What Are You Going To Be?

cupcake-girlI substitute teach in elementary schools and I work part-time in a retail store. For the past two weeks the hot question has been, “so, what are you going as?” As you know, All Hallows Eve is facing us and that means many things to many people. There are those who will pretend they are not at home and sit under house arrest all night with the lights out and the blinds drawn. There are grown people who will don fancy dress and parade in the streets, recapturing a spirit of fun lost somewhere in the process of getting to adulthood. There are those who will say, “Bah! Humbug!”…Sorry, wrong holiday. There are others who will give spooky parties or alternatives to a spooky party, like the Bullfrogs and Butterflies themed programs and the Trunk or Treat programs. Pintrest has a few ideas for the occasion. Haunted and other surprise themed houses will pop up like weeds.

When the Feast of All Saints dawns on November 1, the madness will be done and the preparations for my favorite celebrations will begin. The year is winding down and I will begin preparing for the coming winter holidays. My holiday decor has four distinct forms. I do one each year. I extend an invitation into “the fourth year”. The fourth year, election year, I theme a “clearing” year–a special, peaceful, thoughtful, resetting, re prioritizing. The earths’s dance around the sun has come to its beginning and end. See you at the beginning of “clearing”.

The Flat Society, Earth 2016


Centuries ago, science proved that the earth is round, but today, in 2016, the world is becoming flat. I have watched this happen from the inside as I fled like a refugee out of one job after another: technology chomped its way through the communications industry like Pack-Man, taking out switchboard operators, typing pools, typewriters, and even the grand dames of the publishing empires. Earlier this summer, an article in the Wall Street Journal suggested that the “…best way to cope with a radically changing US jobs market…: is to have a UBI–Universal Basic Income. To me, it looks like Social Security on steroids and the idea made me want to reach for the Rolaids. The article, “A Guaranteed Income For Every American” , suggested that such a scheme would simplify into one all-encompassing thing that mishmash of helping programs associated with poor people and the evaporating middle class we lovingly call “the welfare state”.

“…The UBI is to be financed by getting rid of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, Supplemental Security Income, housing subsidies, welfare for single women and every other kind of welfare and social-services program, as well as agricultural subsidies and corporate welfare…”

This idea allegedly responds to the prophesies blowing in from Silicon Valley:since at  an increasing rate, jobs currently performed by the middle spectrum of the workforce will become obsolete, certain skill sets in the management and support areas of the workforce spectrum will be “made redundant”. So, tech takes a big bite out of the economy, obliterates entire professions, and leaves the very top and the very bottom strata. Enter “the flat society”.

What will the former middle do? Great. Either become part of the very top or use your annual grant, the Universal Basic Income to live. Occupy Wall Street was just a minor tremor. “The big one” is coming.

Here’s to the coming “flat society”, earth 2016: a thoughtful Columbus Day, one and all



L’shanah tovah! Happy New Year!

shofarThat’s right! It’s the first day of rosh hashanah!

Celebrations of beginnings and ends fascinate me because there is so much wealth of meaning in the symbols of the doorway. To all who celebrate the season and the ones they love, the very sweetest of blessings in the coming year. Nearing the final cadence of the dance of the  earth around the sun, we advance with broad strides toward the end of 2016. Wow! What laugher and tears await! For all the long-term planners out there who anticipate the coming celebrations associated with the dark half of the year the plans are laid already. The shopping and exocution is next. However, before we step into the season, we pause at the entry/exit doorway of promise and with meditation open our eyes unto the unknown future.

Now, let’s move into the season. As Captain Kirk of Star Trek would say, “Helm…Ahead, warp factor 2”


How America Will Stay Free

tugofwarIt’s almost the end of academic marking period #1. It’s also the autumnal equinox. Blessed season! You know me; I work in cycles and as with any harvest season, it’s time to harvest a few thoughts about school as a place to learn in the 21st century. To back up a bit…

In the early years of common schooling, the challenge was to efficiently assimilate the flood of new Americans that washed ashore just before the industrial revolution. The American revolution’s Liberty Tree evidenced its bedrock-deep, widespread root system by bearing the fruit of a society based on essential morality and goodness.

