Suspended for Tweet – Reid Sagehorn Story

Reid-SagehornI’ve written in the past about social media and the dangers it presents because our words are forever preserved and a case involving Twitter and a young student suspended from school is making the news in Minnesota. It’s an interesting case from a legal perspective but my take is that it never should have come to what has happened. Read on!

In this case the student, Reid Sagehorn, was subject to anonymous tweets that he had kissed one of the teachers at his school. He responded to this with a tweet reading, “Actually yes.”

Other parents apparently saw this tweet as confirmation of the idea that he was engaged in an illegal sexual relationship with the teacher in question and reported it to the authorities. An investigation ensued. It was determined that there was no such relationship and Reid says his reply was intended to be sarcastic.

The problem is that the teacher in question had her reputation unfairly besmirched and the school had to institute an investigation which took time and resources. Thus they decided to suspend Sagehorn. First for five days and then for ten days. Eventually they even moved towards an expulsion which forced him to enroll in a different school to finish out the year. Now he has filed a lawsuit claiming the school violated his First Amendment right to free speech.

The legality of the suspension is a fairly interesting question in its own right because schools are generally given pretty wide latitude in dealing with speech that causes a disruption in the school. The tweet clearly caused a disruption and just as clearly was not taken as sarcasm even if it was intended as such. I’m of the opinion the school does have the right to suspend and even expel Sagehorn. I’m also of the opinion that doing so was absolute nonsense.

Sagehorn’s tweet was potentially damaging and ill-advised to be certain. The school pretty much had to institute an investigation and I think Sagehorn owes the district and the teacher in particular a big apology. However, that’s where I think things should have stopped. It would have been a good “teachable moment” as we like to say these days. In my opinion punishment should have been a public apology to the assembled students, a private apology to the teacher in question, and a one day suspension. End of story. Move on with the business of educating young Sagehorn and the rest of the students.

Such an approach was not taken and now we are where we are. Sigh.

What do you think? Was the long-term suspension merited? Is this a First Amendment violation?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Purchase The Broken Throne today!
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Dr. Mehmet Oz Testifies about Weight Loss Scams

Dr OzI’ve long known that most diets are merely money-making scams designed to fleece desperate people from their money and I don’t really follow the industry with much interest. Today I spotted a blog post about a fellow named Dr. Mehmet Oz who has been invited by Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill to testify to the Senate about weight-loss scams.

I’m a bit jaded when it comes to irony, hypocrisy, and outright lying from our elected officials but when a senator from my home state invites possibly the biggest purveyor of fake diet scams to the rather less than hallowed halls of Congress to testify about the dangers of weight-loss scams, well, how can I not write a post about it?

The original post from Orac at Science Blogs does a great job of providing all the links you need to determine for yourself the nature of Dr. Oz and his various business operations. Oz is a recipient of the Randi Pigasus Award for Refusing to Face Reality and his various forms of weight-loss and medical advice are cited as doing more harm than good.

All that is well and good. It’s clear to me that Oz is a charlatan preying on people’s desire to lose weight quickly and easily so as to fleece them of money. As far as I’m concerned he’s allowed to do that as long as his actions don’t cross over into criminality. Apparently he has not yet crossed that line so he continues to sell goods on his television show without interference.

We live in a free country and if people are gullible enough to believe his obvious fabrications and exaggerations and want to hand him their money then that’s their right. Those who see through his lies don’t give him money. That’s the way freedom works. You’re free to do what you wish even if it’s foolish.

What really bothers me is this invitation to appear before the Senate. It’s not even that he is going to be railing against that which he is himself guilty of that bothers me. It’s not that I think the Senate still has the gravitas of the old days and that anyone who testifies there must be of good character. Those days are long gone. Still, why should he be a given legitimacy by our government that he clearly does not deserve? Are my tax-dollars going to house him, feed him, and transport him to these sessions?

Why does the United States government need to be involved at all? There are laws on the books about false advertising both from the Federal government and from various states. If Oz is breaking the law, arrest him. If he is skirting the law then it is up to people like Orac and the Randi Foundation to spread the word. It is up to people who want to lose weight to do due-diligence when looking for solutions.

The government can’t protect us from ourselves. If you’re foolish enough to purchase Green Coffee Bean extract in order to lose weight you deserve what you get. If Oz lied about the studies which showed its value in weight-loss he should be charged with a crime. Our politicians should focus on the real problems that this nation faces and not on inviting likely snake-oil sales representatives to speak to them about weight-loss scams.

The entire visit is a classic example of our politicians doing things that appear to be good in order to gain political capital. Look, we’re here to help you, they say. Vote for me.

I’ve got news for Congress. They are not here to help me. They are here to run the country properly.

I’ve got news for all my readers out there trying to lose weight. It’s hard. You have to cut your caloric intake not just today, not just this month, but long-term, day after day after day. You have to exercise regularly. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Go to the gym at least four days a week. I’m not saying it’s easy, I’m saying it’s hard. You can listen to me or you can listen to Oz. Your choice.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Purchase The Broken Throne today!
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My Friends’ Children and My Atheism

atheistsThere was an interesting question in Dr. Abby this morning and it made me think about my own situation in regards to Atheism and my friends’ children. In the column an atheist couple had been asked by their parents to refrain from telling nieces and nephews about their lack of religious belief.

I’ve been asked by children of my friends on a number of occasions about my religious beliefs and I don’t hesitate to tell them I’m an atheist. I like to think I’m not a jerk about it. I tell them that I think everyone should believe what they want to believe and that I don’t think any differently of them for believing in god or not. That I like them just the way they are.

The thing that I wonder about is that by doing so am I alienating my friends. Do they cringe when I tell their children that I’m an atheist. When I explain that I don’t find the evidence for the existence of god to be convincing. Do they perhaps not invite me over because they are afraid I will expound on my atheism to their children. Are they concerned that my arguments will turn their own children into atheists.

One of my friends has a son who has become an atheist himself and I wonder if there is some resentment that I perhaps my own lack of faith was instrumental in his turning away from their religion.

