Adventures in Medicine

Two notes:

1. Unless your problem is pretty straight forward, like, say, a piece of rebar protruding from your chest,  DON’T mention it to the doctor. He will send you in for tests. You may come out alive, but your dignity will not survive. And let’s not even talk about money.

2. Speaking of money: I saw four no doubt well-compensated (as they should be) health professionals in the room while the doctor administered the tests using an array of fancy equipment. These professionals handled everything from hooking up tubes and needles (I want the people poking me to have attended Needle Poking School and to have taken lots of tests involving making cadavers look like cheesecloth) to putting my personal items in a plastic bag.

Having gotten vocational training as a finance guy, I quickly figured that these tests were going to run well north of a grand, and maybe a lot more, just based on paying the pros in the room and overhead for all that fancy equipment and the nice hospital to put it in.  You want good health care? You want well compensated, well trained pros to handle the injecting, inspecting and rejecting? OK, but it’s gonna cost ya.

Conclusion: unless you’re actively hemorrhaging right there in the doctors office, figure it’ll heal if you just ignore it for another couple months, and avoid forays into the medical establishment. How could it hurt?


Irrational Anger, Motherhood & School

We, wild and crazy kids that we were at the time, decided to go the ‘family bed’ route with our kids. We started off for a day or two after the arrival of our first born trying to get him to sleep in a cradle, with generally poor results. We didn’t have any philosophical problems with sleeping with us, my wife needed some sleep, so: kid sleeps in the bed with us.

We were not shaking our fists at the establishment or getting up in people’s faces with a radical statement or anything. Yet, the response was nuts – we’d get sent ‘studies’ showing that we were practically murdering our child by increasing his chances of SIDS from something like .008% to something like .009%.  I tried to point out the flaws in the studies (basically, if you don’t distinguish between sane, stable, sober parents and insane, unstable, stoned parents, you’re, I don’t know, missing some key data) and tried to point out that, even if the studies are valid, the difference is so small as to be meaningless – we’re talking a risk in the neighborhood of lightening strikes and shark attacks.  Nope, all this was trumped by  their parents never having allowed this, and their pediatrician saying not to do it.

You’ll be no doubt shocked to learn that all 5 of our kids survived sleeping in our bed. We never came close to rolling over on them and smothering them – see, it’s your *baby* there in the bed, if you’re not drunk or insane every natural instinct makes you very attuned to him. A baby is not like a pillow you’d forget is there. But their mere happy survival, along with the happy survival of the other billions of babies that slept with their parents, is no excuse for the terrible risks we subjected them to.

Anyway, now we get to live the whole experience again, because we decided that we weren’t going to send our kids to traditional classroom school.  Not only that, but we were going to subject them to a educational philosophy called Real Life. In Real Life, the most important thing to learn is how to get along with others – how to listen, speak, trust, be wary, work together, work around, stand up for yourself and be compassionate to others. Mastering these skills does in fact take a decade or more. Mastering reading, writing and basic math takes a few months.

So, we chose a school where social interaction and responsibility were the key. The family bed part: in order to promote responsibility and social interaction, you have to get rid of all the mandatory classes and ruler/ruled dynamics – in other words, no age segregation, no classes, no teacher-makes-the-rules structures. Oh, sure, there’s plenty of room and help for kids, when they decide they want to learn to read or write or do math (nobody yet has attended our school for any length of time and failed to learn these things – it’s hard to play video games if you can’t read the instructions and figure out how much gold you’ll need to buy the health points and power-ups required to beat the boss, for example).

The funny part here, to me, is that, at *home*, our kids are expected to help out, and do. They also volunteer to help out at church, and take a variety of lessons. In those  situations – Real Life – they are subject to other people’s authority and follow instructions.  Our kids spend  roughly 20 hours a week in structured situations under someone else’s authority – they hardly need another 30 hours/week of schooling to learn about working in structures and under authority.

Finally, just as our babies survived the family bed to become toddlers and kids, our older kids – 19 and 17 – are in college. Whatever we did has objectively ‘worked’ – if K-12 is supposed to prepare kids for college, then whatever we did achieved the same objective as K-12, only with a tiny % of the investment of time and energy in ‘academics’. The dirty little secret: if you want to do it and haven’t been beaten up and humiliated into thinking you’re stupid, you can learn to read in a few weeks; you can learn basic math in a couple months; you can learn to write acceptable essays in a semester, tops.

So, yea, I guess maybe I can see being angry with people like me – if I’d wasted 13 years of my kid’s life on school, and thousands of hours of my life worrying about their homework and studying, only to find out that there are people out there – many thousands of them – who skipped all that pain and simply passed ‘Go’ and collected their $200 – yea, that could be upsetting.

See? The Economy is Getting Better for Some People…

Here, for example. If you just follow these simple steps, you, too, can profit even in these tough times:

1. Get born into a well-connected family. Alternatively, you could be really smart and work really hard, but that’s the hard, risky way to do it;

2. Make friends with the people who have all the money;

3. Get those folks to give you a job at a nice financial firm – Goldman Sachs would be best, but other firms can also be useful.

4. Prove your worth by never, ever, Ever, EVER doing ANYTHING that might hurt people who already have money.

5. When it’s one of your coworker’s turns to run the Treasury Dept or the Federal Reserve, get a job with them working for the government.