The point of schooling back then was to develop a population that would accept as the norm cooperation with (obedience to) a just and benevolent (paternalistic) government, industry, thrift, kindness and all those virtues thought to characterize a “good citizen” of a republic. Contrast that with post revolutionary thinking about a society headed by a monarchy (prince-priest) with the wind of an outrageously wealthy aristocracy supporting it.  John Adams put it, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other”. Benjamin Franklin said, “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters”. We get educated, then, to remain good and therefore remain free.

As the nation’s social “tasks”/issues came and went, school reforms movements have followed suit. School became the orange rag knotted over the mud-hole pulled back and forth by various thought systems and interest groups.  When I was doing the work for the masters in education, teaching children to read using “phonics” was a cardinal sin. Phonics was the way the “backwards religious right” taught kids to read. As a child growing up in the 50’s and early 60’s, phonics was touted as the best way (right and only way) to teach children to read. I informed a professor I would not be in class one session so that I could attended a Christian women’s conference on the very day everyone else chose their subject for a paper. The next session, I got my subject: the only one left–phonics. There was a noticiable chill towards me in that class for weeks. It’s not nice to be branded the “class evangelical Christian”.

As a result of the “tug of war” school became more and more insular to the place where school today is another planet. It “protected itself” from threat as any organism would by adjusting externally through “education fad-of-the year” antics, but dragged its feet internally. So, the classroom walked 20 years behind business and society.

That is one of the reasons new graduates complain about their “lack of readiness”to join industry as employees and their employers complain about the”lack of quality applicants” as if it were a “quality control” issue. New grads simply have not been living on the same planet as their employers.

However, school is now poised to enter a revolution itself as it lets go of the industrial model…

I Dream of School


This is the setup in any classroom on any day in any week of any year since “common school” became the accepted practice in the USA. There are other riffs on setups at higher or lower levels, but as students move from primary school to secondary school, this is the “target” setup for learning.

Teacher instructing elementary schoolchildren on using the laptop computer..jpg

This is one way the classroom may look in the very near future as space and financing for new schools becomes scarce, population size becomes smaller and distance learning becomes common. A lecture series can be presented by a teacher in the area, across the country or in another part of the world to a classroom of thousands and the local teacher fine tunes the learning in a smaller group of students. Students may return individually to the lecture anytime they need to.

Because working in teams on a project may one day look like this…


Students will go to school like this:tutoringcomputer

Students will learn at their own pace–as fast or as slow as is appropriate. This student is going to school from her dining room at home. A student with questions can note them and contact the teacher at the “talk to the teacher time” or join in a class with 2-way dialogues when several students have the same question.

This is not weird. This is what happens right now whenever we do distance learning at universities or at work whenever we work in teams whose members come from multiple locations. School will resemble tutoring tailored to the specific needs and given at each individual’s learning speed. Students will then be able to be educated for MASTERY of the subject instead of being “taught to the test”, pushed along the line like a Model T Ford.

We will have to turn what we think school is on its head because the form of school I am talking about is unworkable with school as it exists right now. Watch this TED talk given by Sal Kahn and experience the founder of Kahn Academy’s take on the subject. I know some stomachs are quivering and we will talk about that next time.

We Pause in September To Remember

theyallfalldownIt was a normal beginning of another school day in East Brunswick, New Jersey. Then, suddenly, a breathless silence fell like the stifling pause just before a thunderstorm. Strange rumblings followed by abnormal tremors began. The school administrative office advised teachers to hold students in classrooms and follow afternoon pickup order. What?! I just got here! The bell hasn’t rung for first period yet.

I had not seen a TV screen or heard a radio since I left my home half an hour away. I purposely begin my days in silence. Then, another tremor: a second announcement to “keep calm” and the sound of weeping in the hallways. It was not until I got back home did I finally understand what had happened–one of the USA’s darkest days.

My mentor lost her father when the towers fell that day. His final cell-phone call had come to her minutes before he perished. My husband lost a cousin. I lost a potential coworker and friend because shortly after that dark day, she and her entire family left the country fearing violent repercussions aimed at any person from the middle east. I let her sunflowered bulletin board stay up until Thanksgiving. Floundering in my job without her friendship and my mentor’s professional guidance, my first semester at the job became my last.

I am not quite sure even after 15 years that there is not still a little sop of anger and resentment swirling around the bottom of that stewpot called September 11, 2001. I can’t tell anyone to go ahead, take a a peace of bread and clean it out because it might still ruin a few stomachs. There remains a strange feeling in the bottom of my colon that backs me away from finishing my portion of that stew. Until that day we as a nation can call the pot “finished”, I pray for heaven’s most tender mercies and hope that the passage of a little more time will make this day sweeter. May we all be finished with it one day.

