Monday, December 1, 2008

Is it really important to 'make the grade?'

For generations, parents have been pushing children to get good grades. When I was a kid, many of my classmates got $10 for an "A" and $5 for a "B", but I received nothing because good grades were simply expected. Today, students continue to receive rewards candy, cash, iPods, even cars -- for good grades from parents and schools.

This obsession with grades comes from the belief that school success means more opportunities for higher paying jobs and a better life. Since grades are indicators of school success, good grades are seen as essential.

But are grades really a good predictor of success?

While good grades may indicate mastery of content, what they really demonstrate is that students have the skill set necessary to succeed in school. Success comes by not bucking the system, causing waves or creating something new or different. High achieving students are able to deliver what the teacher wants. So, grades, in fact, reflect whether teachers think students have mastered the content.

It is not grades that predict success in college. Rather, it is the accompanying skills, such as how to understand and navigate educational systems. High achieving students turn out to be solid citizens who become accountants, doctors, engineers and lawyers. By middle age, they are often happy, prosperous and community-minded. Yet, the very skills that help high achieving students mean that they tend not to be mold breaker types who need a different skill set.

Success in business, public service, research and beyond often requires creative thinkers driven by curiosity, an appetite for risk and an open mind. These skills are often in opposition to those necessary to succeed in school. Instead of simple compliance, these students will question the rules and challenge the teacher. They are not interested in delivering what the teacher wants and may appear bored, indifferent or defiant. These students will receive poor grades and not achieve school success.

Do poor grades spell doom?

Poor grades do close the doors of opportunity for some students. School performance has limited their opportunities and reinforced a message of inferiority. The conventional wisdom that more education means higher income seems to pan out. Yet, poor grades have little impact on mold-breakers.

From the realm of politics, Winston Churchill, former prime minister of Great Britain, was a horrible student at the bottom of his class at Harrow (an exclusive private school). Yet, he led Britain through World War II and is recognized as one of the great leaders of the 20th century. Back home, Sen. John McCain graduated 894th out of 899 in his class at the U.S. Naval Academy. This poor performance did not stop him from becoming a war hero, influential policy maker and presidential candidate. And, of course, George W. Bush was a solid "C" student at Yale Law School. His transcript did not impede his rise from governor to president. These poor students had the necessary skill set to succeed outside of school.

From the world of business, Richard Branson, CEO of the Virgin Corporation, was a high school drop out. Of course, he left high school to run the newspaper he started and parlayed this enterprise into a multinational conglomerate. And Bill Gates is Harvard University's most famous and successful drop-out. While Gates did well in private school, he decided school success was not necessary and left Harvard to build Microsoft into an industry giant.

Mold-breakers can be stubborn, impulsive and rebellious. They are determined, often displaying single-minded obsession, where perseverance and resiliency lead to success. They are able to see things most of us can't. These traits equip them for success, but drive teachers crazy.

Besides these traits, emotional intelligence is more important than IQ. Grades are less important than being able to manage your emotions and read other people's feelings. Emotional intelligence also includes the ability to develop relationships, work with a team and, most importantly, lead with vision.

There is an old axiom: "School is a place where former 'A' students teach mostly 'B' students to work for 'C' students."

Are good grades important? Yes, if school success and becoming solid, contributing citizens is the desired student outcome. However, poor grades may result from qualities and traits that lay the foundation for transformational activities.

Before parents and teachers panic over grades, remember that many successful people had poor grades because their success came from reinventing instead of working within the system.

Scott Key is a professor in the School of Education at Fresno Pacific University.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

McCain seeks special 'fair use' copyright rules for VIPs

John McCain's presidential campaign has discovered the remix-unfriendly aspects of American copyright law, after several of the candidate's campaign videos were pulled from YouTube.

McCain has now discovered the rights holder friendly nature of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which forces remixers to fight an uphill battle to prove that their work is a "fair use."

However, instead of calling for an overhaul of the much hated law, McCain is calling for VIP treatment for the remixes made by political campaigns.

McCain's proposal: complaints about videos uploaded by a political campaign would be manually reviewed by a human YouTube employee before any possible removal of the remix. The process for complaints against videos uploaded by millions of other Americans would stay the same: instant removal by a computer program, and then possible reinstatement a week or two later after the video sharing site has received and manually processed a formal counter-notice.

