Dirtbag Sex Ed

“She had wandered, without rule or guidance, into a moral wilderness… Her intellect and heart had their home, as it were, in desert places, where she roamed as freely as the wild Indian in his woods… The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not tread. Shame, Despair, Solitude! These had been her teachers—stern and wild ones—and they had made her strong, but taught her much amiss.”
– Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

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When I was in 5th grade, my Mom received a letter from the school that detailed my need to attend the “puberty” class. This class was split between boys and girls; the male topics were all about hair growth, deodorant usage, and unexpected erections. I only know of these subjects from second-hand sources – I actually bailed due to feigned illness. I didn’t want to go because it seemed unbearably awkward and I guess my Mom let me skip to preserve my childhood for as long as possible. Flash forward to high school. Most of my sex education came from friends and the wrestling coach – Mr. Bittenbender. Mr. Bittenbender was one of those “five-decade” teachers who got a job post-WWII and refused to retire; his tenure was so long that he actually had my Dad as a student.

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Well, Mr. Bittenbender taught health and prescribed to the 1950’s style of teaching – short, simple, and outdated. Sex ed to him was showing a chart of the female and male body while simultaneously yelling about STDs and Communism. There was no talk about condoms, birth control, or even intercourse; just a poster of a wiener and vagina with an old guy touting the virtues of forced sterilization.  As if the Administration knew the flaw in this pedagogic method, they enforced a second layer of sex ed through English class. This sex ed was the most dirtbag of them all – The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

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The Scarlett Letter is a great classic but why did every single high school student have to read it? Why didn’t we read Moby Dick or A Tale of Two Cities? Why was The Scarlett Letter the absolute must read? One answer. Sex. The Scarlett Letter follows the story of Hester Prynne who is convicted of adultery and forced to wear the letter “A” on her bosom for the rest of her life. It is a tale of Puritan hypocrisy and the ability for a person to be both condemned and redeemed from their past. The book actually details how Hester rises above her label to become a revered member of society and a person sought out for wisdom. The character – who is arguably most tormented – is not the accused adulterous but rather the adulterous Pastor who keeps his secret and eventually dies from guilt.

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The problem though with this profound message is that it sails over the heads of high schoolers. Nathaniel Hawthorne writes with such obscure syntax that most of his sentences drive even the most ardent teenagers to Spark Notes. Instead of reading the complicated story, students usually only get through the first part where Hester feels like crap because of her adultery. What point gets most hammered into the heads of teenagers? Sex is dangerous. Sex can destroy your life. Sex can be a devastating label. And hence this is the dirt bag sex ed which most of us had to endure. I can’t imagine a young girl going from first-hour Health to second-hour English and not feeling overwhelmed to the point of joining a monastery. Of course, sex is complicated and shouldn’t be taken lightly…but neither of these approaches did much to steer me in the right direction. I laugh now, but I wonder if a Bittenbender clone will be teaching the same stuff to my children? Will The Scarlett Letter still be used to fill holes in the curriculum? 

My Wife…the Doctor

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This June 21st, my wife and I will be technically celebrating our 3rd wedding anniversary; I say technically because, in my opinion, we are going on 8 years. In 2009, my eyes beheld an exotic beauty who would forever change my life. Sure we didn’t have the marriage certificate, but I knew she was the one for me; 100 years earlier, our union would have been sealed in a matter of months. However, modern day society requires a very long waiting period, primarily because of one thing – school. See, back in 2009, our pimply-first kisses were constantly interrupted by an unending load of tests, homework, and research projects. Of course, we made time for each other, but there was always that incessant character of “school” in the corner staring us down during our cuddle sessions. School for me ended in 2013, and I breathed a huge sigh of relief – that sigh was short-lived because Christina was far from done; unfortunately, my wife decided to go on to reach the pinnacle of all degrees – a doctorate. What defined our marriage more than anything was education. Everything that we did had to be worked around syllabi which seemed to always paper the walls as if we were conspiracy theorists locked in a room – connecting each assignment with red yarn. To throw fuel on our fire of misery, Christina approached every project with a resolution that always seemed to satisfy Asian stereotypes.

