Occupy Values

It seems our quenchless thirst for big homes, fast cars and flat screens has really spun us off into a ditch this time. At the start of 2012, we Americans find ourselves with sky-high record debt, off-the-charts government and military spending, record high unemployment, home foreclosures, poverty, and infrastructure decay.  From the last recession till now, that’s quite a decade’s worth of work.

Realizing that our system of government is unable or unwilling to fix these problems was the genesis of the now marginalized, Occupy Wall Street movement. Occupy began with the right spirit, at the right time, but was tripped-up from get-go, by the very slogan chosen to convey it’s message, “were the 99 percent.” Once politicized, “were the 99 percent” turned out to be only about 33 percent.  Thirty three percent of those polled actually supported the Occupy movement. Split by the employed and unemployed, democrat and republican, young and old, Occupy was doomed from the beginning. The power in a public demonstration against unfairness is in its appeal to the outrage of the masses and 33 percent comes up more than a little bit short.

Unfortunately, all the problems mentioned above still exist. If an imbalanced distribution of wealth is not the cause, then just what is it? An argument could be made that our sense of greed and entitlement has finally tipped the scales away from the very American values we owe to our rapidly disappearing past. Why do we allow corruption in government and business when our American values call for fairness and honesty? Why do we allow our debt to escalate out of control when our American values call for us to responsibly spend what we earn?  Why do we allow our schools and levees and roads to deteriorate when the safety and well-being of our children are at risk? This is not America.

Or maybe it is? Teach values now… and walk the talk.

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Success and the Role of Guiding Principles

The super-successful usually attribute their accomplishments to two things: a set of guiding principles…and little bit of luck. From corporate CEO’s to the Kings and Queens of entertainment, most say they followed guiding principles that led to super-success. Fairness, honesty, justice, work ethic, facing fear, helping others; the super successful have any number or combination of principles that are followed with extreme dedication and are rarely compromised.

Over many thousands of years, we humans have adopted a common set of guiding principles that allow us (for the most part) to peacefully coexist, to live, work and play in relative harmony. Referred to as the social contract, it is the implied minimum that each of us owes the other, in exchange for the privilege of sharing in the common society built by those before us; the streets, sanitation, heating, lighting, protection, etc. The guiding principles of humans exist in all religions. And it is because they exist in all religions that none own them. These are the human rules, the rules to follow while competing in the game of life.

One, humans are number one. Not trees, owls, whales, or corporate profits. Humans. All humans. The safety and concern for every Human.

Two, give respect. Respect all others time, place, property, dignity and safety.  And respect your better self, your health, your freedom, your goals and dreams.

Three, be fair and honest. Compete straight up, within the rules. Don’t cheat. Accomplish and acquire by fair and honest means.

Four, know humility. You are one individual among billions so get a sense of humor. Learn patience and compromise.

Five, accept responsibility. Earn your way; meet your obligations; make right your mistakes. Be responsible for the completion of your education, socialization and adult self-reliance.

Six, let go and move on. When wronged seek justice (through legal means) but know that you must eventually let go and move on. Life is short. Do not allow the past to prejudice your future and don’t teach hate. CHECK THE FUNNY HATS AND CENTURIES-OLD GRUDGES AT THE DOOR. Work together on a better future.

Seven, lend a hand.  The game of life goes easier for some than others. Share in responsibility for humanity. Be aware of those around you in need and when you can, lend a hand.

We humans know these to be the guiding principles that best serve society and the greater good, but unlike the unwavering principles of the super-successful; our societal principles are quite often compromised. Police, courts and prisons are evidence that not every human is concerned with fairness, honesty, respect and responsibility.  Some of us have to learn the hard way. We can all be reminded of our responsibility to others and the expectations of the social contract. Play by the human rules…and pass it on.