These are not lighthearted concerns. If a person is of a deeply religious nature and their child becomes an atheist it is their belief system that this child will be forever torn from them in the, admittedly non-existent, eternal afterlife. While I’m absolutely certain that no such afterlife exists, my friends feel differently and the idea that their children will not be with them in this fantasy realm is emotionally and likely physically disturbing.

None of my friends has asked me to refrain from talking about atheism and the only time I do so is when I’m directly asked about my religious beliefs. However during everyday conversation I often speak about scientific topics that contradict biblical inerrancy; including things like continental drift, evolution, and space-time. For example I occasionally talk to children about how North and South America fit together like puzzle pieces with Europe and Africa and how this relates to plate-tectonics. These are topics that I worry about.

I do think the grand-parents in the case of the Dr. Abby column are making a mistake by hiding the fact that atheism is even a possibility and this is clearly demonstrated by the fact that their children have become atheists. I don’t think lying to children, or anyone for that matter, is a good or effective policy. The truth almost always makes itself known in the end. I think the grand-parents would be better off explaining that some people don’t believe the same thing as they do. That being said, I’m not a parent.

Any other atheists out there have any thoughts? Any religious parents with atheist friends?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

My Friends' Children and My Atheism

atheistsThere was an interesting question in Dr. Abby this morning and it made me think about my own situation in regards to Atheism and my friends’ children. In the column an atheist couple had been asked by their parents to refrain from telling nieces and nephews about their lack of religious belief.

I’ve been asked by children of my friends on a number of occasions about my religious beliefs and I don’t hesitate to tell them I’m an atheist. I like to think I’m not a jerk about it. I tell them that I think everyone should believe what they want to believe and that I don’t think any differently of them for believing in god or not. That I like them just the way they are.

The thing that I wonder about is that by doing so am I alienating my friends. Do they cringe when I tell their children that I’m an atheist. When I explain that I don’t find the evidence for the existence of god to be convincing. Do they perhaps not invite me over because they are afraid I will expound on my atheism to their children. Are they concerned that my arguments will turn their own children into atheists.

One of my friends has a son who has become an atheist himself and I wonder if there is some resentment that I perhaps my own lack of faith was instrumental in his turning away from their religion.

These are not lighthearted concerns. If a person is of a deeply religious nature and their child becomes an atheist it is their belief system that this child will be forever torn from them in the, admittedly non-existent, eternal afterlife. While I’m absolutely certain that no such afterlife exists, my friends feel differently and the idea that their children will not be with them in this fantasy realm is emotionally and likely physically disturbing.

None of my friends has asked me to refrain from talking about atheism and the only time I do so is when I’m directly asked about my religious beliefs. However during everyday conversation I often speak about scientific topics that contradict biblical inerrancy; including things like continental drift, evolution, and space-time. For example I occasionally talk to children about how North and South America fit together like puzzle pieces with Europe and Africa and how this relates to plate-tectonics. These are topics that I worry about.

I do think the grand-parents in the case of the Dr. Abby column are making a mistake by hiding the fact that atheism is even a possibility and this is clearly demonstrated by the fact that their children have become atheists. I don’t think lying to children, or anyone for that matter, is a good or effective policy. The truth almost always makes itself known in the end. I think the grand-parents would be better off explaining that some people don’t believe the same thing as they do. That being said, I’m not a parent.

Any other atheists out there have any thoughts? Any religious parents with atheist friends?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

Pay to Pee – Good Idea?

Have to PeeThere’s an interesting little case roiling the internet about a school in Vancouver where a couple of third grade girls urinated on themselves in the classroom. They claim they were denied access to the bathroom although the school district says no one is ever denied such access if they declare it’s an “emergency”. We’ve all been there.

What makes this case interesting is that the school has a policy in place where students earn currency in exchange for doing various things like homework. They spend this currency on various items including snacks and going to the bathroom during class. The idea being to teach kids the value of money.

One of the girls in question spent all her money on other things and was unsuccessful in her attempt to control her bladder.

I’m ambivalent on this. I really like the idea of teaching young students money management skills but I don’t think going to the bathroom should one of the fee items. Basically the kids will always try to hold it to avoid paying the fee. This is not a good idea.

I suspect what happened here is that the girls in question ran out of money and didn’t ask to go the bathroom because they thought without enough money they wouldn’t be allowed to go. Perhaps they were embarrassed to ask without having enough money.

I’m sympathetic to teachers who get frustrated when students ask for bathroom breaks too frequently but who is to say if someone has to go to the bathroom? If you gotta go, you gotta go. Not that I think that’s what happened here. I think if the girls had told the teacher it was an emergency they would have been allowed to go. The teacher can’t be expected to read minds.

I can even see some objection to the monetary rewards for doing homework and being “nice” to each other. Who decides what is nice and what the payment will be?

My final take is that there is nothing wrong with this sort of system as long as the rules are spelled out and there is some oversight to make sure teachers aren’t playing at being little kings.

In the end, sometimes people can’t hold their bladder. Sure it’s embarrassing to pee yourself. Life is filled with such unhappy events. It’s not the end of the world.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

 

 

Common Core Math – Looked Simple to Me

Common Core Frustrated ParentThere is apparently a big story these days with what is called the Common Core. While I am an educator my focus is primarily on technology and I teach adults. Even with that said I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know much about the Common Core until I read this article.

At this stage I haven’t done much research into the Common Core and I’m not writing this blog as a defense or an attack on it. I was just a bit amazed by the father’s reaction to the problem. I’m sure he’s had a lot more experience with the Common Core than have I and his reaction was likely an outburst related to accumulated feelings.

That being said, I’m a college dropout, not an EE, and it took me about ten seconds to see the method being taught for subtraction and it makes perfect sense. It’s exactly how I do math in my head when presented with a problem. The fact that someone with a degree in Electrical Engineering couldn’t figure this out is baffling to me. The father is also completely undermining the authority of the teacher and basically telling his child it’s fine to mock and ignore teachers. Good luck with that.

The original problem is a subtraction equation: 427 – 316. So, using base tens you subtract three one-hundreds, one ten, and six ones to arrive at 111. In the example the student failed to subtract the ten properly and went from 127 to 107.

