having read. A teacher who has lived will beg students to read each in every decade of his or her life forward.

How to look clueless on Twitter in three easy steps

Recently, one of the folks I follow sent out a tweet about a teacher who is selling sponsorship on the bottom of his test. The tweet went like:

I am in advertising, but even I think this is a bad idea.

So, being a good follower, I click on the link to the story, read it and replied back something like:

Wow, I want to advertise. Do you know how to get in touch with Tom Farber?

A day goes by and the reply comes back from my follower:

Who is Tom F?

I replied he was the teacher in the story he tweeted out. He replied back:

Not sure, use Google!

Oh, ok. I was a bit taken aback, but maybe he was very busy, a day job, thousands of followers and didn’t really have time to engage me. Nope. He is following 32 people.

So, here is my take on Mr. Follower.
He really didn’t read or engage in the article, but he thought he should tweet something out that made him look like he was connected with the advertising/marketing world. When he was given an opportunity to engage with someone who took the time to reply to a tweet, he blew it entirely by saying, “I don’t have time for you, look it up yourself.”

I clicked through to Mr. Follower’s profile and then to his web site, which turned out to be a resume. His last job ended in September 2008, so it looks like he is searching for a new job. Do I have a marketing position for him with my company? Maybe I do, but I would never hire him.

Am I being too hard on Mr. Follower? Perhaps. Perhaps I should do my own research on articles that interest me. Or, perhaps Mr. Follower just failed the first test of a prospective employer looking for a Web 2.0 savvy person to lead a multi-million dollar division.

Oh, yeah, the three steps thing… umm, ok:
1. Make sure you don’t actually read or engage in web sites you tweet out
2. Treat every question like it is an imposition on your time
3. Don’t bother helping anyone. That is what Google is for.

Put the smart guys in charge, please

Susan Suess Kennedy wrote an article recently for the Huffington Post examining why Americans have such a disdain for smart people. A popular terms among the non-intellectuals and shallow thinkers is “elistism.” The undereducated white guys chant this, along with “drill baby, drill” (which I don’t really get as a mantra, but ok..) Here’s the puppy take on all this.

Way back in the good ol’ days of air travel (pre-1996 or thereabouts) getting on a plane was something that you did because you had really important business. You knew the rules (or got to know the rules quickly) ticket prices were high, but so was the expectation of flyer sophistication and service from the airlines.

At some point, the airlines thought it was a good idea to let anyone fly. They deserved to fly to see grandma, visit the new baby, etc. Ticket prices plummeted and the airports were suddenly overrun by people who really didn’t have a clue where they were going, what they were doing and had expectations of service that was far in excess of the price they paid for their ticket. The airline employees suddenly felt like a “babysitter” when they were hired as a trained air traffic professional. Things got surly and the service and profits plummeted straight to the bottom. In addition, the airlines and airports were so overrun with volume that it was easy for nineteen people to slip into planes on 9/11.

The same thing happened with the housing market. Days were the only people who were allowed to buy a home were those who could actually afford it. They saved their money, they worked hard and smart and they had at least 5%-10% down on a home. They bought a home that might have been a little lived-in, was probably too small and in an area that was not exactly their first choice. And buying that first home was tough as bankers made you sweat the details of employment history, credit history and cash. The money was real and it was hard-earned.

Then, along came a generation of people who deserved to be in a home, regardless of their credit history or income. The question was not whether or not it made sense to buy a home; the question was how do we bend the rules to get you in a home. And so we put a lot of people in houses that they did not work for, they couldn’t afford to buy and more importantly, couldn’t afford to maintain. In addition, we sent a message to all the home owners who did work hard for their homes that their work was just not that valuable. And now, as these $0-down, sub-prime folks are abandoning their homes in record numbers, they are kicking more dirt into the faces of the hard-working folks in the form of lower home values, higher property taxes and an economy in shambles.

The same thing happened with a college education. A time was only the really smart people who tested high on the ACT or SAT, had a solid GPA and could write a coherent paper got accepted into college. Paying for it was another matter, but if you were really smart, you either found a way or were given a way.

