Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Ghost of Opportunities Past

I really doubt many teenagers read my blog, so if you are a parent of one who could benefit from the following, I recommend you print it out and place it somewhere they might read it, say, on top of the remote control or in their iPhone case. Keep reading, though, because the last paragraph is for you.

If I could go back in time to give my teenage self advice, it would be this ....

Talk to your friends. Now! Because when you are old, you will live in a nice place by the beach and every day thank God you are so lucky to have such a great life. (I know it's hard to believe now, but that's the way it turns out.)

Some of your cool friends, on the other hand, that's another story. They'll end up at 55 or 60 years old sleeping on someone's couch because they can't afford rent. And it's not like they had a great time for 30 or 40 years before that, either.

You see, here's what happened ... remember how you were the one that was always studying between judo matches, sitting up in the stands reading your textbooks? Remember your friends who were a lot more fun, who were sitting in the back of Algebra class and English telling jokes and talking about their dates the night before?

Well, it turns out that Algebra and being able to write an essay were really important for getting into college and college was really important for getting a good job.

The cool girl who sat behind you - yeah, she had four kids, was on welfare for years and now lives with her oldest daughter and her husband.

Those guys in the back of the class who never turned anything in - one was in prison for armed robbery last I heard, another drove a truck for years until he had back problems, now he's living on disability payments that barely cover the rent in his one-bedroom apartment and his pain medication. Another one has been an alcoholic for years. He lives in a hotel room downtown. The fourth one, that all the girls thought was so hot - yeah, he had several kids but never managed to make enough money to pay child support and none of them talk to him. He lives alone.

Are you getting the picture here? The guys (and girls) who were too cool for school had a lot of dates while they were in high school - but after a while, they got left behind. No one wants to date the toothless clerk at the convenience store. (Dental care is expensive.)

You went off to college, then graduate school. You've been to visit four continents while they've never been anywhere but that one road trip they took thirty years ago.

What I'm saying is, think of me like the Ghost of Christmas Past, but for school. Try to help them out before it's too late.

Okay, now a word to you parents --- 

If your child is making a D or an F in anything and has an iPhone to put a case on - what the hell is wrong with you? I don't know your child, but unless he or she has a disability, I'd say anything below a B is unacceptable.

 I have taken away credit cards, phones, DVD players and even had the cable disconnected for the whole house when one of my children received a grade below a B.

I have threatened to take away car keys but that child's grades coincidentally came up very rapidly.

I have grounded children from going to dances, a tournament that was points toward the Olympics and the mall (for Julia, that is like solitary confinement).

The people who can't get jobs now? Not all, but a disproportionate number of them are people who didn't study back then.

Listen to the Ghost of Career Opportunities Past.

It's not too late, you can still play Spirit Lake: The Game, have fun and learn math while you are at it.


Anonymous said...

I understand where you are coming from on this, but I have to argue with you a bit here. While an education and such IS important......I do not think the way we do it here in this country is a true indicator of it nor really should it be treated as one (even moreso now with Common Core beginning to come into play which is even worse than the old model that preceded it).

All modern education does from where I sit is teach in effect obedience to authority figures, and memorization. It does not teach true education to me and in fact I don't believe it was ever meant to. The system and those running it (read: the government) do not want people who can think critically and independently from what they feed you on a day to day basis. All that they want is people who are able to do as they're told and just smart enough to work in effect slave labor for the state to profit off of through taxes. (George Carlin had a brilliant take on this in his very last stand up special before he passed away hitting at that very point).

This is what the current education system does, it is intended to make everyone the same, everyone learns the same, everyone has to go through at the same pace, there is no room for anything else allowed. In short, it is a broken system as all people are not the same and should not be treated as if they are.

This whole idea that because someone gets A's, while someone else gets F's automatically means the A student is smarter really is silly under these rules. The A student simply has shown a propensity to memorize things and obey better than the F more than anything else. It just is not a real indication of true education to me.

I realize this will be controversial and even heresy to some people, which I do understand as we have grown up with this being the system for decades and it's what we are used to and what we know. Just the same though.......while your intentions may be good here in saying what you are, I just think there are a lot other better ways to measure ones talent and intellect than through this way.

