May 19th, 2015 // 6:40 am @ Oliver DeMille
A college-level education is increasingly important in the new economy. Higher education has long created a significant divide between the “haves” and “have nots,” and by all indications this trend will intensify for the next three decades.
The gap between the affluent (we’ll call this the A Economy) and the middle class (the M Economy) is growing, and higher education is one of the clearest differences between these groups. The ranks of the lower classes (the R Economy—with R standing for “Risk”) are swelling, as more in the middle class find themselves caught in high debt and paycheck-to-paycheck living. Again, higher education marks the divide between those in the A Economy and almost everyone else.
Moreover, as North Americans compete for well-paying jobs and economic success in an increasingly global marketplace, the old system of “college degree = secure job with good benefits” no longer holds. Fewer graduates are able to maintain their parents’ lifestyle, and the middle class is dwindling.
As a result, those in the Middle Economy are left with a choice: rise to the Affluent Economy or join the Risk Economy. With career opportunities increasingly elusive for young people in this environment (in both North America and Europe), higher education has become even more important.
There is much more to this article – including where the different classes are heading; various ways of getting a great education; finding where to get your college-level education; and more!
April 28th, 2015 // 4:05 pm @ Oliver DeMille
Will College Get in the Way of Your Kids’ Education?
In fact, it’s downright politically incorrect. For many in the current generation of parents, this is akin to cultural heresy. But let’s think about it. The top colleges depend on the SAT, or in a few cases, the ACT, and later, once students are accepted and enrolled, these schools frequently employ multiple-choice exams of the same ilk.
If such testing is our national educational scoreboard—and it is—we have a problem. As you know if you’ve read my articles on “Homeschooling and Testing: Parts I and Part II” I’m not a real fan of the multiple-choice test as our national standard.
Actually, I readily embrace multiple-choice exams as one part of a student’s learning experience, along with essay exams, papers and projects as exams, oral exams, stand-and-show exams, and other types of testing that allow each student to truly demonstrate what he or she has learned, understands, and can do with the knowledge. But I’m against a one-size-fits all approach to testing (or to education itself, for that matter).
Like Rachel Lynde teaches in Anne of Green Gables, people who have never been parents usually think that there is one good way to parent—but people who have had children know that there is truly a different right way to parent for each child. People truly are different. This lesson is essential, and our modern testing system forgets about it.
That’s bad for our nation and our future.
So, yes, I’m opposed to the way many modern classrooms teach to the standardized multiple-choice tests instead of teaching to the student. Each student’s learning should be individualized, personalized, and guided by one or more caring, committed mentors.
Education Job Training
Ideal? Yes! And that’s what our children deserve. Every single one of them. Why would we settle for anything less than the highest ideals in something as important as the education of our children and grandchildren?
Shame on anyone who suggests anything less than the ideal!
When I see a nation that calls itself a meritocracy but whose highest court, presidency, and a disproportional number of top corporate leaders only come from the Ivy League—at least for the past two decades—and, to get into the League requires high scores on standardized multiple-choice tests, I shake my head. It’s a serious problem.
Why? Because such a system is not a meritocracy at all. There many statistics about making more money in life after graduating from a top school, and about making more if you’ve finished college, but there is one that really stands out. Most people don’t know about it, but it’s true. The statistics are clear: on average, the richer the family of the student who takes the SAT, the better the student scores. (Leon Botstein, TIME, March 24, 2015)
So, of course these students make more money in their life. In fact, the students of the wealthy who don’t complete top colleges also do financially better, on average, than the students of the poor or middle class—including many of those who do graduate from college. Call it elitist, aristocratic, or whatever you want, but this system isn’t a genuine meritocracy.
The common response to such a conversation is that universities need such tests to decide which applicants to accept—since college is all about job training nowadays. Well…I’m going to let that pass without argument, even though I very much disagree that universities should be mainly about career training.
But if schools are going to focus on career prep, then multiple-choice tests as the constant in the system are deeply flawed. As Leon Botstein wrote in TIME magazine: “The SAT is part hoax, part fraud.” The magazine also called it “a scam”. (Ibid., cover, 17) Why? Because, in Botstein’s words:
“[T]he test can’t predict a kid’s future…. As every adult recognizes, knowing something, or knowing how to do something, in real life is never defined by being able to choose a ‘right’ answer from a set of possible options (some of them are intentionally misleading) put forward by nameless test designers.
