Author Archive

Grappling With the Question: Why Isn’t America Number 1?

dv1940003Do you feel as if you are drowning in bad news? Welcome to the club. And not just generic bad news but the kind of bad news that makes you question whether we, as a nation, have the smarts, the wherewithal, the old-fashioned grit to solve our problems. One of the most alarming items on a long list of woes is that while the rest of the world’s kids seem to be getting smarter, our kids don’t. Right now, in fact, it looks as if we are on track to be one of the only developed countries to have smaller percentages of young people graduate from high school and college than their parents’ generation. This just piles on to all the other bad stuff that we hear about schools and education, which I am not going to repeat. But why? Journalist Amanda Ripley  wanted to understand that question and has written an engaging book that invites us to join her on the journey she followed to get answers: The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way (Simon and Schuster). She began by asking the experts — kids. The problem with talking with kids, though, is that their limited life experience means they can’t always make assessments about how different schools could be. So Ripley did something rather clever. She sought out kids with experiences that allowed them to have a point of comparison — exchange students. She surveyed large numbers of American high school students who went abroad and foreign students who studied here,  then closely followed the experiences of three students — a Pennsylvanian who went to Poland, an Oklahoman who went to Finland and a Minnesotan who went to South Korea. She chose those countries because Finland and South Korea show up as top of the world and Poland has dramatically improved in a relatively short time despite a high rate of child poverty. She chose students who are clearly bright, curious and interested in the world. So what did they see? They saw places where everyone understands that education is important, and organizes schools around that fact in ways that are palpable every day. For example Kim, the Oklahoman who went to Finland, saw that students respected teachers for their knowledge and expertise and matched them in seriousness and focus. Students there know that every one of their teachers has had to sweat out being accepted to highly selective teaching programs the way American students have to sweat out being accepted to MIT. Prospective teachers then have to go through intensive training and student teaching. Back in Oklahoma, Kim’s algebra teacher had majored in physical education at a university that accepts pretty much all-comers. All the kids knew his main job was coaching football; teaching math was what he had to do in order to coach. Tom, the Pennsylvanian who went to Poland, saw teachers read test grades out loud to the class and never saw anyone get the equivalent of an A. Back in Pennsylvania he would have been stunned not to get As for much lower-level work than he saw being done in Poland. And teachers would never have revealed grades publicly — in the United States grades are considered private; low grades shameful. In Poland, struggle and failure seemed to be acknowledged as a normal part of learning. I’m not going to talk about South Korea — there’s such a thing as taking a good thing way too far, and South Korea seems to have done it. If you ever start thinking that American kids are under too much pressure because they take a couple of standardized tests a year, you might want to read about the strain South Korean kids are under. But one thing — Eric found the math classes much less boring than math classes back in Minnesota. All these observations simply raise more questions, and Ripley allows us to follow her as she goes to experts in South Korea, Poland, Finland and the United States to get answers about teacher preparation, national standards and assessment that raise yet more questions about what the purpose of education is, what national policies are most effective and what obligations schools have to kids and kids have to schools. The intellectual journey that we travel with Ripley has profound implications for Americans as we consider what to do to improve education. This isn’t the book to read if you want your pet policies or proposals to be bolstered. But if you are curious why the richest nation in the history of the world can’t seem to get its educational act together, this is a very readable way to enter into the subject. By Karin Chenoweth Writer-in-residence at The Education Trust  

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Lifting Africa up by empowering its youth By Fred Swaniker