The method being taught is very straightforward, and as I said, exactly the way I do subtraction in my head. The line at the top is an excellent representation of how I solve such a problem.

Please don’t take this as a defense of the Common Core as a whole because I don’t know enough about it to make such a statement. I’m just saying that the father’s reaction to this problem is nonsense, not the problem itself. Even then I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. It’s likely this letter is the culmination of multiple frustrating events.

The process used is straight-forward and works perfectly. It takes about five seconds and can be done in the head instead of having to use a piece of paper to write down all the numbers. It’s, in my opinion, a better system for subtraction than the one the father presents.

What do you think?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Coming Soon: The Broken Throne

Boobies Win!

I love boobiesIn October of last year I wrote a blog post about the possible Supreme Court case involving boobie bracelets. Today the Supreme Court decided against hearing the case which essentially means none of the justices disagreed substantially with the Appeals Court decision. This means that the boobie bracelets win.

I’ll recap quickly. Boobie Bracelets are designed to promote Breast Cancer Awareness. The Easton Area school district in Pennsylvania thought the word boobie was lewd and obscene and banned the bracelets. Two young girls refused to honor the ban and were suspended.

In court the school district changed their story somewhat and claimed that the bracelets were disruptive. In a series of opinions it was determined that the district could not show that classes were disrupted and the girls were victorious at every turn.

I wrote in my original blog that the school district was stupid for attempting the ban, stupid for pursuing the case, but that it was their right to ban anything they wanted. Apparently I was wrong. If something is not lewd, not disruptive, and there isn’t an existing dress-code rules violation; they can’t ban a piece of apparel.

I thought a quick course in Supreme Court processes might be interesting for my readers. I wrote above that refusing to take the case meant that none of the justices wanted to hear it. That’s technically inaccurate. The justices gather in a conference with just the nine members; no clerks, no one else.

The rules state that if four justices want to hear the case then it comes before the court. The reality is that if even a single justice feels passionately about a case the others will generally acquiesce. If the case goes unheard it usually means that no one felt strongly enough to argue for it. There are exceptions of course.

Another interesting insight into this case is that the original suspensions happened in 2010 and it took nearly four years to make its way through the system. The girls are now in high school and making preparations for college. The suspension is but a distant memory. Still, there has to be some feeling of vindication.

As for the Easton Area school district, well, if I were a taxpayer in that district I’d be quite angry about how my money was being used. I’d think about voting for someone else come election time for the school board. But, that’s me.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

India’s $75 Million Mangalyaan Mission

India Mars missionThe other day I read in interesting article about a mission to Mars that you probably haven’t heard about and a few days later a friend of mine linked her blog to a Siemens seminar about manufacturing. An item in each of those links dovetailed into something that struck me.

The entire Mars mission is costing India the equivalent of $75 million dollars and a large part of this is because they have such a glut of incredibly intelligent young engineers that their starting salary is less than one-third of their counterparts in the United States. The team that designed the satellite has two people on it over the age of 31.

Meanwhile I read this quote from the Siemens article.

High-tech factories require a dependable supply of a well-trained, technically adept labor force. By one estimate, America will need over 120 million workers with advanced skills by 2020 – and may be on pace to prepare less than half of what’s required with adequate qualifications.

Not long ago I wrote a blog about how last year China unleashed seven million college graduates onto the world.

It’s my opinion that the Automation Age is coming and if you want a good job you need to have technical skills. Robots will be doing the vast majority of menial jobs in the future.

If the United States cannot provide businesses with a workforce that can do the job, businesses will look elsewhere. That’s the bottom line.

I’m happy to see this incredible wealth of intelligence arising in China and India. I don’t think this has to be a dire threat to the United States. As the world becomes smarter so too will our lives become better. But let’s not kid ourselves; we must continue to produce a highly qualified and technically advanced workforce. If we do not we risk being left behind.

We can’t be complacent. We can’t lie to ourselves and say, well, those Asian and Indian kids might get good grades but they can’t plan, design, and manufacturer a robotic mission to Mars. Trust me, they can.

No matter your political party try to refrain from attacking scientists even when they don’t agree with your political agenda. Read a science article now and again. Download an astronomy app so when you see a bright object in the sky you can identify it.

You might not be able to tell a youngster to become a scientist but you sure can inspire them.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

Camels, the Bible, and Belief

Domesticated CamelsThere’s an article making the rounds about how domesticated camels are mentioned in biblical books all the way from Genesis forward.

Here’s the problem. According to archeological, scientific, and written records; the beasts weren’t domesticated at that time. The first evidence of camels being used in a domesticated fashion comes in the 10th century BCE. This invalidates all biblical accounts which mention domesticated camels before that time.

The biblical scholars who admit this anachronism say that just because camels were interjected incorrectly into early biblical stories doesn’t mean that anything else in the stories is inaccurate. Really? This seems to fly in the face of logic. If the people who wrote the bible decided to add contemporary facts to an existing account doesn’t that mean the entire account is likely fiction? Sure, there could be parts that are accurate but it is clear that whoever wrote the books of the bible in question wrote them hundreds and possibly thousands of years after the events they depict. How can that be considered accurate?

Normally the fact that the bible is filled with inaccuracies is not something that I’d blog about. It’s evident to me that the thing is largely fiction. I’m also not bothered by religious fanatics who claim that the overwhelming evidence of camel domestication is incorrect because the stories in the bible overrule any scientific or archaeological findings. Those people are insane. I can’t reason with them nor will I try.

My problem is with those who want to believe the bible tells true stories but admit that the camel business is a mistake. It’s not one mistake. Domesticated camels are mentioned more than twenty times in early biblical stories at a time before they were actually domesticated. This means that whoever wrote those stories had no idea what they were talking about.

If I wrote a story about the Roman Empire that mentioned combustion engine driven trucks transporting goods across the Empire would you take the rest of my accounts seriously? No, of course not. Everything I wrote about would be immediately cast in doubt, and rightly so.

I see this brain trick more and more these days. Perhaps I’m just getting old and it’s been around for as long as the domesticated camel, or longer. It just seems to me that people are more willing to ignore facts so that they can believe what they want to be true. The old Is-Ought fallacy. I suppose the fact that David Hume came up with this idea some 300 years ago would suggest we are, perhaps, not living in unusual times. Maybe people have always used this little trick of the mind.

