Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Nation of Wimps

Parents are going to ludicrous lengths to take the bumps out of life and living for their children, to the point of actually trying to LIVE their children's lives for them. However, hyperconcern has the net effect of making our kids MORE fragile; and the result is they're breaking down in record numbers.

After a successful, lifetime career in performance psychology (education and coaching), a recent trade journal (American Swimming Coaches Newsletter-Volume 2011-Issue o5) reminded me of research quoted in a 'Psychology Today' article/research published in 2004. In it a red flag was raised concerning our escalating insistence in intervening in our children's lives to protect them from the bumps and bruises of normally growing up. The result is we are increasingly raising a nation of ultra-fragile youngsters who lack basic coping skills when dealing with failure, and even lack one of life's most fundamental skills: resilience...HOW do you cope when life hands you a dirty deal.

This comes home with the increasingly numbers...from single or two STACKS of 'accomodations' crossing the average teachers desks today. Not only are we unable to keep up with ALL the accommodations levied on us, it is nearly impossible given the sheer numbers of bodies in our classrooms. They are well documented, and occasionally necessary, but more often than not merely an excuse to cover a student's REAL problem...sheer laziness, procrastination and a lack of simple personal organization and discipline, often the very attributes their parents who apply for the accommodation are lacking themselves!

"Life is planned out for us, " says Elise Kramer, a Cornell University junior. "But we don't know WHAT to want." As Elkind puts it, "Parents and schools are no longer geared toward child development, they're geared to academic achievement." I've recently had, sadly, yet another example of a parent(s) with the 'over-achievement' illness. In advising a young person on their academic prospects, the student aspired to become a diesel mechanic...the parent's (well meaning) response was the goal for 'their' student was to become a brain surgeon (I'm afraid the emphasis and exaggeration is my own...). The debate went on for clearly 15-20 minutes before either side started LISTENING to one another.

In education, and in sport, there is no doubt there are significant economic forces pushing parents to invest heavily in their childrens outcomes from a very early age. But taking ALL the discomfort, disappointment and even the play out of development, especially while increasing the pressure for success (in a society the has lost ALL perspective on what success means), turns out to be misguided by about 180 degrees. Increasingly studies on the severity of student mental health problems seems to concur.

With few challenges on their own, kids are unable to forge their own creative adaptations (read resilience) to the normal vicissitudes of life, and not only make them risk-adverse, it makes them psychologically fragile. It also riddles them
with anxiety and a host of 'accomodation' prone disorders. In the process, they are robbed of identity, who they really are, meaning and a sense of accomplishment. They haven't really accomplished anything...their mom/dad is/will be always in the arena punching it out for sad, and counterproductive. The very leaders who are voting for our funding, and asking us to produce a compliant and ready workforce for their businesses are actually working against us.

I don't fly well...I am nervous; I panic on every 'clear-air-turbulence' bump and grab the person next to me, whether I know them or not. This often results in some awkward moments and stressed flight attendants. Be that as it may, the pilot in the cockpit I want spot-on 100%...if I'm flying to LAX and he's having a '99%-day' we end up in the bay, and I'm swimming to shore. I'm a good swimmer, so 'good luck' to the rest of you suckers. I continue to argue why do we hold such high expectations of others and are so willing to 'lower the bar' for ourselves and those around us?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Giving Credit Where It's Due: Leadership 101 (continued)

Recent reasons for kudos and accolades in the news for educators in Utah school districts follow the mantra that, in spite of our Legislator's (and local school Bored's) lip-service (yet continued obvious lack of support), those in the trenches continue to do a superlative job in academically preparing Utah's students for the rigors of post-secondary education. We continually OUTSTRIP expectations in preparing our students for the 'real world'...that with the lowest funding, support and obvious dislike/disregard/outright hatred from those who could help students achieve even more: our Utah Legislature.

Witness: Not to be TOO critical of the congratulations and accolades being so freely and lavishly heaped on this well-written PRESS RELEASE by a (well paid) minion of Superintendent Dr. David Doty, please read further, between the lines: WHO are the recipients of the praise? "Canyons Superintendent David Doty said the honor validates the vision and hard work of Canyons’ staff, including Chief Academic Officer Dr. Ginger Rhode, Director of Evidence-Based Learning (Secondary) Dr. Hollie Pettersson, dedicated principals and teachers."