fredswaniker[1]Finding opportunities for young people is a critical challenge for Africa, where 62 percent of the population—more than 600 million young people is below the age of 25. With no signs that population growth will slow in the decades to come, it is imperative that Africa leverage the talent and energy of its youth to create dramatically higher levels of prosperity and equality and avoid the latent risks of unemployment and social instability. Today, Africa finds itself in a precarious position on this most important issue. Youth unemployment is three times the continent’s overall average. The World Bank found that young people under 25 represent three-fifths of sub-Saharan Africa’s unemployed population, and 72 percent of the youth population lives on less than $2 a day. To help their families, 30 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 14 are forced to work, which robs them of the educational opportunities that could break their families’ cycles of intergenerational poverty. So what does the average unemployed youth look like in Africa? She is an 18-year-old girl, living in a rural area, literate but not attending school. Building her skills, reaping her energy, and realizing her aspirations would help every African country improve its living standards and ignite economic growth. Empowering her with opportunities to reach and apply her full potential is both our most important challenge and our most vital opportunity. I often put myself in the shoes of that 18-year-old girl, full of promise but with few opportunities to apply it. She is part of a generation of young Africans who are the most globally connected people ever to have lived on the continent. Although they can see the social and economic progress occurring elsewhere in the world, she and her fellow young Africans are largely isolated from that progress. Offering this girl a quality education is critical for her success. However, only two-thirds of youth who start elementary school in Africa graduate, and only one in ten African students continues on to tertiary education. Even when she obtains her university degree, she will most likely have trouble finding a skilled job in Africa which is why the continent loses an estimated 20,000 skilled workers each year to more developed economies. Simply put, Africa is sitting on a time bomb unless it creates its own jobs through the ingenuity, ability, and skill of its own people. It is our job as leaders to ensure that the millions of young people who are willing to put in the work to improve their future have every opportunity to experiment, learn, adapt—and eventually succeed. We must use this significant inflection point in the continent’s history to guarantee that the entrepreneurial nimbleness, grit, and vigor of Africa’s youth can be utilized to help lift the economies of Africa. The way we educate our youth in Africa will make all the difference. Entrepreneurship must be an integral part of every young person’s education. We need to impart not only the technical skills of entrepreneurship, but also the mindset of the entrepreneur, through our formal and informal education systems. To help address this challenge, some colleagues and I founded the African Leadership Academy (ALA) in South Africa to educate thousands of job creators and problem solvers for Africa. We accept 100 young leaders a year to participate in the program. They’re chosen from over 3,000 applicants from over 48 countries on the continent. At the center of our strategy is ALA’s Leadership, Entrepreneurship, and African Studies (LEA) curriculum, which prepares each young leader to creatively confront the continent’s most pressing challenges through interdisciplinary, experiential educational opportunities. In LEA’s series of design challenges, students leverage their ingenuity through team-based exercises to brainstorm, prototype, and test new ideas for addressing tough social problems. Using entrepreneurship case studies, students learn about modern African trailblazers in business, politics, and social affairs, giving them a set of inspirational role models to follow. The young leaders at ALA also have access to capital (in the form of micro venture capital or microfinance) to help them turn their own business concepts into reality. Over the last four years, 45 different ventures have been launched at ALA through this methodology—real, live, small-scale enterprises that will one day form the roots of much larger enterprises that can help create jobs on the continent for our youth. Behind this is our philosophy that if you give a young person a chance to get his or her hands dirty as an entrepreneur, you will inspire and prepare that person to one day launch entrepreneurial ventures on a much larger scale—ventures that can potentially create thousands of jobs. If you do not believe this, ask Mark Zuckerberg how the small computer project he launched in his dormitory at Harvard influenced what eventually became Facebook. Or ask Michael Dell how the small project he launched in his dormitory to assemble computers at the University of Texas when he was 19 influenced what eventually became Dell Computer. The 400 young leaders currently in the ALA system (on campus and at colleges around the world) , hailing from 43 African countries, are truly amazing examples of what the continent’s youth can do with the right mindset, experiences, and skills. They represent the extent of what could be achieved if all young Africans were given access to high-quality entrepreneurial education and practical opportunities to apply their ideas, ambitions, and talents to real-world opportunities and challenges. To create a supply of jobs for Africa’s youth and a wave of empowered young people to fill them, coordinated investments are needed in each part of the educational pipeline, from early childhood through to the entry-level labor market. Indeed, success requires the coalescing of today’s fragmented landscape of youth development programs into a harmonized network of interventions that weave together households, communities, schools, and companies in service of Africa’s youth. The Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator in South Africa is another promising example of how corporations and nonprofits, working together, can provide high-potential young people with the experiences they need to be successful in the marketplace. Harambee works with its South African corporate partners, including Hollard Insurance (one of the largest insurance companies in South Africa), and Nando’s (a large chain of fast-food restaurants), to prepare and place first-time workers in entry-level jobs. Recruited through a text-message-based application system, Harambee participants take part in a three-month bridging program that teaches them functional, technical, and interpersonal skills. Using reality-based simulations, Harambee students learn how to interact in the workplace, manage conflict, and deal with failure all assets proven to increase the success of new employees. Through its partners, Harambee is filling more than 3,000 jobs across South Africa with its graduates—all young people below the age of 25—validating an exciting new human capital model that has the potential to scale and benefit thousands more youth across Africa. It is no coincidence that Harambee is the Swahili word for “all together.” To decisively reorient Africa toward increasing success, equity, and stability, we must fully empower the continent’s greatest untapped resource: its youth. Providing access to entrepreneurial opportunities and experiences will ensure that all young people have the opportunity to develop their talent and realize their dreams. Africa may be known as the continent of gold, oil, manganese, and diamonds, but our true wealth lies in our people, especially our young people. Only by unlocking the potential of this treasure—by giving them a chance to work or to create their own jobs—will we finally achieve the prosperity that our minerals have so far failed to bring to our continent. Founder and CEO African Leadership Academy  

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Memphis Entrepreneur Academy


Checkout Memphis Entrepreneur Academy website  Learn how you can register for our upcoming Passport Memphis program.Memphis Entrepreneur Academy (MEA!) is a groundbreaking and exciting summer program class that transforms young students into real, confident entrepreneurs. Throughout the class, students develop business ideas, write business plans, conduct market research, pitch their plans to a panel of business owners, and actually launch and run their own real, legal, fully formed companies and social movements. Complete with dynamic guest speakers from the local business community and exciting trips to local companies, the fun, projects-based MEA! MEA approach empowers youth to take charge of their futures in a profound way.

Passport Memphis™ is Memphis Entrepreneurship Academy’s 2013-2014 Saturday program. Participants will spend 3 semesters learning about the history and culture of Memphis combined with basic business principles and leadership. The students will develop, launch and implement a passport program that highlights the rich culture and history of Memphis and engages locals and tourists to explore the city. Program Schedule: Fall Semester: Memphis History and Culture Students will learn about Memphis from a business and cultural perspective. Students will research the cultural and business achievements of the city.  Courses includes instruction on formal writing skills and Microsoft Office. (September 21-November 23) Winter Semester: Introduction to Business Students will have an intense and fast-paced study in business principles and learn about entrepreneurship. Subjects include business concept development, marketing, leadership, finance and accounting, and product development.  (December 7-March 1) Spring Semester: Passport Memphis* Students take the information they learned in the fall and winter and develop a business plan for Passport Memphis. The business plan will be presented to the community and the business will launched at the end of the semester.  *Students must have participated in Fall and Winter semesters in order to be a part of the Passport Memphis semester. (March 8- May 24). Program Information:
  • As students learn history, culture and business, emphasis is placed on developing or enhancing communication skills, critical thinking, basic math skills, and public speaking abilities.
  • Using a team building approach, students learn how to work together to create one common goal.
  • Each semester, the students will participate in one community service activity.
Age: 10-17 (Grade 4-12) Location: Memphis Urban League (413 N. Cleveland St.) Time: 8:30 am- 1:30 pm, Saturdays (see schedule for details)

The News!