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The Worst Humans on Earth

The cause célèbre these days is indeed… bullying, with increasing numbers of egregious acts of cruelty, perpetrated by one child against another. Are teen bullies the worst humans on earth? Hardly. Bullying and other acts of aggression begin at a much earlier age. Independent studies have proven that the most violent of humans to be two year olds, observed on average to commit 8-9 acts of aggression each and every day. Biting, kicking, screaming, food throwing, hot tempered… two year olds. These are the worst humans on earth. We can only go up from there. As terrible two year olds, we begin the long process of “getting it together,” learning to not aggress, so that other humans may rely upon us to be fair and not bully, to be honest and not steal, to solve our differences through reason and a spirit of cooperation.

There is no act more important to the human socialization process than the guidance and discipline of parenting. In childhood, negative behavior, like bullying and other unfair acts toward others, are primarily corrected through the act of parenting, where expectations of better behavior are traditionally established. Not accomplished in one breath of expression, or a weekend seminar, parenting spans the e-n-t-i-r-e course of childhood, providing thousands upon thousands of parent/child interactions in support of the socialization process.

With 21st century communication providing both examples of how and an ease to accomplish bullying, some wrongly believe technology to be the cause of our perceived rise in this behavior. Yes, technology has helped to serve up the bullying pandemic we are experiencing today but it is more likely that it exists because we are doing less parenting than ever before, inadvertently producing more bullies than ever before. Here is why.

Not all children get the same amount of parenting, therefore the same amount of socialization input. A traditional two-parent family with one parent working, offers considerably more parenting hours than a two-parent family with both parents working. A single-parent home offers significantly less again. A household with four children, offers less parenting hours per child, than a household with two children. The 2010 U.S. Census data reveal a significant increase in single parent homes and in both working parent homes with a significant decline in traditional two parent, one working, homes. This equates to a 25% decline in available parenting hours from just one generation ago. The census data also indicates significant population growth in the demographic group with the largest average family size and the least amount of available parenting hours per child. Less parenting hours means less guidance and accountability. Less guidance and accountability means less socialization… and more bullying behavior, along with every other kind of youth offense including: hazing, drug and alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy, gangs, tagging, dropping out, etc.

Humans bully humans when they value the result of bullying more than the learned social values of fairness and respect for others. With the recent generational decline in parenting, youth today are “not getting the memo” and schools are “getting” more bullying, hazing, hate crimes, vandalism, and academic under-achievement. It is vital that our public schools and curriculum engage youth in expectations of better behavior as an augmentation to parenting.  To learn more about what you can do to support values education for youth, go to http://www.teachvaluesnow.org
or write wes@teachvaluesnow.org

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Real Education Reform and Two Shift High School

By Wes Rogers, TeachValuesNow.org

In light of our recent academic test results, a one-in three-dropout rate, and scarcity of funds for more teachers and schools, I’d say we could use some real education reform right about now. Not the work-harder-with-incremental-payback kinds of reform. Real reform of the quantum leap variety.  Yes, we can “ride herd” on teachers and students to test better with more hours and resources dedicated to test results; and we can make it easier to identify and correct the problem of under-performing teachers and parents; but these kinds of incremental improvements are just a small part of a much bigger dilemma. State and federal budgets continue to point to concerns of how much we can actually afford for government services, including the $550 billion dollars we spend annually on primary and secondary public education in America. The path of public education is at a crossroads. Just as business was forced to adopt the mantra ‘do more with less’ in a globally competitive world, so must education learn to ‘do more with less.’  What we teach, how we teach it…and how we manage it.  Real education reform.

 

‘What We Teach’  

Welcome to the information age, where any thirteen year old with critical thinking capability and a smart phone can, in seconds, outperform a room full of computers from the year their parents were born. In the 21st century, it is less about knowing the answer and more about knowing where and how to get the answer. Instruction in concepts and critical thinking as replacement for redundant or repetitive course work is the foundation of real curriculum reform. Education curriculums must be adjusted to this reality. What is to gain? Finished students better prepared to meet life’s challenges with a broader scope, worldview, advanced problem solving capabilities…, and a ton of hours and dollars saved, ‘doing more with less.’