“No scientist, engineer, writer, psychologist, artist or physician pursues his or her vocation by getting right answers from a set of prescribed alternatives that trivialize complexity and ambiguity.” (Ibid., emphasis added.)
Quality tests reflect reality, not an imaginary matrix that allows a few experts to determine what they want our whole nation of children to learn (or not learn), and which type of learner they prefer to favor, whom they want to succeed. The key phrase in the whole subject of standardized, national testing such as the ACT and SAT comes from the same TIME article: “nameless test designers.”
A Skewed Approach
This is incredibly important to the future of our society. If the test writers were widely and openly known, by name, with a bio and a video of each of them talking about their core beliefs, political and cultural views, most important aspirations and goals, and perspectives on various important current issues and societal concerns, such tests would almost immediately end.
Parents and educators would watch such video clips (easily posted online with today’s technology), and the tests would immediately lose their credibility. I don’t say this because I know the test designers. I don’t. But I am convinced, based on reading and analyzing many of these exams, that they have an agenda.
How could they not? They are the Choosers in our “meritocracy.” They are the Givers. Their exams determine who will win and who will lose the contest—to get into the top institutions of higher learning. They are much more powerful than the Electoral College or the Senate Judicial Committee. In fact, to a large extent, they unofficially but actually choose who will or won’t be eligible for selection by these very groups in the future.
If they openly told us who they are, why they write the tests the way they do, and what they stand for and against, we could evaluate whether we want our kids and grandkids to have the kind of education that is specifically taught in most schools (for the very purpose of excelling on exams written by, planned, and designed by these people). With such transparency, even if they maintained the support of a few, they would lose the support of many others.
And that would be good for our nation. Other types of testing would arise, and the market would support other competing agendas—by other test designers with competing views and goals—not just the one proscribed by this generally unknown group of “Givers” who select our future national leaders each time they create, approve, and/or reject a test question.
If we’re going to continue to be nation run by the test designers (who parents and teachers unwittingly hold up as the key to each child’s future), we should interview each of them and know that our kids are in good hands. If they aren’t open to such transparency, then why do we give them so much power over our children? And over our nation’s future?
Building a child’s education around meeting the demands and agendas of this group of unseen people—simply because it is “necessary for college,” at least if we teach to the test (and the more people care about the test, the more likely they are to do this)—is a bit strange. It’s akin to living in the 19th Century and using leeches to bleed a sick person because the “experts” assure us it is an excellent practice.
Really? Is that how we want to approach education?
The Way Things Are
I’m all for great education. For rigor and depth and intense study—especially among teens and college-age learners. I think testing is an important part of quality learning.
But the current system has it all wrong.
If your young person gains an education that is defined and driven by the standardized national tests in math, science, social studies, and language arts, then yes, college has very much gotten in the way of his or her education. It has narrowed it, milked out much of the natural passion for learning, and infused it with large doses of rote.
That’s what teaching to the tests usually requires. It has also bent your child’s education in a direction with a specific social/political agenda that many parents don’t support—but don’t know about.
Of course, it’s important to note that for the most part teachers have no control over this. Many teachers manage to do an excellent job of real teaching even though they have this system to overcome. And, as mentioned, few parents realize what is actually going on. They just want their kids to get into a good college.
In truth, I have no problem with young people taking these standardized exams. To get into college, it’s necessary. So take them. Sure.
But the problem arises, 1) in throwing out some of your child’s great educational opportunities to focus on teaching to the tests, and 2) in seeing their test scores and thinking you’ve won, or lost.
And, on the national level, the even worse problem is 3) that we’re no longer much of a meritocracy, because we’ve turned over the determination of “merit” almost exclusively to a group of behind-the-scenes “Givers”.
Far too many parents, educators, and others just go along with all three of these problems because “that’s the way things are.”
But they shouldn’t be this way.