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Christina approaches school completely different than myself. When I was in school, I didn’t take notes or really study the material – I knew how to take tests and get good grades without stressing out; I was always the guy asking for a pencil and storing my papers between the pages of books. Christina is the complete opposite. She not only takes notes but attempts to convert lecture information into a piece of art – multicolored pens work together to form a perfectly spaced and punctuated tapestry. These works of art are then put into a dewy decimal system – housed in a myriad of trapper keepers – an amount that would even make Staples envious. Folders of all shapes and sizes are strewn throughout the house, and somehow each one needs to be referenced for an assignment. The library of plastic is used to reach a perfect score – this being my biggest struggle with my wife’s schooling. Doctoral school is the zenith of education, you can’t go any higher upon completion. Hence, grades don’t really matter. To Christina, Doctoral school is no different than elementary school in the importance of the report card – the gold star will be obtained at all sacrifice. That sacrifice was my sanity. Here is a typical dialogue…

Me, “Hey my sexy woman, you want to go see a movie on Saturday?”

Wife, (Staring blankly at the computer as if high on meth) “Um…I need today to work on an assignment…it will probably take me a while.”

Me, (Calmly petting my Chihuahua) “Well, how much is it worth?”

Wife, (Now drooling as if a mini-stroke occurred) “5 points but I need those points to bump my grade up to an A-”

Me, (Sticking my chest out in rage and tightening my grip around my Chihuahua’s neck) “It doesn’t matter! You are a fricking crazy Filipina woman! Why the heck did you want this doctorate?!”

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Let’s just say, after 8 years of schooling my patience was at a minimum. There were so many occasions when Christina was flat out depressed, tired, and utterly ready to quit school; and sadly, I didn’t help many times with my negative comments which sent us both into despair. This doctorate tested our relationship on a daily basis and strained our marriage to a point I never want to see again. Like a storm when it reaches its apex, we thought there was no end to the suffering. But at last, hints of sun came from the skies, and the last drops seemed to be falling – not in a hail but a refreshing mist.

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All came to a head last week when I saw my wife walk across the graduation stage and receive her degree. The feeling I had at that moment was one of pure wonderment. Christina not only received a Doctorate of Nurse Practitioner but also earned honor cords for exemplary grades. I thought I knew my wife after 8 years, but that day I saw her in a brand new light; beyond any doubt, she is the hardest worker I have ever beheld. She motivates me to be a better man, and I would never have pushed with this blog if I didn’t see Christina pushing with school. So Christina, I just want to thank you. Thank you for never taking the easy way out. Thank you for raising the bar. Thank you for your patience. Thank you for the life lessons. Thank you for the smile that always crosses my face when I say – “Dr. Christina-Elizabeth Cabuena Oldham.”

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MLK Day as a White Man

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
-Martin Luther King Jr.

Let’s be honest for a second. Have you ever done anything to celebrate Martin Luther King Day? I for one have done squat nothing. Usually for me, MLK Day in the past entailed no school and a visit to the Pizza Hut lunch buffet with my Mom. As a privileged white youth, I didn’t have a lot of personal connection with a black pastor from the 1960’s. To me it was difficult to relate to the struggle of African Americans throughout the history of the United States. I was taught that after the 1960’s, everything was essentially peachy in respects to race relations. There was no longer slavery. There was no longer “separate but equal.” There was no longer systemic institutions that oppressed a race. What made my ignorance worse, was the fact that I thought racism only existed in the south. Michiganders weren’t racist. We helped free slaves during the Civil War. We never had Jim Crow Laws. We were the safe haven- Pure Michigan.