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Education in the United States

american-education[1]Education in the United States is mainly provided by the public sector, with control and funding coming from three levels: state, local, and federal, in that order. A child education is the biggest assets that a American society has, education has always be the cornerstone to any great society. Beauty, we have been reminded many times, is in the eye of the beholder, and so is education reform. Reforming anything goes far beyond improving it because reform demands fundamental change, not mere tweaking. The notions of education reform spread across an incredible spectrum of opinion from children being in a literally “unschooled” educational context to children being in highly structured schools with explicit standards in every aspect of their educational experience. For some, education reform means incorporating technology into children’s education in every possible way. For others education reform means eschewing technology in favor of developing what we term. For still others education reform calls for incorporating a religious orientation into children’s education with the potential for the wide variety of religious orientations that characterize American society. The possibilities are endless. So education reform obviously has no universally accepted meaning. Conceptions of education reform spring from the complex interactions of the values, experiences, observations and opinions of each one of us. Here in Shelby County Tennessee we have the opportunity to shape education and improve our community and make a major impact on our local economy for years to come. But we have spent millions of tax payer dollars to find a way not to improve education, because of consolidation and being uneducated about the real facts. We have been misled down roads of no return because of people that are supposed to be leading our community and look out for the wellbeing of the children and the children have been an afterthought of this process.canstock2535159[1] Education reform is a hard-to-achieve goal for many who feel American public education isn’t what it ought to be even if they can’t quite nail down concrete solutions and a threat to lovers of the status quo. Adherents to the status quo are obvious opponents of education reform. Genuine education reform is also stymied simply because there is such a broad spectrum of conflicting opinions about just what education reform ought to be. Opposition to education reform is ever more formidable today because the education establishment has morphed into an education-industrial complex of considerable dimension with the electronics and pharmaceutical industries added to the others that produce supplies for schools or have an influence on them, the rise of powerful teacher unions plus ever larger bureaucracies at every level of government, and interest groups with agendas that impact education. The sole essential element in education is the teacher, the key to significant education reform. In the deepest sense, nothing else really matters, not even a school building! Obviously wind, snow, sleet, rain, extreme cold or heat and other external problems or dangers make the importance of secure school building a no-brainer. However, as happens from time to time, if classes have to be held outdoors al fresco in benign weather, students’ education will still move forward when they have the guidance of a competent teacher. Any adult and any savvy student knows that the first thing they look for when they want to learn something is a talented teacher. They might desire all the other trappings of their educational experience: buildings, equipment, etc., but if there is a choice to be made between a competent, talented teacher and any other element in education, the choice will always be for the competent teacher. Education reform requires enrichment of each teacher’s intellectual competence. Education reform also requires putting classroom teachers where they belong, at the center of American public education, with the administration and the rest of the education establishment serving as assistants to the teachers in carrying out their all-important classroom duties. education-3[1]Educational administration is the most burdensome weight on American public education, the part of the establishment that stands most in the way of education reform. The three basic paths to education administration are: 1) promotion of successful athletic coaches; 2) promotion of highly successful classroom teachers; 3) unsuccessful classroom teachers working their way into administration through the required courses in educational administration that will lead to official state certification in administration. And, of course, the old boy network plays a significant role in smoothing those three paths for their favorite buddies. None of those paths comes close to being an ideal means to choose administrators, but even if any of those paths does sometimes produce a competent administrator, that shouldn’t mask an unspoken reality: administrators in general are less competent to do their assigned job; administering, than teachers are to do theirs: teaching. This is an inherently unhealthy situation: the less competent and more highly paid to boot exercising authority over the more competent. Proposals for education reform virtually never recognize, let alone attempt to address, this severe problem. Attempting education reform without scrapping the prevailing top-down false industrial model of education, with teachers as assembly line workers on a factory floor, supervised by less-than-competent administrators, is fatuous. imagesCA9HOXHBA favorite mantra of the education establishment has been: “We don’t teach subjects; we teach children.” That, in a nutshell, is an unconscious confession of a key weakness of American public education: the exaltation of methodology over content. With vigorous education reform, professional educators will be able to turn away from their enfeebling mantra: “We don’t teach subjects; we teach children “and proclaim “we teach subjects to children.” Logically, content — that is subject-matter — is at the center of all education, but without thorough education reform, the American education establishment will continue to ignore this essential reality, focusing instead on methodology, how subjects are taught. Content obviously changes over time, with some aspects changing rapidly with new developments and discoveries, but the underlying aspects have staying power, reaching over decades and even centuries or millennia. Changes in content are likely to be an evolution from older knowledge. Newton and other noted intellects, when praised for their great discoveries, have said that their discoveries were possible because they “stood on the shoulders of giants.” Methodology changes rapidly, descending into education faddism. It is generally imposed top-down on teachers and is fueled not only by theorists in schools of education but also by commercial education interests book publishers, for instance for whom ever changing methodologies are a choice means to fatten their bottom lines. Education reform requires a mastery of content with methodologies that don’t water down that content or fritter away classroom time so that the content gets lost in the process. intro[1] Schools are the designated vehicles through which the society arranges to perpetuate, and hopefully improve, itself. The schools are expected to provide a continuous flow of citizens prepared with the knowledge, skills and values regarded as necessary and desirable. When education reform is deemed important, society looks to the schools to provide it. Unfortunately, schools are no more eager for education reform than are police departments for police reform. Since reform requires fundamental change, not just mere tweaking, the potential pain engendered by reform makes self-reform unlikely. Theoretically, parents might be looked upon as likely spearheads for education reform, and there are indeed a fair number who throw themselves into the fray, but the majority doesn’t. The reasons are many, and not hard to understand. The most basic is that most parents are usually satisfied with the education their children receive. The parents are likely to have received a highly similar education; one tailored to American culture, and sees no need for fundamental change. Many parents don’t want to rock the boat, fearing that outspokenness on their part could bring retribution upon their children, either from the schools themselves or from the satisfied majority. Some parents are in awe of any governmental authority, while others have never learned the job of parenting and/or just don’t care. In the current economy there are many parents who do care but who are enmeshed in long, involved work schedules that preclude them from getting involved in education reform. The impetus for education reform will come first from dedicated parents who can recognize what the problems are and are willing to take steps to deal with them. American society needs education reform. To say it truly wants education reform is more problematical because American culture resists the rigorous education that prevails in the schools of our worldwide competitors from Ireland through to Japan. As a society built on immigration, America has been a proverbial melting pot, flawed perhaps in various ways, but a rich amalgam, nevertheless, and one that has blessed the world through the dynamic national personality that developed here. Throughout its history America has been the beneficiary of a brain drain from foreign shores to our country, the most spectacular probably having been the towering intellect of Albert Einstein, along with scores of other great intellects who fled the moral insanity of Nazi Germany. Now, however, the positive (for America) brain drain has gone into reverse, with an outflow, a brain drain from America back to the old world, driven in no small part by America’s broken public education, a system sorely in need of education reform. The question our nation must face is: Do we have not just the will to change, but the energy to do it!imagesCAW7AWHW Education reform should produce an ideal program, but what does that mean an ideal program? A little reflection should remind us that since children obviously vary in countless ways particularly by interest, ability and personality — what’s ideal for one child may well not be ideal for another. So education reform must take these and sundry other differences into account. Yet, as a nation with a large and diverse land, education reform also demands that the nation must have a common core so that we can all talk to each other. America’s motto “e pluribus unum” one from many” epitomizes this need, this great American ideal. Education reform demands that we have both a core curriculum — an American standard that joins us all together and an additional program suited to each individual so that all children can develop their abilities and interests to the benefit of themselves and their families, producing a strong, prosperous society that is both diverse and united.  Unfortunately, education reform gets deflected, even subverted, through supporting and adopting false solutions. Support of false solutions is largely sincere, but sincerity won’t make the solutions better, and some of the support is self-serving. For example, small classes are extolled almost universally as the ideal for classroom effectiveness in the popular mind, the sine qua none of education reform. Because class size governs the number of teachers needed in a school, it becomes the most significant element in the school budget. When small class sizes are mandated across the board, costs rise precipitously while not necessarily increasing educational effectiveness. The problem is that America has lulled itself into confusing the comfort factor of small classes with educational need. •Small classes are needed when children are very young: the younger the children, the smaller the classes necessary. •Small classes are needed for children with particular problems: intellectual, emotional, behavioral, and physical. •Larger classes are desirable for the most intellectually gifted students, who are afforded the opportunity for the interchange of ideas with each other. Education reform would bring rationality to the fore, adjusting class sizes to the needs and capacities of the students, and other relevant factors, such as safety in laboratories, etc.teacher The first step in achieving real education reform is a sober recognition of the phalanx of opposing forces — a virtual Great Wall of China: teacher and administrator unions and associations as well as a variety of other professional education associations who see education reform as a threat to their personal and professional comfort; the plethora of commercial interests who fear education reform would disrupt their profits as suppliers to schools; laws on the local, state and national levels designed to thwart real/true substantive education reform; apathy on the part of too many citizens; an American cultural resistance to any substantive change in the way schools are structured and operated. After recognizing the forces opposing education reform, we can then turn to the avenues actually open now to work for change. The home school movement and the charter school movement, along with magnet schools, are current realities that can and must be built upon. In some instances, there has been momentum towards enriching the teacher base through having qualified professionals join teaching staffs. There has also been at least some move towards allowing parents a wider choice through vouchers, however limited at present, a small step toward the goal of recognizing a free education as an entitlement that belongs to children, not to a school bureaucracy. Now that would be real education reform!

