No matter who counts, or how they count, our school dropout problem is serious. If we include both those who physically drop out by not going to school and those who physically go to school but mentally drop out the numbers are alarming. If it continues we will have a nation of people unable to be participating adults, and we will surrender to any mediocre group that attacks us. Below is a simple solution, not perfect, but effective wherever tried. It doesn’t cost a $.
Currently all of the curriculum, what topics are taught, is determined by school boards, principals, parents and even local politicians. Understandably our kids have no interest, no stake in the game. The honest ones drop out. The weaker ones put up with the mediocrity we serve them.
Here’s my proposal:
Let 10%, of the topics be selected by the students!
In a 5 day week, that’s a single morning or afternoon, devoted to what the students want to learn. No extra text books, just individual respect & attention… With this the students have a reason to show up at school.
And there’s a side benefit. In that 10% morning or afternoon, as students spend their time on things that really interest them, they learn better! And that self-confidence in being able to learn carries over to other classes.
The concept of Tough or Hard vs Easy seems embedded in almost every aspect of our lives. Tough questions, hard choices, difficult decisions…
Interviews are often ranked as Hard or Easy, with seemingly no middle ground. Interviewers, with no apparent center, clamber for the label ‘Hard’, asking ‘Tough’ questions of their ‘guests’. There seems to be an imaginary prize for the ability to make a ‘guest’ uncomfortable. The answers evoked appear irrelevant, only the embarrassment level of the ‘guest’.
And reality or even relevance also appears superfluous, as in: “It has been said that…, without ever identifying these imaginary sources or their imaginary utterances. The single criteria appears to be the amount of personal pain the question anticipates for the ‘guest’. They pick a big fancy word ‘hypothetical’, for these ultra-stupid questions.
Control, anal-retentive control, seems to be the main concern, reminding the ‘guest’ often, how many seconds remain until the next commercial break, the really important part of the show.
A mind-numbing, technique called “The Lightening Round” throws topics, often absurd ones out for the ‘guest’ to give as short a response to as possible. A kind of feeble attempt at a verbal Rorschach Test. Only shallow, pithy responses are expected, never anything long enough to be meaningful.
In defense of one wise guest, I recall Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday explaining his Lightening Round Rules to General David Petraeus. The general’s response was: “those are your rules not mine”, and proceeded to take as much time as he wanted to answer the pithy questions with thoughtful answers.
But what instead…
How about an ‘interesting’ question. One which might lead to an unexpected answer, perhaps a new insight, or an untried alternative… I propose this idea as I doubt it would be raised by any of these hollow Individuals.
Or, just for variety, a ‘principled’ action, i.e. an action taken not because it is easy or tough but it represents living by a personally held guiding principle…
What we can do…
When events like Columbine or Virginia Tech or other killings occur, I hear many people ask “What we can do?” At some level, most of us realize these are not spontaneous events but the release of tremendous amounts of pent-up rage which had to accumulate over a long period of time.
These events mean no-one, not a single relative, neighbor, classmate, faculty, or coworker could simply listen to their rage and say “Yes, that must have really hurt.” They don’t have to cast blame, or take someone to court, or pass a law, just acknowledge to the person who was hurt, Yes, that must have really hurt. That diffuses the rage, right then & there. There is no longer any need to carry it around and let it fester & grow.
I believe that everyone needs to be validated as an Individual, and the way to do that is by personal interactions. Talking about the weather isn’t enough.
Add something personal when you interact with others, which will often encourage them to add something personal. Now 2 more people are validated and are less likely to carry the feeling of being isolated around, for it to fester and fester until it erupts in some truly ugly way.
Here’s a surprisingly simple interaction that happened to me in a grocery store:
Recently I was waiting on the grocery checkout line when the customer behind me put an orange colored birthday cake on the counter. I commented to her “That’s a pretty birthday cake. Orange is one of my favorite colors.”
That was a choice. I could have been very superficial saying nothing at all. Or I could have made a slightly superficial generic remark like “Birthdays are something we all have.” But I chose to make it at least friendly-possible, and then chose to open the possibility of friendship even more by adding something personal.”
She also had many choices. She too could have been superficial with a remark like “Yes, we all have birthdays”; or simply ignored my comment; or even been anti-friendly “Mind your own business”. Yet she chose, to my surprise, to stay specific, on this particular birthday cake, and went far more personal than I could have expected. “I wish I could have bought a larger one, but I’ve been out of work for a year, and it’s all I can afford right now. My daughter also likes orange”.
Being specific & adding something personal are the 2 steps I recommend in my N2N – Neighbor 2 Neighbor efforts. Neither depends on any specific technology.
Sometimes when we find it hard to define something, it’s easier to define the opposite & say “it’s NOT that.” I’ll try to do that here in an attempt to define Common Sense.