With 11 homes and 13 cars, it's not terribly surprising that McCain is calling for special treatment for the YouTube videos of politicians. As for the "fair use" claims of the poor starving masses: Let them eat cake.

On Tuesday, the McCain campaign sent a formal letter to YouTube asking for this two-tier system for "fair use" complaints. Copyright-guru Larry Lessig called it a "fantastic letter", adding "bravo to the campaign" in a post to his blog. Since then, the technology press has been pretty supportive, although the focus of the coverage seems to mainly be along the lines of "McCain realizes that fair use claims are uphill battle." This is the wrong message to send, and as much as I respect Professor Lessig, I have to call him out here. He is wrong. McCain should be criticized for his attempt to get special treatment, and Google/YouTube need to treat all users the same way.

All claims of fair use are equal--yet some claims are more equal than others.

The only way we will get an effective overhaul of copyright laws will be by forcing politicians to suffer along with the masses. The minute a special set of rules are made for those in Congress, the incentive to fix the system will disappear. To drive this point home, consider the following:

During the confirmation hearings for Judge Robert Bork, the Washington City Paper obtained a copy of the Republican nominee's video rental records. Alarmed at the possibility that their own rental histories would be revealed by the press, members of Congress jumped to pass comprehensive privacy legislation for the video rental records of all Americans. Up until the Bork fiasco, there had been no real incentive to fix anything, but once the risk to their own records was made clear, Congress acted. As a result, we are now all protected by the 1988 Video Privacy Protection Act.

Compare this to the horrible situation at airports. Americans are routinely harassed, prodded, poked and humiliated by employees of the Transportation Security Administration. While we stand in line like sheep, congressmen get to skip through the security lines, avoiding the entire process. Given the fact that they don't have to suffer at the hands of TSA, it's not terribly surprising that they have little incentive to fix the problems faced by the rest of us.

These two examples should make it clear--we cannot allow politicians to receive special treatment in copyright and fair use disputes. If anything, campaign videos should receive substandard treatment. McCain's videos deserve to rot in purgatory at the back of the DMCA queue, behind videos of toddlers, skateboarding dogs, Starwars Kid remixes, and the hundreds of clips of the dramatic chipmunk. Perhaps then, the senator will throw his weight behind comprehensive copyright reform that'll result in real benefits for the rest of the remix-population.

Originally posted at Surveillance State

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Thank God! it's FOOTBALL season...

Well folks, like I tell my wife(Football Widow) in September," Love you sexy and I'll see you in December." My team looks good but we're very young, I'll have to work my butt off to teach them.
We have 4 goals this season:

1. Get better each week.
2. Win League.
3. Kick the BEARS ass. ( Rival )
4. Earn the right to WIN.......

Please before you go to bed each night pray for my team. May I suggest my prayer," God, if you can't help us, PLEASE don't help them."

In case you don't know what a Football widow is.....

A football widow is a term for those who have a relationship with a Football Coach who pays more attention to the game than to their partner during the sport's season of play. Football widows are usually, but not always, women. Usually the "widow" has little interest in the sport themselves.

Although it is widely tolerated and not considered a serious disruption by many, dedication to following the sport (such as watching game broadcasts on television) can disrupt home life and the relationship between the couple in question.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Dear Son,

When I was a teenager I wished, just as you do now, that my dad could be my best friend. However, it wasn’t until my time to be a father came up that I understood why my wish would never come true.

There is the big difference between a friend’s role and father’s role.

A father must provide his son constant love, economic subsistence, and an education. He must also protect and guide him, set a good example, and instill in him ethical and moral values so he may become a more responsible, self-sufficient, and compassionate human being.

A father who tries to be a best friend can’t be a real father. To be a friend is voluntary. It’s an option. To be a father is a privilege, but above all it’s a moral obligation.

My duty as a father is to give you what you need, not necessarily what you want.

When you were born, God gave me a blessing that has brought me great happiness. At the same time, he gave me a difficult mission – to be responsible for your moral development and well-being.

Some day you’ll understand the meaning of this letter. It will be one of the happiest days of your life -- when you hold your first child in your arms. From that moment on, you’ll understand that being a real father is much more important than being a friend.

Friday, August 8, 2008

The norms of business

Roy, a service rep, is told one of the salesmen forgot to send an order for window blinds to the factory and, as a result, they won’t be available for another ten days. Roy is asked to call Jenny, the customer, and tell her the blinds won’t be delivered on the date promised.