Of course, you are probably thinking to yourself, “…what the frick, this guy is the whitest man alive! Did he really think that racism was over? Was he that obsessed about the Pizza Hut buffet that the hate of the world never hit him in the face? I for one was not ignorant and always watched Roots on MLK Day.” Yes, I was a sheltered fat kid who had rose-tinted glasses of the world. Please refrain from your Roots ego trip to hear me out for a second. My ignorance has been decreased through my journey of seeking wisdom. Racism is still an ever-present thing in America. Racism was not reversed after the Civil War. Racism had no borders between North and South. Racism was not extinguished by Martin Luther King Jr. I know now that the United States has systematically targeted the black population through policing measures and mass incarceration (click here). I know now that there were and still are policies in place that keep black and white children from intermingling in schools (click here). I know now that we are psychologically predisposed to fear black men because of cultural imagery (click here). To put it another way, I know now the importance of MLK Day.

As a white man, I feel responsible to acknowledge these wrongs and to do my part in identifying ways to reduce racism in today’s world. How can I personally reduce racism? I think one key way is to educate others about the systems in place that oppress African Americans. As a white man I do not fear getting pulled over by a police officer (click here). I do not fear imprisonment because I lack the money for a reputable lawyer (click here). I do not fear for the quality of my future child’s public education (click here). These systems are in the spotlight currently and I am glad that people are talking about them. What I think we shouldn’t do is downsize them and imagine that all things are equal. Growing up as a white male in a suburb, all things being equal, provides a much greater advantage in life compared to growing up as a black male in the ghetto. Is it possible to become a doctor as a black woman raised in Detroit? Of course it is. But the path to get there is so much harder because of the general environmental differences between white and black. That woman may not have had access to the college prep high school because of her address. She may not have had a Dad because of “search and frisk” quotas. She may not have had access to summer education because a lack of funding.

The individual is always responsible for decisions but the United States is responsible for making the playing field fair. My aim today is to inform everyone that there is still a lot of work left to do on a system wide level. We shouldn’t be like my younger Pizza Hut self and think everything is just dandy. We should never say, “I overcame challenges so they should stop whining and work harder.” It is that logic that was once used to argue for “separate but equal.” It is that logic that makes people passive observers to everyday racism. So, as a White man I for one thank you Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for making the world more understanding and fair for all Americans. To celebrate this day, I honor you through this post and will make it a goal to educate those about the present-day inequities of the world so that one day a Pizza Hut boy may be correct in wearing his rose-colored glasses.

 

The Top 3 Ways to Improve America’s Democracy

This past week was quite eventful. Donald Trump won the presidency and a lot people were either extremely happy or extremely sad. We are all losers when it comes to America’s election process. Whether you are a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or even Coreitarian I have some well thought out suggestions for all elections in the future.

  1. Pass a law that requires a small fee for all political posts/statuses on Facebook 

    Remember back in the 2000’s when your crazy uncle use to send you those chain emails that usually went like this …send this email to 5 more people if you love Jesus. If you don’t you will be cursed by an evil demon!!!! These emails usually got relegated to the junk folder immediately and most rational people ignored the all caps titles with the tabbed recipient list that went on for 100 lines. Fast forward to 2016 and those chain emails have evolved into the everyday posts that inundate Facebook. Over the past year I have probably seen over 1000 political posts that are churned out, most likely, from Dr. Evil as a plot to destroy all relationships and the world as a whole. These posts have no sources and usually include a grainy picture with a tag line like “Life’s a Bitch…Don’t Elect One,” or “Build a Wall Around Trump, I’ll Pay For It.” We all know these posts are stupid and don’t convince anyone to vote for the opposite candidate. In the end they only make us more divided through annoyance. To fix this I think there should be a five dollar charge for each post that is political –  this would exponentially decrease their frequency and make the election process much less miserable. The money will be used to help starving children in Africa. Eventually, we can just go back to what we use to do on Facebook: stalking people’s pictures, wishing we wouldn’t have accepted Grandma’s friend request, and laughing at stupid videos of cute animals.