Survive the day,



Happy Labor Day, from Victoree

Rosie The Riviter Honor Labor poster

Rosie says…

It’s the last party of the summer. It’s the holiday before we hang up our bathing suits and face the fact that last fall’s clothes don’t fit. After the heartburn from the hot dogs is long gone, we launch into the matter of school–beginning with, “what is school for?”

trinity-knot-clipart-1Whether we in this society state it clearly enough, consider that an active, successful producer in the workforce is the end product of schooling. We go to school to go to work and expect to work darned hard, too. Here’s a twist on that from the founder of Mindvalley,  Vishen Lakhiani. Over the years, industry has uncoupled itself from any responsibility for training and the task floated to education to basically prepare new entrants to the workforce. So, education and industry work hand in hand (or they used to). Instead, Industry and Education became like long-married people who grow apart over the years. This is why companies grumble when they discover they have acquired new hires who do not “come up to spec”. They feel somehow that they have been “cheated” and the schools have “failed” because the product they were promised never shows up. The relationship of school and industry is essentially a provider-consumer relationship. Then, we as a society hope that the schools we release our precious youth to, these educational expert partners we support with our taxes will somehow accomplish this:

  •  turn out good, patriotic citizens
  • caring, concerned parents
  • generally moral people

Yes, I said, “turn out”, because, let me repeat, the unspoken social contract school has with industry is that school will do the workforce preparation and industry will provide the employment. Religious institutions have the job of providing the moral piece. However, something has happened to “the triple knot” of home, school and business.

Whether you will be returning to school, college or work, remember on Labor Day (before the heartburn after that hamburger) that an honest day’s labor is an honorable thing to be celebrated. Work is not a curse. It is a blessing.

Happy Labor Day, from Victoree




Victoree’s BACK TO SCHOOL Assembly


Hope you all had a wonderful summer vacation. Time to remember how the alarm clock works. Wash the swim trunks so they can be packed away for next summer. Even Michael Phelps has to get out of the water sometime. We’ll write about how we spent the summer later on. (Forgive me, Father; I am an educator…) As classrooms in Washington DC open for Semester II, classrooms will once again be rife with the voices of eager youth in squeaking shoes and clothes that smell like never-washed, factory-fresh textile sizing. Other systems will follow after the ritual last party of the summer–Labor Day. Then they too will be filled with new haircuts and pristine backpacks.

Once again we concentrate energy on that institution our society has assigned the project of developing the young–workforce fodder–into fiscally productive adult citizens, namely the education industry. It is an industry that still resembles its early 20th century  manufacturing system parentage with its assembly line scheduling of days.

We pause until Labor Day to think again about school. Let’s kick around a few ideas about how school is evolving to approach the challenges of the 21st century. While we’re at it let’s look at some current ideas about career choice and preparation including:

  • How has career education changed?
  • Exactly what do parents, corporations, and society expect school to do?
  • How well are school and the business world aligned?
  • Are schools preparing American youth for full participation in today’s workforce ?
  • What new skills should be taught in schools now?
  • New configurations for school?

It promises to be not your usual ride on the big yellow bus. Got your brand new no. 2’s sharpened? Let’s go!



Work Is A Circus; You’re In It

KuriosatTysonsCirque du soleil has come to Tysons, close my northern Virgina neighborhood and its romance stirs the summer-soused brain. Have you ever considered how in many ways, the workplace is a lot like the circus? Everybody performs. On some days, the ring master is indistinguishable from the clown.

Some of us are areal dancers: high flyers spinning in the middle of the air; amazing everybody with their perfect timing and technically flawless moves. Some of us operate closer to the ground: We eat fire; awesome producers of goods and service made out of things and emotions that if handled by lesser skilled would be distructive. Others of us keep the gate: we sell the tickets and count the money, making it possible for the show to continue–and to pay the company! Early last century, there was the “freak show”: public displays of human and animal oddities at which it was okay to stare, hiding behind mom’s skirts, scared out of your wits, but looking at it anyway.

It'sACircusInThereHere it is: we all perform in this great show called working, but not in the same role throughout our careers and not at all times.