Roy has a decision to make: What should he tell the customer?

Telling Jenny the real reason will likely infuriate her and cause her to demand a refund or deep discount. This isn’t a good result, so he devises a plausible but false excuse that shifts the blame onto Jenny’s credit-card company. He even makes himself a hero by convincing her he did everything possible to solve the problem and, though his company wasn’t at fault, he convinced his manager to give Jenny a 10 percent discount for her inconvenience.

Jenny is angry at the credit-card company and upset about not getting her blinds, but she’s impressed with the professional way Roy handled the situation. Her loyalty to the company is actually strengthened.

Should Roy be praised or penalized?

The case for praise is that he took a lemon and made lemonade. He turned a bad situation into a good one, and no one was hurt (except, maybe, the credit-card company – and who cares about them?). His little white lie yielded great dividends and was well within the norms of business.

The case for reprimanding or firing Roy is that a good decision must be ethical as well as effective. He was dishonest and, whether his solution worked or not, a company that values trust should not permit dishonesty to be used as a problem-solving tactic.

If you were Roy’s boss, what would you do?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Pond makeover

The before photo.

I love sitting by the pond listening to the sound of water, especially after work with my favorite distiled water and a nice cigar.

I laid all the brick and even built the picnic table, with my own 9 fingers.

Another before photo. I haven't remodeled the pond for about 6 years.

The after photo. I took out one pump and replaced one. It uses WAY less electricity. Don't really like how the blue hose shows but it will have to-do for now.

Added a new waterfall with UV light, should help keep the algae under control.

Gave the fisherman a new beer can and lifted the old waterfall.

This is my buddy "turdy" He spent the first 12 years of his life in a High School science class room. The science teacher, Mr. Ed knew I had a pond and asked if I would take him. He adds a lot fun to the pond and I never allow pencils in the back yard, I figure he has had enough for one turtles life.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Life in Sports

It has been many years since my first coaching job, and I have seen many student athletes come and go. Perhaps it is fitting that I pause for a moment and look back on those years and at the sea of faces that looked at me as I spoke and with whom I spent so much time, so many days.

Make no mistake, I remember them all. I remember the athletes who could not be held back; who shone like the stars; who made even the most complicated plays seem effortless; who picked up everything as easily as you or I would pick up an evening paper. I remember those to whom everything was an arduous task requiring hours and hours of grueling work for the simplest operations. I remember those who came expecting to find glory only to find mud, scratches, and sore muscles. I remember those who only wanted to give of themselves for the good of the team. I remember cases that lightened my heart and enriched my soul. I remember cases that broke my heart. Yes, I remember.

I remember one boy, let’s call him Tom, who came to me one afternoon and, with great fervor in his voice, told me that he wanted to be on the team. He was a handsome young, with twinkling eyes and a winning smile. He looked to be in good physical condition, obviously had the desire to play, and his right arm was missing just below the elbow.

I will tell you honestly that I had serious doubts. I have always believed in honesty with my athletes, and I told him of my reservations. He answered that he understood, but that all he wanted was a chance to try. I told him that I could provide that, at least.

Tom had a prosthesis, an artificial hand and forearm, that he used with amazing skill. He wanted to be a kicker, and when the ball was snapped to him, he would use that artificial limb to trap it, steady it, and then kick the ball with amazing skill and accuracy. It wasn’t easy for him, I don’t want you to get that idea, but when this boy got knocked down he picked himself up and got back to it with an even fiercer determination to try harder.

In short, he made the team, not because he lacked an arm, but because he had aggressiveness, fortitude, courage, and a great deal of talent.

It was shortly into the first game of the season that he got a chance to try that skill. Five minutes into the game, it was fourth down and from the sidelines I told him what to do, and he was off
Unfortunately, our line did not hold, and several of the opposing linesmen were all over Tom. He got the ball off, but found himself under a pile of bodies. As they were untwisting themselves, one of the opposing linesmen reached down and offered Tom a hand up. Tom, whether on purpose or without thinking, extended his artificial limb to the boy, and the lad took it and pulled.

There was a snap, and the opposing player was standing there with Tom’s hand clutched in his own while Tom, on the ground, shouted, “What have you done with my hand? Give it back!”
Whereupon, the linesman looked at Tom, looked at the object in his hand…and fainted dead away!
It took every official on the field, both coaches, and fifteen minutes of clamor and fast explaining before it finally got settled.