  2. Everyone must take a “Test” to be eligible to vote***(See note on bottom) 

    At current, the only requirements to vote in the United States are your age (18) and that you have some sort of identification (in most states). This is an absolutely awful idea because a democracy depends on an educated populous. Back in the day, the electoral college was implemented because the Founding Fathers feared that an uneducated-demagogic population would elect someone unfit for the presidency. That is why they appointed the most sound-minded-well-respected individuals to the electoral college – being the only votes that really mattered. Today, the electoral college is more a symbolic gesture that is the worst of both worlds – it doesn’t allow appointed electors the ability to vote their will/conscious and it also doesn’t allow them to vote according the overall popular vote. To fix this problem I think we should first get rid of the electoral college and fix the problem of “uneducated” voters by requiring a test. We already take tests so we can drive, carry fire arms, and graduate High School. Why not take a test to decide the most powerful office in the world? The test would entail intermediate principles of government, economics, and history. It would also state the candidates’ policies and relevant facts about their efficacy. These facts can be compiled from a bipartisan panel – informing the test taker beyond mere Facebook posts. Of course, a lot of people will fail the test and a lot of people will be too lazy to take the test. Good. This country should be led by competent leaders who were elected by well-informed educated citizens.

  3. Require both candidates live in the White House together after the election 

    Trump and Hillary said a lot of nasty things about each other on the campaign trail. Now imagine that after they said those things, they would have to share the same bathroom for the next four years. Would they change their strategy? Maybe tone down the hate and focus more on policy? Moderate their comments to ensure their toothbrush doesn’t end up scrubbing the toilet? Of course candidates would stay in separate rooms but all meals and facilities would be shared; extra precautions would be taken to keep Bill from sneaking into Melania’s room. Overtime I believe both candidates would become closer, talk more policy, and reach more middle ground in their beliefs. A perfect example of this in real life is a college dorm. Roommates may come from different backgrounds, but when forced together they usually learn new things and grow from the experience. This idea is literally the antithesis of our current daily interactions which are usually through the computer and lack the empathy of face-to-face interactions. We could even extend this principle to congress and have some sort of Red/Blue bunk bed arrangement. I happily imagine conversations going late in the night about the pros and cons of building a wall and the economic theories of trade deals.

To wrap it up, this election made me depressed. I am however staying optimistic and giving Trump the benefit of the doubt. He is my President and one day I will write a blog post about his time in office. I pray that it is one commending a job well done. Who knows, he may implement some of my election policies.

***After writing this it was pointed out to me that this sounds like the days of Jim Crow. I do see the similarities but I didn’t intend it to disenfranchise any minority groups. In a perfect world, where everyone received an equal education and rights, the test would probably work. Since we don’t live in a perfect world my realistic alternative to the test is making election day a national holiday – so everyone can take some time and study up before they go to the polls. 

Mike Rowe-Not Everyone Should Vote

The election is less than a month away and we are all soaked from the political cloud that has been looming over our heads. This election year has been unique because it seems like facts don’t matter and conspiracy theories reign supreme. I am not a conspiracy theorist and believe that they are very dangerous for our society (The Sexiness of Conspiracy). Believing that there is always some hidden agenda makes people avoid facts (abstaining from vaccines for instance) and react negatively to certain groups (the persecution of Jews in the 20th century). I honestly don’t believe that everyone should vote in the election and Mike Rowe, the guy from Dirty Jobs, made this point perfectly clear when asked a question by a fan.

“Hey Mike, I have nothing but respect for you. Your no-nonsense outlook and incredible eloquence have really had a profound impact in my life. Can you please encourage your huge following to go out and vote this election? I would never impose on you by asking you to advocate one politician over another, but I do feel this election could really use your help. I know that there are many people out there who feel like there is nothing they can do. Please try to use your gifts to make them see that they can do something – that their vote counts.” -Jeremy

Hi Jeremy,
Thanks for the kind words. I appreciate it. I also share your concern for our country, and agree wholeheartedly that every vote counts. However, I’m afraid I can’t encourage millions of people whom I’ve never met to just run out and cast a ballot, simply because they have the right to vote. That would be like encouraging everyone to buy an AR-15, simply because they have the right to bear arms. I would need to know a few things about them before offering that kind of encouragement. For instance, do they know how to care for a weapon? Can they afford the cost of the weapon? Do they have a history of violence? Are they mentally stable? In short, are they responsible citizens?