Anonymous said...

As someone who grew up in the 90's, I'll have to call b.s. on this. The most unsuccessful people out there these days are those who went to school, got their education, graduated with honors, got their degree and ended up working in retail and what came back to haunt them was not "missed opportunity", but college debt. A lot of the "not-so-cool kids" who graduated started their own businesses, along with the "not-so-cool kids" who dropped out, and the dropouts were more successful. The ones that did get jobs got their houses, their cars etc., but found out that bigger houses and cars come with bigger bills. Then they got married and their debt increased even more. Than they had kids and they were broke. Sure, they were making money from their jobs, but their paycheck goes as fast as it comes. They found out the painful way that it's not about how much you make, but how much you get to keep after your expenses are paid. They found out that it's not about your gross pay, but your net pay.

Many people in their 40's are actually quitting their jobs when they rediscover their dignity and they start their own businesses. Even you, Doc. You don't have a "good job", you're a business owner.

Al B Here said...

If I ever have a daughter, the name AnnMaria will be on the shortlist for names. You rock, Doc! :)

Anonymous said...

Love your blog Dr., not surprisingly everything you post resonates with me as my parents had a similar approach and I have the same with mine. Wanted to get your opinion on 2 question. First, at what age would you recommend for judo to be introduced to kids (my daughter is 5 and son is 2.5)? Second, are there any judo schools that you can recommend for kids in the LA area?

Thank you in advance.

Dr. AnnMaria said...

Anonymous -
I'll bet you that those people who did not graduate and became successful nonetheless could read, write and calculate reasonably well. The people I am talking about did not fail because they didn't comply. They failed because they did not know how to find a common denominator (which, it turns out, can be useful sometimes).

As a couple of people have said (and I agree), making A's doesn't necessarily equate with being smarter - BUT if you sit in the back of class and tell stories instead of learn Algebra, that F is an accurate reflection of your lack of knowledge of mathematics.

Dr. AnnMaria said...

As for when to start children in judo, I would say the later you start them, the better. I started at 12. Ronda started at 11. If you really want your child to start earlier, most clubs in LA will take them as young as 5 or 6. There are several good clubs in the area. I'd just go to the one closest, if I had a small child. Guerreros, Valley, Sawtelle, Mojica, Hayastan, Gardena, Ogden all have good kids' programs. There are others as well, depending on which area in LA you live in

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the recommendations. Sawtelle is probably the closest to me (I am near Hollywood). Martial Arts was always part of my life (started with Judo at 5 and then Hapkido at 12) and really shaped me growing up so I want it to be part of theirs. Like I said before, I really enjoy reading your blog and appreciate the advice.

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous -
I'll bet you that those people who did not graduate and became successful nonetheless could read, write and calculate reasonably well. The people I am talking about did not fail because they didn't comply. They failed because they did not know how to find a common denominator (which, it turns out, can be useful sometimes)." I don't know which "anonymous" you're responding to, but I'm the one who grew up in the 90's who doesn't have that ridiculous "hippy" attitude about "compliance". I'm all for education as it's being taught. Only people who have never experienced the fruits of discipline and thanking the people who pushed them to follow a curriculum will see it as some sort of power struggle. I do agree, however, that the education system doesn't teach you how to learn, which is important. Everything is done for you, all you need to do is work. The reason those people succeeded had nothing to do with Math. In fact, Math education in the USA sucks. They never go into the history or philosophy of Mathematics, which is a huge disservice to the student. It's all about getting the right number. Never mind that the kid that doesn't pay attention because he has a garage band and dreams of being a rock star isn't being taught that music theory was founded on Math principles or the kid drawing comics in his notebook because he's an obsessed artist who's creative expression just won't be silenced anymore is not being taught the significance of geometry in art; we need to get the right number. What that number means and its significance are completely irrelevant, what matters is what's on the books. Compare this with the classical past, the Renaissance a when students were expected to contemplate on the nature of the subject matter and report their insights to their masters.

Anonymous said...

You know I really wish you could directly reply to a comment here vs. just adding it at the bottom of the list but just the same as far as your response about the A vs. F thing goes.....yeah you do have a point in terms of what the F would symbolize in a math class, but.....I think one has to look a little deeper into that to really understand why it is happening.