 

‘How We Teach’

Just one generation ago, the pocket calculator, the cell phone, the personal computer, CD/ DVD media, the Internet, Wi-Fi, e-books, I-Pads and video remote instruction did not exist, yet with all this glorious information age technology… we still take the same six periods each day to educate our middle and high school students. Information age technology has saved millions of person-hours, in thousands of ways. What once took hundreds of hours now takes the push of a button.  Impossibly though, our education system has found no way to reduce this daily six period duration? Compared to the promise and power of current technology, in education, we are cave dwellers writing with a stick in the dirt.

It is not unrealistic to expect education to be accomplished in less time considering our knowledge of 21st century teaching methods, modern day understanding of the psychology of learning, and the informational power of computers and the Internet. How much less? Well, here is a goal. Reduce middle and high school education time by 25%, as soon as possible. Just take the hours away and assign educators the task of getting the job done in less time. How? Along with a redesigned curriculum, extend the school year by four weeks with students attending classes four hours per day instead of six. The net result? An annual class time reduction of 25%, leaving schools operating at half capacity (assuming eight hours of available teacher and classroom time each day.)  How is this ‘doing more with less?’ Well, two campuses at half capacity can be merged into one campus at full capacity. Reducing middle and high school education hours by 25% reduces the need for 50% of the schools (less any logistical constraints.)

With a theoretical need for half the number of schools, let me be the first to say, “Welcome to Two Shift High School.” Doing more with less, Two Shift High sees morning shift students arrive for 7:30am class and depart at 11:30am. Second shift students arrive at 12:30pm, completing daily work @ 4:30pm.  Two Shift High requires only one set of administers, councilors, nurses, librarians and maintenance workers.  No cafeteria workers are required because first shift students lunch at home after 11:30 and second shift students lunch at home before their school day begins. One in two high schools running two shifts means the others become Closed Down High. All of Close Down High’s non-teaching staff is no longer required.

But what about all those teachers from Closed Down High?  Why not double them up in the classrooms at Two Shift High? With the cost savings from Closed Down High, Two Shift High can afford to double down on teacher/student ratios, providing a super-charged learning environment… and still have plenty of district funds left over! Pair lesser-qualified or inexperienced teachers with the more experienced. First shift, one performs as teacher, the other as aid. Reverse roles for second shift classes.

Take funds now allocated to building new campuses and reallocate to upgrade the Two Shift High Schools with modern technology i.e. automated attendance, electronic school work/test assignment, real time grading and grade status with school provided student take-home notepad devices. Use technology to reduce the need for printed textbooks and implementation of more home- based study. Real education reform.

 

‘How We Manage’

The purpose of public education is to teach knowledge. The physical act of teaching this knowledge is the direct value-added service performed by public schools. All other non-teaching job functions, from the principle to the janitor, are non-value-added in the sense that these functions do not directly perform the service of teaching. Non-value-added job functions in the education system include principals, administrators, councilors, maintenance and cafeteria workers, district superintendants and offices, school boards, county offices, state boards, and the U.S. Department of Education. There are so many different departments and regulatory bodies that, for every teacher we employee, our education system now requires one more non-teacher to do the “other” things. The deeply layered, top-heavy organization chart of our public education system, from the U.S Secretary down to the school assistant-principal, is in need of some serious flattening and departmental consolidation… along with more authority to implement real education reforms.

 

The task ahead: define a better way. Not complaining and finger pointing; bold, innovative solutions designed to provide dramatic improvement in the ease and cost of educating our youth. And we need it now. Redefined curriculums, allocate more resources to value-added teaching, fully exploit technology, and empower leadership to enact real education reform.

 

 

TeachValuesNow.Org provides lessons in social values to youth in public schools. Help youth make better life choices and decisions. Teach Values Now!

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Responsibility, American Style

That was some housing bubble. In about six years, Americans together, built homes or created mortgages equal to ten years of demand. This artificial acceleration of four years housing demand disturbed the natural market forces that drive our economy, accelerating economic benefit from 2002 thru 2008. Three years later, we have yet to recover from the damage.  After all, when you borrow 4 years of demand from the future, it takes at least 4 years of no demand to pay it back. Our recovery will most likely take longer because nature always wins. In this case natural market forces require the payback now… as houses sit empty across the country with years of underwater mortgages yet to be foreclosed upon.

