Would it really hurt to listen to the kids?

Imagine, it’s 9:00 AM Monday morning. You’re in your office waiting for a visit from a software rep who said he could solve all your problems through his manufacturing productivity software solution. You came in early just to put together a list a questions. The last thing you want is to waste an hour first on Monday morning. Not the way to start ou the week … behind the proverbial eight-ball.

He here is, finally. It’s 9:15 AM, fifteen minutes late. “That traffic was terrible,” a predictable response. It’s Los Angeles, traffic is always terrible! Well let’s get on with it.

Not two minutes into the meeting, (If you want to call it that. A meeting assumes a dialogue.) I felt the flood gates open. It was a relentless barrage of features, platitudes and assumptions. As I tried to get a word in edge-wise, and maybe, just maybe ask a question … I was repeatedly interrupted. His product would solve everything, no matter what. After all this was the edict from above, his boss’s boss. It might as well have come from the Pope pontificating from his perch.

The above recount seems like an absurd way to do business. After all, doesn’t business suppose to adjust itself to the needs of its customers and prospective customers. If they don’t … they won’t be in business long. You can’t ramrod your  wares down someone’s throat and expect to succeed.

While that strategy doesn’t work in business, the world of education hasn’t seem to have gotten the message. Day-in and day-out, our children, the future of our country are subjected to a relentless bombardment of facts and figures presented in a way where only fleeting success is likely. Seldom is the connection made between the material they are force-fed and its application in the real world, the world they are expected to succeed in after they are released from the imprisoned walls of the high school they are mandated to attend.

And even if the material is relevant – the technics used, often decreed by school administrators and boards, take no account of their effectiveness. What matters is that the teachers and students walk in “lock step” abiding to the whims of the “higher-ups” in their ivory towers. God help someone who dares step out of line.

Last week, thirty miles from where I live, in the town of Park City, Montana; the community is in upheaval. Much to the vocal opposition of scores of parents and students, six popular and effective high school teachers were either let go or forced to resign. Accolades poured in from past and present students. “I developed an interested in math I would have never thought was possible, said one student. “I learned how to write, I mean really write!” claimed a past student. “My son actually likes school,” came from a mom. This “gang of six” obviously bucked the system. They didn’t conform to the edicts of the new superintendent and his subservient school board. No matter what the kids had to say, I made no difference. After all, they’re only kids. What do they know.

Little attention is paid in school to student individuality. Everyone is supposed to absorb the material and learn it the same way. If they don’t respond to the prescribed method developed in a vacuum by the administration, then the student be damned. And with a new pursuit of common-core standards, our federal government led by Education Secretary Arnie, “we’ll test you till your fingers bleed” Duncan, assumes knowledge requirements for a student long-term success in South Los Angeles are the same as those in North Dakota. Granted, America is one country. But it’s also more diverse than most continents are. Education should reflect that. And the students can tell you that. They just want to learn things that will help them.

Relevance = engagement = learning!

Students also want a voice in the people who will ultimately determine the future of their learning, the higher-ups!

Last year Billings, Montana, my closest city, appointed a new school superintendent. A group of six high achieving student leaders were invited to interview the five candidates and submit their opinions. After three days of interviews, they assembled, the made their recommendation. They ranked the candidates in order of one to five according to their criteria; past successes, communication skills, vision for the future and potential empathy for the student body. The school board picked the one the students had ranked … LAST! So much for input.

Our future leaders
Our future leaders

If you’re not eighteen, an adult – you’re a second class citizen. You don’t count. For all purposes, you’re just a possession of your parents … not a lot different from your dog laying on the couch. Your opinions, your views, your ideas are routinely dismissed because they don’t “jell” with the real world. After all, “what could you know – you don’t have any experience.” And since you’re not eighteen, you can’t vote. And since you can’t vote, feel lucky we throw any crumbs your way.

Our nation’s elders, our leaders, well …. they don’t seem to doing a very good job leading. Or for that matter, even following.

Our beloved elected officials in Washington and state house nationwide (aka. “the clowns”) more resemble a group of uncompromising six-year-olds than a body of lawmakers. Congress’s productivity has fallen to levels not seen … ever!

Special interest groups, corporate lobbyists and outright “bad” people are trying to role back environmental laws to levels not seen in decades in their efforts to rape and pillage everything in their path. Their actions are not unlike that of Sherman’s “March to the Sea.”