I thought & thought & thought & then tried to define what Common Sense isn’t. Well Common Sense is practical so it’s opposite must be impractical. Common Sense appeals to everyday folk, so it’s opposite must be what people who consider themselves – well Uncommon. Some of them even look down on ordinary folk giving them pejorative names like ‘the masses’. Did you ever get up in the morning & say to yourself Today I want to be a Mass!
Common Sense tries to make things clear to people so it’s opposite would try to fool them. Common Sense uses everyday words so it’s opposite would prefer fancy words like Cognitive over the simpler word mental. If Common Sense makes sense; it’s opposite would make nonsense.
So putting it all together I’ve decided that the opposite of Common Sense vs Cognitive Tomfoolery!
In the Caylee Anthony case, could this hypothetical Alternative Scenario provide a true reasonable doubt? I believe it is far more possible, even probable, than José Baez’s fantasy about an accidental drowning.
Almost nothing has been said about 2 individuals.
Tony Lazzaro her current boyfriend, and Jesse Grund, who at one time was Casey’s fiance and thought he was Caylee’s father. The paternity issue has not been raised; but the time frame is reasonable.
Prosecutor Jeff Ashton said Casey Anthony wanted a relationship with her boyfriend, Tony. Caylee, must have been, at the very least, a practical annoyance between Casey & Tony, in their more romantic moments…
The subject of getting rid of Caylee, probably came up on several occasions as does the elimination of a pesky spouse, in infidelity cases. In the early discussions, Casey, a master liar, may have checked the Internet just to make sure the ideas about chloroform & duct tape, would work.
Once they, Tony & Casey, in theory, did it, Casey could not go to grandma’s for current clothes so she dressed her body in older shorts and a top which she had at Tony’s apartment. Who actually did what & when, I don’t know. My hypothetical guess is that Tony actually killed Caylee, since he was not her biological father. After Caylee was dead they put Caylee’s body in Casey’s car. Casey was familiar with wrapping bodies in plastic bags with duct tape from seeing many family pets buried this way.
Casey, being a lifelong and very skillful liar was able to dodge her mother & father’s questions; for a while… But as the smell got worse, they had to dispose of her body.
A first attempt to bury her in the back yard using a neighbor’s shovel didn’t work out. They then picked a dump site close by. Driving a long way away would have been suspicious and require a planning ability neither of them has demonstrated.
After being arrested, Casey needed to talk immediately, urgently, to Tony to coordinate details. This was the famous jail house phone call where she obsessed with getting Tony’s phone number. At first I thought it strange she didn’t know Tony’s phone #, but if you’re living with someone, you rarely need to call them.
The trial – Knowing that Tony, not she, killed Caylee, Casey had an inner sense of confidence. Since she didn’t do it, she could not be found guilty. However, courts & juries are not perfect. If by some error Casey would be found guilty, she would simply, on appeal, throw Tony under the bus…
Most of us when annoyed by a pesky fly simply shoo it off. But not Barack Obama.
During the interview with correspondent John Harwood in the East Room of the White House on June 16, 2009,¹ here’s what happened:
Obama says to the fly: “Get out of here,”
The pest persisted & “Obama stopped the interview to track and kill the fly.”
[One might call this full & total pre-meditation rather than the passion of the moment.] Then when ‘the moment was right’ with a lightning-fast, Mr. Miyagi-worthy swipe Obama kills the pesky house fly.
Obama, who rarely shows any emotion, grinned from ear to ear.
“Now, where were we?” the president said without missing a beat.
Pleased with himself, he added, “That was pretty impressive, wasn’t it? I got the sucker.”
Fast forward to May 1, 2011
Osama bin-laden has been a pesky presence for over 10 years.
Given an opportunity to remove him, when ‘the moment was right’
Obama hesitated briefly & then gave to order to ‘kill’ Osama.
He was delighted with himself, and our seals under his command, and told the whole world about it. Later in the week, he even went to ground zero to re-enforce the message.
Does anyone else see a ‘pattern’ here?
There seems to be a different value system at work here. President George Bush simply wanted to remove the presence of Bin-Laden and said “Dead or Alive’ I don’t care which. But Obama’s executive order was specific – ‘Kill’.
While, many if not most, political reporters are confused by many of Obama’s actions, fearing they would hurt Obama’s re-election goals. Their underlying assumption, which I see mainly as their ‘projection’, is that Obama WANTS to be re-elected, because they would. I believe this is totally false, and here’s why:
Mr. Obama wants to be #1, the first, and of ‘historic’ proportions. His crown jewel, in his own mind, is his ‘historic’ health care bill. He also attaches the adjective ‘historic’ to many of his other self-proclaimed accomplishments.
Now what’s historic about being re-elected? It’s like watching a re-run!
So what’s his next objective?
After trashing America’s reputation, destroying great chunks of our economy, invading into our private lives in a ‘historic’ way, what’s the next BIG step on his egomaniacal agenda?
