John Y’s Musings from the Middle: The Smartest People I Know

smartest-peopleI’m not talking about highest IQ-smart, most knowledge, the most deeply insightful or profoundly creative.

I am talking about useful, practical, everyday smarts that arguably is the most important kind of smart we can seek to be.

Those people. Those are the ones I am talking about.

And their intelligence is hard to define, pigeonhole or quantify.

In many cases they aren’t even described by friends as “smart” and may not think of themselves as overly bright or well educated.

It is more than street smarts, too. Although that is a big part of it.

They are the people you go to when you have an important life or work or personal problem to solve and you need help.

jyb_musingsMaybe the best test for these kind of people is this. You know when you hear someone say–even yourself— “Well, when you think about it that way, it does make sense?” I know I say that a lot.

My theory is that the kind of smart people I am trying to describe are the ones who we never hear say that. Because they are always thinking in “that way” –the seemingly odd and unconventional way about a problem that may make little logical sense but just seems to work.

Those are the smartest people I know.

And the advice I have received from them has meant everything to me. And they probably don’t even know it because I rarely tell them how smart their suggestion is. I usually just say, “Well, when you think about it that way it does make sense.”

Saul Kaplan: Education Rant

“Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire” W.B. Yeats

RantExcuse the rant but I am outraged by the state of the U.S. education system. We have let the pilot light go out and we are failing our youth. Particularly egregious is the way we are failing our urban youth.

We must refocus our national and regional innovation conversation on how to solve real world problems. Job number one is to design a better education system that lights a fire for every youth, creating lifelong passionate learners. It is time to move beyond public policy debates and institutional rugby scrums to try new solutions. What we are doing now isn’t working, and far too much of the federal stimulus investment in education is being spent to sustain the current system.

A report last year from the nonprofit network America’s Promise Alliance showed that 1.2 million students drop out of high school each year. Only about half of the students served by school systems in the nation’s 50 largest cities graduate from high school. The U.S. public education system, especially in the country’s urban centers, must be transformed.

Only about 40 percent of the U.S. adult population earns a college degree. That may have been fine in the 20th century when an industrial economy supplied good jobs to those without post-secondary education. It is not fine today when a college degree is a necessity for a good job.

Our education system was built for the 20th century.

photo-saulEveryone loves to point fingers at other players in the system as the cause of the problem. Observing our education system today is like watching an intense rugby scrum that is moving in slow motion hoping the ball will pop out. We have finger pointing and incessant public policy debates galore. We love to admire the problems: It’s the unions that are getting in the way. Teachers are resisting change in the classroom. Administrators don’t understand what is going on in the classroom. Parents are not engaged. Public policy makers can’t make up their minds. If only private sector companies were more engaged. Students are unruly, undisciplined and disrespectful. Everyone gets blamed and nothing changes.

The simple idea of “lighting a fire” expressed in Yeat’s quote says it all for me. Teaching is an important means to an end. Creating passionate lifelong learners is the objective of education. Content, subjects, jobs and requirements, will all change over time. The pace of change is accelerating and the half-life for assumptions and usable knowledge is decreasing. It has become a lifelong challenge to stay relevant. The only thing that is sustainable is a fire inside to keep learning.

The objective of education is to light a fire for learning in every single youth. When the pilot light is on, everything else is possible. For starters, let’s recognize that individuals have different learning styles. One-size industrial education models are not working and must be transformed. We have the enabling technology available today to create and scale an education system that provides access to killer content and experiential learning opportunities tailored to individual learning styles for every student. It is time to demonstrate that we can and will change our education system. Our country’s youth is waiting.

We need actionable platforms to enable real world experimentation for new education systems and solutions. We need to bring the voice of the student and student experience directly into the education innovation conversation. And we must create a purposeful network of innovators motivated to explore and test new system solutions. Join the conversation. The water is fine.

Let’s reignite the pilot light and demonstrate that there is a better way to light a fire for life long learning in every youth.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Luminosity Loneliness

glacier_logoAfter much deep and reflective thought, I have decided not to sign up to use the widely advertised online IQ enhancer, Luminosity.