Casting a ballot is not so different. It’s an important right that we all share, and one that impacts our society in dramatic fashion. But it’s one thing to respect and acknowledge our collective rights, and quite another thing to affirmatively encourage people I’ve never met to exercise them. And yet, my friends in Hollywood do that very thing, and they’re at it again.

Every four years, celebrities and movie stars look earnestly into the camera and tell the country to ‘get out and vote.’ They tell us it’s our ‘most important civic duty,’ and they speak as if the very act of casting a ballot is more important than the outcome of the election. This strikes me as somewhat hysterical. Does anyone actually believe that Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen DeGeneres, and Ed Norton would encourage the ‘masses’ to vote, if they believed the ‘masses’ would elect Donald Trump?

Regardless of their political agenda, my celebrity pals are fundamentally mistaken about our ‘civic duty’ to vote. There is simply no such thing. Voting is a right, not a duty, and not a moral obligation. Like all rights, the right to vote comes with some responsibilities, but let’s face it – the bar is not set very high. If you believe aliens from another planet walk among us, you are welcome at the polls. If you believe the world is flat, and the moon landing was completely staged, you are invited to cast a ballot. Astrologists, racists, ghost-hunters, sexists, and people who rely upon a Magic 8 Ball to determine their daily wardrobe are all allowed to participate. In fact, and to your point, they’re encouraged.

The undeniable reality is this: our right to vote does not require any understanding of current events, or any awareness of how our government works. So, when a celebrity reminds the country that ‘everybody’s vote counts,’ they are absolutely correct. But when they tell us that ‘everybody in the country should get out there and vote,’ regardless of what they think or believe, I gotta wonder what they’re smoking.

Look at our current candidates. No one appears to like either one of them. Their approval ratings are at record lows. It’s not about who you like more, it’s about who you hate less. Sure, we can blame the media, the system, and the candidates themselves, but let’s be honest – Donald and Hillary are there because we put them there. The electorate has tolerated the intolerable. We’ve treated this entire process like the final episode of American Idol. What did we expect?

So no, Jeremy – I can’t personally encourage everyone in the country to run out and vote. I wouldn’t do it, even if I thought it would benefit my personal choice. Because the truth is, the country doesn’t need voters who have to be cajoled, enticed, or persuaded to cast a ballot. We need voters who wish to participate in the process. So if you really want me to say something political, how about this – read more.

Spend a few hours every week studying American history, human nature, and economic theory. Start with “Economics in One Lesson.” Then try Keynes. Then Hayek. Then Marx. Then Hegel. Develop a worldview that you can articulate as well as defend. Test your theory with people who disagree with you. Debate. Argue. Adjust your philosophy as necessary. Then, when the next election comes around, cast a vote for the candidate whose worldview seems most in line with your own.

Or, don’t. None of the freedoms spelled out in our Constitution were put there so people could cast uninformed ballots out of some misplaced sense of civic duty brought on by a celebrity guilt-trip. The right to assemble, to protest, to speak freely – these rights were included to help assure that the best ideas and the best candidates would emerge from the most transparent process possible.

Remember – there’s nothing virtuous or patriotic about voting just for the sake of voting, and the next time someone tells you otherwise, do me a favor – ask them who they’re voting for. Then tell them you’re voting for their opponent. Then, see if they’ll give you a ride to the polls.

In the meantime, dig into Economics in One Lesson, by Henry Hazlitt. It sounds like a snooze but it really is a page turner, and you can download it for free

-Mike Rowe

Don’t rely on Facebook or even news for your primary information. The least everyone should do before voting is to read each candidate’s policies. Start reading now and by the next election you may see the entire world differently.

The Myths of Happiness

Once upon a time, an old farmer lived in a poor country village. His neighbors considered him well-to-do because he owned a horse, which he used for many years to work his crops. One day his beloved horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors gathered to commiserate with him. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically, “May be,” the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, but brought with it six wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors rejoiced. “May be,” replied the old man. The following day, his son tried to saddle and ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. Again, the neighbors visited the farmer to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “May be,” said the farmer. The day after that, conscription officers came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the farmer’s son had a broken leg, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. “May be,” the farmer replied.