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The American Dream

united-states-of-america[1]The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States, a set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility achieved through hard work. In the definition of the American Dream by James Truslow Adams in 1931, “life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement” regardless of social class or circumstances of birth. The idea of the American Dream is rooted in the United States Declaration of Independence which proclaims that “all men are created equal” and that they are “endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights” including “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” In the last few years we have seen The American Dream, as fallen apart cause of our lack of morals. Not cause of different religions or skin color, but because we have failed to remember what made this nation great hard work, a real fair chance at opportunity. We have lost ideal of what it takes to be an American. Some my ancestors came here in chains, some came here from the inland of Sicily and Ireland. I stand on the shoulders of my family. “I am standing on the shoulders of the ones who came before me I am stronger for their courage; I am wiser for their words I am lifted by their longing for a fair and brighter future I am grateful for their vision, for their toiling on this Earth” by Joyce Johnson Rouse. I have pray that I have honored my ancestors with my work and what I have contribute to this world. I must make America brighter for children and grand-children so some day they can remember who they are and stand up straight. To their cost, American conservatives have forgotten Winston Churchill’s famous distinction between left and right—that the left favors the line, the right the ladder. Democrats do indeed support policies that encourage voters to line up for entitlements—policies that often have the unintended consequence of trapping recipients in dependency on the state. Republicans need to start reminding people that conservatism is about more than just cutting benefits. It’s supposed to be about getting people to climb the ladder of opportunity and giving a fair chance to pull you up by your boot straps.Brazos-Ranch-Wind-Turbine_-Wikimedia-620x405[1]Inequality and social immobility are, of course, related. But they’re not the same, as liberals often claim. Let’s start with inequality. It’s now well known that in the mid-2000s the share of income going to the top 1 percent of the population returned to where it was in the days of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby. The average income of the 1 percent was roughly 30 times higher than the average income of everyone else. The financial crisis reduced the gap, but only slightly—and temporarily. That is because the primary (and avowed) aim of the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy since 2008 has been to push up the price of assets. Guess what? The rich own most of these. To be precise, the top 1 percent owns around 35 percent of the total net worth of the United States—and 42 percent of the financial wealth. (Note that in only one other developed economy does the 1 percent own such a large share of wealth: Switzerland.) By restoring the stock market to where it was back before the crisis, the Fed has not achieved much of an economic recovery. But it has brilliantly succeeded in making the rich richer,and their kids. According to Credit Suisse, around a third of the world’s thousand or so billionaires in 2012 were American. But of these, just under 30 percent were not self-made—a significantly higher proportion than for Australia and the United Kingdom. In other words, today an American billionaire is more likely to have inherited his or her wealth than a British one is. The American Dream has become a nightmare of social stasis. According to research by Pew, just under 60 percent of Americans raised in the top fifth of incomes end up staying in the top two fifths; a fractionally higher proportion of those born in the bottom fifth—60.4 percent—end up staying in the bottom two fifths. This is the America so vividly described by Charles Murray in his bestselling book Coming Apart. At one end of the social scale, living in places with names like “Belmont,” is Murray’s “cognitive elite” of around 1.5 million people. They and their children dominate admissions to the country’s top colleges. They marry one another and cluster together in fewer than a thousand exclusive neighborhoods the enclaves of wealth that Murray calls the SuperZips. At the other end, there are places like “Fishtown,” where nobody has more than a high school diploma; a rising share of children live with a single parent, often a young and poorly educated “never-married mother.” Not only has illegitimacy risen in such towns, so has the share of men saying they are unable to work because of illness or disability or who are unemployed or who work fewer than 40 hours a week. Crime is rampant; so is the rate of incarceration. In other words, problems that used to be disproportionately associated with African-American communities are now endemic in the trailer parks and subprime slums inhabited by poor whites. You get born there; you stay there—unless you get sent to jail. job_search_pitfalls[1]What has gone wrong? American liberals argue that widening inequality inevitably causes falling social mobility. This was what Alan Krueger, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, had in mind back in January, when he came up with the “Great Gatsby Curve,” showing that more unequal countries have less social mobility. (Hang on, wasn’t Gatsby a self-made bootlegger?) But to European eyes, this is also a familiar story of poverty traps created by well-intentioned welfare programs. Consider the case highlighted by Gary Alexander, Pennsylvania’s former secretary of public welfare. A single mom with two young kids is better off doing a part-time job for just $29,000—on top of which she receives $28,327 in various benefits—than if she accepts a job that pays $69,000, on which she would pay $11,955 in taxes. Another good example is the growth in the number of Americans claiming Social Security disability benefits. Back in the mid 1980s, little more than 1.5 percent of the population received such benefits; today it’s nearly 3.5 percent. Nor (as used to be the case) are the recipients mainly elderly. Around 6 percent of the population aged between 45 and 54—my age group—are SSDI beneficiaries. Payments to disabled workers average $1,130 a month, which works out as $13,560 a year—just $2,000 less than a full-time wage at the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour. Maybe