Even so, it is something my brain can’t understand. When someone brings facts forward that I had not considered; I adjust my position accordingly. To do otherwise would be to lie to myself. It would be to base my logical conclusions on my beliefs, not the other way around.

Anyway, I realize I’m not going to convince anyone today. Have a great Valentine’s Day!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

 

Are Teachers to Blame for Cheating Students?

Cheating on examThere was an interesting article about what we can learn about teaching from students who cheat. The article references a book called Cheating Lessons: Learning from Academic Dishonesty written by James M. Lang.

The article suggested that nearly 75% of students cheat during college and I would guess the number is closer to 100% if you count things like glancing at a neighbor’s result to see if it matches your own. I doubt there are many people at all who have not engaged in at least the mildest form of cheating at one point or another.

The article suggests that certain types of teachers and methods of teaching engender cheating. I’m going to go into that in a minute but I want to quickly talk about what the article was not about.

While reading the comments on the story it became clear that majority of people thought the article was somehow absolving students of culpability if they cheated. That this was some sort of attack on personal responsibility. The idea being that it wasn’t the student’s fault they cheated, it was the instructor. That’s not what the article was about at all. If anyone chooses to cheat, regardless of the circumstances, they should face the consequences of their actions. Again, that’s not what this article was about in any way but I’m trying to prevent comments that are off topic.

Back to the point of the book and the article. The first point of the article suggested that failure was becoming less of an option. With mandatory federal dollars involved in passing an exam, both teachers and students didn’t see failure as viable. The students had to pass the test for the school district to get the money. This led to an environment where students spent most of their time in repetitive (read boring) drills designed to pass the test but not necessarily designed to actually learn material. The book cited several studies in which students who embraced failure as a part of learning ended up learning more.

Certainly in life we often tell people they cannot succeed unless they are willing to fail. In an educational environment where failure is to be avoided at all costs it makes perfect sense to me that achievement and higher level learning would suffer, counter-intuitive though it is. The book suggests rewarding perseverance and hard work over achievement. Again, this seems illogical but a closer examination seems to me to reveal veracity to the idea.

The best way to find achievement is through hard work and tenacity. If we want achievement and don’t stress the methods necessary to get there; we simply invite, even encourage, cheating. If we strongly encourage hard work, study, and perseverance, achievement will take care of itself.

The second thing discussed in the article is that a stimulating environment produces better results than a boring classroom. This seems to me to be self-evident but I’ve witnessed a number of educators suggest otherwise. Learning should not be fun, it’s hard work, I’ve heard more than once.

The article again references the idea of the government mandated testing which results in a stagnant and dull learning environment. Disengaged students don’t learn and often cheat.

The idea here is more straightforward. Educators who provide a stimulating and interesting environment produce students who cheat less and learn more. I have no doubt this is true. It’s easy to think that students fail more difficult classes at a higher rate; however, I think the premise of the article is correct. That a stimulating, interesting, and engaged teacher often has a class that is far more difficult than other teachers but that the students score higher and learn far more. That’s the goal, isn’t it?

I’m certainly not saying we can eliminate cheating altogether but if we can reduce cheating, increase learning, and make things more fun; isn’t that a noble goal? I’m also not saying that those that cheat shouldn’t be held responsible. I’m saying that we shouldn’t dismiss the idea that cheating might be more the fault of the educator than lack of ethics by the student.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

Manners – Education that Matters

good mannersI just read an interesting article about how private industry has entered the education business with what some people would call Manners Classes.

The classes teach children as young as five things like making eye contact and smiling when they meet people and also which fork to use at the table. They try to teach skills that are necessary for people to get along socially. I didn’t know what to make of the story to begin with. These are the sorts of things that were generally taught to children by their parents and that they need to have these classes outside the home is at first off-putting.

However, there is no doubt in my mind that people are less polite than they used to be. The article suggests that social media bears part of the responsibility in that people communicate without physically being near one another far more than in the past.

Certainly the anonymity of the internet comment section allows people to display the worst kind of vicious and boorish behavior without any consequences. Even the comments below the article in question were often nasty and ill-mannered with the person making the comment not grasping the ironic nature of their missive.

Read a blog, watch a news broadcast, listen to a politician, listen to your neighbor at Christmas dinner tonight and tell me where you see decency. Where do you see people listening to the ideas of those who don’t agree with them? Where do you see people politely discussing their differences and finding reasonable compromises?

If you see what I see, it won’t come as a surprise to you that children lack manners, lack common decency in dealing with others, lack civility, lack the ability to compromise, lack the qualities that will carry the United States through the difficult times ahead.

I’m not opposed to classes that teach politeness and manners, I’m for them. However, I recognize that you can take as many classes on a topic as you want but if you are surrounded by mean-spirited nastiness, with inability to work with those that don’t completely agree with you, with people spewing angry rants who think their words are the only ones that count; well, children are going to follow those examples.

If we want children to learn to work together and accomplish things, if we want children to engage in real discussions and compromises that benefit the United States, if we want children to make the most of their lives; then the best way we can accomplish it is to lead by example.

The next time someone expresses an idea different from what you are advocating, take a moment to examine it for its real value. Look at the idea and forget your preconceived notions. Take a moment to research the facts. Speak politely with the person and express your ideas on why they are wrong. Understand that the world is rarely black and white, that most ideas have at least some merit. Consider that others are looking to you as a leader, as an example.

When you are watching the news or reading a story take the time to examine both sides of the issue with an unbiased perspective. Take a little time to do some research and read up on both ideas. Consider that there might be a compromise that allows for the good ideas from both sides of an argument to best achieve the goal. Consider that the ideas you promulgate might have drawbacks.

In other words, set a good example. That is, if you think being polite and mannered is a benefit to society. If you think people having the ability to work together rather than shouting each other down is a good idea. If you are for implementing your will completely once you have enough power to do so, then perhaps you like the way things are going in this country.

If you think the next generation is impolite, ill-mannered, and unwilling to compromise, then it’s because they learned it from the previous generation (you).

