Memorial Day – A Celebration of Life.


As we celebrate Memorial Day lets us all take a deep breath and look at those around us. Celebrate with remembrance. I would like to suggest that we continue to remember those who are struggling as much as we celebrate the fallen. The fallen are a reminder of how terrible we can be to each other and a caution to us all. Let us not lose focus, we celebrate because some were taken before their time.

Let us celebrate life and work to preserve our essential freedoms without the need for the loss of life. Let us celebrate nature and the circle of life. Happy Memorial Day to all.

WE ARE WITHOUT SANCTUARY.


I am happy to be living in a country that affords me the opportunity to succeed. As a parent I am happy that my children will have more opportunities open to them than I did. My job is to guide them into success. As I look around America I am worried for my children in spite of all the opportunity that exists. The recent string of killings of men and women of color has helped to refocus my attention on the details. I, like many people of color in this great country have been lolled into a false sense of achievement. Worst is that we have allowed the wider society to accept the fallacy that racial justice as arrived. We have failed in teaching our children the important details.

As a parent of girls of color I have focused on making sure they are confident and well-educated, that is not enough. Over the last few months I have had to re-evaluate everything I have come to believe about equity in America. The history of people of color in this country is one of brutality and subjugation. There has not been enough change in our situation. In the last several month several studies have shown the depth and pervasiveness of our disenfranchisement. Our girls are 6 times more likely to be harshly punished in school compared to white girls. Americans of African heritage with master degrees are paid the same as whites with bachelors degrees and even doctors of African heritage are paid about 10 % less than similarly educated white doctors. Why is this so? I have come a conclusion, that question is not relevant. It is not relevant because those in power do not care to fix the problem. I have given up on the idea of equity in my country. The continued inequity makes me angry and concerns me for the future of my girls. I am angry but I will not be deceived into violence. Protesting does no good. Voting does almost as little.

So, in my quest to find a better answer I have looked around and think I have found the only viable route in the Jewish experience of World War 2. No one is allowed to forget the Jewish Holocaust and so too no one should be allowed to forget American Slavery and Jim Crow. The end of the Jewish Holocaust is celebrated but the brutality of it is what is referenced most often. This is what we all are reminded of daily. As people of color we need to teach our children about the brutality of the American enslavement of out ancestors and the continued brutality of Jim Crow America and the current discrimination. We need to have them understand that the current celebration of Martin Luther King Jr is fake and serves only to assuage the guilty. It is not a sign of contrition, it is hollow and designed to distract from the ever-present and pervasive discrimination against people of color. Our children need to know about the Martin Luther King Jr struggle before they can appreciated his success. They need to know and see the pictures of America brutality to their ancestors. They need to know the name Emmet Louis TIll along with Martin Luther King Jr. The goal is not anger, it is empowerment. Our children need to understand that things have changed and that we have many opportunities, but they also need to understand that they need to succeed in spite of the many race based road blocks. They need to succeed to honor their ancestors.

Violence is not the answer, it is only a way to continue to enslave us in the prison complex which is designed to strip us of the rights our ancestor died to attain. Our children need to understand the context of their lives in this land of opportunity. We need them to take the opportunities and make progress while making sure no one forgets the brutal treatment of our ancestors. We should honor our ancestors for their willingness to stand up for their rights and we should build on their success by taking the opportunities available and making the most of them. We know that we will not be treated fairly nor paid equitably because this is the current state of America. There is no real hope of progress beyond the eventual death of the merchants of death. As parents of children of color we need to prepare them to survive and thrive until that day of Martin Luther King Jr’s dream arrives. Don’t get violent, get angry and achieve.

AMERICAN SWEAT SHOP.


There is a curse that inhabits the American work place. We have become slaves to profitability and not to best outcomes. The primacy of profits has led us to misunderstand the nature of work and the importance of worker satisfaction. Making ever-increasing profits is the goal but how we get there makes a difference. Some employers have lost their focus. Sustained profitability is about worker satisfaction. In many fields lip service is paid to the worker, while they are trapped under inhumane work conditions. Fortunately work conditions in the developed world are better than they were. However, we still have a way to go before we can claim victory over poor working conditions. The severity of the impact of poor conditions is dependent on your industry. In health care the impact can be life threatening.

