WAKE THE FUCK UP AMERICA!


As a parent I want the best for my children. I want them to achieve more than I have. I want them to be fully equipped to take on the challenges ahead. The only lasting thing I can give them is an opportunity to get an education. The education they get will determine their ability to make a living and be productive citizens. Their education will help them avoid the pervasive scams in our society. The education I fight for them to attain will improve their ability to survive. I will continue to fight for their right to be given a competitive education. As such, I am proud to support the goals of common core. It seems I am among the minority of persons who believe that common core is a good thing for the American K-12 system.

The continued attempts to disparage the goals set reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of what education means. It is a reflection of how urgent the need for better education is. The problem is that most Americans know enough to complaint but not enough to assist in the fix. We are a very poorly educated society in spite of the graduated masses. We are a society that prefers quick answers rather than long processes. The truth is that getting the correct answer is less important that understanding how you arrive at it. Every time I see a story decrying the ills of common core I see another example of a parent or teacher who lacks the fundamental understanding of what education means. Our education is lacking and we cannot compete, but we want to go back to the old ways. The old ways have not worked. The old ways have created people who oppose change not because the change is bad, but because they are so poorly educated they do not understand the change.

 
Someone suggested to me a novel solution. The parents who do not want their children learning in the common core “way” should be allowed to go to their own schools and the rest of us learn a common core based education. That sounds great to me, but the truth is that the educated will continue to suffer at the hands of the stupid. Do not be stupid and destroy your kids ability to compete. If you want to disadvantage your child let me thank you now. Thanks for removing my childs competition.

Can we please wake the fuck up America.

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.

WAR and PEACE


The cycle of war and peace continues like the flow of water. Unlike the processes of nature, it is not inevitable. The process of life is about choice. We have the ability to choose the path we take. The decisions we make are not preordained, we are our life’s directors. As we direct our life we must take care of the vulnerable among us. War is a selfish act, resulting from the disregard for the many. It is the result of disordered thinking, that justifies killing as a means of protection. The incongruity of that argument is evident if we would reflect on it. Our reflection must consider the social nature of our species where we will follow those among us that profess caring and loyalty to the group. Unfortunately, the malicious and selfish among us have and will continue to exploit the majority, until the majority decides to be as concerned about the stranger as we are about the ones closes to us.

The more important question that needs examining concerns what will our future be if we do not break the cycle. War may bring a temporary peace, but the underlying discord will resurface. The cycle must be broken, if humanity expects to survive. The cycle can be broken when we address the root causes. Where the root of war is usually the exploitation of the many for the benefit of the few. We must reconsider our use of the planet’s resources. It will be painfully to many, but will be beneficial to the most. We may not think that we are exploiting anyone, but if we examine our life it will become clearer that many of us are consuming excessive quantifies of the available resources.

If we all consider and re-order our life’s the great masses of the deprived on our planet could have the possibility to improve their lives. The cycle of war with interludes of peace could be broken by each of us say no to exploitation. We all have a responsibility to our species. Our care needs to extend further than down the street. We need to extend our care and concern to the father thousands of miles away that cannot feed his family, while we dump more food that we eat.

War is and always will be about resources. Let us all take a stand and share.

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.

WHAT SAY YOU?


Have you ever wondered why your antibiotic is so expensive? The answer is not as simple as it would seem. The answer is much more simple. The drug company is doing the imperative of every company in the capitalist paradigm. Making the maximum return on investment  is the paramount objective. If the company is privately or publicly owned there is no difference.

A key component of profitability is the company’s ability to have “pricing power” in the marketplace. In lay terms, can the company price its products to maximize profits per item? A key component of pricing power is the presence of or not of competition. Competition reduces pricing power; without which pricing power can be maximized. Consequently, the ability to decrease competitive risk is vital. A not often examined part of the profitability paradigm is the patent system.

Most of us know enough about patents to continue to support their continued presence and influence over our economy. Unfortunately, what we know is inadequate to make good decisions. The patent system was designed to give inventors the ability to protect their work for a finite period from theft while allowing others to see the details of a novel work. At the birth of the system it was argued that it would encourage inventors to develop on the works of others while allowing the original developer to have protection from loss of economic benefit. It can be argued that the system has worked very well. However, the current incarnation of the American patent system has drifted significantly away from the original intent.

With the only goal of modern corporations being to maximize profitability the patent system as been adjusted significantly to make it work for big business. The protected period as lengthened over the years. Various legal and technical methods have been used to extend the protected period. This time is used to maximize pricing and profits from the protected product. This is not a bad thing for the company that is benefiting. It is following the primary objective of capitalism, maximize return on investment.

For the individual that is not a shareholder the system is not as beneficial. There are two things that disadvantages the individual, she is deprived of the potential of a better product from the work of another developers improvement on the original and she is deprived of making a better return on her resources secondary to the excessive cost of the product she is buying. The lack of competition is further detrimental to the community as a whole for the same reasons. Even the company that is doing all to maintain its competitive edge by excluding others from the marketplace is losing. The company loses by the loss of the competition that would push it to bring a much improved product to the marketplace.