Luminosity apparently trains your brain and makes you much smarter. Well, that sounded pretty good to me. And Lord knows I could use a few extra IQ points.

But after thinking it through with my God-given brain, I have concluded that if I use Luminosity to improve my brain and IQ, I will lose all my friends with less than genius IQs (and that would be all my friends, except one, who I frankly don’t care much for). These friends I would lose like me because I am forgetful and disorganized and earnest and apologetic and hapless and like joke about it all.

I fear I will lose all my friends and they won’t like me anymore if I become some super-brainy guy who knows all the answers to Jeopardy —and seems to be much smarter than all the other people (who don’t use Luminosity).

jyb_musingsI wonder if anyone has done a study on the impact of the alienation from friends that Luminosity has caused its users?

I am not waiting around for such a study. Common sense tells me it’s not worth the trade-off. I’d rather not be a Luminosity super-genius than lose all my friends! And I am not changing my simple non-luminous mind about that!

I sure hope my friends appreciate this sacrifice when I tell them about it….and don’t all start using Luminosity themselves and leave me behind!

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Proving God Through Math

Proving God Through MathIs it possible to prove God exists through higher mathematics?

I recently saw a discussion on this matter and it got me to thinking. Suffice it to say, that I do believe it’s possible to use higher mathematics to prove God’s existence.

And I even have first hand experience on this very matter.

No, I’m not going to get all highfalutin talking to you all fancy-like about mathematical ideas you won’t understand. Not at all.

But here’s how it happened for me. I escaped high school only having taken Algebra and Geometry. I always loved math. But once they started introducing letters into it, I figured they had just run out of practical uses for math and were trying to make it deliberately harder—or they were just showing off. After the letters started up, I just lost interest.

My only exposure to calculus was four week of pre-calculus my freshman year in college. That’s all it took for me to realize the stuff had to be Divinely inspired –because it made no logical sense to me.

But that’s not the part about calculus that convinced me to believe in God. Into my fourth week of this class –and convinced I was going to fail– I started praying nightly for God to please help me–some how, some way. And the next week it happened. My friend and mentor, junior Allen Ragle, explained to me about the college phenomenon of “dropping” a class. If you are taking a class and it turns out you hate it or it is too hard for you, no problem. You just “drop” the dang thing and all you get is a little ole “W” on your transcript. High schools don’t allow this but colleges do.

It was a religious experience for me just hearing this good news! I dropped the class the very next day and had never felt such a rush of Grace in all my young life.

jyb_musings15Ever since learning I could drop my pre-calculus class, I’ve never doubted that God existed. And, in fact, when I graduated college, I had a whole host of “W’s” on my college transcript to prove God’s mercy was very much alive and real in my life!

Hallelujah!

For Jerry Eifler, Lee Whitlock, Gene Thompson, Ivan Schoen, Jim Sichko and my other friends who are also well-connected with the Big Guy…. I would have included a list of friends who had likewise established themselves in the field of mathematics, but don’t seem to have any at the moment…. Which, I guess, is what happens when you leave math at pre-cal.

Please Sign Petition to Thank Presidents Ramsey and Capilouto for Their Support of Academic Freedom

UK President Capilouto

UK President Capilouto

U of L President Jim Ramsey

U of L President Jim Ramsey

The two largest universities in Kentucky — the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville — have been friendly rivals on the court and gridiron for decades.

(OK, sometimes, not so friendly…).

But they are united by the fact that they boast of Presidents who are deeply committed to the ideals of higher education — especially academic freedom.

And today, The Recovering Politician was proud to break the news that U of L President Jim Ramsey and UK President Eli Capilouto each joined the growing list of college and university leaders (192 and counting) who have denounced the American Studies Association’s pernicious academic boycott of Israel. (Read about it here.)

Here’s Ramsey’s statement; and here’s Capilouto’s statement.

Please join me and thanking them for their principled stance on behalf of academic freedom by signing the petition below:

Thank you Presidents Ramsey and Capilouto for Supporting Academic Freedom

We the undersigned thank University of Louisville President James Ramsey and University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto for their principled stance on behalf of academic freedom in denouncing the American Studies Association's boycott of Israel.