And that’s my point. That’s what the idea of America was once all about—to make things the way they should be, to improve things that aren’t right, to fix the broken, and to choose true principles over bad customs. To put what’s right ahead of mere profit or promotion.
The Important Questions
These are by far the most important lessons in anyone’s education.
Without these lessons, no education is complete.
We can still teach these things, and parents have a lot of power to do so. But these things aren’t being taught on the SAT or ACT, nor in the teach-to-the-test lessons that precede these exams and dominate many schools. Nor, sadly, are they taught in most of the college classrooms that come after the long-coveted Elite University acceptance letter.
They’re going to have to be taught elsewhere.
Which brings us to this one central, vital, question:
How, where, and from whom are your kids going to learn them?
Not most schools. Not most universities. Not TV or the movies. Not surfing the Internet.
If parents don’t teach them, they probably won’t get taught.
And that’s going to drastically influence the future of America.
Which brings us to the final test, the real exam, the essential question every parent needs to answer:
What are you going to do about this in your home?
Here’s what we’re doing about it:
April 17th, 2015 // 8:33 am @ Oliver DeMille
(How the White House is Touting Misleading Economic “Recovery” Numbers)
Lies and Facts
Mark Twain popularized the idea that there are lies, darn lies, and then statistics. The implication is that statistics are often the worst lies of all, because most people don’t really understand what they mean.
Lenin added that when money is part of the equation, very few people understand the numbers and what is really going on.
To bring this home, the White House keeps assuring us that the Great Recession is over, and that the U.S. economy is now doing much better. In the 2015 State of the Union Address, for example, President Obama tried to put the nation at ease about the economy. He told us that the economy is in recovery, the worst is past, and we can turn our thoughts to other topics.
Since that speech, the White House has repeatedly reassured us that the economy is now doing well.
But the facts simply don’t tell the same story. In fact, they tell a different tale indeed.
Recovery and Disaster
One of the biggest statistical “lies” is that unemployment is now under control. But this a purely statistical fiction, based on the way the government calculates unemployment numbers.
Officially, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate is now down to 5.5. To compare, the average unemployment rate under the Bush Administration was 5.3, and under the Obama Administration it has averaged 8.3. So getting down to 5.5 is good. But it’s also misleading.
The 5.5 rate is this low only because the Labor Participation Rate (the number of people who have a job or are actively trying to get one) is way down. It’s currently only 62.7%, matching the lowest since 1978, which means that a lot of unemployed people have given up trying to get a job.
As columnist George Will put it: “If the work force participation today were as high as it was on the day Barack Obama was inaugurated, the unemployment rate in this country would be 9.7%.” That’s not a recovery, it’s a major economic disaster. And it’s getting worse, because the participation rate is going down.
Numbers and Reality
Also, a large number of those who are now “employed” according to the government statistics are actually working in jobs that pay much less or offer a lot fewer hours than those they had before the downturn. Such people don’t consider themselves out of the Recession—and won’t until they get back to making as much as they did before.
For example, counting a person who lost his or her $32,000 a year job and is now making $11 an hour for a shorter work week as “employed” might make sense on the statistical report, but it’s not good for the worker or his/her family. They’ve taken an almost 50% pay cut, while the cost of living is still going up. And given the new Obamacare regulations, the number of hours isn’t likely to go up for these people.
The current unemployment statistics may look good on television, or play well in White House press briefings, but only because most people don’t know what the statistics actually mean or how they are configured.
A lack of real, widespread education makes a people easy to sway, and easy to control. Too many of today’s citizens are accustomed to simply accepting whatever the experts and officials say without really thinking or even questioning. This reality makes freedom a lot more difficult to maintain.
March 31st, 2015 // 5:57 am @ Oliver DeMille
(Transportation without Representation)
It’s a big thing in the print media, right now. It shows up in article after article. Where do property rights end and airspace rights begin? When the jet planes or smaller Cessna’s were flying above at 21,000 feet or even 900 feet, most people didn’t care if they went directly over one’s property.
But what happens in the coming Drone Era when drones fly 10 or 20 feet above your backyard on their way to deliver a book, a box of peaches, or toilet paper to your neighbors? (Popular Science, January 2015, page 71) Is that a violation of your property? Or your privacy? Certainly, if they run into your tree or hit your power line, you’re going to call it a bit intrusive, but what if they just fly past?
