The Dangerous Parts of School

Jessica Hagy, who writes/draws the wonderful Indexed blog, has created a great list of Nine Dangerous Things You Learned in School for the Forbes website.

All the items, including the graphs/drawings that accompany the words, are right on target but number 5 ties directly to my rant from yesterday about giving kids options in their post graduation plans.

There is a very clear, single path to success.

It’s called college. Everyone can join the top 1% if they do well enough in school and ignore the basic math problem inherent in that idea.

It’s very dangerous to believe in one right answer to any part of life, with the possible exception of stuff like “do I jump out of a plane without a parachute?”.

But the best of the bunch is number 7.

Standardized tests measure your value.

By value, I’m talking about future earning potential, not anything else that might have other kinds of value.

Of course, there are more than nine dangerous things we learned, and continue to teach kids, in school, and in writing the draft of this post, I was trying to think of a few of them.

However, this morning Doug jumped in and added many of those I was considering so instead of repeating them here, go read his thoughts.

I would only like to extend the idea in his number 6: not only don’t you need to be smart at everything, you can and should get smarter through out your life beyond school.

That’s coming from a math major who learned to write and appreciate language long after finishing “school”.

Looking for Information (and Sanity)

Anyone else confused by all the economic news? No? Well then I guess it’s just me.

Most of the news outlets I’ve seen and read don’t do an especially good job of explaining the situation, especially how we got here, and, more importantly, how all those supposedly smart people running the show are going to fix things.

As for the 24-hour (minus infomercials) talking heads channels, they’re all about staging fights between he-said on one side and she-said on the other.

Fortunately, there are a few places to go for actual information, ideas, and some sanity.

And one of them, of course, is the Daily Show.

Over the past couple of months, Jon Stewart and his writers have done an excellent job of pointing out just how badly the so-called experts have been screwing up.

A great example came from the first block of a DS show earlier this week in which he illustrated precisely why no one should be paying attention to anyone on the financial channel CNBC, especially Jim Cramer.

“I have to say, I find cheap populism oddly arousing.”

However, if you’re still looking for real information about this financial mess, you can find some in that wonderfully sane little corner of public radio known as This American Life.

The creators of The Giant Pool of Money and Another Frightening Show About the Economy, two outstanding and unfortunately still relevant TAL episodes from last year, are back to explain the banking crisis with The Bad Bank.

Grab the show today while it’s still free. Listen to the others online (or pay a buck each to download).

Three hours of your time (give or take an underwriting message) that offer more information about the current financial situation than you’ll find in an entire year of watching the “experts” on commercial television.

Little Faith in Air Travel

One of great things about vacations is that you get to read non work-related stuff, or at least read it with less guilt.

For this trip, one book in the definitely non work-related category is Lewis Black’s Me of Little Faith.

And not long after writing the earlier post about my experience with our crappy air transportation system, I arrived at Black’s chapter on the same topic.

As I was writing this book, I found myself at the Newark airport getting ready to fly from New York to Chapel Hill. It was the beginning of June and newspapers were already screaming that it was going to be the worst summer to travel in recorded history. This followed the previous summer, which was then the worst summer on record to travel. If you know something is going to go wrong and you know why something is going to go wrong and you’ve already suffered the pain and trauma of it going wrong, wouldn’t you make a profoundly concerted effort to avoid it happening again?

The rest of the essay is very funny as he relates the details of his trip and expands on the general topic of what’s wrong with the system.

I’d add a few more quotes here but Black freely uses language that is inappropriate for a PG rated blog, although incredibly appropriate for this particular topic.

Incidentally, if you are a Lewis Black fan, this is an excellent book in which he offers some very pointed (not to mention hilarious) observations on religion in society. You can almost hear him ranting in his uniquely neurotic style.

If you’re not a Black fan, you’re missing one of the best commentators on modern life working today.