we really are unhealthier than we were 30 years ago, though the data on life expectancy tell a different story. Maybe work really has got more physically demanding, though the shift from manufacturing to services also suggests otherwise. The more credible possibility is that it has become easier for the mildly unwell or unfit to get classified as disabled and to opt for idle poverty over working poverty, which pays only slightly better and means working with that niggling backache or mild depression. Significantly, after two years on disability benefit, you qualify for Medicare, swelling the ever-growing number of beneficiaries of the federal government’s most expensive welfare program. Right now, federal spending on health care, according to the Congressional Budget Office, is around 5 percent of GDP, but it is forecast to double by the 2040s. Needless to say, this reflects the great demographic shift that is inexorably driving up the share of seniors in the population. But consider how the combination of an aging population and welfare programs is working to reduce the resources available to young people. According to the Urban Institute, the current share of federal spending on the young is around 10 percent, compared with the 41 percent that goes on the non-child portions of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Per capita government spending—including state and local budgets—is roughly double for the elderly what it is for children. Perhaps not surprisingly, the child poverty rate is more than double the poverty rate for seniors. Ask yourself: how can social mobility possibly increase in a society that cares twice as much for Grandma as for Junior? The only mystery that remains is why this generational conflict has not yet become a serious issue in American politics. Bafflingly, young voters still tend to line up with the very organizations that seem most intent on ratcheting up the future liabilities of government (not to mention the teenage unemployment rate)—notably the public-sector unions.Senior couple on cycle ride in countryside Writing in 1960, the economist Friedrich Hayek made a remarkable prediction about the ultimate consequences of the welfare state. “Most of those who will retire at the end of the century,” he wrote, “will be dependent on the charity of the younger generation. And ultimately not morals but the fact that the young supply the police and the army will decide the issue: concentration camps for the aged unable to maintain themselves are likely to be the fate of an old generation whose income is entirely dependent on coercing the young.” Hayek was right that by 2000 the baby boomers would expect the young to bear the rising costs of their protracted and generously funded retirements. Almost alone among postwar economists, he saw the generational conflict implied by the welfare state. But he was wrong about how the younger generation would react. Far from rounding up the old and putting them in camps, it is the young who are the docile victims. One possible explanation for this docility lies in the other main reason for declining social mobility: the disastrous failure of American high schools in the places like Murray’s imaginary Fishtown. Despite a tripling of per-pupil expenditure in real terms, American secondary education is failing. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, three quarters of U.S. citizens between the ages of 17 and 24 are not qualified to join the military because they are physically unfit, have criminal records, or have inadequate levels of education. A third of high school graduates fail the mandatory Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. Two fifths of students at four-year colleges need to take remedial courses to relearn what they failed to master in high school. In international comparison, the United States is now somewhere in the middle of the league table for mathematical aptitude at age 15. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s most recent Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) study was damning: in math, the gap between the teenagers in the Shanghai district of China and the United States is as large as the gap between American teenagers and Albanians.imagesCAT72048 But the real shocker is the differential between rich and poor kids. At the ages of 4 to 5, children from the poorest fifth of homes are already 21.6 months behind children from the richest homes in the U.S., compared with 10.6 months in Canada. The proportion of 15-year-olds who are functionally illiterate (below level 2 in PISA tests) is 10.3 percent in Canada. In the U.S. it is 17.6 percent. And students from the highest social-class groups are twice as likely to go to college than those from the lowest classes. Meanwhile, there are disturbing signs that America’s elite educational institutions are reverting to their old role as finishing schools for the children of a hereditary elite—the role they played back when F. Scott Fitzgerald was partying at Princeton. In a disturbing critique of Ivy League admissions policies, the editor of the American Conservative, Ron Unz, recently pointed out a number of puzzling anomalies. For example, since the mid-1990s Asians have consistently accounted for around 16 percent of Harvard enrollments. At Columbia, according to Unz, the Asian share has actually fallen from 23 percent in 1993 to below 16 percent in 2011. Yet, according to the U.S. census, the number of Asians aged between 18 and 21 has more than doubled in that period. Moreover, Asians now account for 28 percent of National Merit Scholarship semifinalists and 39 percent of students at CalTech, where admissions are based purely on academic merit. Perhaps those in charge of Ivy League admissions have good reasons for their decisions. Perhaps it is right that they should do more than simply pick the most academically talented and industrious students who apply. But the possibility cannot be rejected out of hand that, whatever their intentions, the net effect of their pursuit of “diversity” is in fact to reduce yet further this country’s once unique social mobility. Nor can we dismiss the hypothesis that the “legacy” system may be the key here, as the cognitive elite discreetly rig the game in favor of their offspring with well-timed benefactions.black_cowboys_001[1] To turn The American Dream around and place America back at the head of the class we need to truly begin to educate the people. Invest in the American family and its people. Every night I pray that God can please help rebuild this great nation and return give us back our pride, dignity and hope for a better future for The United States of America! God Speed!