And, as more people are asking, how can you tell if they are simply delivering the morning paper or taking video of your family as they fly by? Or both? And who owns that drone that will be flying past, anyway? Amazon? WalMart? The government? Which government—state, local, federal? Or a private individual, like your teenage daughter’s stalker who is hoping to catch a glimpse of her in a swimsuit?
Sound creepy? A lot of people think so. In fact, Audi has taken advantage of this rising realization that drones are going to be part of our lives and made a commercial—a “horror” commercial, if there is even such a genre. Here’s how it unfolds:
A group of business people are standing in a lobby, waiting to go to the parking lot. A company spokesman tells them to act normal, “don’t run.” We all wonder what he means. Then the crowd leaves the building and we see the menace: a fleet of drones hovering above the parking lot like attackers in Hitchcock’s classic horror film “The Birds.”
“Stay calm,” everyone is told. But, of course, they all run away instead—sprinting for their cars, briefcases and handbags with coattails flapping in the wind as they go. There is screaming, drones dart down at the people like fighters on a sci-fi movie; everyone panics.
Except one guy. He quickly but calmly opens the door to his car, which just happens to be an Audi, and gets in. He tells the car computer to plot him a course to what seems to be his off-the-grid getaway—a cabin by the lake.
As he drives, the car is pursued by attacking drones, targeting it like an army of invading Cylons, or like X-wings racing along the surface of the Death Star. “The force, Luke. The force…”
But the Audi evades them, causing two of them to crash into each other. And “Luke” races off to safety. The voice in the commercial tells us that some technology is very helpful—no need to be afraid. If technology attacks, other, better technology will help us fight back.
It’s funny. It’s catchy. And it hits on a theme that is all too real for many people: Do we really want drones invading our personal airspace, every few minutes, all day long? Is there anything we can do to stop it? Or is it just a fait accompli?
Big Brother is Coming?
For decades, Hollywood has sold the dangers of technology gone wrong. The huge, awkward “communicators” of 1970s Star Trek have become a reality; in fact we now have phones much tinier than those once imagined on screen. On the one hand, technology is fascinating, and interesting to us all. On the other, are there real threats? Could fleets of robots be flying past our homes every day, every hour, without our permission? Answer: “Yes. Absolutely.”
Is this just “A Happy March to the Future” or should we be sounding the alarm, Paul Revere-like: “Big Brother is Coming”? Is it “A Better World!” or are we facing a major case of “Transportation without Representation!”?
Will the government be the problem in the Drone Era (sending its drones to spy on its own citizens), or will it be the solution (protecting us from private drone infringements)? Here are three thoughts on this:
- 13% of those polled by The Atlantic believe that within ten years 75% or more of Americans will own a personal drone. (The Atlantic, November 2014, page 84)
- Instead of checking your bags and paying the extra fees, travelers might be able to ship their luggage directly via their personal drone—the bags will be waiting for you at your hotel’s front desk. Nice.
- From an article in Popular Science: “Humphreys [director of the Radionavigation Laboratory at the University of Texas] thinks regular Joes will want to defend their privacy too [just like governments and corporations do].” Humphreys said: “I have a sense that a shotgun is going to be first thing they’ll grab…” (op cit., Popular Science) Joe Biden will prefer a double-barreled shotgun, no doubt.
But just like in Biden’s neighborhood, in many places shooting within city limits or populated areas is illegal. And shooting the drone itself is illegal as well. (Ibid.)
Behind the Curtain
So, what about your property and privacy rights? There are a lot of questions here. If the government considers a foreign drone flying over U.S. airspace a breach of national security, how can it logically argue that a drone flying over your private property doesn’t reduce your rights—especially if it is taking pictures or shooting video?
But make no mistake, this is exactly what governments are going to argue. If the water and mineral rights for your property are separate from land ownership, for example, why would airspace be any different?
Maybe there will be an airspace market, with special plat maps and zoning commissions, and lots of extra fees paid to attorneys—so that some people can own their own, personal airspace above their yards. Certainly the Clintons and Bushes will want to get in on this, just like they owned their own computer servers.