Fueled by the extreme disdain of Barak Obama, hate group participation has increased a seven-fold since 2008. The “if you don’t look or think exactly like I do – I hate you” movement has spun relentlessly out of control. But this phenomena mainly resides with the older generations, those adults our young are supposed to look up to … to be like.

The state of our public education system resembles that of Rome in the days of a fiddling Nero on the eve it burned to the ground. Education reformists seem to have lost sight that reform’s purpose is improvement, not just useless activity and change for the change’s sake. And the ugly specter of standardized testing aims to displace all actual learning in its way – all in the name of accountability.

In contrast, today’s youth, the Millennial generation doesn’t view the world and the future through their parents jaded lenses. They value cooperation and collaboration over confrontation and rigidity. They look at the environment not as just another resource to exploit, but as an inseparable part of the whole of life. Most Millennials believe in acceptance and embrace for all regardless of what they look like or what their views are. And today’s young want to view school as place to learn, to prepare for the future; not just a testing lab giving adults ammunition for support for their “half-baked” reforms.

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” ~ Albert Einstein

Whether it’s teaching methods, or just overall matters of importance in our country, things don’t seem to be going to well. Would it hurt so much to open our minds to a perspective not jaded with cynicism. Imagine if optimism reigned rather than pessimism.

Would it really hurt that much to listen to the kids. Who knows, we may learn something.

Those that create the problems … will NOT be the ones that solve them!

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You can find me on Twitter at @clayforsberg and Google+

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The Silent Dilemma

Guest post by Alexandria Forsberg

I was at work the other day when a client walked in with his Black Labrador. We chatted for a moment, and I mentioned that I recently rescued a 16 week old deaf Australian Cattle Dog puppy from being euthanized.

He was not impressed and admitted he actually wasn’t opposed to euthanizing deaf dogs. I was shocked. He started by saying there are two problems with deaf dogs, they hurt the breed of dog, and they are ‘dangerous’ to people. I’ll tackle these each individually in the following paragraphs.

About hurting the breed… I agree wholeheartedly. Breeding deaf dogs will result in more deaf dogs, it has been proven to be hereditary and that should never be overlooked. If the idea is to make the breed stronger, smarter, or ‘insert characteristic’ then having a bunch of puppies being born deaf is probably counterproductive to the overall wellness and the future of the breed.

Brodie

Doesn’t mean we need to kill them. Literally killing a puppy born over 4 weeks prior. It’s not terminating a pregnancy, it’s putting a newborn dog to death. I mentioned spay and neutering options. He seemed hesitant to agree that that would be a comparable option, but failed to mention why.

Congenital deafness, like what Brody was born with, is almost always hereditary caused by a gene that controls the amount of white pigmentation the dog’s coat has. It also controls the hair cells inside the dog’s ear, which stop developing properly when this gene is too prevalent at about 4 weeks old. 22% of Dalmatians, 12% of Australian Cattle Dogs, 11% of Bull Terriers, 10% of English Setters, 10% of Jack Russell Terriers, and 41% of Catahoula Leopard Dogs will be born with uni or bilateral hearing loss. Almost all of which will be euthanized.

On to the second issue.

The word ‘dangerous’ was used.

Dangerous. This is a serious accusation. But let’s look at the logic behind this. Scientifically, being deaf does not cause increased aggression, at all. But I’ll be honest. All dogs bite or at least can. Part of owning a dog is knowing that there is always that possibility. Ideally, an owner develops a relationship with their pet that includes mutual respect and love and from that they learn their role as a submissive companion. Celebrated dog trainers around the world agree that if a dog is trained properly with a dominate strong figure, there is little chance of an attack or bite.

Cesar Millan, also known as the Dog Whisperer, openly states that he doesn’t believe any dog is beyond rehabilitation (and that’s after the dog has ALREADY displayed aggression). Aggression comes from the environment. Even dogs that have already attacked and killed people have been successfully reintroduced to society. We often allow previously aggressive dogs to be rehabilitated and trained, we don’t euthanize every dog because it was born with a predisposition for aggression, we wouldn’t have dogs if that were the case.