[signature]

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UK President Eli Capilouto Denounces ASA Boycott of Israel

israelThis morning, we reported that University of Louisville President Jim Ramsey joined the growing list of college and university leaders (191 and counting, according to intrepid blogger Avi Mayer) who have denounced the American Studies Association’s pernicious academic boycott of Israel. (Read about it here; and read why boycotts like this are so pernicious in my book, The Liberal Case for Israel).

Well, make it 192: University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto.

While U of L and UK  may be big rivals on the basketball court and the gridiron, they share the distinction of boasting outstanding Presidents, who both are advocates of free speech and a strong US/Israel relationship.  Here’s President Capilouto’s statement, “Open Inquiry is Essential in Higher Education”:

A college campus – perhaps more than anywhere else – is a cherished crucible for the free exchange of ideas and beliefs.

This is a fundamental characteristic when you consider that our faculty and staff are charged with developing new scholarship, and our students are at an age when their civic and personal philosophies are evolving. Over time, these necessary attributes of a campus have been challenged, debated and protected. Though honoring it can be demanding at times, our commitment to academic freedom, fostered in a safe and respectful environment, is at the core of our work in a university community. It is who we are.

UK President Capilouto

UK President Capilouto

Recently, I was reminded again of that fundamental tension as members of the American Studies Association (ASA) endorsed a resolution boycotting Israeli academic institutions for that country’s policies toward Palestine. The proposed boycott has elicited strong responses from other professional organizations in the academy — ranging from the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) to institutional organizations such as the Association of American Universities (AAU) and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU). Administrators and faculty — individually and collectively — at several colleges and universities also have engaged in the debate.

Their statements clearly indicate a national dialogue, one happening on college and university campuses like ours.  I disagree with the ASA’s resolution to boycott academic institutions in Israel.

The values of inquiry and discourse in American academia – applied within a scholar’s responsibilities as an academic – reflect the foundation and principles of our system of higher education.

As institutions of higher learning, in particular, we are tasked with producing independent, testable scholarship, while educating the next generation of civic and business leaders. If we hope to advance our own understanding of the world around us, a scholar’s capacity to build a body of work in his or her field must run unimpeded by politics and external forces. At the heart of that process is the idea that many voices — sometimes in harmony, sometimes discordant — are critical to education and community.

Our capacity to foster constructive dialogue is at the core of what we do at the University of Kentucky. We should resist at all times temptations — or voices — that call on us to circumscribe or inhibit that dialogue. No matter where such temptation comes from, or however well-intentioned it may be, it is a self-defeating proposition.

We are better than that.

 

Here’s the link to Capuilouto’s full blog post.

Saul Kaplan: Education Rant

“Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire” W.B. Yeats

rant_marketing2Excuse the rant but I am outraged by the state of the U.S. education system. We have let the pilot light go out and we are failing our youth. Particularly egregious is the way we are failing our urban youth.

We must refocus our national and regional innovation conversation on how to solve real world problems. Job number one is to design a better education system that lights a fire for every youth, creating lifelong passionate learners. It is time to move beyond public policy debates and institutional rugby scrums to try new solutions. What we are doing now isn’t working, and far too much of the federal stimulus investment in education is being spent to sustain the current system.

A report last year from the nonprofit network America’s Promise Alliance showed that 1.2 million students drop out of high school each year. Only about half of the students served by school systems in the nation’s 50 largest cities graduate from high school. The U.S. public education system, especially in the country’s urban centers, must be transformed.

Only about 40 percent of the U.S. adult population earns a college degree. That may have been fine in the 20th century when an industrial economy supplied good jobs to those without post-secondary education. It is not fine today when a college degree is a necessity for a good job.

Saul KaplanOur education system was built for the 20th century.