This insightful story is from the most recent book I read, Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy, but Doesn’t-What Shouldn’t Make You Happy, but Does by Sonja Lyubomirsky. The farmer is wise in the fact that he doesn’t presume an outcome to be positive or negative. This is extremely insightful because we are more times the “neighbors” who are quick to congratulate or commiserate. How can be go through life and know whether future events will bring happiness or dismay? We are not fortune tellers, but we can learn from those who have gone before us and experienced similar events first hand. Let’s go through some key life events and figure out what will and will not make us happy.

I will be happy when I find Mr/Mrs. Right-When you begin a relationship with a partner, who you see as your perfect match, the passion can be described as unworldly. Everyday is magical, sex is incredible, conversations endless, and compliments bountiful. This of course fades with time; fast forward into a busy marriage and you may find yourself bored of your partner and wondering why you even got married. This is called hedonic adaptation which is the process of us getting use to things overtime. This occurs in relationships because we remain with the same partner who presents us similar stimulus on a daily basis. How can we fight hedonic adaptation and keep our relationships strong and happy? Change up the stimulus: try a new sex position, go to a new restaurant, give out a compliment, write a note, spend a weekend apart, etc. Give your relationship a buffet of stimuli to maximize the variety.

I will be happy when I obtain (fill in the blank)-In our consumer culture we are told that obtaining a certain amount of money, status, or power will bring us happiness. Money can buy happiness but only to a certain degree. Once we have food, shelter, heat, and safety (including health insurance) we derive minimal happiness from additional monetary funds. The additional money we earn frequently used to increase our luxuries which we become accustomed to overtime through hedonic adaptation. For example, my wife and I bought a house; in the first month we were on cloud nine but we soon got use to our surroundings and our happiness returned to normal levels. This happiness myth also applies to obtaining titles or promotions. The initial feelings we have after achieving new status is soon adapted to and often times replaced by unhappiness related to new stresses and unforeseen responsibilities.

I can’t be happy when the test results come back positive-Our predictions of the future are very inaccurate because we tend to only focus on the positives when we desire something and the negatives when we don’t want something. For example, when I think about going on my vacation I imagine the sun and relaxation but not the stressful travel and overpriced services. Conversely, when I think about having cancer I imagine vomiting from chemo but not celebrating holidays or listening to good music. We have a strong psychological immune system that tempers negative situations and allows us to be more optimistic than we thought possible. Adults who became blind were reported to have the same happiness after one year compared to when they weren’t blind. Time heals all things and terrible events are not so terrible because life is made up of many small happy events: having dinner with friends, seeing a full moon, reading a good book, etc. If the test result is positive, know that your post-tragedy happiness will in short be similar to your pre-tragedy happiness.

As you can see, happiness comes in many different forms and what we think will make us happy or unhappy is not always the case. To foster the most happiness we need to be conscious of the small things that bring us pleasure. I love yoga, coffee, conversations, reading, and tv shows; deliberate appreciation of these things makes my baseline happiness high. If those things that make me happy start to not make me happy then I take a break and come back to them-this is done to ameliorate hedonic apadtation. Lifelong happiness can be obtained if we understand our adaptability to both the positive and negative outcomes in life-when thinking about present and future events say to yourself “May be.”

 

