Tag Archives: daily prompts

What If We Got to Reinvent School?

Might there be a better way?

Might there be a better way?

If a gunman enters my son’s school intent on murdering children and teachers, at least I’ll know the kids and teachers had some practice beforehand.

My son is 7. I’m pretty sure he, nor his classmates, knew why they were practicing a lockdown drill last week. I’m sure the boys were giggling and goofing off like they always do.

You remember school drills. But if you’re anywhere close to my age, you don’t remember lockdown drills. Those are the ones where you don’t practice leaving the school in case of fire, or practice tucking against a wall with a heavy textbook over your neck in case of tornados or other natural disasters.

A lockdown drill is the one where you simulate hiding from mass murderers.

Parents got an email from the principal letting us know it happened.

I don’t even have a point. It just felt mention-worthy before I get into how stupid the American education system is.

What if I was Given Unlimited Power to Reinvent Education?

I’m so glad you asked!

I think I could dramatically improve the lives of all students, parents of students, and teachers overnight. And I’m not very smart. And I’ve only been thinking about this for about 10 minutes.

THAT’s how shitty our education system is.

Where Would I Start?

How about acknowledging that all students are not created equal?

How many stories do we need to hear about school dropouts going on to do amazing things before we recognize that school success (currently) DOES NOT EQUAL life success? (Examples include: Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, Walt Disney, Bill Gates, John D. Rockefeller, Richard Branson, Charles Dickens, and many more.)

None of those people would have dropped out of my school.

Because the very first thing we’re going to do at my kick-ass school is figure out TWO super-important things about each and every student: Personality Type (there are 16 if you’re using the Carl Jung and I. Briggs Myers profiles). And Learning Style (there are three: Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic.)

And we are going to design curriculum and classrooms tailored to those three learning styles, and we’re going to use any relevant components of personality to mix and match children and teachers in an effort to optimize the school experience.

I’m just spit-balling here, but maybe we wouldn’t have as many angry and socially isolated kids if we stopped making the awkward and non-athletic kids play dodgeball or kickball, or if we stopped making dyslexic kids real aloud in front of the class, or if we stopped making shy kids sing and dance in front of an audience.

Maybe if every classroom was designed to maximize the specific talents of certain types of students, every child would:

  • Learn more things and actually retain the information
  • Develop a life-long LOVE of learning
  • FEEL better every day—enjoying subjects they’re passionate about learning in ways that actually make sense to them
  • Develop healthy friendships no matter what their personality type because they are spending every day with other kids who either love what they love, or have similar or complementary personality types
  • Emerge from high school with more specialized and focused knowledge about certain subjects than today’s bachelor’s degree graduates
  • Be equipped psychologically to succeed in interpersonal relationships

Maybe there would be less violence. Less crime. Less underage alcohol consumption and drug use. Less sexual misconduct.

I know there would be a bunch of healthier, smarter kids, and that they’d be in position to tackle adulthood with focus and confidence.

Because the two most important aspects of life success are the ability to: Learn How to Learn and Maintain Healthy Relationships.

I didn’t learn either because of school.

Hell. I didn’t learn them at all.

Let’s Teach People How to Treat Others and Succeed in Relationships

Right now, we preach platitudes.

“Treat others as you wish to be treated!”

“If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all!”

“If all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you jump off too?”

“Be a leader, not a follower!”

“You can do anything you put your mind to!”

Kids don’t really hear it because the words ring hollow when they’re snickering at that kid who just spilled something down his shirt in the cafeteria, or when they’re actually the kid being laughed at.

Those are throwaway comments parents and educators make without spending much time effectively explaining what any of that really means.

All kids know (at least the non-valedictorian-track ones) is that some asshole is droning on and on and on and on about The Grapes of Wrath or Obtuse triangles or Cirrus cloud formations or Musical scales or The War of 1812 or the Anatomy of bullfrogs or Past participles, and in most cases NO ONE GIVES A SHIT.

And you can’t make them. You can’t. It’s not their fault.

They’re thinking about making the basketball team or cheerleading squad or about that cute boy/girl they like in study hall or ANYTHING that actually matters to them.

I have spent my entire professional life punching a keyboard and stringing words together to tell stories or market products. And I didn’t take my first typing class until I was 16, and I didn’t take a writing class until I was 20, and I’ve never had a marketing class in 36 years even though that’s how I make money.