As simply as I can distill it, show some class.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

Trail of Tears Football Banner – Opportunity Knocks

Trail of Tears BannerThere’s an interesting story making the news rounds about a high-school football team that used what is called a break-through banner which taunted their foes using the term Trail of Tears.

The Trail of Tears refers to the events surrounding the 1830 Indian Removal Act in which many Native Americans were forcefully removed from their homes in violation of previous treatise. This law was passed by both the Senate and the House although not with enough votes to override a veto in the House of Representatives. It fell to President Andrew Jackson to sign the law or veto it.

The history books I’ve read on the subject suggest that he was conflicted. The debate on this issue was passionate. In the end, from what I’ve read, Jackson felt that settlers were going to move into the region and getting civil authorities to prosecute these settlers was going to be difficult if impossible. That these settlers and Native Americans would eventually get into conflicts. That the opening of the land and the relocation of the Native Americans was inevitable. In the end he signed the legislation and the supposed voluntary removal led to both Trail of Tears and Second Seminole War.

These two events are stains upon the honor of the United States and it can be argued that the removal act as a whole was a decision that shows the United States in a poor light.

My blog today isn’t about this history, it is not even about the banner, it is about the result of the banner. There are those calling for the resignation of school administrators that allowed the banner to appear. The principal of the school, Tod Humphries, took responsibility for the banner, apologized for the banner, and promised that the entire school would be educated about the Indian Removal Act of 1930.

So, we have two options here. We can vilify Humphries as the person ultimately responsible for the banner or we can both accept his apology and use the moment to educate people about the Trail of Tears and our history.

You can probably guess my position. It appears to me the apology is sincere and I’m willing to take the principal’s word that they will educate students at the school about the Act and its terrible results. I think that Native American leaders should embrace the proposal. They should publicly and vocally accept his apology. Offer to visit the school and speak on the subject. Use the moment as an impetus for good. Shake his hand and vow to make the world a better place.

Can you imagine a world where we embrace those who make mistakes? A world where we move not to blame but to make right? A world where we work with one another even when we disagree?

What do you think should be the result of the banner?

[polldaddy poll=7575738]

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

A ‘D’ Student on the Honor Roll?

Honor RollThere’s an interesting story making the rounds that is the sort that inflames passions. A student in Pasco Middle School of Dade County in the Sunshine state of Florida got 4 A’s, 1 C, and 1 D on his report card which was good enough for a 3.1667 Grade Point Average.

The Pasco Middle School has the cutoff for honor roll students at 3.15, thus young Douglas Tillack received the honor. This apparently upset his mother who thought any student getting a D on their report card could hardly be called an honor student.

It is prominently mentioned early in the article that nearly 50% of all students at the school are on the honor roll. I expected there to be a firestorm of anger in the comments about the lowering of standards in U.S. school. Certainly the article prominently featured a woman with that complaint. There was some of that to be sure but I was surprised by how many people came to the same conclusion as did I. If the cutoff is at 3.15 and the score was 3.16 then he rightfully deserves a place on the honor roll.

If the system was that in addition to the 3.15 you could have no single grade lower than a B then Douglas would have been left off the list. We have to draw lines and it’s important to follow the rules.

I am in agreement with Mrs. Tillack in that the qualifications to be on the honor roll probably need to be increased. She was also upset that on his report card it was written, “Good job“. Upon her complaint this was changed to “Work on civics. Ask for help.” Civics apparently being the subject in which Douglas received a D. This is a reasonable outcome.

This story doesn’t really rouse my passions. I think Mrs. Tillack basically did the right thing except the interviews with the media. She went to the school board and asked for a change.

What I don’t like is the opportunistic outcry from people who think this is symptomatic of the lowering of our standards. Of the “feel good” movement to encourage kids even when they are doing poorly. I don’t see this case as such an example. In this case I see a School Board, duly elected by voters, who decided what was going to qualify a student for the honor roll. I see them following the rules they set out.

If the people of that school district don’t like the qualification being at 3.15 or at including students with D’s and F’s then they have recourse. They vote for the School Board members. They can petition them to change the rules.

Don’t go to the media and air your complaints. Don’t use it as an excuse to attack ideology with which you disagree. It’s your school district and your rules that allowed it to happen. Get out there and make change!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

Unemployment is a Two-way Street

Skill GapI just read a pair of articles, here and here, about the United States’s stubbornly high unemployment rate and the causes thereof. The basic premise is that there are plenty of jobs but young Americans don’t have the skill to fill them, the so-called skill gap.

I’m quickly approaching my 50th birthday and many of my friends are now in fairly high-level positions with their companies. I know a woman who is highly placed at Monsanto, another who one day will likely be the owner of her family chemical company, a good friend is a high-level executive at AT&T, another few friends are in managerial positions at Boeing, and another friend’s wife has a prominent position at Siemens. I don’t mention these people to brag about how well some of my friends are doing, although I’m certainly glad that such high-achievers hang out with a teacher and writer like me!

My point is that there seems to be a fairly strong consensus in the business world that not enough young Americans have the skills necessary to do the work required. At my workplace we’re constantly trying to hire computer technicians and, as often as not, the young hires can’t do the job.

The astonishingly weak scores of young U.S. students in testing indicates this problem is not going away and is, in fact, growing worse.

The world is transitioning to the information age and this is as important as was the industrial revolution that occurred during the 19th century. We need workers who can do the job. These workers will rise through the ranks and become tomorrow’s leaders.

The lack of skills are not simply based in technical knowledge but includes huge problems with writing and communication. Practical experience is woefully inadequate.

How do we resolve this situation? There are no easy answers.

It starts with parents stressing education and achievement to their children. That’s what they are doing in India and China. It’s what Jewish and Asian-American parents have done for generations and it works.

Schools must make sure students know how to learn. This is especially important in the early years of education because technical skills will be taught later. Teachers must demand more from their students, not less.

Higher education must focus more on practical realities and less on theory, for certain fields at least.