Everyone loves to point fingers at other players in the system as the cause of the problem. Observing our education system today is like watching an intense rugby scrum that is moving in slow motion hoping the ball will pop out. We have finger pointing and incessant public policy debates galore. We love to admire the problems: It’s the unions that are getting in the way. Teachers are resisting change in the classroom. Administrators don’t understand what is going on in the classroom. Parents are not engaged. Public policy makers can’t make up their minds. If only private sector companies were more engaged. Students are unruly, undisciplined and disrespectful. Everyone gets blamed and nothing changes.

Read the rest of…
Saul Kaplan: Education Rant

David Adkisson: Nelson Mandela

mandela415x479My wife, Bonnie and I just returned from 10 days in South Africa which included our “Nelson Mandela Day” last Friday.  That day we visited the amazing Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, stood in Nelson Mandela’s house (now museum) in Soweto, visited Desmond Tutu’s house on the same street, took in an African restaurant for lunch in Soweto and the toured some of the adjacent neighborhoods. We also drove by and took pictures of the guarded compound in Jo-burg where he was spending his last days.

That evening, we went to see the opening of the movie “Mandela”  because we wanted to view it with a local South African audience.  It’s a powerful piece based on his autobiography and at several points during the movie, the audience laughed at things that were said in the movie – things that frankly passed over our heads.  The audience was of mixed race – white Afrikaners (who speak Afrikaans), black Africans, Indians and others.  There were a few mixed race couples – something that would have been a criminal offense just a few years ago.  The audience was predominately white, perhaps because the cinema was in an upscale urban shopping mall on the Nelson Mandela Square in Jo-burg.  The movie was very well received and the audience applauded at the end.

adkissonI had begun reading Mandela’s autobiography on the flight over.  Like many chapters in history, you read them and wonder in retrospect how much attention you paid to the major events at the time they were occurring. I remember protests in the mid-seventies on my university campus encouraging the university to divest itself of its endowment holdings in companies doing business in S. Africa.  I’m sure I read a few articles in Time magazine or the newspapers about the events unfolding across South Africa, but I’m embarrassed that I wasn’t more aware of the intensely racist system of apartheid that existed.

Mandela was truly a giant of the 20th century.  I feel fortunate that last week I caught a glimpse of his history and profound contributions to humanity while he was still alive.

David Adkisson is the CEO of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce

Jeff Smith: Do As I Say — A Political Advice Column

Jeff SmithQ. I work for a New York state assemblyman who has consistent turnover of attractive female staffers in the office. I recently heard that one reason behind the turnover is that he has slept with more than one of them. At least he’s not married, I guess. Even though it’s not exactly ideal, do you think it is problematic enough that I should leave, or does it sort of come with the territory in politics?
—No name or initials, obviously, New York City 

Is this kind of thing more pervasive in politics than elsewhere? Perhaps; as Kissinger said, “Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.” But that doesn’t make it right. If he’s slept with multiple members of his staff who have then quit or been fired, then yes, this is problematic enough for you to leave.

Do people in supervisory positions occasionally fall in love with subordinates? Sure, and yes, it can be complicated. But if it’s happened multiple times and caused “consistent” turnover (your words), then it’s not a fairy tale connection between principal and aide. It’s a pattern, and one with which you should avoid any association, because politicians (or bosses in any field) whose offices have patterns remotely like this don’t typically have bright futures (see: Filner, Bob).

Q. I work in a charter school in New York City and believe in the mutually beneficial relationship between a public school and its community, though in the charter world that’s hard: We are often treated as outsiders and insurgents. Relatedly, I am very concerned with what happened in the mayoral campaign around charter schools. Eva Moskowitz of Success Academy, with a few other schools, held a rally and march across the Brooklyn Bridge. It was obvious from the media coverage and the way it was discussed internally that the intent was to warn one of the mayoral candidates that opposition to charter schools would be dangerous. My concern, shared by many of my colleagues, is whether such a protest is unethical—or even worse. The organizers seem to have made a point to keep the rally from [using] obvious campaign rhetoric, but it seems that a rally about an issue that has been a source of debate in the campaign, held during a general election period, is inescapably political in the way that bars public schools from participating. The twist, perhaps, is that charter employees are not government employees, unlike district schools’ staff. Our schools’ budgets rely on public funds, yet the workforce is made up of private individuals. The call to action was done during work time; thus, while we were being paid with public dollars, flyers sent home to parents were printed on a copier paid for with tax dollars. I’m curious what you think about both the legality and the ethics of such an action. 
—Concerned, New York CityThe narrow legal question is whether the protest organizers acted inappropriately. By using taxpayer resources to engage in political activity during work hours, the answer appears to be yes. (I am not a lawyer, and—for the uninitiated—I violated election law myself a decade ago.)

