Posts Tagged ‘education’

DRAFT Preliminary Brainstorming on Addressing Pressing Needs: 10 Steps

July 12, 2015

Posting a few preliminary thoughts on problems we need to address in the U.S. These will be fleshed out and revised down the line. Think of it as a brainstorming session.

1. Improve the public school system

  • Curriculum Revision
    • Each school curriculum should be largely project-based. Most people, including our children, learn best by doing something constructive.
      • Every subject suitable to be taught in our P-12 grades can be best learned through hands-on application.
        • Regular field trips and projects can be undertaken that both enable students to learn core material AND help the community and local businesses.
      • We should be teaching students coding and other technology, as well as basic engineering from the elementary grades on up–to the extent that it will be fun and fruitful for them. Adequate funding needs to be provided to all public schools for this to happen.
      • None of this, of course, should come at the expense of solid, well-rounded education in history, social sciences, language arts, industrial arts, and the fine arts. This can all be incorporated together as students work collaboratively and alone (when appropriate) on their projects.
    • Our focus should not be on preparing students for college; it should be on preparing them for life. Every public school should combine vocational and avocational learning
      • Practical skills
      • Real-world application via internships, quality field trips, and partnerships with local government, businesses, and social service agencies
      • Meaningful exposure to different cultures
      • Character education
        • This should be taught thoroughly at every level of education
        • We need a greater number of ethical economists, engineers, scientists, bankers, insurers, law enforcers, inventors, corporate heads, medical providers, media providers, policymakers and other politicians (as well as those in other fields, of course)
    •   We need to re-think how we fund our public schools – Our best economic minds ought to be able to figure out an equitable way to generate and distribute funds so that all students attending public schools get great educations and access to the best equipment in safe and high-quality facilities
    • The so-called educational ladder seems to exist only to keep certain students locked in a virtual (or sometimes actually in name) tracking system
      • It needs to mean a thoroughly integrated system of schooling in which preschools, elementary, middle, and high schools, along with junior/community colleges, 4-year colleges, and universities all work in tandem through tutoring, mentoring, field experiences, internships, shared technology, and student-led projects

2. Improve elderly care

  • Social security reform – We ought to be able to fix this, so the question is why haven’t we?
  • Long-term care – It’s not affordable to most seniors; this drains their savings and then Medicaid steps in (which just increases the amount we all contribute) and provides the bare minimum
    • Nursing homes for many seniors are severely lacking. They are very expensive
      • Why can’t we design more facilities that combine nursing homes, assisted living, and senior communities? They do exist, although they are usually not affordable to lower-income seniors
      • Why can’t these facilities include bottom-floor rental space for local businesses, medical practitioners, and social service agencies?
      • Money in the form of rent from businesses and seniors who live in their own units can offset some of the cost for seniors to live in assisted-living and nursing home units
    • High school and college students would benefit from internships in long-term care facilities
    • Elementary and middle school students would benefit from regular visits to long-term care facilities (reading to the elderly, playing games with them, serving as surrogate grandchildren, and developing empathy for the elderly and their needs rather than ignorance, fear, or disregard)

3. Hold our businesses (including financial institutions) more accountable to the communities in which they reside/from which they get their customers and employees

  • Nearly all brick and mortar businesses should partner with local government, schools/colleges/universities, and social service agencies
  • Internships, apprenticeships, job-training programs, and higher education opportunity should be part of a regular service provided for students and community members needing employment
    • Companies need incentives to be able to provide some services but they also need to be part of a collective, formalized effort that becomes self-sustaining; if structured right it would be a win-win situation in which businesses thrive along with their communities
  • Constantly improve environmental safety, reduce pollution and waste, hold companies to higher ethical standards
    • This can be done through regular, consistent public pressure rather than increased government oversight
    • If companies are regular, contributing “members” of the community and partners they can be held more accountable and will likely feel more accountable
    • We can use innovation and technology to decrease negative environmental impact while increasing company profit; yes, that can be done

4. Create more manufacturing plants and entrepreneurial opportunities all-over the U.S. including in the most economically devastated/impoverished areas

  • Government needs to foster this by reducing certain burdens that have driven some companies away, but at the same time holding high expectations for corporate responsibility; also providing funding or devising special tax incentives for more entrepreneurs
  • Banks need to be part of this process granting loans and other opportunities for entrepreneurs regardless of the neighborhoods in which they operate; in fact greater incentives should be given to those seeking to revitalize impoverished areas (and, no, this does not mean gentrification that pushes poor people out increasingly into the fringes–that needs to end)
  • Communities need to be active partners in this process to ensure that the needs of their residents are being met and to hold companies in-check (holding them immediately accountable for any abuses; public reputation and decreased dollars go a long way in making companies curb bad behavior)
  • Capitalism is supposed to about competition, but our version seems more to be about greedy conglomerates that swallow up other companies and are held less and less accountable

5. Greatly improve our infrastructure (including cyber infrastructure)

  • With improved education, increased partnerships with the business, government, educational, and social service sectors we will have far more working-age people who are capable of overhauling our infrastructure in innovative, cost-effective ways that help rather than hurt communities and the environment

6. Improve the training and intercultural education our law enforcers receive

7. Stop de facto gerrymandering that’s created to be advantageous to a political party or to ensure the status quo isn’t changed by making it all but certain that incumbents from both parties continue to get re-elected regardless of their effectiveness as representatives of their communities

8. End redlining & make a concerted effort to improve the financial and social capital of our poorest rural, suburban, and urban areas