Being a dog owner (deaf or not) is a challenging and amazing experience, but too often people don’t realize that discipline needs to start early and be consistent and enforced even in young puppies. Instead of becoming a strong dominate authoritative figure to their companion, owners get upset and frustrated and this reflects as unstable to the dog. This makes the dog feel like it’s their job to protect you (because they can’t depend on you being consistent), and thus you end up with a more aggressive dog.

When an owner corrects a dogs actions they must be consistent and firm as well as calm and assertive. Aggressive behavior is something that needs to be watched carefully from the beginning in ANY DOG and proper training is especially important when the dog has a condition that other don’t know about or that might make it susceptible to increased aggression. This includes any dog that was breed for a purpose in my opinion. Herding dogs bite (like Blake and Brody), it’s bred into them to bite the heels of cattle, guard dogs bite, also bred into the breed, hunting dogs bite, even lap dogs bite (I learned that the hard way). If you can train a hearing-abled dog to not bite, or TO bite, than training a deaf dog is no different.

So what’s the deal exactly with this myth? Well, the whole aggression thing is blown way out of proportion.

Deaf animals and people interpret the world a little differently than others because they have a different perspective of their environment. I can’t pretend that my dogs are perfect or the best behaved, but it’s obvious that they are happy, and that makes the biggest difference to me. I really wish I had more time to explain my position on deaf dog aggression to this man, he seemed fairly well informed, but lacked basic experience with these dogs.

I have found that most people who oppose deaf dogs as pets, have never interacted with one or gotten to know one, probably because so many of them are euthanized, which is the whole problem. It’s hard to hear many success stories when they aren’t given a chance to survive long enough to get adopted. I’m just asking for the chance for others to learn about these amazing creatures and hopefully dispel some of the nasty rumors about them and hopefully Save Deaf Dogs!

Thank you so much for your time, please check out www.savedeafdogs.com for more info!!

alex@savedeafdogs.com

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You can find me on Twitter at @savedeafdogs

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Are our students, “up a creek … without a paddle?”

I’m sure you’ve heard the metaphor, “up a creek without a paddle.” I think most of us interpret that to mean being put in a situation unprepared with little chance of success.

Anyone who pays any attention to the national education dialogue knows there is no end to those who believe they have the solution to all that ails the system, whether it be curriculum, teachers or school choice. Everyone weighs in. Some ideas are good … some not so much. But this piece is not about curriculum. And it’s not about teachers or school choice.

m_chasm_sf

It’s about what happens to our children after they graduate high school, or in too many cases – don’t. It’s about the most neglected aspect their education. It’s about transition …. that messy period of fragmented decision-making, that time when a student has to decide  … what’s next. This is the time when they put that first foot in that boat that will take them “down the creek … without a paddle.”

Now I understand there’s plenty of creeks they’re going have to navigate over the course of their lives. But can’t we at least give them a fighting chance. And the currents are lot stronger today then they were when we were that age. Well you say, “that’s what high school counselors are for.” Aren’t they supposed to provide guidance?

But how many counselors know anything about employment trends? How many how can project what opportunities might be down the road should a student decide to go to college? And how many have any idea of economic geography or demographic trends and what they may mean to a student’s future? A high school counselor’s job mainly consists of attempting to keep wayward students from wavering even more “off-center.” Oh, I can’t forget keeping up on that inventory of college propaganda.

Maybe a student can establish a rapport with a teacher who brings more to the table than knowledge of state and federally mandated curriculum. But that’s a maybe … and a big one at that.

That leaves parents or friends of parents. While they probably only have the best intentions in mind – intentions are not all that’s needed. Parents want to see their children go to college. Isn’t that one of the cornerstone of the “American Dream?” And what kind of parent would they be seen as if their children didn’t, no matter what their reason and regardless of the opportunities, or lack of there of afterwards.

Now let’s take this issue of transition and move it down the road to college. To an outsider, once someone enters college and has been there a year or two, they should know what their career path will be. In other words, “what they’ll be when they grow up.” How’s this supposed to happen though. Let’s time I checked, tuition and a dorm room didn’t come with an “almighty all-knowing orb” that will guide a student to a life of riches and contentment.

I suppose you’re saying, well isn’t a college student assigned an advisor? I wasn’t, but I’m sure that in most cases they are. But what do the advisors actually do? Probably they’ll make sure you know the classes you have to take to get your degree, a degree that will pave the road to, well who knows where. And on top of it, how many advisors are going to say, “you’re in the wrong field because there isn’t any jobs in this field.” Probably few.