And, if airspace goes up for sale on the private exchange, maybe some of your neighbors—and various corporations—will want to license or own the airspace just above your yard.
In all of this, one thing seems to stand out: it’s not really the drones that are scary. Audi got it wrong. It’s the people who make the decisions. Heck, now it seems that they even own the air…
Checks and balances could help. If only the majority of voters truly believed in them anymore.
Only parents and educators have the real power to resurrect a society that truly believes in checks and balances. This is a generational battle, and if we lose it again in the current generation (like we did in the last 2), it will likely remain lost for a very long time to come.
March 16th, 2015 // 12:30 pm @ Oliver DeMille
If you follow my articles on a regular basis, you’ve probably noticed that I seldom write about topics that are in the current news cycle. I usually address such issues a week or more after they stop dominating the nightly news. There is an important reason for this.
The way the television news presents many political topics can be very emotional. This often leaves watchers strongly influenced and emotionally geared up—one way or another.
Instead of jumping into that emotional boiling pot, I prefer to take a more reasoned approach. And waiting a few days or weeks can allow people to absorb the news, think about things, and then take a fresh look at the topic once emotions have calmed a bit. This usually leads to deeper thinking and more wisdom.
The topic of the Hillary Clinton emails is just such an issue. Here’s my take on it, and though I think you’ll find it quite different than the various news reports on the subject, I believe this view is well worth considering. So, here goes…
Our current “gotcha” method of politics is a stain on our society. Watch the national news on almost any given evening, and a politician or potential candidate is being attacked for his or her latest weakness, mistake, or controversial choices. And in presidential politics, the din is even more constant.
The latest series of commentaries and diatribes against Hillary Clinton’s emails is yet another example of this problem. News programs clamor to break the latest development, talking heads line up to add their two cents of criticism, and potential 2016 Republican candidates jockey to call for the strongest censure.
Is it any wonder that most Americans don’t like politics very much? Or that many of those who do enjoy it too often treat it all like a reality show—a la Bachelor, Survivor, Celebrity Apprentice, the tabloids, or even the latest Kardashian saga? No surprise that independents shake their heads in disgust. Whichever party is the target of the latest news, the critics from the other side seem to pop up in droves.
Just once I’d love to hear a serious presidential contender step forward and take the high road. “I don’t really care about these allegations,” he or she would say. “I’ll leave that to the press and to people who are interested in these things. For me, they’re just a distraction.
A Better America
“The real question is a lot more important: Is Mrs. Clinton the best person for the job of President? Are her values, goals, and vision for this country what we want to lead us into the years ahead? Will her policies get us where we truly want to go? Because I believe in something I think is better for America, and I’d like to focus on that.
“I believe in an American future where…
“I see the United States making the hard choice to…
“If America is going to get back on track, and really live up to our great potential, every citizen needs to…
“Free enterprise is the hope for our future because…
“What really matters most to America’s next decade is the genuine, heartfelt decision to…
“…and that’s the kind of nation I want to pass on to our children and grandchildren. The policies I’ve outlined will get us there. So I’m not going to get sidetracked by these attacks on my opponent. There is too much at stake. No leader is perfect. Everyone in public office can be attacked by those who have nothing better to do.
“But that’s not really what this election or this nation is about. Not at all. There’s something much more important going on. If Mrs. Clinton is the best leader to take America into the future, then you should vote for her. The rest is mere distraction. If you share her vision and goals, then support her. If not, if you share the vision and direction I’ve outlined today, vote for me.
“These other things may be important, or not, but they aren’t as important as the real challenge—not by a long shot. The true question we should be addressing today is what kind of America do we want, how are we going to get there, and who is the best leader to make it happen? That’s the real issue. And ultimately it’s the only issue that really matters.”
Of course, both parties like to point fingers, make accusations, and jump on the bandwagon when they spot a potential weakness. But that’s not what America is about. Or, if it is, then we’re going to continue into decline. Period.
Taking a Stand
I’m convinced most Americans don’t like the negativity. Yes, it seems to influence elections. And that’s sad. Because it shows a certain lack of independent thought, a missing element of leadership on the part of some voters. A nation dedicated to an ongoing game of gleeful whack-a-mole against the latest candidate’s foibles simply isn’t all that serious about its own future.