On the surface it seems as if such students are lazy, apathetic, and just really don't care. I would contend though the real problem isn't a lack of care, it's a lack of MOTIVATION.

I think anyone is capable of learning something, anything, IF they have a reason to care about it. If they don't have it though, then they are more likely to just goof off in a situation where something is forced on them despite their own objections to it.

If we really want kids to learn something, whatever the topic might be, it is imperative that you meet them where they are. Find out what drives them, what motivates them, what their passions might be, and teach them through that rather than trying to force feed it to them in a way that really has no meaning to them. In the case of math you could take whatever each person individually is interested in and teach skills using it as the means to do it. However you did it though, I think if we did this more you would find that a lot of those F's you see.....would change quickly.

I also believe they would thrive much more in an environment where they could learn at their own pace vs. being pushed along as if they were all the same and pressured to learn together even if they were not at the level of others yet. Not all kids can get A's in one shot.

The model we have right now just doesn't serve the kids like it should. It may work for certain individuals but not all. Like I said before, people do not learn the same way or at the same pace.

Until we realize that and change how we handle education accordingly, there will always be a disconnect and a separation from one set of students to another. There will always be those who just don't have an interest in what's being taught or how at least, and always those who struggle to keep up with everyone else. This one size fits all model of education just does not work, we can do better.

Anonymous said...

Oh and also, I think on the other side of the acting up topic, I think sometimes a kid may not feel challenged either or may be just that much better at the given subject than their peers. As such they are liable to get bored because they really don't belong there but belong on a step above the others. So I think that can play into acting up as well if in a different way.

But yeah as I've said, kids need to be able to go at their own paces, whether it be slower than the norm or faster. You allow them to do that I can almost guarantee you a lot of the problems in the current education system would go away.

Anonymous said...

to the 90's guy (I grew up in the 90's also btw....born in 1987 here), you refer to discipline in your rebuttal of sorts to my earlier comments and the importance of it.

I actually agree with you on that....there is a need for that as you go through life. If you are to be successful in anything you wish to do, you have to be able to have that. I am in no way going to try and say that it has no place cause it does.

The problem in the current system though is that the form of discipline and order used and pushed onto kids really has no purpose, it lacks substance or meaning beyond pushing the children on through the system.

You even hit on that fact yourself in what you spoke of about how math is taught. It doesn't matter what each child needs or is interested in, there is no teaching to them on an individual level, it's all about teaching to the problem. The answer is the only thing that matters. You see this in just about every subject really, one's entire education as they go through school is modeled this way, teaching to the test, to the answers vs. teaching to the people that are taking those tests and supplying those answers.

In short, the discipline, the structure being taught here is simply for the sake of it, for the sake of keeping everyone in line, for the sake of a standard, it has no real value or meaning otherwise. It is order for order's sake, and that's why I think it fails as much as it does.

For discipline to be effective, there has to be a purpose to it. For example, everything Ronda has done through her training and the various competitions she has participated in throughout her life (and her mother before her the same) all had meaning to her, it made her stronger, made her a better fighter, made her successful to be who she is today now as UFC champion. It was not work for the sake of work, it was work in the pursuit of a goal.

That's what people need, that's where order works when it is fueling something that is important to the person, and that's what kids going through school today are not getting. Why should a typical kid care about their studies, or care about paying attention in class at all even, when it's not serving them except to push them along with everyone else? What motivation do they have to do well when it really has no meaning to them? There really isn't any, and I believe it makes all the difference in the world as to how people do, and makes the difference between those A's and F's that have been talked about here, and even the difference perhaps of success and failure later on in life.

I really think the discipline and focus problem could all but take care of itself in that way, if you stopped teaching to the system, and started teaching to the individual. Give a student a reason to care, a reason to put the work in, and 9 times out of 10 that student is gonna thrive. Without it though, a lot will flounder and a lot do.

I think you and I are a lot closer together on this topic than you may have thought.

Anonymous said...

Sad but true. Living in Scandinavia I fear it might get as bad here as it has been in the U.S. for a long time. Inequality and creed walk hand in hand.