President of the United Nations.
If you want to re-distribute wealth & power¹ on an international basis here’s where to start.
One slight problem:
The UN has a major image problem; nothing Obama can’t handle.
Current negative views of the UN center on 2 main points:
1. The UN is a Tiger without Teeth.
2. The UN is Irrelevant.
So before he runs for UN President
1. He needs to put the teeth back in.
2. He needs to make the UN relevant.
Putting the teeth back in…
On Dec. 17, 2009, only 11 months after inauguration
President Barack Obama signed an executive order Giving Interpol higher powers than US government agencies. Basically anything Interpol does is hidden even from an FBI probe!
The strike on Libya, over time will be remembered as the UN’s action.
The importance of our military will be forgotten, especially if Obama spins it as he seems to be planning…
Making the UN relevant…
With all the chaos in the middle east, the UN is poised for a major PR victory.
Obama, with a press conference, will certainly spin this message.
Just my thoughts;
What do you think?
¹ see my blog entry: Understanding Wealth Re-Distribution
Much of the media when talking about a reporters questions to an interviewee are heavily focused on whether the Questions were ‘Tough’ or ‘Easy’ questions. Who cares? This, to me, reflects their overwhelming underlying concern with the Gotcha Question! If you can get an interviewee to say something they didn’t want to say – you’ve achieved some kind of feeble power victory. Although both men & women reporters use this vocabulary, it seems to me overly heavy on testosterone.
I’d like to propose, just for the refreshing variety of it, an ‘Intelligent Question’. One which might elicit an answer we never anticipated. Instead of asking for a repeat of their standard stump speech, something unexpected…
What is your strategic goal here?
What would you like to have happen here?
Have these proposed solutions ever worked in the past?
What, if anything, is different about today’s circumstances?
How could we move beyond these differences?
Of course, there will always be the really, really, really Stupid questions like: “What magazines do you read”?
What are your favorite Intelligent Questions?
P.S. This concern has, to my mind, neutralized talk show hosts like Chris Wallace. Early on I really enjoyed him. But now I totally avoid him, as he turns almost every question into a Gotcha question, designed to enhance his popularity, but totally ignore the audience’s desire for new knowledge. He compounds it with his ‘lightening rounds’, a format he created to make sure a respondents response can only be trivial…
In most conversations, we are usually fairly alert. When we hear something that doesn’t make sense to us, we challenge it: “Is this true?”, “Could it even possibly be true?” Now verbal manipulators, whose goal is not to inform you but to persuade you, don’t want you questioning their statements. They want you to swallow them hook, line, & sinker. One technique they use is what I’ll call ‘Lull’ words. These are designed to lull us into a partial sleep, where we simply accept rather than challenge what we hear. Hypnotists call it a state of high suggestibility.
To defend against these Lull words, we can create new personal meanings for them, namely Warning Flags! Then they will work in our favor. Every time we hear the lull word our warning flag goes up and so instead of being highly suggestible, we become highly critical. Now, the more the verbal bully uses the word, and they will use it over & over, their influence over us gets smaller & smaller.
In my last blog entry Solid floor boards… I mentioned the Lull word ‘Clear’. Normally when we hear the word ‘Clear’ we expect something will be – Clear, so our guard goes down, and we become more suggestible. Then the following confusing statement or outright lie goes, unchallenged, right into our subconscious.
But with a little practice, when we hear ‘Clear’ or any of it’s variants like ‘very clear’ or ‘fully & completely clear’ our critical faculties are sharpened, and the verbal bully is defeated by his own techniques!
My favorite user/abuser of this word is Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. He uses it in virtually every White House briefing session. Initially, my brain reacted Oh, what’s coming is obvious, so I can relax, let down my critical guard, and maybe even take a brief nap. Then as I noticed how frequently he uses it, often a clue, I decided to look into the matter more thoroughly. He uses it almost always as the start of a reply to a question from a member of the White House Press Corps. At the level of information, there’s almost never any information, just a complete dodge of the question. At a more emotional level, he seems to be saying something like: ‘Since the answer to your question is obvious to everyone in the world but you, you must be really stupid to ask such a foolish question’. A total bully put-down. Fortunately, I don’t work there, or I might come back with “NO, it’s NOT obvious; if it were, I wouldn’t have asked the question!”
To better understand these subtle verbal attacks & develop defenses against them, transcripts are most helpful. You can read the actual words without the undertones, overtones, and subtle emphasis of live speech. You can even count how often a particular word is used, where it’s used, etc. Fortunately for you, Press Briefings by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs are available at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/press-briefings. More & more of today’s online media provide transcripts of speeches, interviews, debates etc. so you can get lots of practice.
Are you aware of other Lull words?
Bob God gave us grapes; Entrepreneurs gave us wine.