Our culture for too long as valued hard work over smart work. We seem to believe that the worker that workers longer hours is more noble and deserving of praise. This misplaced praise has led to continued poor choices and has led to the misery and burn out of the American middle class. The depth of the problem continues to go unnoticed and unacknowledged. Poor outcomes continue to be placed at the feet of poor training and individuals are blamed. I too have a tendency to blame the individual. The truth is that sometimes the individual is to be blamed, but we too often neglect to evaluated the conditions under which mistakes are made. The systems under which most of us work are archaic, inefficient and are undermining our ability to be the best we can be.

I will be attacked for my stand but the truth needs be told. I love my work because it gives me the opportunity to help my fellow humans at a time when they are most in need. From my limited experience that help is best delivered when I am well rested. Some may consider me weak for insisting that adequate rest is required for best productivity and patient safety. I, however, would rather follow the evidence that suggests that efficiency and safety are best attained with a well rested and optimally trained work force. The conditions of many operating rooms where staff can work full daytime shift and take overnight call then work a full day shift is putting our patients at risk.

The unfortunate problem is that when a staff member makes a mistake that harms a patient she alone is blamed. The idea that she needs to take personal responsibility for her mistake is commendable , but essentially is a cop-out. Her bosses are just as culpable, because they have put in place a system that does not allow her to work at her best. The continued scapegoating of individuals is a sickness in our system that needs to be driven into the grave. Our success is dependent on the balance and efficiency of the systems we construct. Spending money on technology is commendable and necessary but alone will not improve patient outcomes.

Better pay is a great place to start, but is a poor quality band-aid when one works under mentally oppressive conditions. Improving the system starts by focusing on the best assets of the system. Our human capital is our best asset and must be treated as such. We are not robots, we are better. We may not be able to work as long hours and we get bored easily; but until robots can think intuitively and problem solve on the fly we will continue to be the best part of the workflow equation. Functioning at maximum efficiency must be out foremost goal. For humans to be focused and efficient we must have adequate rest and distraction. If we would focus on those areas many of our problems would be resolved without the need for expensive investments in equipment.

Let us invest in our best and most productive assets, our people.

IT WILL BE WORTH THE INVESTMENT


As Americans we expect to be the best in every field. Our expectations have been built on both historic experience and much self-delusion. We have achieved much because of  a long history of  focusing on our challenges and working together to solve them. There is no golden era,  just a time when Americans expected much and worked harder to achieve.  Today we have gotten used to the idea of achievement, but lack the vision or leadership to achieve. Long after we have done anything to declare us better than the rest we still believe ourselves to be.

This delusion is killing us slowly. It is allowing us the luxury of contentment. It is allowing us to believe the delusion that our children are getting a world-class education. It has allowed us to believe that our kids do not need to be the best in maths or science, but that they are more creative and will still be the winners of the next generation. We will one day find out the truth. Winning  as a nation means setting high expectations for all our citizens. Ensuring the continued success of our nation will depend on ensuring a second-to-none education for all.

Expecting little from the majority of our students is a recipe for disaster. All of our children deserve to be pushed hard, because they will not break. I believe all of America’s children can excel,  but only if we expect them to and begin giving them a shot at a world-class education.

Rigorous and challenging classrooms are what we need more than ever. Fun and education focused homes is where we need to start. Along with car seat education every parent should be given a blueprint as to how to start their child’s education. From birth to kindergarten is where the real focus needs to be. Parents need to be guided as how to challenge their prized little ones. It is that challenge and example that will determine their trajectory in life. Let us focus some pennies on our children’s education. It will be well worth the investment.

LOVE ALL EQUALLY


There is a continuing fight all over the world today. It is mental, intellectual and physical. I’m not talking about terrorism in its State and Non-State forms. I’m talking about the continuing fight for equality and civil rights. This fight is getting simultaneously easier and harder. The right to embrace our individual sexual orientation is to me a basic human right that is worth defending. Although homosexuality has gained much wider acknowledgment and in many countries is no longer a sentence to death or deprivation, there is still much to do. The improved prospects have been won by hard intelligent work. As with any progress, only vigilance will maintain the momentum and keep our society honest. Many will disagree but I will continue to wholeheartedly support the equal rights of all in our society.