6. ‘Lobbying’ is such a dirty word, and illegal while you’re pulling a government paycheck, so, instead, just represent the interests of the .01% of your constituents who happen to run Goldman Sachs and other huge finance companies, and they’ll do what they can, hiring you to consult or give speeches for a million or so a year, so that don’t have to struggle by on the $160K+ bennies that the Government pays you until it’s your turn to go back to Wall Street. Then, you’ll get your cut of the billions of taxpayer dollars it’s your current job to make sure get sent there.  Oh, and ‘bribery’ is an even dirtier and more illegal term, so we’ll just agree not to ever use it.

See? What’s so hard about that? It’s a good thing our President is cutting back on this practice by appointing Wall Street guys to hire other Wall Street guys who will eventually return to their Wall Street jobs after directing the government’s efforts to, you know, reign in Wall Street’s overly cozy and highly profitable relationship with the government by making sure billions of bail-out dollars go to Goldman Sachs so that they can pay out billions in bonuses.

That should work! What could go wrong?

A Contemporary Education Success Story – Pardada Pardadi School in India

See this article from NPR for the details.

Basic story: Sam Singh is an Indian executive with DuPont, who, at age 60, took half a million dollars of his own money and returned to his ancestral homelands in northern India – and founded a girl’s school on land from his family’s ancient feudal estate. Girls and women are traditionally and routinely mistreated in this impoverished area. Mr. Singh wanted to break this cycle – thus, his school.

The girls learn how to become economically independent, and tend to delay marriage in order to do so. Now, economically valuable and independent of their family, they can free themselves from the cycle of abuse.

So, who can argue with this story? Who doesn’t want girls and women to be treated well? So, Sam Singh is rightly honored for his altruism.

But there’s a more general and problematic facet exemplified by this story: Sam Singh, by providing this school, is trying to kill an existing culture and replace it with one he likes better. In this case, we can all agree that a culture of cruelty and abuse toward women deserves to die, and so we don’t mourn it. Small price to pay for progress, etc. In general, all schooling aims to either support and reinforce an existing culture (religious schools, rural one room schools) or it aims to destroy an existing culture and replace it with something else.  Continue reading “A Contemporary Education Success Story – Pardada Pardadi School in India”

Speaking of Woodrow Wilson…

During, as was mentioned earlier, the ongoing attempt of professional educators to shut down and replace locally-controlled one-room schools with centralized ‘scientific’ graded classroom schools controlled by professional educators, Woodrow Wilson, after whom numerous public schools are named, then president of Princeton University, said the following to the New York City School Teachers Association in 1909:

We want one class to have a liberal education. We want another class, a very much larger class of necessity, to forgo the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks.

Clearly, one-room schools run by locals with the express and successfully executed purpose of raising up independent, responsible farmers who could run their own affairs were not going to meet this need. More important at the time, industry needed millions of laborers who would just follow orders and not get too uppity – that’s why immigration was wide open back in 1909. Turning desperate immigrants into interchangeable industrial workers is much easier than reshaping independent farmers ruined by years of self-reliance and social responsibility.

You certainly didn’t want your workers schooled in the patriotism of Washington and Jefferson and Adams – you know, looking at the country as something a patriot would be a father *to*. Math? Reading? Writing? Are you kidding? Only an extremely dumbed-down shadow of these ‘basics’ is needed by those to be fitted “to perform specific difficult manual tasks”.

And so, to this day, a kid can graduate from the Woodrow Wilson High Schools of the world – with honors, with AP credits – and not be able to write or do math well enough to avoid taking remedial classes in college. (And then take a 1 semester college course – and catch up!).

The trickier question is: where does that much smaller class of liberally educated get their training? Of course, Wilson was being politic – he didn’t really want to clue the audience at a teacher’s college that, um, they’re NOT part of that liberally-educated class – they are part of the class fitted for a particular kind of labor – not physical, in the case of educators, but ultimately as circumscribed as any factory worker’s. They, in their turn, were being trained to fill a role and follow orders every bit as much as the immigrants it was their job to dumb down.

American Education History 101: One Room Schools

The iconic one-room schoolhouse is a good place to start trying to understand the history of education in America. I get the impression most people think that the schooling system we have today is somehow the result of organic growth from the roots of one-room schools, that the sort of schooling described in Anne of Green Gables (Canadian, I know, but same model) developed logically into the ubiquitous Woodrow Wilson Middle Schools of today. This is most definitely not the case.

A good short book on the topic is One Room Schools of the Middle West by Wayne E. Fuller, a professor emeritus of history at the U of Texas El Paso. Much of what follows can be confirmed from that source.

When the teenagers and 20-somethings that made up the vast bulk of the settlers headed West, it wasn’t a free-for-all. The Land Ordinances of 1785 and 1787 established how the land in US lands west of the Appalachians were to be divvied up and sold. All the western lands that the US had claimed under the Treaty of Paris were to be surveyed and divided into 6 by 6 mile squares, with each such square further divided into 36 1-mile squares. Square 16, one of the squares adjacent to the middle of the 6-mile square, was set aside for education  in each of these ‘townships’ . How square 16 was to be so used was not spelled out in any detail, but was left up to the settlers.Therefore, the details may vary from place to place – I’ll just give a typical outline. Continue reading “American Education History 101: One Room Schools”