The finger of blame for the housing crash points in many directions. Movies have been made about it. Three U.S. presidents, the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Treasury Secretary, Wall Street, the major banks, sub-prime lenders, the over-extended irresponsible homeowner, unscrupulous mortgage underwriters and even the credit rating agencies have all come under fire for their contribution to the mess. Has anyone stood up and actually taken responsibility? No. Not one. This horrendous financial meltdown has, incredibly, no face. Not one person has stood up and expressed any sentiments of ownership for the greatest recession since the Great Depression. Now that’s responsibility…  American style.

So just where should the finger point? Who is ultimately to blame? I want to be the first to say, “It was me..., I did it.” I benefited from the economic growth that came from the housing bubble’s super-sized opportunities. My 401k and IRA’s were invested in the very banks and financial instruments that facilitated the bubble and I held stock in Home Depot as well as other suppliers of materials to the housing industry. My private sector job and salary was a result of my employers business in the housing industry. I helped elect the congressional representative that served just prior to and during the housing bubble, making it possible for them to allow it and I stood by and watched my government grow to spend the inflated revenues that came with the economic expansion. There, I said it. “I accept responsibility for the greatest recession since the Great Depression.”

Responsibility is simple. Earn your way. Own your obligations. Make right your mistakes. How about we all, once again, commit to earn our way, to work for what we get, to enter into and meet obligations fairly and honestly? How about we make right the housing bubble mistake by demanding policies that preclude artificial market manipulation and hold those accountable in violation of existing laws? How about we allow natural market forces to provide our opportunities? How about when we hear politicians say, “Let’s build more infrastructure.” we say no to plans that borrow jobs or anything else from the future? No more stimulus and no more bail-outs. How about we spend responsibly, within our means, and take our medicine? Responsibility starts with you. Be responsible and expect it in others.

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Value the Values

Finders keepers? There are countless stories of someone finding a large sum of money, then seeking out the owner to return what he or she had found. In most cases the finder could have easily kept the money and enjoyed its benefits but their value of the values, fairness and honesty, exceeded their value of the money itself.

Life’s choices and decisions are not always clear and often our human wants and needs test our ability to act in a pro-social manner, with consideration for others. Our prisons are overflowing with those that failed the test. Today’s political discourse demonstrates a diminishing value in the values of respect and cooperation at every turn. The sum of our anti-social actions, from murder to Madoff, is telling our youth they grow up in a world that in fact, does not value the values, that the prior generation does not “walk the talk.”

What can we do?  Know that your actions at work, at home and in the community demonstrate to our young your value of social values.  Walk the talk. Be fair and honest. Respect others and accept responsibility for your obligations and mistakes. Seek out youth and teach values now to make a better world.

 

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Generation Let Down (Parental Decline in the 21st Century)

Teaching youth social values to is a centuries old, common-to-all-cultures custom that is today, in steep decline. The institutions of parenting and religion, once the champions of social values education, are ‘up against the ropes.’ More single-parent homes and more both-parent-working homes have meant less parenting; twenty-five percent less than one generation ago… and over half of youth now report no religious affiliation or never attend services. The lessons of fairness.., honesty.., respect.., and responsibility… have become so infrequent that many youth today are simply “not getting the memo,” absent of guidance and accountability, committing egregious acts of anti-social behavior: cyber-bullying, hazing, sex and hate crimes, gang violence, academic cheating, theft, vandalism and more. The U.S. Department of Justice statistics support this conclusion, reporting an alarming one third of all aggravated crime to now be youth crime, age 14-19.

Today’s youth grow up in a 21st century explosion of wrong choices and decisions to make, with a seemingly infinite supply of poor behavior examples to follow… and much less parenting around to help. What can we do? Schools across the country are seeing the need to engage students in expectations of higher behavior –yet social values education is presently not part of formal public school curriculum. The answer is simple; make it so. Teach social values education, the same as we do math, reading and history. Youth behavior will surely improve and so will test scores… in math, reading and history.

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