Well here’s what we got. We got a whole lot of young adults, some with high school degrees, some not; some with college degrees and some that didn’t have enough money to finish. All of them are pretty much in the same situation, “up a creek with no paddle.”

Enough of the problem. Now let’s fix it. Here’s my “unqualified three-point solution” … my metaphorical paddle.

  • First, let’s start advising high school students in the first semester of their junior year. Find out what their passion are. This gives them a year and half to tweak their class schedule to accommodate what they’re interested in or better set themselves up for college should it fit into their plans.
  • Second, bulk up the high school advisor departments. Bring in the professionals. And I don’t mean educational professionals. Bring in a recruiter, a “headhunter,” someone who’s livelihood depends on finding people career opportunities. I’m sure there would be no shortage of recruiters in your community that would be willing to provide needed assistance. And you could enlist several depending on their niche and industry specialties.
  • And third, give young adults a taste of the real world. How do they know what a profession is going to be like if they’ve never “been there and done it?” Imagine involving the community in the success of their future leaders. Why can’t a community offer internships? Virtually no school systems in this nation reach across the aisle to local businesses or even the public sector to expose our young adults to the reality after high school.

We need to re-focus the role of schools. They should be in the “student success business,” not the test score business. It’s not about students per teacher. It’s not about teachers’ salaries. It’s not about tweaking curriculum and sure isn’t about about test scores.

It’s about preparing students for success in life.

The question is whether the powers that be in the American education establishment realizes this … or even cares to.

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You can find me on Twitter at @clayforsberg

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The Chicago teacher’s strike … a lost opportunity to revitalize America’s public schools!

We all know about the current Chicago teacher’s strike, the first one in twenty-five years in the windy city. In addition to being America’s 3rd largest school district and effecting 350,000 students and their families, it also has direct implications on the national political front.

Point person the for city of Chicago is Rahm Emanuel, Barack Obama’s former chief of staff. Emanuel’s stance on school reform mirrors that of Obama and his administration. And they are not the only ones riding this wave. Also endorsing their policy of teacher evaluations based on standardized testing are Newark mayor Cory Booker, former D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee as well as other up-and-coming members of the Democratic party. This puts them square at odds with the union position, traditionally stalwart backers of the party.

The issues at play consist of:

  • teacher evaluations
  • job security
  • salary and benefits
  • longer school day

Rather than going into copious detail here, you can read it for yourself here.

Anyone who has read my blog knows of my distaste for standardized testing. In fact my repulsion is so strong, I view standardized testing, along with ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) as the two main obstacles to American success, equality and prosperity.

But I must bring up those dreaded tests again, because they are front and center in the Chicago strike.

The union contends that the main determination of testing success lies outside the home. It’s the economic and social conditions of the family and environment the child is brought up in. Children living in poverty or in single-parent households, along with being raised by uninvolved parents will score worse than their counterparts coming from “stable” households.

This may be true. But if you’re the union – is this really the way to present your case to the public, your ultimate judge and jury? For without the support of the public – a teacher’s strike, whether it results in often short-lived gains, will create long-lived scars amongst the populus it is there to serve.

It’s no wonder that only 45% of Chicago supports this strike. After all, the union pretty much is telling them it doesn’t make any difference what their teachers do. Because of you and your lifestyle – you have committed your offspring to a fate no better, if not worse than yours. This is hardly what I would call a stellar marketing message. Add to that, parents having to scramble for a place to “house” their children during the strike. It’s amazing even 45% support the teachers and their union.

Now let’s assume what the union is saying about standardized test is true, at least part of it. Let’s assume the tests don’t accurately assess a student. But let’s stop there. Instead playing the blame game, why don’t we look for solutions. And to their benefit, several individual teachers have actually brought up a point that makes sense, but it’s getting virtually no coverage by the media.

The teachers really don’t want more money. After all they are the highest paid in the nation, averaging $76,000 annually. The teachers don’t really want shorter days or less work either. They want their students to succeed. And a focus on standardized testing and the inevitable “teaching to the test” isn’t going to accomplish any success, especially long-term success. But rather the teachers believe by re-incorporating the arts (music, theatre, and visual art) into the classroom, students will become engaged, and develop their brains because they want to. This they believe will prove to be the correct path to a “life of success and happiness.”