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How Corporations Are Helping To Solve The Education Crisis

images[3]“It’s not just about giving money anymore” Mark Zuckerberg.  Companies are finding new ways to bake fixing American education into their corporate DNA. Over the past decade, climate change evidence has triggered thousands of corporations to think and act beyond the boundaries of policy. Today’s education statistics do the very same thing. Looking more closely at the facts, it’s not difficult to comprehend why. We’re in a situation where a quarter of our children drop out of high school every year. Two-fifths of those who do graduate leave high school unprepared for college or career, while 57% (PDF) lack comprehension of even remedial math. Apparently the national disinterest in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math) starts early, as over 61% (PDF) of middle schoolers would rather take out the garbage than do their math homework. This data is particularly troublesome when you consider that in the past 10 years, growth in STEM jobs has been three times greater than that of non-STEM jobs. Going forward, this trend is expected to continue. The National Science Foundation estimates that 80% of the jobs created in the next decade will require some mastery of technology, math, and science. A recent McKinsey study shows that two-thirds of those jobs don’t even exist today. Education is key to keeping kids confident and America competitive. There is a clear business case for solving this crisis, which is why education is fast becoming a front and center issue for talent-hungry corporations, many of whom view the problem as an opportunity. Just as with environmental sustainability, corporate investments in education get deeper all the time. Intel has to date given $1 billion to support education. Target, Cisco, and IBM are poised to do the same. Goldman Sachs, AT&T, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg have each donated $100 million or more in recent years. But how effective are these investments in the grand scheme of things? Where’s the ROI? That depends on the strategies employed. “Corporations have a role beyond just providing money,” says Sandi Everlove, interim CEO at Washington STEM, a statewide nonprofit dedicated to advancing STEM. “There’s this tendency to think that we can throw money at the problem and fix it. That’s simply not true. We need capacity building–companies sharing their unique resources in order to fill critical gaps.” As Everlove indicates, it’s one thing to “education wash,” donating to a few choice causes and generating some positive publicity. But it’s quite another thing to strengthen a fledgling education system by lending otherwise proprietary human, technical, and intellectual capital. Smart companies are finding that the more they do so, the more momentum and demand they create for what they provide, and the smarter they get about innovating around what’s truly needed in the education space. It’s a virtuous cycle of self-improvement. raising-the-bar-education[1]Innovating Education,together with corporate partner Microsoft, Washington STEM aims to elevate the learning experiences of one million kids, bringing next-generation ideas, technologies, and curriculum to classrooms across the state. The alliance demonstrates what can happen when private and public entities coordinate agendas to drive needed change. “As a partner, Microsoft does a lot more than give us dollars,” Everlove says. “They really get into the community, roll up their sleeves and help address education problems that are easy for them to solve, but huge for schools to achieve.” That’s part of a larger social innovation strategy at Microsoft. The company recently shifted all of its corporate citizenship efforts toward closing what it characterizes as the opportunity divide–a chasm that separates those who prosper in our society from those who don’t. In addition to providing a profitable portfolio of products like Office 2010 and Kinect for Xbox 360 that help bring education alive for kids, the company also partners with hundreds of NGOs around the world to help young people gain access to the tools they need in order to realize their full potential. Thus far Microsoft’s Partners in Learning program has channeled $500 million toward education systems around the world, reaching more than 196 million teachers and students in 114 countries. “Our goal is to embrace the bigness of the challenge that government and society face in terms of transforming education in a holistic way,” says Vice President of Microsoft Worldwide Education Anthony Salcito. “It’s not just about technology. It’s about bringing innovation to schools. How do you personalize the education experience? How do you incorporate new modes of classroom design and curriculum, or think about assessment differently? How do you change a kid’s vision of his future?”bussines-kid-niño-canicas-empresario-marble-king-kid-play-marbles-niños-originales-tkoth-original-kids-the-kings-of-the-blog-creative-blog-for-parents[1] The questions Salcito contemplates are fundamental to the process of reinventing a system that no longer meets the needs of the population it serves. Today’s public schools were designed for 19th-century industrialism, not an era of globalization and interconnectivity. Evidence of this inadequacy abounds: Standards and textbooks have grown outdated. Campuses are becoming dreary and homogenized. Teachers are increasingly disenfranchised. Students remain largely uninspired. And as a result, corporations are hard pressed to recruit new talent. These issues require more than federal funding and moderate reforms. “This is a large task and it can’t be put off,” says Salcito. “We have to acknowledge that learning is shifting away from content memorization to a more relevant, personalized, skill-based foundation. We have to dig deeper, think harder and get more engaged to determine what change is needed and then push the pieces forward. We also have to bring a culture of sustainability to the process of transforming education.”’ As part of its sustainable approach to transforming education, Microsoft provides an ecosystem of building blocks that allow great ideas to emerge, grow, and spread. For instance, Microsoft’s Imagine Cup encourages students to utilize technology to solve the world’s toughest problems, many of which revolve around education. The company’s Partners in Learning for Schools and Partners in Learning for Teachers programs challenge educators to innovate within the school system. Grants, social capital investments, and an innovation tool kit help bring winning concepts to scale. An open-source software platform allows people to build new educational content (i.e. apps, tools, and games) that make products like Kinect and Windows Phone all the more valuable. Aside from making it a smarter and richer company, Microsoft’s “opportunity divide” mission has also revitalized the corporate culture. According to Senior Director of Community Affairs Akhtar Badshah, employees have never been so engaged. “The new focus on education has really energized our people,” says Badshah. “Aside from giving them a common purpose, it has encouraged them to participate in some very creative and enterprising ways.” Badshah says that in addition to volunteering over 383,000 hours and raising over $100.5 million for good causes last year, Microsoft employees are also responsible for the ideas behind some of the company’s signature education programs. One example is TEALS (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools), an initiative that brings Microsoft employees to high school computer science classes across the country, giving school’s access highly qualified teachers without incurring training or development costs. “The idea that as a company, we are helping to fill a massive gap is really a catalyst for us,” says Badshah. “We can now better measure, manage, and grow our impact, and feel great about what we are doing at the same time.” We expect to see many more companies invest deeply in education, not simply as a cause du jour, but as a means of innovation and marketplace survival.