  • Establish more free-to-use community centers, manufacturing plants, banks, job-training centers, social service agencies in these areas
  • Forcing poor people to leave areas by raising rent and taxes to bring in companies is NOT a viable solution
    • It continues to happen. Some pundits applaud and say this is the solution to reducing crime (especially now in our larger cities)
      • All this accomplishes is pushing poverty and crime into neighboring areas, making it someone else’s problem
        • In the big picture, it’s really everyone’s problem, although for some it is more immediately evident
      • In the not-to-distant future, if the practice isn’t halted, we will see more affluent, socially mobile, educated individuals populating our cities, having access to a greater degree of public transportation and high-quality jobs to which they won’t have to commute from the suburbs; in turn we will have more and more economically impoverished suburbs (and a continued growth of poor rural areas) and residents that have much less access to public transportation AND fewer resources to buy their own automobiles
      • We must work to reverse this trend. It is not healthy for the country.
  • All of the above steps will work to reduce poverty in the U.S. until it is virtually eliminated. Sure this sound Pollyanna-ish, but there do not have to be haves and have nots in this country. However concerted efforts need to be made to ensure that these efforts are reducing poverty. (Less poverty in the U.S. will lead to less poverty in other areas, provided the U.S. improves its geo-political knowledge and policies and collective intercultural intelligence.)

9. Reduce segregation because it almost invariably is tied to economic and racial/ethnic injustice

  • How? If the public educational system were more equitable; if responsible companies and entrepreneurs were encouraged and rewarded to create an on-going system of field experiences, internships, job-training, and employment opportunities via partnerships with local communities and schools, especially in the most impoverished areas; if financial institutions eliminated their biases against impoverished communities; you would see a greater degree of integration not only across ethnic and racial lines but across economic lines. This would have a positive impact on the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve.

10. Encourage coalitions of individuals and groups to come together to create solutions and demand that our government officials and companies implement them

  • Encourage wealthy individuals to financially support these causes
  • Use pooled resources to really address the issues at an institutional level, because they will continue to exist if institutions of injustice are rewarded rather than dismantled.

This is just a collection of thoughts that need to be revisited and thought out more. There are other areas that need attention, as well. There are great minds out there, along with companies, nonprofits, and groups that are doing great research and good work to address some of these issues. Wouldn’t it be great if more of them came together to create thoroughly researched solutions and apply them to address our most pressing needs?

The Beauty of This Pageant

January 12, 2013

Often the discussion about so-called beauty pageants turns to whether these contests contribute to the objectification of women or their empowerment. But tonight a large focus will be on contestants for entirely different reasons.

Allyn Rose is a 24-year-old, representing Washington, D.C., who will be undergoing a double mastectomy after the pageant. Allyn’s mother, grandmother, and great aunt all died of breast cancer. She’s taking this step as a preventative measure.

Mariah Cary–no, not the singer (Carey)–has Tourette’s Syndrome and she will represent Iowa. Mariah was diagnosed when she was 8 years old. The Burlington, Iowa native has made Tourette’s her platform.

And then there’s Alexis Wineman. The 18-year-old Miss Montana has autism, borderline Asperger’s syndrome. Alexis learned she has autism when she was eleven. As Miss Montana and as a Miss American contestant, she has made living with autism her platform.

It would be wonderful if any of these women–or any of the other contestants with personally inspirational stories that have gone un- or under-reported–would win, because they could use the crown to spread greater awareness about their personal issues. However, they’ve shown that competing locally, winning in their respective states/districts, and being in the paegant have already given them a larger platform to educate people. A Miss America they’d have even greater recognition.

After the rush online and in other media to identify autism as the reason why the horrendous murders in Sandy Hook took place, it would be especially great if Alexis Wineman took the crown. She has shown and will continue to show that just as with people who do not have autism have many faces (i.e. great diversity), so do people that have autism.

The Jeneba Project (Do Something)

February 8, 2011

The Jeneba Project via Do Something Improving education internationally

On Sensitivity and Censorship

February 22, 2009

Perhaps we’re too sensitive. Or, we’re not sensitive enough. Likely your perspective on the nation’s collective sensitivity level has influenced your opinion about the now infamous New York Post chimp cartoon. That is, if you have an opinion on it.

On one hand we have the historical references to Blacks (and let’s not forget the Irish) as monkeys or apes. We also have a history of racial profiling and incidents of White policemen shooting and killing Black suspects. New York City, in particular, has had its share of alleged police misconduct involving largely White policemen and Black residents (who have often been guilty of nothing more than being in the wrong area at the wrong time).

On the other hand, we’ve historically used images of monkeys and chimps doing human tasks as satire to imply that any idiot could accomplish those tasks. (Geico put another spin on this with their ads involving cavemen, one step up on the primate chain.) We’ve often referred to members of Congress as idiots (not to mention a certain former President). Also, in the New York metro area (in CT) days before the Post cartoon, police shot a chimp dead. Perhaps the artist only intended to refer to idiot politicians and a dead chimp.

Perhaps. Perhaps he only intended to offend Democrats or liberals or Congressmen and women responsible for the bill, along with the President. Instead of boycotts how about simple conversation?

Our problem is that we like to shoot first and ask questions later. Just like those cops in the cartoon.
What a perfect opportunity to actually talk about this in a civil manner. (By the way, wouldn’t it have been
funny if the guy was actually using racist symbolism to parody racists?) This was an opportunity to discuss
the impact that the cartoon had on people who have been, or whose ancestors have been, referred to as
inferior–as apes or monkeys because of their racial or ethnic background. And let’s not ignore the cartoon’s impact on others who have never been targeted with these racial stereotypes, but are aware of this history.
This was also an opportunity to discuss the artist’s intentions. Perhaps we all would have come away more enlightened. Education should always
be preferable to censorship.