BETTER WILL COME


The epidemic of morbid obesity engulfing the world is a testament to mankind’s greed and lack of insight. We continue to devour the planets resources without any close examination of the consequences. Some are so greedy that we think we should have a right to plunder without regard for the other creatures that share the planet with us. This gross lack of understanding of the ecosystem that we are apart is expressed as our expanding waist lines.

As we continue to grow later in number and individual size we complain about over crowding and stress. We complain about obesity associated diseases but still have giant food parties at work and home. We want what we want and will not change. This lack of insight to connect our greed with our continuing illness is continuing to kill us. We continue to teach our kids to eat empty calories and expect that they will grow into healthy adults. This gross lack of insight is a reflection of a society devoid of competent leaders.

The good news is that the upcoming generation will in fact have better insight because of the wasteland of a planet that our generation will leave them. I see the seeds already. They will not be burdened with the excess earns that leads to purchasing for purchasing sake. They will make better use of their resources and in doing so will rescue our sick planet from the brink of our self-imposed destruction.
I hope to live long enough to see concrete evidence, but I have seem enough to be hopeful.

One day the greedy self-centered industries that feed the obesity beast will be found out and regulated into oblivion. That day cannot come soon enough, but I will be patient because the patient shall inherit the earth.

PLEASE CHALLENGE ALL OUR CHILDREN


The new school year starts with that optimism that is potentially infectious. Our children love learning and helping them learn is the primary job of their schools. The challenge is to present a plan and educational approach that brings the best out of all our children. How we do that is not as important as the philosophy of the system. The primary tool is between our ears.

The training of our bodies for athletic improvement is one of ever greater physical challenge and our brains are just another muscle. Only via challenging exercise can we have growth. The current obsession with providing advance programs in schools is commendable, but is missing the point of advanced programs. The focus as devolved into an attempt to promote and glorify the early learners. We are missing the biggest lesson of advanced programs. Our children can handle the challenge. What is missing is the capacity of the system to provide challenge to all our children. All our children will excel if we provide the challenge needed to grow their brain capacity. The is no genetics that provides advanced learning skills. Those skills are a result of the milieu to which our children are exposed. If expectations are high for all our children and the bar is set high for all we can achieve great things.

The constant excuse is that children arrive unprepared. It is a poor  excuse. The function of school is to mold and challenge the brains of our children. How we express that challenge is less important that the fact that challenge is provided. The goal is to provide a platform of learning. The current en vogue system is for bringing computers into our schools. Computers are a commendable introduction and like with all tools the approach to their use is the only important factor. The hardware should be cost-effective and our children should be allowed to break and repair them. Learning how to take care of the hardware develops confidence in a meaningful way. If the cost of the systems are low it provides the system with savings that can be better applied. Learning is about having the confidence to explore and fail. Failing in a supportive, constructive environment is where the most learning takes place. Failing at tasks in a system where the expectation is that all will succeed is the real challenge all our children need this new school year. Working hard to overcome failure is the best part of school. Let us provide that safe environment for success for all our children.

CLASSROOMS AND TECHNOLOGY


The current buzz in education is about bringing technology into the classroom. I am fully on board with the idea. The time as come for education to fully embrace the wonders that technology can bring to the classroom. I remember as a teenager watching physics and chemistry video lessons in my high school in rural Jamaica. When I could stay awake they were great. Staying awake post lunch was always a problem.

The current rush to bring computing devices into the classroom is both admirable and dangerous. The danger is that the implementations will be haphazard and teach kids the wrong things about technology. I would love to focus on the admirable part. I love technology and often I am out on my little branch working and ignoring the current fad, because I have already been there. In the 1990’s while in college I taught myself enough Pascal to be dangerous and later learned to assemble my own computer and explore alternate operating systems alone with Windows. From playing around I learned a lot about technology and about how I learn. The freedom to deconstruct the hardware and software was vital to my experience. I would suggest that giving kids that freedom will be beneficial to us all.

However, we must not become reliant on the technology to teach. Teachers are still the most important part of the equation. Teachers need to go back to the basics. Our classrooms need to revert to the apprentice models. Our teachers need to be competent and fluent in technology so that the technology will be integral but not overpowering. The balance is hard to achieve especially with the sums of money that are at stake. The big technology companies want to sell a product. They are not interested in education. This leads to school systems buying expensive hardware and software and loosing focus on the educating part of the mission. Technology is a tool, not the destination.

The increased introduction of closed hardware and software to children will likely stymie their development. I would like to see schools adopt an open hardware and software platform. These are the key design elements I would focus on.

1. Open hardware
2. Open software
3. Student support
4. Recycling
5. Hardware and software as an integrated learning environment.

ARNOLD


We had the smallest office in the community work space we shared with three other local start-ups. It was my turn to prep the office for the day. We slept little and worked a lot, but the weekend was sacred, so we all went home. Under a bright full moon I fumble just enough with the keys to notice that there was an open window in the building adjacent to ours. I ignored it  but I did notice the slight irritation of chlorine in my nostrils. I ignored that too, and while opening the door noticed that it was heavier than usual.