The World is Flat

When I was a 9 year old kid my Mom bought me a Y2K clock that counted down the days, hours, minutes and seconds before the calendar read 1/1/00. In the months prior to the impending Y2K apocalypse, my Mom and Dad stocked up on bulk spices and bags of water in preparation for society’s collapse (oddly enough they didn’t stock any food for the spices to go on). The Y2K disaster was, as we all know, adverted, but how did we prevent all those computers from malfunctioning? I read the answer to that question in The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Friedman who is a New York Times writer and author of several books on globalization. We were saved from Y2K because of a sequence of technological advances which promoted connectivity around the globe. Firstly, the advancement in the usage and monetary value of the internet in the 1990’s led to huge investments in fiber optic cables. This laying of cable spread all over the world and opened up lines of communication that were never before available. This new communication was tested with the Y2K conundrum because the US did not have enough engineers to fix all the computers because the cost and time investments would have been astronomical. Enter India. India, after 50 years of investing in technical education, had a untapped labor force ready to get their teeth on any technology work available. Since connectivity had increased so much in the 90’s, India was ready to take on all the Y2K work remotely. This was the first time many US companies worked with engineers in India and was the proverbial handshake of friendship for a healthy future of business relations. Shortly after the Y2K scare, the dot.com bubble burst and tech companies that survived the implosion now sought to cut cost as much as possible. Where could they go for reduced labor costs? You guessed right….India. The country of over 1 billion people began receiving contracts for work and the era of tech outsourcing was given running shoes.

Today, the world is flatter then ever with outsourcing occurring not only in India but in China, Malaysia, the Philippines, and a whole host of third-world countries. Before I read this book, I thought outsourcing was a bad thing…now I have a different opinion on the matter. Outsourcing is the natural result of a hyper-connected world in which companies are trying to reduce waste and optimize every step of their supply chain. The United States has lost many manufacturing jobs because of these optimizations but in the end it has meant a decrease cost for goods by consumers and a shift in career outlooks. Students are now pushed to get technical or college degrees because they can’t get a manufacturing job right out of high school. A more highly educated society will push invention, creativity, and innovation more than a society based on workers that perform menial tasks. Complex thoughts and ideas cannot be outsourced and a country that is made up of engineers instead of line operators will compete much better with other advanced nations. The flattening of the world has showed how the US has gotten lazy and fallen from its once great educational supremacy-best highlighted during the cold-war space race. We need to push the next generation to excel in math, science, engineering, and my personal favorite…history. Globalization is here to stay and the more interconnected we become the more we will have opportunities to triumphantly succeed or catastrophically be left behind. Let’s stop complaining about jobs getting outsourced and start educating ourselves so our skills can never be cheaply replicated.

Beyond Intelligence

Are your kids smart or do they ride the short bus? I know that a lot of parents obsess over their children’s intelligence and get orgasms if they score in the 95th percentile on college entrance exams. If you have read some of my previous posts you may have a good understanding of my disdain for the modern-day school system. I am always curious of ways to better educate people so I picked up Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids by Dona Matthews and Joanne Foster. Now, I wouldn’t recommend this book because it is poorly written and drove me crazy the entire time I was reading it. The authors reminded me of the girls in my old high school who always wrote more then they needed just to appear smarter (they also carried 5000 pencils in a special bag and would never lend me one). So how can you raise a productive-intelligent child? Well let’s throw out the idea that intelligence can be accurately measured by any one test or standard? There are actually nine major intelligence categories and it is almost impossible to find someone who scores high in all of them: linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, intrapersonal, interpersonal, naturalistic, and existential. IQ tests only really look at the linguistic and logical-mathematical dimensions of intelligence. So the next time that one friend starts bragging about his high IQ you should punch him in the nuts and tell him that you have a 180 point IQ in the dimensions of spatial and bodily-kinesthetics.

If you or your kids suck at tests then don’t fret because tests are designed to look an infinitesimal fraction of what you know through a medium that may not be your preferred method of expression. For example, Annie is very creative and loves to draw pictures of Pokémon. Well, Annie doesn’t like taking tests and fails to see the point…she always gets poor scores and she feels crappy about herself afterwards. Guess what? Tests are only good at identifying kids who are good at tests. That’s it! The sad fact of this is that good test takers are many times put in accelerated programs while the other different “IQ” folks are left behind. This tracts people into thinking they are smart, mediocre, or stupid. The main point I took from this book is that you shouldn’t say your kid are stupid or smart. You should push them academically through avenues that they are interested in. If Annie loves drawing be creative and incorporate that love into artistic lessons on geometry, geography, geology, genetics, etc. The key here is that children, adolescents, and adults should always pursue their curiosity. Curiosity is the spring well of learning and is really one of the key elements to what makes us human. This quote from Albert Einstein says it well, “I am neither especially clever nor especially gifted. I am only very, very curious.” Curiosity is what fuels my passion for reading non-fiction and traveling to new places. Don’t worry about test scores or intelligence; rather focus on learning for the sake of scratching the curiosity itch. Go out, encourage, love each other’s differences, stay positive, and appreciate that you are a uniquely-intelligent-wonderful human being.