The broader question relates to this assertion: “[A] rally about an issue that has been a source of debate in the campaign, held during a general election period, is inescapably political in the way that bars public schools from participating.”

I completely disagree. Even if charter school employees were government employees, lots of public employees have interests that are “inescapably political” around which they organize during election season. Have you ever heard of AFGE (a union of federal government workers) or AFSCME (state and local government employees)? Their members don’t take vacations from political organizing because it’s election season. Quite to the contrary, election season finds them at their most active; elections focus the attention of voters, journalists and candidates, so timely activism is savvy. No one—unless their job specifically requires them to refrain from partisan political activity—should be precluded from participating in political activity during election time or any other time. And charter schools in particular—whose very existence hinges upon state law and local regulation—may find employee (and family) mobilization critical to their survival.

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT: Lauren Hudson & Robert D. Hudson, “Our Best Tomorrow”

The Recovering Politician is proud to publish an EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT from an exciting and educational book written by Friend of RP Robert D. Hudson and his daughter Lauren Hudson, ”Our Best Tomorrow: Students Teaching Capitalism to America.” Enjoy!

Hudson_cover_1000px

Click here to review & purchase

“Well, I was thinking that maybe we could make our software faster and more efficient by re-engineering…” Oh! Finally, you’re here. My name is Jacob but people call me Jake. “Okay guys, staff meeting dismissed. Go back to your daily business of coming up with the best ideas in the world!’’ I’m delighted you could at last come and enjoy the wonders my company has created for computers, gaming systems and smart phones.

How much money do I make? Well now, that is a difficult question to answer. Considering I designed the first software for my company, Kinetic Software, I usually do make a bit more than my workers here, but mainly, it depends on how many copies of the software we sell. Some years we do well and some years we don’t. If we don’t do well, I might not make anything!

How did I create this groundbreaking software? Well, when I was growing up, I was always interested in the way things worked. One of my earliest memories was sitting on the kitchen floor with an old phone and attempting to take it apart while my mother cooked me lunch.

My father would come home from his work as a dentist and watch me bang the phone on the floor and study it carefully. Pretty soon I figured out how to take it apart and put it back together. I can remember how excited I had been. I ran around screaming about my accomplishment.

“I got it! I got it, Mommy! I got it, Daddy! I got it, Sissy!’’ I yelled. My father walked over to me from the other room, scooped me up in his arms and swung me around. He had the broadest smile on his face, as if I had just won Olympic gold.

As I got older, I became interested in science fiction and how the world would work someday. I imagined computers and cell phones and space travel to other planets. I recall my sister, Annabeth, who was about 13, watching TV one day, when I came in, turned the TV off, and told her my latest idea. She called me a twerp, but I didn’t care.

“Go bother something else! Don’t touch the TV anymore, Jake!’’ she said in exasperation. With my head hanging low, I walked into my dad’s study. He had one of Apple’s first computers. When I saw that computer sitting on the dark mahogany desk, I knew what my next project would be. Little did I know that the project of trying to learn how this computer worked would lead to the some of the biggest accomplishments of my life.

It was only a matter of time before I had moved on to developing software to do my part to help change the world! You see, I love what I do, and I live in a country which gives me the freedom to do it. Yes, I work hard, but can you believe I get to make money doing something I love? All you need is passion and freedom – mix a little talent and hard work in there and you’ll have something special!

Capitalism Pointer – America’s Jobs Come From Capitalism

Read the rest of…
EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT: Lauren Hudson & Robert D. Hudson, “Our Best Tomorrow”

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