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The Art of War

800px-Inscribed_bamboo-slips_of_Art_of_War[1]The Art of War is an ancient Chinese military treatise attributed to Sun Tzu, a high-ranking military general, strategist and tactician. The text is composed of 13 chapters, each of which is devoted to one aspect of warfare. It is commonly known to be the definitive work on military strategy and tactics of its time. It has been the most famous and influential of China’s Seven Military Classics, and “for the last two thousand years it remained the most important military treatise in Asia, where even the common people knew it by name.” It has had an influence on Eastern and Western military thinking, business tactics, legal strategy and beyond. Sun Tzu considered war as a necessary evil that must be avoided whenever possible. The war should be fought swiftly to avoid economic losses: “No long war ever profited any country: 100 victories in 100 battles is simply ridiculous. Anyone who excels in defeating his enemies triumphs before his enemy’s threats become real”. According to the book, one must avoid massacres and atrocities because this can provoke resistance and possibly allow an enemy to turn the war in his favor. For the victor, “the best policy is to capture the state intact; it should be destroyed only if no other options are available”. Sun Tzu emphasized the importance of positioning in military strategy. The decision to position an army must be based on both objective conditions in the physical environment and the subjective beliefs of other, competitive actors in that environment. He thought that strategy was not planning in the sense of working through an established list, but rather that it requires quick and appropriate responses to changing conditions. Planning works in a controlled environment; but in a changing environment, competing plans collide, creating unexpected situations.

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10 Things America Must Change to Turn the Country Around by Kelly D. Price

bald eagle and american flagAmerica is facing many problems, leading to a downward spiral towards economic collapse and colonialism (by foreign control). Most Americans are oblivious of the facts, but need to know them if we are ever to recover as a nation. Here are just ten problems America is currently facing. Be warned–this list may shock you! 1. Our Pledge of Allegiance states we are “one nation under God” therefore if someone is offended by the word God that isn’t our problem: it’s theirs!  We aren’t asking anyone to accept our ways, but one person’s problem is only one person’s problem, not the rest of society. 2. Thanks to NAFTA many of our other trading partners have relocated facilities to Mexico to circumvent other trade agreements with the U.S. 3. Illegal immigrants in the U.S. have increased to 12 million today from 3.9 million in 1993, accounting for an overall increase of over 300 percent. 4. Thanks to the WTO, since 1993 we have lost jobs: 561,000 in computer and electronic products; 153,000 in apparel and accessories; 139,000 in administrative support services; and 128,000 in professional, scientific and technical services just to name a few. (Numbers current as of 2008) 5. We give China free reign to enter our county to sell its products to us as cheaply as they want until we can’t compete in our own country due to Chinese mercantilism. 6. The U.S-China trade deficit is exploding, and more job losses are forecast every year. 7. American manufacturing has lost over 3 million jobs in the past 10 years as U.S. companies have also moved to Mexico, China and other foreign countries for lower wages and lax regulations 8.  300,000 American family farms have been put out of business. Overall, net farm incomes are down 13 percent 9. States fight each other to the benefit of foreign companies. We give foreign owned companies subsidies to insource their production in the United States. These foreign owned factories provide very few American jobs in relation to their output since nothing is produced in these factories – they are merely assembly facilities that put together imported foreign parts whose total cost winds up being much less to produce. We are shooting our own American-owned auto facilities in the foot for a few menial jobs in foreign-owned car plants. American subsidies give foreign car companies an even greater advantage against our few remaining companies 10. Be Proud to be a AMERICAN! We start becoming Americans again and telling our elected officials who is the boss, and who is the employee.  Somehow this has been “lost in translation” and we need to change this quickly.  It starts with the American idea of  Democracy! , because if it doesn’t then they wouldn’t be in office.  This one recognition will start the turn around, which we desperately need in our nation today! American ideas and products were valued around the world because of their quality that came from our ingenuity & hard work, as well as our values, traditions and customs. America you can’t simply give up on our youth and children. When my  generation has left this world we would have been the generation that could have saved and turned this nation around. We must not let other nations act with predatory intent as they currently are now, which prevents us from competing on a global scale. Our “free trade” agreements are only giving our competitors the freedom to deliver their goods to our country with prices deliberately devalued to predatorily put our companies out of business. This has made us jobless – a servant economy reliant on foreign debt and foreign products. It is time we started negotiating new trade deals with these foreign nations, ones that will benefit American workers and American employers. We need new deals that will make it profitable to manufacture and produce in the United Sates again. If we do not, our nation may never recover from the damage we are doing to ourselves. God Speed!  

