It’s a New World (i.e., I’m a Dinosaur)

The internet has dramatically changed — and will continue to change — the world. At times, it makes me feel like a dinosaur. I’m not alone, but that doesn’t make it any better.

Two systems that are replete with dinosaurs are health care and education, although the former is well ahead of the latter in catching up to the 21st century (mainly because there is more money to be made in health care).

If you want to get a flavor for what I’m talking about, take a half hour and watch this presentation on internet trends by Mary Meeker.

Keeping up or, in my case, catching up, seems like an impossible task. My generation didn’t grow up with the internet. Yours will, Vera. Your parents’ generation was the trailblazing generation. I expect much more to come from that generation. I don’t have such high expectations from mine. I can’t begin to imagine what yours may deliver.

One disservice my generation and the Xers provide to younger folks is interpreting the world, and guiding kids, with a 20th-century mindset based on 20th-century experiences. In short, many of us fail to appreciate how the world has changed and is changing. Consequently, we’re preparing many of our children and grandchildren for a world that no longer exists. Fortunately, it’s hard to keep young people down. Many see what’s happening and are responding.

I came to believe that I’m not technologically savvy enough to do my students justice in the classroom. Few professors and teachers are. But that will change as the dinosaurs retire or expire. Until then, most of our schools and colleges will remain behind the curve. This is one of the most critical reasons no millennial should outsource his or her education to our formal education system.

Enough said! Watch Mary’s presentation and, if you’re really enticed, read her slides.

Don’t Waste Your Time Taking History Courses

Don’t waste your time taking history courses, Vera.

That’s not to suggest you should remain ignorant of history. You shouldn’t. As George Santayana wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” It’s just that there are a lot of better ways of learning the lessons of history than sitting in most high school or college lectures. Continue reading

Colleges Survive on Exploitation

Colleges love to tell you how great and wonderful they are. And, indeed, great and wonderful things happen on most (perhaps all) college campuses. Intellect is stimulated, curiosity is nourished, and inspiration is given and received. Yet all is not as wonderful as it’s cracked up to be. Continue reading

The Price To Pay For Spending Tomorrow’s Income Today

When you borrow, you’ll pulling spending forward, that is, you’re spending tomorrow’s income today. Sometimes that’s smart; sometimes it isn’t. In fact, debt can be a killer.

It can kill your retirement. Your security and well-being. Your marriage. Your job. Your dreams. Even your life (suicide rates rise during recessions and periods of high unemployment).

Yet America is in love with debt. But perhaps it’s a toxic love affair. Perhaps, Vera, you’d do well not to fall in love with debt as so many of your fellow Americans have done.

Not all debt is bad though. Continue reading

Final Exams May Be a Waste of Time

I graded final exams this week. Once again, I’m thinking it makes no sense to keep giving final exams. I haven’t had a long track record of teaching college students, but in courses I’ve taught thus far I haven’t been surprised by a student’s final grade — not once. Which leads me to believe I should save myself the time and effort of developing and grading the exams. Continue reading

Why I No Longer Contribute to Most Nonprofits

For most of my life, I thought of nonprofits as charitable institutions. I learned I was wrong. Later, I stopped writing checks to most of them.

My eyes were first opened to the nonprofit world when, as CEO of a large corporation in Philadelphia, I served on a United Way committee. United Way is the conduit through which corporations and individuals fund local nonprofits, which are usually billed as charitable organizations (whether or not they truly are). That was my first glimpse behind the nonprofit world’s curtain. Here is what I found: Continue reading

Getting Ready for School

I had a lot of good times in college. It’s where I first learned I could compete on a larger stage. It’s where I had some great social times. It’s where I first experienced getting drunk (which, at the time, seemed quite enjoyable). It’s where I first experienced the power of inspiring teaching. It’s where I discovered I truly liked the law.

It’s also where I had the freedom to spend my days as I decided to spend them without seemingly arbitrary parental direction and constraints. It was a liberating time. A time of exploration and new experiences. A time of growth.

It also was a time of waste and anxiety. I was forced to take courses that had no value to me. I had to do stupid homework assignments that served no purpose other than to satisfy someone’s belief there was inherent value in busyness. I had to sit through boring lectures. I had to get up for 8 o’clock classes (a really dumb idea for 18-year-olds). For the first year and a half, I had to live far from the girl I loved.

For good or bad, these experiences helped form me. To this day they inform my views of education and teaching and, more importantly, learning.

So here I am decades later preparing for school. For fun I teach one or two college courses a semester. I say for fun because it is fun and it’s something I don’t do for the money. I am concerned, however, about those people who have to do it for the money. Colleges take advantage of adjunct faculty. They’re paid a pittance. Every semester I think about the newly minted Ph.D.s who are trying to launch their careers, often burdened by mountains of student-debt, and wonder how or why they do it. And I wonder how college administrators and trustees get comfortable taking advantage of an entire group of people. But I digress.

I said I do it for fun. But I suppose there is another reason. I like a good challenge. And teaching is a challenge — teaching done well, that is. Anyone can “teach” a course, but it takes more to teach it well. It takes a lot of thought and planning. And superb execution. And a genuine compassion for one’s students.

I lived through some great teaching in my childhood. I also survived a lot of very bad teaching. The challenge for me is to do it well. Very well.

I love the challenge.

So in one week my class begins. There hasn’t been anything in life I take more seriously. Yet it never feels burdensome.

The anticipation is building. I’ve never met the students who’ll be taking my course. They’ve never met me. And they’ve probably never experienced a class like the one they’re about to experience.

I almost wrote “my class.” But it’s not mine. It’s theirs. It’s theirs just like the learning will be theirs.

I’ll be the guide, the listener, the mentor, the questioner, the seasoned, battle-tested warrior, the storyteller, and, from time to time, the entertainer. But the students are the ones who truly matter. Whether this experience that is about to unfold will be valuable and impactful depends entirely on what happens between their ears and in their hearts. My simple task is to help ensure magic happens there.

I hope a lot of magic occurs in your life, Vera.

 

 

Wanting to be Wrong

Benedict Evans recently tweeted the following: “Do not discuss things with people who do not accept disagreement, and do not correct people who do not care if they’re wrong.”

I can’t image why anyone would not care if they’re wrong. Personally, there are so many things about which I hope I’m wrong. My advice to you, Vera, is this: long to be wrong. Believe in your own fallibility. Continue reading