Now, colleges are more interested in being in the food service and housing businesses than the business of education. Most colleges will take any student who applies, but require they stay in student housing for their freshman and sophomore years. Their cafeterias are now stocked with branded food items from Chik Fil A, Burger King, KFC, etc. in addition to gourmet lunches and dinners. The dorms are lavish apartments starting at $3,000+ a semester, per student, sleeping four per unit. And every student there believes they deserve a college degree, regardless of how hard they work or the quality of their work.

And we get to the US Elections. On the one side, we have someone who is really smart and is a deep thinker. On the other side, we have a candidate who shoots from the hip, deserves to be President because he served his country for decades and it is “his turn.” Moreover, he has paired up with an “average hockey mom” and journalism major who doesn’t read newspapers, speaks plainly but incoherently and identifies well with the Bubba vote who is able to fly to Vegas for less than $100, lives in a house he can’t really afford, went to a college where he majored in drinking and works at a job for a company that really doesn’t produce anything of value. But, by God, she deserves to be VP!

Despite her dreadful interview performances with Charlie Rose and Katie Couric, Palin could win the debates tomorrow because she appeals to a growing audience that has become dumber and dumber, but more deserving. We have abdicated our need to know facts for sound bytes and slogans to chant. “Drill, baby, drill!”, “U-S-A, U-S-A” and statements like “We are all Georgians”, “Make the Wall Street fat-cats pay” and the oft-used “Main Street vs Wall Street.” We don’t know what these mean, we don’t really examine why they have meaning or even if they do, but they have a nice cadence and chanting them in a large crowd makes us feel a part of something.

We need smart people to start leading this country. We need to quit giving the masses what they want because they feel they “deserve” it. We don’t really have to look very far to see what happens to industries that succumb to the pressures of market expansion at any cost. Eventually, the industry dives to the bottom and crashes. Air travel, housing, education, credit cards, and soon to be the executive branch of the United States.

The office of President and Vice-president of the United States of America should be the hardest job to get in this country. The people who eventually get elected to fill these top jobs should be the best and the brightest, not the ones who can drink beer best with us or who can shoot a moose the best. We need to advance the country forward, technologically, politically, ethically and societally for the next generation of the best and the brightest, not drive the standards down to allow more people to participate. To borrow a phrase from TheLadders.com, if everybody plays, nobody wins.

It’s time to make being smart a thing of value again. We don’t need presidential and vice-presidential candidates mocking community participation, academic accomplishment, reasoned arguments and hard work as elitism. We need leaders who appreciate the value of human smarts and recognize that there is more power in a pen than a sword. Human smarts is the ultimate infrastructure of any society. When that is damaged and devalued, the society will eventually crumble, united or not.

After-post: If you have a chance and have read this far, perhaps you will read one more article by Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post Writer’s Group.

And this says more of the same, but a far better post than mine. Thank you, Deanie Mills.

Northmont hires a leader?

I was reading the Englewood Independent yesterday and a sidebar article caught my eye. Northmont has hired a new superintendent, Douglas Lantz, formerly the superintendent from Franklin City Schools. Great! New blood, fresh leadership, a focus on building the human infrastructure of tomorrow…

But, then I get to Linda Blum’s quote. For the people who have since lined their recyle bins with the paper, here it is:

“[Lantz’s] experience as an athlete and a coach have taught him much about teamwork and the important components of an organized structure.”

What?? Where is the educational excellence? Where is the leadership skills that will infuse a new level of academic excellence into our kids that will better prepare them for leadership in the changing world? Where is the challenge of producing thought leadership in our students to better equip them to adapt to the dynamic world around them? Where? Where?

Perhaps it is best if we look at Mr. Lantz’s performance as measured by the State of Ohio Report Card System (yeah, I know.. but that is an entirely different blog.)

Northmont’s Report Card | Franklin City Schools Report Card

Well, I can do the analysis, but you all can probably do it better. Bottom line, we are bringing in a superintendent whose highest score was 92.8, Effective to manage a school district that has already achieved a score of 102, Excellent. Hmmm..