Business must make it clear to the education providers what it will take to be employed in the modern world. What sort of skills are necessary. This is already happening as more and more companies reach into universities to hire summer interns and eventually transition them to full-time employees. Apprentice programs in Europe and particularly Germany encourage kids to skip higher education altogether and go straight into the business world and learn a trade.

The important point about this sort of thing is that there is no single solution. There is no overnight change that can be implemented to solve the problem. We must work together to promote various ideas. The solutions I’ve outlined above are merely nascent ideas and not fully detailed plans-of-action.

What we must imagine is what will happen to the United States if we don’t produce enough people to do the job properly. What will happen to our industry, our innovation, our economic power?

It’s not just about being employed, making a living, having quality of life. Unemployment, when it is driven by lack of qualified personnel, is a harbinger of danger for our nation.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

Banning Boobies at School

I love boobiesThere was an interesting case a while back that is slowly making its way through the courts and is now one step short of the Supreme Court.

One of the various methods in which people support breast cancer research these days is a bracelet with the words I (heart) Boobies on it. It’s mainly designed for younger girls who wear that sort of thing and the Easton Area school district in the Keystone State of Pennsylvania decided that it was sexual in nature and banned students from wearing the bracelet.

A pair of girls defied the ban on Breast Cancer Awareness day in 2010 and were suspended for their defiance. Multiple courts have ruled that the district did not prove the bracelets were disruptive with the most recent being a federal appeals court. The district voted to continue the case which means it now heads to the Supreme Court.

The reason I find the case interesting is that it is a clash of my Libertarian ideals. On one hand I think the school has every right to have a dress code and enforce it. On the other hand I think individuals have the right to wear what they choose as long as it is not particularly disruptive.

The school board banned the bracelets originally because the term boobies was determined to be lewd and designed around sexual themes. This violated the dress code restricting sexual suggestive language or images. Several other schools have banned the bracelets as well.

So, where does a Libertarian land on this issue?

The bracelets are clearly not sexually suggestive and I reject that argument out of hand. It’s a bit humorous and certainly mentions the word boobies but it just doesn’t rise to the level of being sexual in my opinion. Likewise there seems to be no evidence that the bracelets were causing disruption in the school.

On the other hand, if the school wants to ban, say, black socks, then that’s their right. They pass a rule and any student who violates it should expect the punishment they get. It’s a stupid rule to be certain but the school has the right to make rules about dress codes. This is clear.

In the end I’m going to side with the district although not because I think the bracelets are lewd or disruptive but simply because the district board has the right to create whatever dress code they desire. If the students and parents of that district object they can elect new representation next time around.

That’s the way representative republics work.

I think what would have been best is if the girls followed the rule that year but started a political campaign to remove those who voted for the ban from office. Getting board members elected who see the stupidity of the rule and reverse it. That’s government by the people for the people.

That’s what we want. The courts have their place to be certain but I think every time we resort to them rather than creating a real political solution we get further away from what the Founding Fathers desired.

If you don’t like the decisions your representative makes; be it local, state, or federal, you have the power of the vote. When we hold people responsible for their decisions, not the rhetoric they spew during the election cycle, we make the country a better place.

Not to say that I don’t love boobies, I do.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

Zero-Tolerance means Zero Responsibility

zero toleranceWe haven’t had many of these zero-tolerance stories in the news lately but there is a big one out now.

In this case teenager Erin Cox went to pick up a friend from a party. The friend was too intoxicated to drive herself. When Cox arrived the police showed up as well and gave a summons to every underage person at the party. Cox violated the schools zero-tolerance policy for students attending parties in which alcohol is served. She was suspended for a few games from her volleyball team and removed as captain.

There’s a lot of outrage about the ruling because Cox was there not to party but to help a friend. That Cox is being punished for helping  her friend avoid driving drunk. I totally agree with the idea that Cox is blameless in this but I want to look at the idea of a zero-tolerance policy and what it really means: Zero responsibility.

The stated idea behind a zero-tolerance policy is to ensure the safety of people, generally students. The danger of drugs is so terrible that we cannot allow any drugs in the school; including aspirin. The horrors of teenage drinking and driving with its attendant accidental deaths is so great we must protect our students by punishing anyone going to a party where alcohol is available.

The reality behind zero-tolerance policies is that adults are afraid to make decisions. Zero-tolerances gives them the opportunity to mete out punishment without taking any responsibility.

Why are they afraid? Because if they give different punishments for the same crime based on circumstances they will be sued by the other parents, accused of favoritism, racism, nepotism, and just about anything else. They could lose their livelihoods in the storm of lawsuits that will follow.

Why are lawmakers afraid to make legislation? They will lose their job. That’s why we have a dozens of Propositions on the ballots when in a Representative Republic our elected officials should make decisions. It is why there is gridlock in Washington D.C.

Why does our legal system rely on mandated sentencing guidelines?

I’ll tell you why. Our society is filled with people more than happy to blame everyone else for what is wrong with their lives. Listen to a politician talk and if lips are moving, someone else is being blamed. It’s not just politicians. It’s everywhere and it’s rampant. Read the comments on any news story about anything. It’s always someone else’s fault.

Anyone who stands up and takes a position is bulldozed in the ensuing blame Olympics. I’m not surprised that schools enact zero-tolerance policies out of fear. I’m not surprised that Cox is being punished for her actions. Zero-tolerance means no one has to make a decision. That all decisions are mandated and that means that the person making the decision can utter the most useful phrase in the United States, “Blame Canada!”

So, in this latest case who are we blaming? The administrators who created this policy out of absolute fear that they’d be punished no matter what decision they made about student drinking. Whose fault is that? Look in the mirror. It’s your fault. It’s my fault. Our willingness to blame everyone but ourselves is to blame.

You don’t like zero-tolerance policies? Then stop blaming everyone else when something goes wrong.

You don’t like our useless government? Blame yourself and start voting better.

You don’t like your job? Go out and get a better one. Educate yourself. Work hard.

Your kid got the raw end of a deal? Tell them that’s life. Watch out in the future.

You don’t like this blog? Stop reading.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Sword of Water ($2.99 for a full length eBook)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt (Out very soon!)

The Education Gap – Adults Count Also

EducationThere was an interesting study recently completed by a group called the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies in which they tested adults in various countries on Math, Reading, and Problem Solving skills.