That was one of the times when we laughed until the tears filled our eyes, but not all the times were like that. There was, for instance, my first brush with the problem with drugs and drug abuse.

We’ll call the student Johnny. It was his second year on the team. During his first season, he has shown unqualified promise, and I was looking forward to this year and what he would accomplish with one season’s experience added to his vast array of skills. Frankly, I dreamed of what the boy could accomplish. I would never find out.
I remember with frightening clarity how we sat at a team meeting one day. As I was talking, explaining some play, I noticed Johnny out of the corner of my eye. His eyes were shut and he was weaving back and forth as he sat on the bench. “Excuse me, Sir,” I said in a light manner, “am I boring you with this material?” There was no answer from Johnny, although several of the other players giggled. “Johnny,” I said, “is something wrong?” Johnny collapsed. I barely caught him, and, as I lowered him to the floor, I became aware of his shallow breathing, his caked lips, the bluish tinge to his ashen pallor. The trainers and I were on him at once, the emergency squad was called, and Johnny did not die that day. We discovered that an overdose of barbiturates had caused this problem.
His friends spoke to him; his parents spoke to him; ministers, psychologists, and case workers spoke to him; and I spoke to him. I told him the future he had before him. I spoke to him of what he could accomplish, on his own, without the crutch of drugs. I told him how we would be happy to help him back to the team when he was well.

I saw him only once after that. It was five years and four days from the day in the locker room when he collapsed into my arms. I stood and looked at him as he lay in his coffin, dead of an overdose in some dark corner where no one could get to him in time.

But I would not for the world have you think that Johnny’s was a typical story. Far from it! Johnny was the exception to our fine young athletes; he was no the rule. The majority and I mean 99.9 percent, of the players I coach live lives of dedication and devotion to their skills that make me proud to be among them.

There was, for example, a student we’ll call Bill. Bill was easily the most talented player I ever coached. To say that he was an outstanding player is to do him a disservice. He had a brilliant mind; a strong, healthy and highly trained body; and an ability to think on his feet that you see few times in your life. You only had to see him play once to know that here was someone very special, indeed, and someone who was headed for a lifelong career in professional sports. Indeed, during his senior year, he was literally besieged by recruiters from major universities and some not so major. Quite frankly, he could have had his pick.

One late fall afternoon, he asked if he could speak to me after practice. I imagined that he was going to ask my advice concerning the offers he had received, and I had a thought or two on the subject that I wanted to share with him. I was not prepared for what he has to tell me.

He thanked me for my help, which I brushed off lightly, asking, in turn, if he had decided on a college. He told me that he had, and he mentioned the name of some place I had never heard of. I supposed my face may have registered surprise, for he added, “Don’t worry; they have a coach there that I’ve always wanted to play for.” “Oh,” I said, trying to make some sense out of what he was saying, “and who might this great coach be?” He looked at me squarely and said only one word—“God.”

After that, there was no argument. He went to that school and became a minister. He realized his dream, and he played on God’s team. From all accounts, he was as marvelous on that field as he had ever been on mine. Someone once said to me concerning Bill, “Look at all he gave up!” To which I answered, “No. Think of all that he found.” Indeed, whenever this world gets me down, I find that memory of Bill helps me to view things in a slightly different, slightly happier perspective.

I suppose that it is natural, considering the fact that I work so closely with young people, that I am often asked my opinion about the future of this world and of mankind in general. I suppose people figure that because I get to know the young people who will make up that future, I am in position to know. Well, I guess I am, after all. I work with these boys, and I get to know them intimately. I get to see into their minds and hearts, I watch them as they strive and work, I am there as they battle and work together for common goals. Yes, I know them.

With that knowledge as my guide, I have no hesitation in telling you that the future is bright indeed, Yes, certainly there are the Johnnys who throw away their lives and futures, but there are also the Toms who refuse to be held back by any handicap and who will give countless hours of effort to overcome whatever stumbling blocks are placed in their way, material rewards of this world to work for the greater good of all mankind.

I am sorry for the Johnnys of this world, but I have pride, love and hope in the Toms and Bills who abound and flourish, and who will make our future, the future of all mankind, something bright, shining, and fine. That I have shared their lives; that I have had a part, however small, in the shaping of those lives; that I live in a world, the future of which will be shaped by them—this fills me with the happiness as it should fill each and every one of you with hope and a vision of tomorrow of which we may all be justly proud!