That means, I’m all for general knowledge, and would never suggest not having some general knowledge-based courses in my rad school (where they would be taught differently depending on a particular group of students). But can we all agree that learning about The War of 1812 and obtuse triangles (both of which I’d have to Google for a refresher) failed to help me with things I think are infinitely more important like: How to Succeed at Interpersonal Aspects of Marriage, How to Know you Have ADHD so You Don’t Ruin Relationships, How to Build a Professional Network and Why it Matters, Why Honest Conversations About Sex Are Important, How to Make Her (or Him, if that’s your thing) Ache for You, The Mathematical Implications of Debt Elimination, The Mathematical Implications of Buying vs. Renting Real Estate, The Short- and Long-Term Value of Exercise, How You Might Get Smarter and Make More Money Not Going to College.

You get the idea.

Things that actually help you.

We didn’t have search engines when I was in elementary school. So it’s not fair for me to be as critical of the 1988-version of American education as I will be on today’s.

We don’t teach kids what they really need to know to have mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally healthy lives. Some get lucky. Most don’t.

But it sure seems like we’re wasting a lot of time and resources teaching kids things they could learn by reading one article and watching one YouTube video in a matter of seconds. Isn’t knowing how to find information every bit as valuable as memorizing something?

If you can remember the atomic number for carbon, and it takes me 10 seconds to find the answer on my phone, does that knowledge have ANY value outside of a post-apocalyptic world where my phone doesn’t work and we’re arguing about the Periodic Table?

I submit (for anyone not working in a lab who would ALREADY know it because they actually care and use the information routinely) it does not.

Let’s Teach People How to Learn

In 2015, we have virtually unlimited information at our fingertips.

It’s hard for me to understand why we’re asking kids to memorize textbooks, take timed math tests, and regurgitate answers to questions that will have ZERO bearing on any aspect of their lives weeks from now, let alone in adulthood when life tends to start throwing punches.

Tim Ferriss calls it “meta learning.”

One of the coolest lessons: The Pareto principle—otherwise known as the 80/20 rule. It’s the theory that 80 percent of virtually any situation is determined by just 20 percent of the input. (Examples: 20% of workers produce 80% of results, or 20% of customers create 80% of sales.)

It’s not a law. It’s a guide.

Take learning a new language as another example. In English, just 300 words make up 65% of all written material.

That means, if you learn those 300 words, you can communicate (effectively, if imperfectly) with English speakers.

The same is true for all foreign languages. Learn the magic 300 words (and there are tips and tricks and tools for doing that too), and now you can passably write and speak new languages at a relatively high level.

It’s a good example of learning HOW to learn. Something we didn’t learn in school, and something we’re not teaching today’s students.

There are effective ways to learn HOW to do everything. And I think if we paired thoughtful curriculum with optimized lessons (visually for visual learners, audibly for auditory learners, and through physical interaction for kinesthetic learners), we just might be onto something.

In fact, I’m pretty sure at my school, it’s the summer and winter breaks kids would dread most.

Now, where’d I put that magic wand?

A special thanks to today’s Daily Prompt for inspiring this post.

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When a Boy is Tortured and Murdered in Front of His Parents

(Photo by Shahzeb Ihsan)

(Photo by Shahzeb Ihsan)

When I was little, I sometimes asked my parents what would happen if bad guys ever tried to hurt us. They always said we would defend ourselves and kill the bad guys, if needed.

“We would never let anything happen to you,” they promised.

I believed them because I was little. I’m sure they meant well.

I wonder if Philip Savopoulos’ parents promised him the same thing.

Savvas Savopoulos was a martial arts expert, which means the guy who would soon murder him and his family probably held a gun to his wife and son to get him to cooperate.

It must have been a good life before that day.

The Savopoulos family lived just a few doors down from U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in Washington D.C. Very rich.

The family was probably going to do something really fun this Memorial Day weekend.

I don’t know how good of a guy Savvas Savopoulos was. I don’t know anything about his wife, Amy. The housekeeper, Veralicia Figueroa, might not have been a great person. I can’t be sure.

They were reportedly generous and charitable people. I rarely assume the worst.

But I do know about Philip Savopoulos.

Because he was only 10. Probably in fifth grade. Maybe just starting to like a girl at school. He probably liked the Washington Redskins. And NBA star John Wall. And the Avengers.

He was probably looking forward to summer break when he’d go on an amazing vacation with his family and maybe attend some cool summer camps. Certainly, he’d be spending some days playing video games, talking about girls, or participating in outdoor fun with his buddies.

He must have felt safe every second of his life.

Until that day.

When a man forced his way into their home. Tied up his dad. Tied up his mom. Tied up the housekeeper. And then himself.

Young Philip was probably really scared.

But I bet he never imagined that less than a day later, he would be dead, his parents, dead, his housekeeper, dead, and his home set on fire.

Nothing REALLY bad ever happened to me growing up. My parents divorced when I was 4, and it was hard because my dad lived 500 miles away, but when you’re that age, it just feels normal because this is just the way it is.