Read the whole self-aggrandizing release here:

Point being, most of our gifted and dedicated teachers who directly AFFECT those scores, and the resultant reason for celebration, were never DIRECTLY celebrated, by name or otherwise...just those in the 'press-release', presumably to make Canyons School district look wonderfully progressive. Even more telling, they feel slighted in that many of them do not KNOW 'Chief Academic Officer' Dr. Ginger Rhode, or 'Director of Evidence-Based Learning (Secondary)' Dr. Hollie Petterson, or have little more than passing contact with either in their continued pursuit of what they've always done best...for years-and-years in their classrooms, where none of these academic 'giants' have ever visited!!

Now, to put things into FINAL perspective, dig a little deeper: <> seems Davis School District is WELL ahead of the curve, even more so than Canyons by at least a year, and didn't have the advantage of shedding their least-likely-to-succeed population from the other side of the tracks, then trumpeting their fledgling school district is suddenly light-years ahead of the academic competition. And they gave credit where it was MOST due...

They acknowledged their gifted AP TEACHERS are the reason(s) for their continued success...

Leadership comes in many forms, but one of the most obvious is when you can finally say, "Thank you!" to those who deserve it the most...and they're NOT the highly-paid administrators with the impressive titles in the Puzzle Palace...they're too busy with day-to-day business in the trenches.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Humanistic Education: What We're Forgetting

"Don't spend your precious time asking 'Why isn't the world a better place?' It will only be time wasted. The question to ask is 'How can I make it better?' To that there is an answer."
- Leo F. Buscaglia

I am proud to say Leo was a personal friend, having met in the early '70's when he spoke at the University of Utah, and then reconnecting a couple of times after, including, by happenstance, a magical afternoon at his home in Santa Monica with a graduate seminar of students during the Christmas holiday break in 1975. He was a Master of education (actually, a Ph.D., which we so highly revere in the Canyons School District)... rather, a MASTER of education, who simply believed so fervently and wholeheartedly in his students it literally consumed him and those who came in contact with him. Not in their academic CONTENT, but in their humanistic that, he was a Master, a Zen Buddhist concept he so loved.

CONTINUING debate in the Canyons School District and the Utah Legislature somehow steer far south of of this fundamental issue and into the hot-button political topics of 'accountability, more testing, more measuring, how-much-knowledge-can-be-crammed-into-these-vessels-of -tomorrows-workforce (sarcasm intended). According to Elise Cramer, a Cornell University junior:, "Life is planned out for us, but we don't know WHAT to want. Parents and schools are no longer geared toward (human/child) development, they're geared toward ACADEMIC achievement." My question is simply: at WHO'S behest. And, if they've NEVER spent a moment in the classroom observing the challenges, frustrations, joys and roadblocks, WHY do they get a chair at the negotiations table. Simply because they've been elected by a complacent/ignorant populace, and are now subject to the whims of others with money that got them elected?

In Hara Estroff Marano's excellent article in Psychology Today-2004 entitled 'A Nation of Wimps' she warns the epidemic of students' fragility factor(s) now making its mark in education (indeed, in other areas, as well) is a result of our endless drive to push kid to succeed at any cost. Consider teachers now shuffling through literally PILES of reports certifying the educational 'accommodations' required for students to be 'allowed' to succeed in the classroom. At the other end of the spectrum, our Administrators/Legislators are constantly DEMANDING better scores/ results or heads-will-roll. WHO is looking out for the welfare of the child...schools were supposed to maintain a safe place for the continued development of the child, but we're losing that. Leo would be gravely disappointed...and so am I.

The severity of this epidemic is witnessed in the escalation of student mental health problems since 1988, according to an annual survey of counseling center directors. As a lifetime educator/coach, we know playtime has gone with this phenomenon. Toys, and even sports are designed by adults, and we tell them where to stand on the field and how to play a game and what's fair or not. Then, we justify it by saying it's in the best interest of business leaders who are begging for a 'compliant workforce', and they disguise this by saying we're NOT producing students who are 'workforce-ready'...this from the VERY people who have driven the American economy into the ground with their lack of ethics and business sense...maybe, just MAYBE we need to be developing better PEOPLE, not better academicians...

Leo thought so, and so do I. Our current problems are the result of those who supposedly 'know' and less of those who 'know better'...

