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American Education is the next GM

Photo: Ted Fines

GM went bankrupt because they cared more about themselves than about their customers. Their primary focus was no longer on developing great cars. Their primary focus was on getting paid. So the Executives decided to invest their future in gas-guzzling SUV’s, and the unions demanded higher pay for less work. There was a strong sense of entitlement, they sought profit without production, and they wanted more money for less work. This will bankrupt you every time.

American Education is the next GM, and it is going to go bankrupt (unless something changes) for the exact same reason: because the people working in the company have an unconquerable sense of entitlement. American Education is a “company” filled with people who are seeking profit without production. I already told you what this causes. Read more »

I would rather prove myself wrong than wonder if I could have been right

Whenever I am trying to improve a situation, I am faced with a choice: do I continue doing the same thing that is currently producing mediocre results with the hope that it will eventually pay off, or do I try something that could be unfavorable but also has the potential to be incredibly beneficial?

I am always trying to improve things, whether it is my class, my school, or lately, my own life. With the help of a friend on a canoe trip, we conjured up a phrase that adequately describes my own perspective on what to do in this situation:

“I would rather prove myself wrong than wonder if I could have been right.” Read more »

An ace in the hole

You should always keep something to yourself. You should never lay down your whole hand. You should always keep an ace in the hole.

An “ace in the hole” is something about you that no one else knows or understands. An ace in the hole is not about what you do. It is about WHY you do it.

In his book “No More Mondays”, Dan Miller writes about a time when he was broke and he had creditors coming to his house daily, threatening to take the house if he didn’t pay up on some of his debts (debts that he was trying to pay off). He explains that during this time in life, when everyone was trying to get every ounce of property that he owned, he always left a $100 bill in his pocket to remind himself that he was never broke. This $100 bill was an ace in the hole. Read more »

When a stick of dynamite can save your life

If you want to get things done, you will occasionally need to use some dynamite. But before using dynamite, one must understand the difference between necessary work and important work. Necessary work is work that people tell you to do. In teaching, the necessary work is the following: Read more »

Why Sports?

I just witnessed one of the greatest basketball games I have ever seen last night: Butler vs. Duke. Some called it David vs. Goliath. But really, it was Thor vs. Hercules. Patton vs. Rommel. Rocky vs. Draggo. It was two evenly matched warriors getting after it. And in the end, Butler came up short. Painfully, painfully, short. Read more »

How to quit your job and still have work

I understand that it is hard to find a job. There are not many companies hiring new employees, high school students can’t find summer jobs, and many school districts are facing employment cuts.

However, despite the lack of jobs, there is plenty of work to do. Read more »

iPod + iPhone + iPad = iConsumption

When computers were first invented, people realized their incredible potential to speed up productivity. And for a while, this is how computers were used: tools to enhance productivity and efficiency. People used computers to actually DO something, to CREATE something.

And then something began to change. Read more »

More school is a waste of time

I am baffled that people would suggest the problem with school in America is that we don’t have long enough days or that the school year is too short. I learned from a very young age that if something isn’t working, I shouldn’t continue doing it. If students are disengaged and bored with 180 days of school, what does adding another 10-20 days of boring, disengaged schooling do to enhance education? More of a bad thing is WORSE. If what you are doing in a given period of time is not working, YOU SHOULDN’T ADD MORE TIME! You should restructure what you are doing in that time.

Show me a classroom where students are engaged for 50 minutes, then yes, I will agree that those students could get a better education if they had that same engagement for another 10 minutes. However, I wonder how many principals are walking around their buildings, observing the teaching and learning that is occurring (or NOT occurring), and are thinking to themselves “Man, we just need to make this longer. All those students who are passing notes and failing classes, we need to keep them in their desks a little longer. That will solve our problem.”

Wake up people. If your system is broken, putting your “product” (the student) in the system longer won’t make it better. A flat tire doesn’t improve by riding on it longer. A broken computer screen doesn’t get better by looking at it longer. A broken furnace doesn’t heat the house no matter how long you wait. Read more »

How your Science Fair Project can win you the Nobel Prize!

Did you ever do a science fair project that turned out a disaster? I did. I tried to determine whether or not there was a statistical relationship between full moons and earthquakes. An interesting idea, I know, but the theory was that perhaps the position of the moon and the increased gravitational pull would somehow disturb the equilibrium of the crust and result in a greater tendency to have an earthquake. After poring through 120 years of seismic activity and full moons, I determined that there was absolutely no correlation between the two. My project was a complete dud.

Now this is hardly an acceptable way to conclude a science fair project. However, I noticed that if I removed a few of the data sets from the 1930’s, my correlation coefficient would increase slightly, and while the numbers were still inconclusive, I would have at least something to say. I could comment that “there seems to be a potential relationship that requires more exhaustive analysis than I could conduct in the last few months.” Translation: “I just put this together last night but will you PLEASE still give me my bonus points for science class?”

Now some people would brush this off as dishonest (I agree) or at least skewing the numbers (I agree), but I eventually learned that this kind of “science” could win me the Nobel Prize!

You see, science really isn’t very scientific at all. Sure, there are some purists out there, but science isn’t always about the truth. The history of science is filled with people who found the truth, but the truth was not according to their hypothesis, so they changed the numbers.

Need examples? Read more »


No one is really afraid of failure. No one has fear of trying something and then failing. What people truly and deeply fear is criticism.

I wrote a math book last year, and when I was writing it, I would occasionally get filled with fear. I told myself that I was afraid of failure. I told myself, “You are afraid of putting much work into this book and then nobody wanting it.”

But when I looked at my fear, I found that I had no fear of failure. My greatest fear was not that the book would go unwanted, but that people would criticize me for it. I feared getting emails that said, “This book is horrible. Why would I ever use it in my math class?” I feared meeting someone who had used the book and having them tell me, “I can’t believe how many mistakes there are in the book. It is embarrassing.” I feared somebody telling me that my website is confusing and useless.

Fear causes a person to cave in on their selves. I often thought to myself, “Why put myself in a position of criticism? Why shouldn’t I just write a small manual for my students? Why should I risk criticism?” The fear at times was crippling, but it was NEVER because of the fear of failure. In fact, the fear actually caused me to occasionally desire failure. I would think to myself, “If I never hear a comment about this book, that is good, because no comments mean that I didn’t make anyone upset.” Read more »

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