The deprivation of rights from any member of our Society makes us all less free. Fortunately the fight for the future is already won because a much maligned generation, generation Y, has fully embraced equality. The continuing battle is to define a clear and open future for those who are unfortunately living under less equitable systems. Many in our culture still have not gotten the “memo” but the momentum is not with them, this movement is irreversible. As irreversible as the general direction of progress is, there will be setbacks. These setbacks will be reminders of how far society as traveled.  I am proud to be living in an age where we are having the discussion about living up to the ideals of equality expressed in our constitutions. The march of progress is evident in the many same-sex couples that are out and open. I am proud and happy to take care of the same-sex couples in the hospital. Many are older and the acknowledgment of their decades old relationships is something that many wanted to see but never expected. They have all lived extraordinary lives because their love survived the ugliness of an intolerant society. Other groups can claim similar experiences and we should celebrate together the maturing of global culture.

As a young person growing up in a proudly homophobic society I saw many around that were different but never judged nor did I defend. I was confused by the incongruity that was religious society. On one hand extolling the love of Christ while also calling for the death and persecution of others. It was obvious to me that the love of Christ should extend to all his creatures, but that was not the a prevalent opinion. This divergence is still a puzzle to me. Older and not necessarily wiser I would not change the culture of my up bringing, but I say now with much confidence that we had it wrong. I never spoke openly about my opinion, but treated all around me equally. The truth is that there are people of varying orientations in the Church and our Father has directed us to love all equally.

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.

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.

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.

I WILL NOT BECOME A STATISTIC.


As the world stands by and watches the flames of conflict I am saddened. I am saddened because humanity continues to destroy ourselves. We continue to sow the seeds of distrust and anger among our children. We seem not to be able to remember the pain that we have endured. We call on others to pursue peace as we beat the drums of war. How can peace be attained while retribution is supported? How can we support the process of peace while developing the means of war?

Some will say that war will always be with us. The truth is more complex and challenging than that simple statement. War will be with us as long as our leaders are cowards. As long as our leaders behave like street thugs, but are not held to the same rules. The problem is, there is no one to hold the powerful to the same  rules as the weak are held. Fundamentally the thugs that rule world politics are rich in resources both monetary and civic. They are primarily rich in civic resources. Powerful people support the slaughter and protect the barbaric.

We wonder why young educated and economically stable people join in the barbarism of conflicts all over the world. That questions is only asked by the morally deprived. I was brought up with a deep moral compass, in a country that has a longstanding history of supporting the “little” guy. The sun and fun of Jamaica was always equally matched by our deep mistrust of world powers, because we have suffer at the hands of the powerful. The powerful will always abuse the weak as long as the weak allow it. The arc of history is long and today’s victory for the morally deprave will turn into tomorrows sadness.

Many of us, and I include myself have long ago stopped being attentive to the many slaughters on the world stage. We have stopped paying attention because our anger has no outlet. We have joined the ranks of those that have chosen to deliberately not follow the happens in the world. We have stopped watching because the answers are obvious but will never be acted on. The powerful are amoral and the killing of non-combatants has become acceptable. We have stopped watching because there is no one willing to call out the complicity of those that pretend to represent us.

I have stopped watching because it makes me angry. I will not allow my anger to push me into the world of the depraved. I will not become a statistic.

WHAT IS YOUR AMERICAN DREAM?


Every July 4th I remind myself of the courage of the founders of my country. The beauty of the declaration of independence is in the broad inclusiveness of the sentiments expressed. The global equality of mankind as expressed is at the root of the American dream. However, the history of our country is littered with the carcasses of failed policies and leaders who have not lived up to the lofty expectations of that celebrated document. The 4th should be used as a time to refocus on the sentiments expressed. This land of immigrants is not about where you were born, but about what you believe in. It is about fairness, equity and the continuous match toward a more perfect union.

The dream of America is alive and prospering despite all the attempts to distract. Some have lost hope in the self-evident greatest of the American experiment. I am not one. For people of color the American experience is that of continued heart-break, but there runs a determined strain of hope that as continued to improve our lot in this union. I read the declaration of independence on the 4th to be reminded of the promise and the progress. This is a marathon not a sprint, and we dream of true equality as we march toward that goal. This is my American dream.

I have hope because I have to be hopeful. I have young children and I know that the world has changed for the better and that change will continue. Most importantly I know that the growth in American society is irreversible because my generation and the following have made it so. As the country ages those who express the old prejudices have been out numbered and embarrassed into submission. There will always be a few stubborn ones. There will always be some expressions of darkness, but the light of equity is here to say. Progress has been slow and inconsistent but it is here to stay.

The continuous expression of hope and growth is why I continue to love my America. American greatness is derived from the philosophy of her people. If you were born in this land or emigrated the dream is the same. We are a people buoyed by hope and the understanding that we can be the best and always expect to be.

What is your American dream?