I’m not suggesting that the media shouldn’t report the news. Journalists have a job to do, and the nation is more informed when they do it accurately. But voters, candidates and party leaders shouldn’t give in to every temptation to jump into the muck, get happily worked up over every personal flaw in their opponents, or go negative whenever a glimmer of opportunity to criticize someone presents itself.
I know, that’s just politics. But that’s the problem. Politics should be better. “It’s not,” the experts say. But let’s not listen to them. Candidates can choose the high road. If that brings about their loss, they should be proud to lose. To paraphrase Thoreau, if being petty, vindictive, and/or negative is what it takes to get elected, anyone who wins an election should be deeply ashamed.
Besides, we’re tired of candidates who really want to win. We want a candidate who really wants to stand for a great America, and to do so regardless of how many votes such a stand garners or repels. Yes, that might seem naïve to those inside the Beltway, but it’s still true. We want a leader. Really.
Moreover, voters can stop boosting the ratings of those who feed on the negative. If this is idealistic, it’s only because the ideal is worth supporting.
I, for one, am going to just pass on muckraking politics. I’m no fan of Hillary Clinton’s suggested policies, and I won’t be voting for her, but the candidates who jump on the bandwagon to attack her over every new potential negative—I just don’t respect them. Get a platform, take a stand, make us support you because of what you represent, stop grasping at straws and throwing rocks at Hillary. Or at anyone. Stop going on every television program you can and talking about your opponent’s flaws. It makes you look small. It is small, in fact.
I’ll vote for the candidate who takes a stand—not only for the issues I support, but also for the dignity to be professional, classy, positive, and optimistic. And yes, even idealistic and noble in the way he or she treats opponents and those who disagree.
Present and Future
Leaders like George Washington, Winston Churchill, and Ronald Reagan didn’t win by tearing down the other guy, relying on distasteful personal invective, or playing “gotcha” games. These tactics were too petty for them. They laid out a bold vision for their nation, made a case it for it, and let the voters decide whether or not to support it.
And they stayed on message. (For example, Washington spread his influence and vision mainly through letters, not by campaigning. Churchill was notoriously congenial with opponents, and Reagan was famously optimistic even in addressing controversial topics.) They didn’t let the media, polls, or ratings set their talking points.
I want to vote for a candidate with a powerful vision for America’s future and a new era of greater freedom and prosperity, a realistic and principle-based plan to achieve these things, and a firm stand against wasting time attacking others. And I want to live in a nation of voters who turn off the TV or stop watching programs full of angry jabs about little issues.
It’s time for us to get real. Let’s finally get to the big things: Like what we truly want to be as a nation, what policies will take us there, and which leaders can effectively help it happen. Anything less is a vote for more of the status quo—a nation of bickering, blaming, backbiting, and decline—and that’s a bad decision for all of us.
We can do better.
Call for Greatness
So when candidates or their campaigns join the petty negative attack bandwagon, like a group of mean girls bullying on Facebook, instead of just leading us in a Reagan-esque focus on what we need to truly make America great again, I’m going to scratch them off my list. I don’t want a finger-pointing president, or one whose main goal is to win the White House. We’ve had those—from both parties—and they made things worse, not better.
We need a great president. Just look at our economy, the rising national debt, Russia, China, the Middle East, race disputes in our cities, etc. We face real problems, and many of them are incredibly dangerous. No mediocre president will do.
Whoever you are, we need you to be great. And the surest way to be a great president is to be great, to do great, to simply act great. Starting by focusing on your great plan for America rather than trying to win by exposing the flaws in your opponents. We’re tired of small-minded, petty candidates and “leaders.”
I hope a lot of voters will join me in this watch for a real candidate, one whose bold vision, effective plan, refusal to go negative, and deep understanding of freedom and prosperity will make us all proud to be Americans again. If there’s no such candidate out there, then I really don’t care who wins. Anything less just guarantees further decline.
We need a great president, or bust…
And “great” includes positive, optimistic, and unswervingly focused on the big things that really matter.