I pushed the door open expecting to find something blocking it, but there was nothing. I checked the hook on the back of the door and there it was, a winter coat. It was a heavy-looking neon orange winter coat. Even in the Florida winter such a coat would be out-of-place. The slight hint of chlorine was more pronounced, but I ignored it.

We called our building the gym, since it was just a large industrial building divided into work spaces. In a previous incarnation it was a dance studio. The floor was made of wonderful material and felt great under foot, so most of us walked around bare footed. I ignored my intuition, took off my shoe and placed them on the shoe rack. The shoe rack was the water cooler of our office. We all wore shoes made by the Shoe Company. It was the first local start-up to make it big and we were all proud to show off our latest wears.

We were proud to share space with them. They had long pasted the start-up phase, but they still had that feel. Most mornings  I would go visit their sector to see what cool designs they had on display. Mike, one of the co-founders was always first in the office and we would share coffee and catch-up. He still slept in his office many nights and worked like a dog. Recently he talked about slowing down. He had gotten engaged and it was time to play more than he had been.

Mike and I were the coffee people and I was going to miss him discovering exotic blends. We had a deal with the coffee importer on the second floor. We rigged a shoot that delivered the latest coffee to us each morning. We had a coffee treat everyday. Coffee from the heaven we called it. As per our arrangement a new flavor was awaiting me. I did not hear anyone in the office but assumed that the heavy coat belonged to Mike. I setup the brew and decide to check Mike’s office and tease him about him having a winter coat in the Sunshine State.

As I opened Mike’s office that subtle scent of chlorine became a dense fog clogging my eyes and nose. I called for Mike but there was no response. As I caught my bearing I noticed that the office was a wreck. It was as if a hurricane had passed through. There was no sign of Mike, but I did notice several brown spots on the floor.
The six desks in the office had there draws out and the pictures from the wall were on the floor. The chlorine was choking and so I opened the windows. I hurried out of the office to avoid being overwhelmed by the smell.

I ran to the front door and opened it to get some airflow. On the way out I noticed that the other spaces looked just as I had left them last Friday. No one was to have been here over the weekend. My office was the only space containing any valuables so I went to check our safe. All I could think of was that we had been robed, but why the heavy chlorine smell. Once into my space I noticed it was essentially untouched. I called Mike’s number and I heard a phone ringing in the office. I followed the ringing to the community restroom and noticed his phone was on the window ledge. Mike was nowhere to be found and it would be another two hours before anyone else was expected in the office.

The state of Mike’s office, the smell of chlorine and Mike’s phone being in the bathroom was all suspect. You, Arnold, was the first person I called.

LEADERSHIP CANNOT BE TAUGHT.


Leadership cannot be taught, it has to be encouraged. That is my view of the world and nothing I have seen in my very short lifetime has shown me otherwise. The problem of leadership in American culture is a complex challenge. We have bought into the idea that leaders are created in business school with ever more specialized management degrees. This philosophy could not be further from the truth. Leadership is about getting those around you to perform above their own expectations and to feel included and empowered. Leaders are great managers, unfortunately great managers are not necessarily great leaders. Business school can turn poor managers into great managers, but cannot create leaders.

The education that creates leaders starts in early childhood. It starts in the home at play. Creating leaders is about allowing your toddler to make decisions. It is about allowing her to be her own change agent. It is about explaining why. It is about explaining your yes and no answers equally. It is about recognizing that our toddlers learn from us. They are sponges and their best and worst habits are learned long before they can explain their decisions. Early training prevents later correction.

As the father of the two smartest daughters in the world I can attest to the strength of character of toddlers. My girls are now 3 and 5 and it is clear that they have very different personalities. In spite of their differences they both are confident and insist on making their own choices. They don’t readily follow the crowd. They, like little girls everywhere have been infected with the princess bug, but I smile when they choose the “boy” toys or face paint patterns. I am happy that they have been allowed to make their own choices and will not follow the other girls to the dolls but more often than not want both the doll and the truck. Having a community that supports our  girls is vital for the development of future female leaders.

For me, growing up around equally strong men and women instilled a powerful sense of place and robust confidence. This is what I want for my daughters and all our daughters. However, there is a noticeable lack of strong female leadership in our country. I would consider myself a feminist and believe that my girls are capable of doing and achieving anything they desire. Because there are physical limitation does not mean that she is not capable. The question is, are we willing to design and improve so she can express her full potential? This is the key question that needs answering. I know what my answer to that is. My daughters will never be told by me that they cannot. No one in my presence will go unchallenged if they suggest that my daughters cannot. I will lovingly push and challenge them, because they are just as capable as their male peers. It is time for us to use technology to level the playing field and allow all who would to be challenged by all this worlds has to offer.