The Khan of Education

Let me preface this post with the fact that I hated every single year of my schooling. I was a fat frick who felt homework was pointless, teachers were lazy, and getting laughs in class was more important than paying attention to boring lectures. The best part of my school day was when I got to eat lunch or when a girl walked past me who was not adhering to the dress code. Fast forward to my 24 year old self who reads and writes for fun-just finishing The One World School House: Education Reimagined by Salman Khan. Salman Khan is the founder of Khan Academy, a free educational-video resource that is revolutionizing the way people learn. Basically, he creates 10-15 minute long videos that cover a subject with test questions which are answered until complete comprehension is reached. Simple idea, but it has blown up the educational world and is now used by millions of people of all ages. Khan is all about revolutionizing our current archaic system of education which originated in eighteen-century Prussia (think Germany but bigger). Prussia designed the K-12 system with the goal of indoctrinating children and inhibiting independent thinking to produce average-laborers for advancement of the empire. Dividing schools into subjects, grades, units, and periods was all done to mitigate deep thinking, big-picture connections, and abstract thought. The class period itself, was designed to prevent self motivated learning by implementing ceaseless interruptions of bells ringing. Breaking up thought and conversation was an important tool of control and stifling creativity. What the Frick! Today’s schools are structured in the same way and although they may not have the goals of Prussians they still result in the same type of educational dystopia. 

Learning in schools is not based on the variable of mastery, but the variable of time. The teacher must get through a certain number of units so that the students are prepared to take a standardized test. This focus on time, and not mastery, creates the problem of kids having limited comprehension that compounds as subjects get more and more advanced. This causes some kids to be tracked into advanced classes, mediocre classes, or special needs classes. In the end, this tracking limits a child’s potential and pigeonholes their entire future self image (I am smart or I am stupid so this is the best career for me). Schools are not designed to create the smartest student but the most tractable and average student possible. What is truly abhorrent about the whole system is that on average, each classroom receives 250,000-300,000 dollars of funding each school year (10,000 per student). Come on schools! Teachers get paid crap so where is this money going? To pompous administrators that spend most their days eating donuts at board meetings? Or to the brand new football stadium where kids can get concussions and decrease their IQ even more? We need to radically change the system so learning is self-motivated, fluid, and not a boring lecture. 

Khan is a smart dude and has several thoughts on how children should be taught. First off, no more units, subjects, or time based curriculum. Each student is in charge of their own learning pace through video lessons on the computer. Some kids will breeze through a subject and others will advance to new topics. Kids will not be divided by age but placed in a classroom with 75-100 students of similar comprehension levels-three to four teachers would provide guidance and help. 20% of the students can work on video lessons while other students work on stimulating projects like robotics, strategy games, literary conversation, etc. Khan does not want kids to stare at a computer screen all day but only posits that short videos can replace boring lectures and leave more time for stimulating real-world learning. This would mean far less homework, kids who are confident in connecting subject materials, and a sense of educational exploration that is currently discouraged in our Prussian school structure. In the current system, why would a kid advance in a subject when it won’t be covered on the next test? We need to partially remove ourselves from the almighty test because it is only are a snapshot of what was learned and it says nothing of the potential of a student to learn. In today’s increasingly creative world, GPA and standardized test scores are poor at predicting a successful employee. Projects, internships, personal references, and social competences are becoming more and more important in the workforce. I am such a strong supporter of self motivated learning because I am its poster child. As soon as I was able to control what I wanted to learn I became the most motivated student ever. The current system is broken and hopefully Khan’s ideas will change the world we live in. I think, Pink Floyd said it best, “We don’t need no education, we don’t need no thought control.”