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The American public’s dissatisfaction with D.C. has reached new heights

DC[1]By Mark Murray, Senior Political Editor, NBC News The American public’s dissatisfaction with Washington has reached new heights, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, as the political world continues to fight the same intractable battles over the budget, health care and immigration. A whopping 83 percent of Americans disapprove of Congress’ job, which is an all-time high in the survey. What’s more, President Barack Obama has seen his job-approval rating dip to its lowest level since August 2011, when the debt-ceiling showdown wounded almost every Washington politician. And nearly six-in-10 voters say they would vote to defeat and replace every single member of Congress if they had such an option on their ballot ­ another all-time high. “There is a palpable unhappiness with Washington,” says Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, who conducted this survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff. “Outside the Beltway, voters are saying, ‘You don’t get it.'” Democratic pollster Fred Yang, who partners with Hart, paraphrases from Shakespeare to describe the public’s mood: “Now is the summer of our discontent.” Why is the public unhappy with Washington? Asked to explain their dissatisfaction, respondents cite (in order) partisanship and the inability of Congress to get things done, middle-class Americans being ignored and the Obama administration’s policies and leadership. But there’s a stark political divide: Democrats and independents blame partisanship and congressional gridlock as their chief culprit, while Republicans blame the president. Still, there are signs that Republicans are shouldering more of the blame for the situation in the nation’s capital: just 22 percent say they believe the GOP is interested in unifying the country in a bipartisan way, versus 45 percent who say the same about Obama. And while 56 percent of Americans say they think congressional Republicans are too rigid in their dealings with the president, a plurality of GOP respondents say congressional Republicans are too quick to give in to Obama. “In their mind, Republicans have been too quick to give in to Obama,” says McInturff, the GOP pollster, about the views of self-identified Republicans in the poll. “For the average Republican House member, he or she is more likely to be concerned about a primary than general election.” When it comes to immigration reform, 44 percent of adults (including 49 percent of Latinos) say they would blame Republicans if Congress doesn’t pass legislation by the end of its current term. By comparison, 21 percent of respondents (including 21 percent of Latinos) would blame the president, and 14 percent would blame congressional Democrats. Additionally, 59 percent of all adults (and 79 percent of Latinos) say they believe the notion that border security must precede immigration reform ­ a view espoused by many congressional Republicans ­ is an excuse to block reform, while only 36 percent say it’s a legitimate excuse. 1_wDc_lg[1]President Obama’s approval rating drops to 45 percent The poll also shows that the president’s overall job-approval rating stands at 45 percent, a 3-point drop from last month, although it’s within the poll’s margin of error.
A new poll suggests Americans are more dissatisfied with their government than ever before. NBC’s Tracie Potts reports.
That rating is one point off from his all-time presidential low that came in Aug. 2011. “He’s in a little bit weaker shape,” says McInturff. The drop is explained in part by an erosion in support among African-American respondents ­– 78 percent approve of his job, down from 88 percent in June and 93 percent in April. (The NBC/WSJ pollsters speculate that George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin could explain this drop, especially given African-Americans’ increased pessimism about the nation¹s direction, according to the survey. The poll was conducted in the days following the verdict and includes responses that were received before and after the president’s recent comments addressing Martin’s death.) Also in the poll, a combined 44 percent say they are either “optimistic and confident” or “satisfied and hopeful” that Obama will do a good job during the rest of his second term in office ­ down 7 points from January 2013, at the beginning of the president’s second term. By contrast, a combined 56 percent say they are either “uncertain” or “pessimistic” about the remainder of his second term ­ up 8 points since January 2013. And just 34 percent believe the president’s health-care law is a good idea, versus 47 percent who say it’s a bad idea, which is virtually unchanged from June. But by 51 percent to 45 percent, respondents say congressional Republicans should stop trying to block the law instead of doing everything they can to prevent it from being implemented. Congress’ approval drops to 12 percent Meanwhile, only 12 percent of respondents approve of Congress’ job, which is tied for its lowest standing in the history of the poll. And 83 percent disapprove, which is the highest-ever rating for the legislative branch.120307_join_session_congress_reuters_605[1] What’s more, 57 percent of registered voters say they would rather elect a new person to Congress than their current representative, and an equal number would replace every member of Congress if they could vote to do so ­ the highest percentage on this question dating back to 2010. Despite these findings, voters don¹t have a clear-cut political preference for next year’s midterms: 44 percent want a Democratic-controlled Congress, and another 44 percent want a GOP-controlled one.  

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More Fathers Are Leading Single-Parent Households, Study Says by Darren Sands

FatherandSon[1]Disparity reflects society’s cultural changes Single fathers may be younger, poorer and less educated than married ones, but they raise eight percent of households with children — that’s nine times higher than the same amount of single-father homes in 1960. Those numbers are according to Pew Research Center’s analysis of Decennial Census and American Community Survey. “The number of single father households has increased about ninefold since 1960, from less than 300,000 to more than 2.6 million in 2011,” Pew’s Center for Social and Demographic Trends said in a report. “In comparison, the number of single mother households increased more than fourfold during that time period, up to 8.6 million in 2011, from 1.9 million in 1960.” The trend has been ticking upward, what with more and more women choosing to, among other factors, advance their careers. “For a long time, men saw parenthood as a package deal,” said Stephanie Coontz of the non-profit Council on Contemporary Families, according to the Los Angeles Times. “If they didn’t have a wife to help them, they tended to not be interested or not feel capable of dealing with the kids.” “We’ve seen a real decline in the number of dads who walk away from their kids after divorce,” Coontz said. Some men have also asserted their rights as parents outside of marriage.”

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