Friday, March 5, 2010

What Got To Me Today? Education around the world--no chances for kids

So per usual, I was listening to a story on NPR this morning, talking about education in other countries.  I only caught the end of the story, but it was enough to rile me up a bit.

The story was about the school system in Jamaica. They are a billion or so shy of what they need for all of the kids to be properly educated.  This leaves them with two high schools in particular areas.  One school is well funded and is full of resources, a terrific institution where kids can learn and reach higher achievement, college and great paying, professional jobs.  The other is a high school with no money, no resources, where the kids barely get by, and wind up in a trade or not getting work at all if and when they graduate.

So, the question is, how do they decide which kids go where?  And this blew me away... when students are in 6th grade (so like, age 12ish?) they are tested on academics.  Those with higher scores go to the resourceful school, those with lower scores go to the underfunded school.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  At age 12, kids are destined to be successful or not for the rest of their lives?  At age 12, kids give up their dreams of being teachers or doctors or businessmen and women because they blew a test?  Do you know how many tests I have flubbed?  Do you know I graduated with a 3.8 but scored abominably on my ACT and SAT?  Not all people, despite their intelligence, score highly on tests.

Later in the day, after discussing this story with others, I learned Jamaica isn't the only country to predetermine a person's (a young person's!) life profession by testing.  Jordan does it.  Many countries do it. 

Then, of course, I'd be remiss to not mention countries like Afghanistan, where in some areas girls aren't allowed an education at all.  If they do attend, it is secretive and illegal, and if they are caught the consequences severe.

We may be having a tough time with our educational system in this country, for sure here in Michigan.  The budgets are super tight, and painful cuts are being made.  But after hearing stories about the young kids in Jamaica and around the world, I have to tell you, I've never been more grateful for our schools, even the ones with leaky roofs and crumbling bathroom tiles. At least we have a system in place, though imperfect, where kids can dream of their futures, and find the resources to get them there.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

What Got To Me Today? Deliciously smelly books!

In honor of March is Reading Month, I profess to you my love of books. I love reading them and writing them, seeing them, smelling them....yes, smelling them.  It's the smell of a brimming bookstore where the glue is still fresh.  It's the stuffy, musty smell of used bookstores where there is a story behind every story.  It's the combination of books, carpet and heated up computer monitors in the library. Books are delicious!

I like the feel of the pages...even more, the sound a page makes when you turn it.  Or the "whoomp" of a hard cover when you slam it closed after reading the final page. I like the way they stack on my shelf, bedside floor, or are strewn across my son's room.

Speaking of kids titles, there is always that one story that was a favorite of my childhood, The little House by Virginia Lee Burton.  My dad used to read it to me every dental visit, or a new favorite I share with my child like Kiss Goodnight Sam by Amy Hest.  I still have saved, in my top drawer, each of my boys favorite chunky little board books, complete with teeth marks (and my boys are now 7 and 14!).  And speaking of teens, I love it when my teenage son and I read the same mega books, and then break them down into detailed discussions.

I like the anticipation of a new book by a favorite author, so much so its been pre-ordered and you can't wait for the release date.  One like that for me is The Swan Theives by Elizabeth Kostova.  I so, so, so, loved her historical fiction novel The Historian, that I'm just beside myself that I haven't read Swan yet!

I even love cookbooks, with chocolate stains on the pages, or cookies recipes where the pages are a little stuck together from floured and brown sugared fingers.

And with my love of books, comes an appreciation for the electronic type of books like the Kindle.  I don't have one yet, but if ever my career keeps me traveling (it's going to happen!), it would be nice to be able to have several of my favorite titles with me...without having to lug them, knowing my precious, smelly, paper, hard copies are waiting for me at home.

And what about audio books?  I, for one, have a hard time reading in the car...makes my eyes all dizzy.  A good audio book takes the "long" part out of "long ride", and there are a ton of books the entire family would like, especially mysteries. you get me?  I love books.  Paper versions are my favorite, but any version will do in a pinch. I know there are others who feel as I do about books.  I also know there are many who don't get it at all, who read only newspapers and web reports.  That's good too, especially for informational purposes, I just mourn for the adventures you are missing.

If you've got any faves out there you'd like to share, please leave a comment below. I'm always looking for recommendations of books people think are worth reading.  But really, in some way , to someone, aren't they all worth reading?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Guest Blog!

Hi eveyone!  This column was forwarded to me...and it's right up my alley.  POSITIVE. POSITIVE. POSITIVE.  Enjoy!  It's by Jeffrey Livermore of Walsh College.

                Almost every morning on my drive to work, I see one of my neighbors walking his dog. Rain or shine these two are out every morning touring the subdivision.
            The dog looks like any other dog taking a morning walk, except that this dog only has three legs.
            At first this dog and its owner caught my eye, but then I got used to their morning walks and they blended in to the scenery.  I didn’t give the three-legged creature a second thought until one day it hit me that we could all learn some valuable business lessons from this dog.
            The three-legged dog did not need constant rewards to get out and go for a walk.  So many of us have been conditioned to expect constant praise and rewards for everything that we do that we are disappointed when we don’t receive them.  Between helicopter parents and video games that hook players by constantly rewarding them with virtual prizes and elevations of game rank, we have raised a generation of young people that expects their employers to constantly praise and reward.
            Some workers expect a constant stream of promotions and rewards or they will jump to an employer that they feel will properly recognize their contributions. This is not realistic in most work environments.  We need to be like the three-legged dog and walk because it is good for us and beats lying around on the floor waiting for someone to pet us.
            The dog seems to love walking through the snow and slush that we have received so much of in the last month.  The dog doesn’t appear to complain or balk at walking early in the morning. He maintains a good pace and walks for the sheer enjoyment of it.  Many workers only see the dark side of their job and complain constantly. Rather than complain, we should all be more like the three-legged dog and just be happy in our jobs.  In today’s economy, people with jobs should be grateful that they simply have a job.
            I have a dog of my own that has four feet that I have often compared her to the three-legged dog.  With four healthy legs, my dog does not like to go outside in the snow.  The three-legged dog doesn’t use her lack of a fourth leg to stop doing what she enjoys. Rather than make excuses not to do something, this dog finds a way to make it happen.  The husky has learned to use the tools he has to get the job done.  Many of us ignore opportunities because we feel that we need more resources to attempt to grab the brass ring.  Instead of jumping in and chasing it, we turn ourselves into spectators.
            Please don’t conclude that I am asking a three-legged dog to be my life coach.  I am simply turning to learn from others and find inspiration to improve my life. Inspiration is all around us.  There are people succeeding in business and their chosen professions all around us. We need to learn from others and see what they are doing to achieve their success.  If we learn good habits, skills, and attitudes from others while losing the things that are holding us back, we can all achieve great things.
            The trying economy means that new and different opportunities are out there. If we maintain a positive attitude and don’t let anything hold us back, we might all be in a better position.