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Interesting turn of events in the continuing saga of the leadership struggles of the Canyons School of it's OWN Board members has been 'censured' by his other fellow Board members ...hmmm...what does that mean? Is he no longer invited to the CSD barbeques, or is he blocked from @canyonsdave's tweets, or is his visage shunned by fellow Board members at District business meetings? One HAS to wonder, and even shudder, at the drama surrounding the announcement of such a sentence...

I wonder, because I was subjected to such an out at the hands of the very same, last year. I was reprimanded, in writing, for criticizing District administration via Twitter and this Blog. I know, I know, as well as you, those forums are 'protected' by the First Amendment and a matter of free speech...or are they? Even the District representative sent to 'reprimand' me and ask I sign said, "This is bullshit!". We have to wonder, as citizens/taxpayers/voters, what the hell is happening within our own supposedly transparent walls of representation when discord and lack of civility reign supreme?

The teachers I represent, not officially of course, wonder WHY have our leaders abandoned us, and taken to internal infighting among themselves? Are they so out of touch they no longer recognize the needs of the STUDENTS they were elected to serve. Max DePree's definition of a leader is one who (1.) Defines reality; (3.) Says 'thank you' for the privilege of leading; and (2.) Becomes a DEBTOR AND SERVANT. Our District administration has seemingly forgotten step number 2.

Why aren't they ACTIVELY lobbying against the poisonous and destructive diatribe of our Utah legislature, and the likes of Howard Stephenson ? It seems if they are elected to SUPPORT our educational efforts, they would vocally and actively lobby for their constituency to OUT the legislators who are obviously anti-education/students/teachers and call for election(s) of a more pro-education agenda. THAT would be REAL leadership...not just building new schools, spending money, and infighting among themselves and reprimanding gifted administrators and teachers who speak out when the emperor wears no clothes...

Maybe it's time they step up to the plate and put their 'money where their collective mouths are'...and ask Utah voters to do the same! Lobby their constituency to get rid of legislators who HATE education and teachers, and elect those who will support their efforts...after all, aren't they working FOR our schools...I'm waiting to hear from you! Are you working FOR our schools...??

Sunday, September 11, 2011


I haven't blogged in awhile, which is really more a disservice to me than anyone who stumbles across these ramblings/rantings, because I was reminded by good friend a couple of years ago blogging is almost a MANDATORY activity for those who teach (Dr. Darren Draper, Director of Information Technology-Canyons School District) because it limbers up the old creative thinking muscles and forces us to write....something we must demand daily out of those we teach.

And, I haven't blogged for a couple of reasons, one being the demands of the job and keeping up with responsibilities outside of the classroom. But, slightly more disturbing, I haven't blogged because of an underlying intimidation after being reprimanded by those who sign my paycheck for past grumblings/analyzing/musings over the motivations of management/administration/leadership and their relationships with those they manage/administer/(but my assertion then and now is they don't LEAD! See earlier ramblings on this blog site...). A recent conversation with an civil-rights attorney, who is addressing the needs/issues of a close friend and fellow educator who has suffered egregious treatment at the hands of our administrators, has reminded me of our constitutional right(s) (indeed, our duty), to speak out when the emperor is wearing no clothes, and we are protected by our constitutional rights afforded by the First Amendment! Funny, how under the duress of being threatened and intimidated with our paycheck and livelihood in difficult times, we forget our right and obligation to do just that. I'm pretty sure those in 'power' know this, as well.

Reading this morning's SL Tribune, and an op-ed well written by Harold G. Christensen, I was torn...'the law IS the law, and the people (were) are good law-abiding citizens', but I felt he almost contradicts himself citing example after example of Thoreau, Gandhi, Parks, King, even furthering with Walesa, Mandela, etc.: WHAT did they all share in common? Serious jail time...simply to do the thing that is right.

We are admonished to teach our kids daily that integrity is 'doing the right thing, even when no one is looking', then punish those who demonstrate that trait. Do these kid NOT understand hypocrisy, or do their 'bull-shit' meters not sound clarion at our own poor examples? I think yet one more example of 'leaders' trying to venture into areas they have no experience/expertise, while calling themselves experts, just because they are elected by a popular vote. And those who truly lead in the classroom suffer at their hands and inexperience, and ultimately, so do our students. Yet they don't ASK for help from those-in-the-trenches, the real leaders, just subjugate them and push them around in a grandiose show of 'real power'.