I recently wrote about how China and India are graduating huge numbers of college students and that the United States is falling behind. That this transition of intelligence from the US to other countries does not speak well of our nation and our chances to continue to be a world leader in scientific advancement, economic power, and military power.

The new study did not survey adults in China and India and I certainly wish that it had. It would give us a more complete picture. However, the U.S. continues to score extremely poorly on education tests pretty much across the board. This is often explained by the fact that in the U.S. we have a very diverse population with large numbers of immigrants. There is truth to this statement as smaller countries tend to have better educational systems simply because they have fewer students to teach.
The nations that dominate us in this most recent survey are generally smaller in population and that means we still have a greater number of highly intelligent people, it’s just that our average is lower.

I’m firmly convinced that our economic power, our scientific acumen, and our military dominance grew largely out of the fact we had a huge number of intelligent people in the United States in the 50’s and 60’s. Some of them born here and educated through our system and others who fled totalitarian regimes.

It matters not that we ended up with a huge advantage in intellect; it only matters that we had it and much of our power today stems from that time.

That advantage is clearly ebbing although we are still the world leader in economics, barely, and military might, by a large margin. It seems to me that if we continue down this path it is inevitable that new inventions, new ideas, economic power, and military power will shift away from the U.S. and to the increasingly smarter nations. That is why I’m disappointed India and China were not included in this survey.

I love the idea that other nations are producing intelligent adults. I’m all for education around the world. I love great ideas and the people who promulgate them. I think these ideas make all our lives better and result in economic bounty for everyone. I just want my country, the U.S. to keep up.

If this survey is to be believed; Americans rank 17th in Problem Solving abilities of the 23 nations surveyed. Yikes.

Here is a look at the entire file on the U.S.

They looked at a number of other factors and it makes for interesting reading including the fact that blacks and Hispanics in the U.S. were a significant drag on the scores. They make up a huge percentage of the worst scores with whites and Asians making up the high-end of the scale. Something the article does not talk about, I’m sure to avoid being accused of racism.

The article also talks about how those with higher intelligence are paid more, as it should be.

I’m not a fear-monger. I think despite these scores the U.S. has not fallen irretrievably behind other nations. We still have a massive population and many intelligent people. We need to focus on getting people to value education. President Obama, Colin Powell, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Sonia Sotomayor, and other highly educated and prominent minorities are making that effort but it in the end it comes down to the parents and the communities.

Those people who value education will succeed in life and those who do not, will not. Those nations that value education will prosper and those who do not, will not. Those who spurn academia, education, science, and intelligence will reap what they sow.

The gauntlet has been thrown down, the rest of the world is gaining, are we up to the challenge?

Time will tell.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Sword of Water ($2.99 for a full length eBook)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

The Tough Teacher is the Best Teacher

Tough Teaching MethodsThere’s a great article in the Wall Street Journal about why it’s better to have a tough teacher than an easy teacher. It goes into a number of reasons why this is the case and I largely agree with one important side-note.

The author recalls a tough music teacher who berated both her and fellow students by calling them idiots, who prodded their hands and arms into the proper physical position with pokes from a pencil. The article then goes on to say that a teacher would be fired for such behavior in the modern classroom.

The article continues by citing a number of excellent studies suggesting that teachers who tell us we are wrong when we make a mistake, that make us memorize fundamental ideas, that don’t mind assigning us exercises which we are likely to fail, and who put us under stress, are almost assuredly helping us.

All this is clearly true. I’ve spoken out a number of times on this subject even suggesting that it was a mistake to allow a wrestler with cerebral palsy win a match. That we did neither the winner or loser of that match any favors.

I’m in almost total agreement with the author and the article. Almost.

The one thing the writer conveniently forgets is that for every well-meaning Mr. K out there who called people idiots not because he thought they were idiots but to encourage them to try harder. For every Mr. K out there who gently prodded with a pencil; our past education system also spawned generations of sadistic, bullying, power-mad teachers who enjoyed mentally tearing down students, played “favorites” to birth sycophantic slaves, and who got sick gratification from doling out corporal punishment. I had  a couple of teachers that fit this mold and I’ll bet most of my readers did as well.

That much of the coddling of students we see today stems from reforms designed by former students who were abused in this fashion.

So, what’s the middle line? How do we get the tough, but loving, teachers who see our potential and drive us to our highest level of achievement while avoiding the sadistic psychopaths who enjoy torturing children?

There are no easy answers here at the Blog of Tom Liberman. I’m not going to stand up and call everyone else an idiot and claim there’s a simple path.

We must churn out people with education degrees who have learned these principles. In other words, we teach people to teach properly. Administrators must carefully interview potential teachers and weed out those with tendencies towards sadism. We must monitor a teacher’s progress in the classroom and, with tough love, help them improve their teaching skills.

We must listen to student and parent complaints and fairly adjudicate them. We must support teachers who practice tough love even if it hurts our feelings. We must fire, after fair warning, those who cross the line.

We must spend time and effort doing what is right, because it’s worth it in the end.

What would be the state of our educational system, our nation, and our world be if we had nothing but great teachers?

What I just wrote seems straight-forward I’m sure. Gosh, Tom, that sounds easy. Let’s get to work. Well, it’s the getting to work that’s the hard part and I like to think Mr. K. would agree. We can’t just espouse what are clearly good ideas and pat ourselves on the back.

No one can instantly make every teacher better. The Cardinals didn’t win the 2013 National League Central Division Crown with one victory (Go Birds!). It starts with one person and one action. The next action you take. The next action I take.

Each action, each decision, each moment of our lives is an opportunity to be better. That’s what being a Libertarian, what being a Objectivist means. Will I make mistakes? Was my Access 2010 class the other day not my best effort? You bet.

Will I try to do better next time? Will I realize the errors I made and correct them? How I answer is the real test.

It’s hard to pay attention to detail, to work at your craft constantly, to accept failure graciously, to change patterned behavior, to improve, to improve some more, to truly listen to ideas outside your ideology, to get better.