I think what Mr. Lantz has really learned from his being an athlete and a coach is that if you hang around long enough on the bench and show up every day for practice, the coach will eventually play you, whether you are good enough for the job or not.

I’m a dog who can read, write and think. Perhaps I should have applied for the job. As an athletic dog, I can probably out-run Lantz as well 😉

Appeasing the under-educated white guy


Since Hillary’s win in North Carolina last Tuesday, the “news cycle” has been all about how Barack Obama is going to get the “under-educated, white man” vote. After watching news story after news story on this, a very large question suddenly dawned on me:

When did this country get to the point where the under-educated, white working class decides who gets to be the president of The United States of America in an information-based world-market economy, where the competitive advantage is determined by who has the smartest and most clever on board?

Wow! But the REAL question us dogs are barking about is:

How did we get to the point where the richest country in the world — with the greatest opportunity for individual achievement — produce such a large majority of under-educated people?

Could it be that the public education system is failing us? Could it be the we have become so arrogant and confident in our “place” in the world that we simply quit trying to become better? Could it be that our parents, in their quest to “give us a better life than they had” simply handed us what we needed for two generations instead of making us work for it? Could it be that we value economic contribution more than we value human contribution like art, creativity, knowledge, wisdom, music, love, etc as an end rather than a means? Could be a lot of things. Could be a lot of a lot of things.

I watched an episode of 30 Days by Morgan Spurlock last night where he and his wife tried to live on minimum wage for 30 days. In the richest country in the world, what did them in was a “medical emergency” that cost them $1,200.00 and change. They worked hard, they saved.. but they worked minimum wage jobs. Only their time and labor was valued; their health was something that they could have, if they could afford it. In the richest country in the world. That should anger people everywhere, educated or not. But, it doesn’t seem to. We’re all just living each day, hoping to not get sick or injured.

I suspect that for a lot of under-educated folk in this country, that is their fate. While there are probably many reasons that “white guys in North Carolina” may be under-educated, the argument I’ve been getting around the block is that there is nothing wrong with not having a college degree. There is nothing wrong with wanting to work a blue-collar job.

Except there is EVERYTHING wrong with having a MAJORITY of a population NOT being educated in the richest country in the world, in the middle of a world economy that is fueled by a knowledge workforce. If you want to become a plumber, that is fine, but don’t do it without an education. And don’t allow the media to define “under-educated” as “stupid and provincial”, but that is a whole other argument. Please forgive me if I don’t address that; I can only sniff one topic at a time. I’m a dog.

So, I think we are witnessing the first step in the decline of a great nation, whether we want to or not. There is still time to reverse this trend and make education a top priority; not just for those who can afford it, but by anyone who wants it. Because, if we don’t do that soon, we will soon have a majority of under-educated citizens falling prey to short-term solutions that eventually resolve nothing except our own demise.

We must resolve to become competitive and invest in our human infrastructure. Education for those who want it, regardless of the ability to pay and health care just because we are human beings. That is not socialism as uber-conservatives would like you to believe; that is just plain ol’ common-sense capitalism. Invest in what will make you more. And smart people are now the new machinery and factories.

Laissez Faire

David Boaz with the Cato Institute wrote an article for the WSJ on Starbucks and their personalized card, where they rejected the term “laissez-faire” You can read it here. Mr. Boaz launches into a complicated argument about why, etc. and the real explanation is just a whole lot simpler than he posited.

Here it is: Starbucks is a victim of the lowest quality education this country has ever had. Here is how this whole thing probably went down.

The 20-something who was originally in charge of approving/declining the card got this funny-looking French phrase in. MAYBE he/she Googled it, but probably not. They rejected it because they did not know what it meant OR they remember somewhere in HS American History that it was a bad US policy that was the cause of the Great Depression or that is was an act of sedition against capitalism or some other silly explanation. So, probably Un-American, let’s not approve it. Then, with every other request, because it was originally declined, the next 20-something just had to look it up in the previously declined list and dutifully reject it without reason.

Simple, Mr. Boaz, eh? Sure beats assuming the people at Starbucks are reasoning these things out. No greater than the end-product of a truly laissez-faire educational system.