WHY do our locally elected legislators and Boards of Education, and even Superintendents continue to show such disdain/disregard for their life's blood: their teachers?! Again, I think we threaten them in ways they can't even verbalize...with our passion, experience, expertise, indeed education and ultimately REAL influence at the grass roots...with their kids. Sooner or later, the bubble will burst, and the emperor exposed:
I said in my header plagiarism is one of the sincerest forms of flattery...I'm going to amend that. I have been censored, and my Blog-Spot musings have been 'blocked' at the school I teach at, and, although I haven't the means to check quite yet, maybe in our entire school District...the assumption being my writings are subversive and disrespectful, and may even cause others to THINK...THAT is the sincerest form of flattery!!

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Long Time Ago (we wished...) In A Parallel Universe Far, Far Away (we wished even MORE...)... a fictitious fable.

Once upon a time, in a land of opportunity was a small place on the map known as Slake Valley, and in a land that revered Smarts, the people in Slake Valley were tops...indeed, the OopahLoompahs of Slake Valley were the best-of-the-best in instilling Smarts...they were, without question, the envy of the land, far and wide. The Smarts they passed along was not only the envy of the land, but, by EVERY proxy real measurement known to OompahLoompahs far and wide, it was certainly so.

However, distrust and jealousy reared it's ugly head in Slake Valley (as often happens within the ranks of those NOT smart, including those, who, for one reason or another, think of themselves as 'Bosses' and/or had missed out on unenviable history of 'electing' Bosses who are-not-Smart seems to be a fault of Slake Valley), and a rift developed between the EeeeSiders and WessSiders, each erroneously believing they had been somehow grievously wounded by the was NOT true, but the meddling Bosses goaded each into believing such nonsense.

In a poorly planned and executed tantrum, the EeeeSiders decided to separate themselves from the WessSiders. The EeeeSiders and the WessSiders parted ways, although both were superb at instilling Smarts in the minor OompahLoompahs they were charged with...and you know what happened? Instead of things IMPROVING for the EeeeSiders, predictably, they became more cumbersome...MORE 'Bosses' came out of the woodwork to micromanage what the Oompahs were already doing so well, MORE expenses popped up, and more headache/heartache ensued.

The EduCaré's of the OompahLoompahs ONLY wanted to instill Smarts...they LOVED to instill Smarts...indeed their very existence was to instill Smarts and the ONLY reason they get up in the morning, but with added layers of meddling 'bosses' and 'experts', they were being denied their very existence! 'Bosses' told them to 'improve your productivity' of Smarts, then stripped them of their opportunity to do so by taking away their DAYS to instill Smarts, then called it 'fiscally responsible'...then told them to improve their morale about instilling Smarts. Meanwhile livelihood and opportunity to help their OWN families at home had been sent 'to-the-rescue' from bigger-and-better Bosses from across the land who appreciated what was happening in Slake Valley, but the Oompahs were not given their help and no one explained why. Kind of hard for them to keep their morale high, but they did.

Ahhhh, God-Would-That-It-Were-Not-So, but, a long time ago, in a Universe far-far away... it is...and, according to Max DePree who asks in his leadership essays: "Why Do We Weep"? THIS is why we weep...and after years of exemplary, sterling performance to be charged with insubordination for simply asking the above, we weep...unashamedly, unabashedly...and continue to weep...not for ourselves alone, but for our OompahLoompahs who have families at home making monthly budgets, and car payments that have been denied, and years of devotion and dedication that has been discarded...

Sunday, March 28, 2010


It's been a number of weeks (months??) since I last posted, and I can only 'blame' or attribute that to numerous's demands being the foremost, but other, more newsworthy events taking precedent more likely.

A former swimmer, now a successful Ph.D. in Physical Therapy and published author has taken on the enormous task of sharing her families trials in Haiti, and continues to blog on their tribulations which make running water and a warm house

And, of course, on a much lesser note, our Utah legislature and it's continued idiocy concerning education, and their much ballyhooed posturing on 'showing the feds who's boss'...Jeez, will this nonsense EVER, not until we vote these numb-skulls out-of-office...

So...what's to blog about? Hell, I continue to teach, do a great job, fight the good fight, listen to our ELECTED board criticize what we're trying to do, listen to our ELECTED legislature make a mockery of what we do, and still be positive...if we don't laugh, we would all just cry...