In 201o, John Kay wrote a book named, “Obliquity.” Obliquity is the principle that complex goals are best achieved indirectly. Jack Welsh, former CEO of General Electric, realized this late in his corporate career. Rather than focus on the bottom line, he had GE just make the best possible products it could. He poured money into research and development, must to the dismay of many of his shareholders who only looked as far as the next quarter. He believed through this strategy, he would indirectly create a profitable and valuable company. And that is what it became. Art and creative studies are prime examples of obliquity in the classroom. In the end students will become successful through indirect means. They will have developed their “whole self.”

Now imagine if the Chicago teacher’s union presented their case this way. No blame on the teachers. And no blame on the parents. But rather blame the inanimate object, the standardized test. The test’s only defense is provided by bureaucrats that aren’t viewed too highly in the first place. The teachers would be seen as championing the effort to bring back the things in school that their student’s parent grew up with. These are things that could actually spur parental involvement rather than hinder it. I wouldn’t doubt their support would be close to 70%, a number that might very well initiate a referendum on the ill-conceived testing model of public education so in vogue presently. And in the end, the union and their teachers, would get what they wanted – no teacher assessment based on standardized testing.

And what if this “marketing approach” spread to other school districts facing the same situations, and believe it there’s a whole lot of them out there. This could be the catalyst that enables us to put public education back on the track it so dearly needs to be on.

But all this is based on a “what if.” And it doesn’t look like this “what if” is going to happen.

At least this time …

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You can find me on Twitter at @clayforsberg

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Why Do We Hate Thomas Edison?

In his speech at the Aspen Ideas Festival, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman told attendees,”When we got out of college we had to find a job. When our kids get out of college they will have to invent a job.” But how can students develop their job-creating, innovation-oriented talents if our education system remains centered on knowing and applying information instead of teaching creative, big-picture thinking?

As far back as you can go into the annals of American History, you’ll find entrepreneurialism and innovation. Whether it was Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford or most recently Steve Jobs and Bill Gates – these were the people who defined the United States. This, and with what some say is yet the greatest American invention, its public school system – you have the foundation of America.

Well, I’m afraid to say that we may be abandoning our storied past. As Tom Friedman so rightly said, creativity and our pursuit of it is no longer a priority in America. Instead, we drill our children facts and figures, most may or may not be applicable to real life … and then test, test and test. Our preoccupation with standardized tests and keeping up China has reduced our future generations into nothing more than vehicles of rote memorization.

“What was once educationally significant, but difficult to measure, has been replaced by what is insignificant and easy to measure. So now we test how well we have taught what we do not value.” Art Costa, professor emeritus at Cal State Fullerton

If this mis-guided focus isn’t enough, we have further prohibited our children of any other creative outlet by stripping art, music and physical eduction from our schools. Students are relegated to their desks from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm. And this is how we prepare our future leaders. Far cry from Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Edison.

The world inside a classroom is the antithesis of the world our children inhibit outside the classroom. Our vaulted American public education system was conceived at the turn of the century, the century that turned 110 years ago. At the time it was perfect as we moved into the industrial age. Even the rows of desks mimicked the environment on the factory floor that students were expected to move on to after graduation.

Back then the world of information inside the classroom and out was contained in books. A student’s exposure outside their immediate environment was limited to the books they could get their hands on. Books were how students were taught, and books were how students learned.

The year is no longer 1910, and the factory floor now employs as many robots as it does people. And no longer are books the only influence. On the contrary, for most of the younger generations, books take a back seat to technology. In fact, most members of the Millennial generation actually hone their learning skills with the “trial and error” method of mastering video games. The methodology behind learning video games is close to the method of invention Thomas Edison used. You experiment, and fail, over and over again – until you figure it out. This is the basis of creative and innovation design. This is what this country was built on. No one is expected to get it right the first time. Yet our current public school model and its obsessive testing run contrary. “Failure is not acceptable and failure doesn’t test well.” And unfortunately, I see the support for this trend gaining momentum, not waning.

I find this top down dictator-type approach to education alarming in this day and age. The corporate world has dived head first into the customer-centric model of doing business. Whether it’s targeted marketing or constant product changes … businesses are especially tuned to the needs and desires of their clientele. The customer rules.