So, when I got divorced at 34, I completely freaked out and broke on the inside. And I think it’s because divorce is always hard and a shock to the system for most of us, but also because my mind and body had never been through a trauma like that.

He was just 10.

He had probably never been through a trauma like that. It’s possible he had never even seen a home invasion in a movie or heard about one on the news.

But there he was, bound with duct tape. Maybe to a piece of furniture. Maybe to one of his parents.

Maybe he cried a lot. He was just 10.

Daron Wint is 34. About my age. He used to work for Savvas Savopoulos’ company.

Wint kept them tied up while he searched the house for money. He eventually made off with $40,000. Investigators don’t yet know whether money was the only motive.

“The victims suffered from blunt force trauma. Authorities believe the four were killed before the house was set ablaze, according to the source familiar with the investigation,” CNN reported. “The source said the victims were bounded with duct tape, and there were signs that Philip had been stabbed and tortured before he was set on fire.”

There are two teenage girls. High schoolers. They attend boarding school, so they weren’t home, otherwise they would have been murdered (or worse) too.

Today, those two, already dealing with the most-complicated and confusing part of their lives, just found out their parents and little brother are dead, and that their home was set on fire.

Their lives will, in many respects, be defined by some guy they never met.

I wonder whether Wint stabbed and tortured a 10-year-old child in front of his parents. Screaming: “Where’s the money, motherfucker!?” before hurting Philip again. A helpless mother and father’s soul being ripped out in the worst possible combination of rage and fear and hopelessness and helplessness imaginable.

I can’t even type it with dry eyes.

You know what I think about the most, though?

The Domino’s pizza delivery guy or girl.

While the family was held hostage, Wint ordered two pizzas. He left cash in an envelope instructing the driver to leave the pizzas by the door.

The driver must have thought that was strange, but since the money was there, what choice did he or she have? You take it and drive away, mission accomplished.

You tell your friends at work about the odd experience and move on with your life.

A few days later, the news breaks that DNA left on some pizza crust is how investigators identified the killer. There’s shock at first. Then reality sets in.

Oh my God. I could have been killed.

Oh my God. I wish I would have called the police! Those people! I didn’t know!

Oh my God. That family’s final meal was the pizza I delivered. That little boy.

I think about that person the most.

They’ll always carry that around with no place to deliver it.

What Are Humans All About?

Today’s writing prompt from WordPress on The Daily Post was: “The friendly, English-speaking extraterrestrial you run into outside your house is asking you to recommend the one book, movie, or song that explains what humans are all about. What do you pick?”

I couldn’t think of a book. Or a movie. Or a song.

But I like the question. What are humans all about?

And I thought about the grisly details of the Savopolous family’s brutal slaying.

We live in a world where—for whatever reason, but possibly something as simple as $40,000—a man will beat, torture, and stab a 10-year-old boy in front of his screaming, sobbing parents.

We live in a world where things like that happen.

A family in Connecticut was killed the same way in 2008.

Not terribly far from there, a young man invaded a school one day in Newtown, Ct. and shot a bunch of kindergarteners and elementary school kids.

Some people will cut your head off with a knife on video because you disagree about religion.

Others will hijack airplanes and fly them into skyscrapers.

There are violent rapes. Child kidnappings and molestation and abuse. We see bullying. And theft. And infidelity. And fraud. And disease. And starvation.

These things are real and are happening every day.

What are humans all about?

In a world where all of those things happen, people keep trying. Those horrible things crawl into our insides and infect us with fear. Sometimes we think ONLY bad things happen because it seems like we only hear about bad things.

But Kim just donated a kidney to a stranger.

And young Malik just visited (and often does) old man Johnson who has been lonely ever since his wife died two years ago.

Lucas just defended Brennan on the playground when a bunch of kids were making fun of him, and Lucas is the most-popular kid in the class.

Wendy just forgave Michael.

An African village just got a new well, and now a bunch of kids have a chance, all because people with big hearts have made this their mission.

Alyssa rescued another dog.

A child was adopted.

A girlfriend got a proposal.

A friend got a hug.

A neglected person found love.

A lost person found meaning.

A plant sprouted, and dammit, it was a miracle.

Humans are a riddle. A maddening, never-quite-solvable puzzle. Capable of terrible things. Things worse than we can conjure up in our most-twisted thoughts.

And they are also the most generous, creative, loving, inspiring, IMPORTANT thing ever documented in the history of the universe.

You can look at the riots, and the train wreck, and the brutal murder. It’s hard not to.

But you can also look over there, too. That way. Over there where hope lives.

At that thing that’s good, and perfect, and beautiful. See it?

The most horrible things happen. And still, we hope. Still, we love.

What are humans all about?

That.

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