If the system is objectively examined there is only one conclusion, the patent system as significantly deviated from the original design and should be abolished. I would completely abolish the patent system and unleash real competition into the marketplace. What say you?

GIVE THEM THE FACTS.


I have been thinking about where we are going as a country and I do not like the trajectory. In spite of it I think we are not lost. There is still time for a late rescue. Examining the most recent employment data both encourages and worries me. The overall number and trajectory is good, the devil is in the details. Most of the jobs created are in sectors that have been and continue to be low paying. These jobs are low skilled and some would call them dead-end. The service sector is growing and has produced more jobs than it lost during the great recession. Job creation is great, except these are not the jobs needed to create a viable middle class. These are the types of jobs that create short-term corporate profits and shareholder value.

Many pundits with their ideological blinders on have “trashed”  the report while hailing the profitability of wall street without acknowledging the interdependence present. They are correct to be worried, but they have not taken the next step to discern the reasons. It is easy to say the government of the day has not provided the incentives for the creation of high paying jobs and that maybe correct. However, where are the high skilled workers? Why are there many high skilled job vacancies? I would like to suggest that the dearth of high skilled potential employees is a result of our ambivalence to and in many sectors disdain for scientific education.

We are a country of magical thinking and low expectations. Many believe that the magician from the heavens created everything and do not encourage their children to learn the foundations of science. These same people have been elected to positions of leadership and continue to lead many into the darkness of ignorance and scientific illiteracy. Our ignorance has allowed for the export of many potential jobs to countries with much less dependence on magical thinkers.  We need to put the work in that ensures that all our children receive a myth free first world science based education.

I am hopeful for America because our young people are willing and able to take on the challenge of a more competitive world. They will deliver if we are willing to allow them access to education without the misleading influence of our pervasive mythical belief system. I do not worry about our kids, I worry about the ignorance of the adults charged with guiding them. Our children are a reflection of the education we allow them to access. Educate them well and we will all reap the rewards.

ENJOY YOUR EASTER.


Often life gets in the way of living and we get carried away with the emotional. The beauty is in the living not in the life. Our experiences are the sum total and the after life is irrelevant. That view of life is much disputed, but it is my view. The constant attempt of the religious to guilt us into prescribed behaviors is admirable only in that it has so thoroughly succeeded.

The complaints that will spring from my expression of this opinion is so perfectly conjured, by the religious, as to make even the most noncommittal give credit to those views. The oddity is that the same people who believe in the absolute power of scientific evidence in the care of patients ignore the validity of those rules to justify their beliefs.

As I tell the story I lost my religion in the sixth grade when a teacher seeing I was bored gave me a book about the solar system. Not far into reading about our tiny part of the universe the story of creation as proclaimed by Genesis lost all meaning. As a 9-year-old I was not sure about what I was reading, but the seeds were planted.

Those seeds grew into my love of science and evidence. I will allow you your belief structure as long as you do not attempt to guilt  me into compliance with your view of the universe. I will acknowledge the evidence and your freedom to do otherwise. I am comfortable with the knowledge that I am not in control of the universe. I am comfortable that your religious convictions do not give you any more understanding of the universe.

Religion is about ignoring the uncertainty and providing platitudes to explain the unexplained. I will stand with the evidence and follow it where it leads. I can live with the uncertainty and strive to find the evidence to answer the important questions.  Because I am looking for evidence does not make me any less of a person than you are. It makes me less ideological.

Enjoy your Easter, while I continue to look for the evidence.

WHAT DO WE OWE OUR CHILDREN?


Our children are our most important investment and their well-being is our primary responsibility. How we get them from helpless to confident and self-sufficient is our primary task. I am currently on that journey with my two beautiful daughters and hope I am doing the correct things to create wonderful members of society. These are my guide posts:

1. Create confidence
Give them confidence by allowing them to succeed and fail early. There is nothing like accomplishing physical tasks to give confidence. My girls have never been restricted by age guides. We have allowed them to challenge and master anything they would like to attempt. Many times they fail but it is only in failure that we learn how to succeed.

2. Make learning fun
We strive to make every experience a learning opportunity. I hate structured learning, that is not where most of our learning occurs. Most importantly, answer all their questions (much easier said then done).

3. No baby talk please
When my girls speak others are often amazed at the depth of their vocabulary and general language skills. Those skills are not coincidental. We talk to them in adult language and provide definitions as needed so that they have early exposure and reinforcement of appropriate language.

4. Early introduction to technology and science
My girls are 3 and 4 and both know their way around a computer. They both have been introduced to programming. The 4-year-old gets it and is an intuitive problem solver. The 3-year-old is not there yet but she is learning about computers and always want to program. They love seeing the effects of their work. They remind me daily that they need to program. We are on code.org most days and I am the one limiting their time.

5. Respect others and the planet
Letting them see us showing respect to others and nature gives them a sense of their place in the universe. We are here to take care of the planet which is not limited to our fellow primates.

Our child are willing and able to learn and accomplish so much more that we give them credit for. We need to unleash them. In the rapidly changing world we live in, the only skill that will guarantee success is adaptability. Exposing our children to as many learning opportunities as we can will prepare them well for the challenges ahead.