But isn’t a student technically a customer. Taxes are paid by their parents to support the system. Why is this relationship any different from that of the merchant and customer? Can you imagine walking into your local store, only to be told what you’re going to buy, when and for how much? No discussion!

Maybe this attitude stems from the education complex viewing “students” as not knowing anything and sure not knowing what’s best for them. “This is what you’re going to learn and this is how you’re learn it.” No matter that much of the information supposedly being learned and the methods being used to teach it have little relevance in the world of this younger generation. Introducing a “student centric” curriculum and teaching approach would most sure be met with the equivalent of nuclear holocaust!

Much talk, as it has been for four decades, has been centered on education reform. Fads come and go. One special interest after another throws their solution up against the wall … hoping it’ll stick and they’ll jump to the top of the educational “pecking order.” But it never does. The house of “educational reform” has teflon walls.

Now I’m an optimist. Maybe because it’s that I’ll never really grown up and still have the “naive optimism” of a teenager. But when it comes to the institution of public education, I’m a realist. Little is going change. And what does change, will trend downward, not up. But there is a solution … and this one will stick!

Take responsibility!

Your children are the most valuable asset you have, or will ever have. More valuable than your job and more valuable than your bank account. It’s up to you to nurture their creativity, the creativity that will enable them to succeed in a world so different from the one you grew up in. Give them room to try and fail, for it’s through failure we truly learn. Give them room to discover and develop their own way of learning, a way of learning that will provide them the basis of the educational advancement for life.

The future in the world of our children is not easy. Change and evolution is a daily constant. To not provide them with tools to navigate this world is paramount to putting them behind the wheel of a car with no instruction. If think you’ve done your job by merely turning over their futures to a questionable public school complex, don’t be surprised what turns out.

After all, maybe your children can land that career job with that storied Fortune 500 company. Oh, I’m sorry … that job doesn’t exist anymore.

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You can find me on Twitter at @clayforsberg

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Academia vs. the “real world”

When I went college at the University of North Dakota in the early ’80s, I majored in business focusing in marketing and finance. I remember an investments professor I had started out the first day of the semester telling us we’d all be able to make a fortune in the stock market when we we finished his class. He was in his late twenties and had gone straight from undergraduate to get his masters and PhD. And now he was teaching at UND.

Fast forward two years. I was in my last semester and was doing mortgage brokering on the side. I heard that this investment professor, was now working at a local bank in town  – so I though I’d talk to him about an apartment complex deal I was working on.

Nothing materialized however – not because my  deal was bad though. My old teacher wasn’t allowed to work real estate mortgages … only car loans. So much for making a fortune in the stock market. I guess what was good for the gander did apply for the goose.

I forgot about this untill I read an article yesterday: When Is It Profitable to Reward One’s Own Customers? It got me fuming. Not the article, though – the article was good. But why had to be written in the first place.

"Do as I say ... not what I didn't do"

Article refutes the erroneous age-old business school premise that getting new customers is better than nurturing old ones. Common sense and experience (mine included) says the just the opposite, in fact it’s the basis of my firm. Any business person knows of the 80/20 rule. 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers. This rule pretty much applies universally, whether your business is a bar or a hardware store. In addition, it can cost as much as ten times more to generate business from new sources than cultivating it from current ones.

But this post isn’t about marketing or even business – it’s about academia and its relationship to the “real world.”

I know this is going to piss off a lot people off … so be it! Unless you’ve done it – you have no business teaching it. This goes for mainly for college professors. And even more so for business professors. Books are supplements not the “be all end all.” They’re places where you can grab bits and pieces to augment “real world” experiences. With their experiences, a teacher knows what to pull out and emphasize – and what skip by. With “real world” experiences to reference, the techniques laid out in the books (often archaic) can be brought into the present and made relevant. The key word here is RELEVANT. With relevancy comes engagement. And with engagement comes learning. And isn’t that the whole purpose?

It’s been well documented that learning is best achieved with stories. Our brains connect with each other best via stories rather than facts and random ideas. While a book may have examples, it takes experiences to breathe relevancy into them.