No easy solutions here.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Sword of Water ($2.99 for a full length eBook)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Body Mass Index – The BMI Fraud

Overweight GirlAt lunch today I spotted an interesting article about something called BMI (Body Mass Index) which is often used, unfortunately, to measure if a person is healthy or not.

In this case an 11-year-old girl was determined to be unhealthy and overweight because she is 5′ 4″ 124 pounds. A quick perusal of the BMI charts indicate that this is actually a perfectly normal weight and it wasn’t until I read the comments on the story that I found out a new piece of information. When reporting BMI some school districts take into account something called the CDC Growth Chart.

This chart looks at normal children and their weight compared to statistical outliers. In this case the girl is very tall and heavy for her age and, despite being in the normal range of BMI, is considered overweight when the CDC Growth Chart is taken into account.

I’m not against  tracking people’s health and I don’t think there’s necessarily anything completely wrong with either BMI or the CDC Growth chart, if they are taken in context. That’s the problem. They are not taken in context and they are often used to fraudulently claim people are overweight.

Let’s get a little background first.

The BMI was created in the mid 1800s by a Belgian polymath. A polymath is someone who is extremely intelligent and excels in a variety of disciplines. This index is flawed under a number of circumstances particularly very tall people, very short people, small boned people, large-boned people, and people with large amounts of muscle mass.

BMI is used by most insurance companies as a way to determine if a person is unhealthy. Anyone who is so determined must pay higher insurance rates. There is clearly a financial incentive to have as many people listed as unhealthy as possible. In the United States what used to be healthy in 1997, a BMI of 27.5 or less, became unhealthy when the cutoff point went to a BMI of 25 in 1998. This instantly made 29 million Americans switch from the healthy category to the overweight category. And meant that everyone in that group had to pay more money to insurance companies. Everyone in that group became, at least psychologically, a target for the diet industry. It also means that the pharmaceutical companies have 29 million more potential customers for their medicines.

BMI has come to be an accepted measurement tool for a person’s health.

In the story in question, the 11-year-old girl is very tall for her age and quite athletic. She is not overweight nor are many of the people who are classified as such.

I’m not saying stop using BMI and the CDC Growth Chart. They both have real uses in determining if a person is overweight and unhealthy. I’m suggesting that we stop using them as blanket treatments and people who fall into the regions where the tools are no longer accurate be diagnosed with a different chart. Ideally a doctor would examine each person and make the determination on the results of the exam.

In the case of the 11-year-old, her mother was concerned that being labeled overweight would have a negative impact on the girl’s self-esteem. I don’t think this is a frivolous claim. When the administration of an organization makes such a claim there are real emotional effects. I feel certain that the girl’s mother can explain that the BMI scale and the CDC Growth Chart scale are not accurate for certain body types and her daughter has one of those. I don’t think there’s any real damage done but I do think real harm is done by over-reliance on a system that plainly does not work for certain people.

Everyone should have their health screened regularly. A doctor should see everyone and make the overweight determination based on a physical exam; not a chart that, even the most ardent supporters of will admit, fails under some circumstances.

The fact that we have approximately 48.6 million people in this country who don’t have health insurance and are thus not getting regular screenings is a serious issue. All of those people should be getting screened. When they do not they stand a far higher chance of having serious medical issues, expensive medical issues, that could have been prevented. The taxpayer largely ends up paying those bills.

I’m not going to get into a debate about Obama Care so don’t bother commenting pro or con on that issue.

My point is that we are currently relying on flawed systems, BMI and CDC Growth Chart, that are spewing out, in some cases, clearly nonsensical results. I choose to call that bad.

This is dogmatic thinking. Rigid thinking. Wrong thinking. We can do better.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Sword of Water ($2.99 for a full length eBook)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

It’s How You Teach, Not Learning Styles

Teaching MethodsOne of my jobs at Acumen Consulting is being a technical trainer. It’s the thing that until recently has made up the backbone of my work for the last fifteen plus years.

There’s a very interesting article in Scientific American about something called Learning Styles. I’ve always been skeptical of learning styles in general but this article confirmed my doubts. The article attempts to be even-handed, so much so that I think it bends over backwards to soothe those who believe in Learning Styles.

I imagine this post of mine will generate some anger from those who believe in Learning Styles, we’ll see.

The idea behind Learning Styles is that students best learn in different ways and that educators need to take advantage of this. That some students learn by listening, some by watching, and some by doing. That those who learn in particular ways should be taught in that way.

There is no empirical evidence that this is true. It sounds true and that is what makes it attractive to people. We like things that have the ring-of-truth to them. Often times those sort of things are in actuality true. However, just because something sounds like it is true doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be experimentation to prove it.

In this case they’ve finally done some studies and no one has found any connection between a Learning Style and learning faster.

What they’ve found, and what my own experience tells me, is that good teaching methods yield more learning. Period.

I was taught what is called the three-step method. Tell people what you’re going to do, do it, ask them what you’ve just done. It works.

The more senses you get involved in learning the better you are. If you show them that’s a start. If they do it, that’s even better, if they talk about what they just did that’s best. If you are studying don’t use the highlighter. Get a notepad and write down what you would have highlighted, say it out loud as you are writing it.

In the article they mention the type of learner makes no difference when teaching geography. A learner who does best by listening? Bunk. Show them a map and they’ll learn more than if you describe the shape and size of the great state of Missouri. It’s how we teach, not how we learn, if there is even a real “learning style” which I doubt.

Some people are smarter than other people and there are those with severe mental disabilities but if we eliminate those at the ends of the Bell Curve I think it’s more than possible to teach almost everyone critical thinking and analysis. Teach them useful skills so that they can enter adulthood with the ability to work and earn a living. With a population schooled in these tools we can build a better society.

There are good teachers, great teachers, and those less talented. Hopefully you had a great one somewhere along the line. The odds are whatever that great teacher taught is what you are now doing as a career. That’s how important teachers are in the world and our lives. Great teacher inspire us and change us.

So, don’t fall back on the excuse that you’re a visual learner and that’s why you failed to understand something. Ask your teacher to explain it better. You can learn it, you can do it.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water (Fairly priced at $2.99)
Upcoming Release: The Spear of the Hunt