This also applies to high school teachers. These are the people who are to help prepare our children for the real world, yet theirs may have consisted primarily only with teenagers. This is by no means a bad thing … but social interaction diversity is better. The more varied exposure a teacher has in the real world, the more likely they are to connect with a wider, more diverse, audience of their students.

Lately I’ve been participating in several education discussion groups on LinkedIn as well as writing education posts here. Way too often I see comments by professors and teachers start with, “I’ve been a teacher for 30 years.” What does that mean? All it means to me, is that you’ve been in the same job for 30 years and probably no others. How much better teacher is one having 30 years experience rather than 20 or even 10? I don’t know – maybe you do. I’d much rather have a teacher, for my daughter that’s worked outside of academia for 10 years and then became a teacher. But’s that’s just me.

I’m not really sure why I wrote this today other than vent. Maybe it’s to get parents to look seriously at community college for their kids in the first couple of years of school. Many community college teachers have a real world experience. In fact, many are working day jobs and teaching at night … bringing that “real world” experience into the classroom. Or maybe it’s just to get people realizing that no matter what college, or what high school in what great district your child goes to – it’s the individual teachers and their life experiences that matter.

But it’s kind of hard to share your experiences … when you haven’t had any!

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Follow me on Twitter at @clayforsberg

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You’re just a kid … what do you know!

About fifteen years ago, I remember hearing a story in California about a truck that had gotten stuck in a low clearance underpass. The police and fire departments came to the rescue, in hopes of providing remedy. A tow truck was even called to exert brute force. But all to no avail.

As you can expect, quite a crowd amassed – mainly because traffic couldn’t move. In the gallery was an eight year old girl and her father. Then, from the mouth of the third grader came the obvious – but apparently not so obvious to the experts.

“Let the air out of the truck tires.” They did, and the problem was solved.

This story came back to me after reading about Public Space Trading Cards developed in Barcelona, Spain. These cards looked pretty much like any other. But instead of Renaldo or David Beckham, they were of local parks, playgrounds and libraries. Some of these places were well-known to the community … some not so. On each card there was room to write input. “What was the state of the “space” and what could be done to make to it more usable?” This articulation of the existing condition by the community users, mainly children, added invaluable input to whatever new projects are created and what upkeep was needed for the existing ones. Sometimes the smallest improvement could make the biggest difference.

Is this your local basketball court?

My daughter played basketball in grade school. At the time we lived in Southern California. Because of the weather, there was no need to play inside … ever. But the kids always wanted to play on the courts in the school gym, and most often the gym was closed. Why you ask. Nets – or should I say, lack of them, that’s why! Who wants to play hoops when you can’t tell if you made the shot or not? Well the kids didn’t … and they told me!

So I went to Sports Chalet and bought nets. Not only for the playground where my daughter played … for courts all over town. I fixed the ones that needed fixing. And when they ripped again, I fixed them again. Then a funny thing happened. Playgrounds that used to be empty, weren’t anymore. Not only were kids playing basketball, their moms (or dads) and their younger siblings were there too – on the merry-go-rounds and in the sandboxes.

All it took was listening to the kids tell me they needed nets. The “powers-that-be” in Newport Beach apparently couldn’t figure this out. And believe me – there’s no shortage of money in Newport Beach, so that wasn’t the problem.

There’s an interesting article that came out in Good Magazine about a grassroots initiative started by a group of University of Michigan undergraduates.

Although teachers, education reformers, and policymakers have spent plenty of time debating the best way to improve schools, students have rarely been involved in the discussions. Libby Ashton, founder and president of rEDesign, says college students bring a valuable perspective to the push to improve public schools because they’re fresh out of high school and “still identify with our roles as students.” They know what it takes to get into college and succeed, but they also have fresh memories of what it’s like to “feel completely uninspired and isolated in school.”

The rest of the article can found here: “College Students May Hold the Key to Re-designing Education.”

What a concept, involve those that actually have a stake.

But most public policy wonks must think there’s a demarkation age on knowledge and ideas. Is it eighteen, or is it even older? For some it might as well be “one foot in the grave.” Never matter that the interests of those who have no representation (the under eighteen crowd) are often in direct conflict with those that are making decisions for them. Aside from that systematic injustice, what if these “insignificants” have insight that can better society for everyone.

Personally, I’d rather listen to a seven-year old, rather than a lot of adults I know.

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I can be reached on Twitter at @clayforsberg

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