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.

The Big Myth: The American Dream


Finally, campers, we come to one last item, a fixture of our national mythology embedded in our identification of ourselves as “the land of opportunity”:anybody from anywhere on earth can  come to the USA and go from rags to riches; the sky’s the limit for those who work hard and persevere. Unlike in some countries, commonly held ideas are the glue that holds us together as a nation.

Each succeeding generation expects to fare better financially and socially than the parent generation. It may have been true for a while for some. However, as a member of the first generation of Americans who did not rise higher than their parents, I can say that the American Dream (as pictured above) is just that–a dream. It surprised and angered me at first. I felt like I had somehow been duped; bamboozled; cheated. Somebody lied. I was a nice kid; quiet, docile and feminine; never gave my parents an hour of trouble; got good grades and stayed out of jail. Success should have just walked up and kissed me on the lips.


Future professionals, take the Myth of The American Dream with a tablespoon of salt. Pass it right through the system ASAP. In order to move on to the reality, I found it necessary  to examine deeply held beliefs about success, career, and everything else in life under strong, unfiltered light. Are you in that place on your path of self-development? Refuse to simply parrot the so-called “truths” as touted by the culture. Understand exactly what school is really set up to do. Forgive your parents, friends, relations, enemies and mentors for passing on all their off-base advice. Forgive yourself for misguided movements in unproductive paths. Just as you were born largely unfinished (could we stand on our own hours after birth?; are humans grown in a year?), upon graduation from High School and College, your education is largely unfinished. Who is responsible for completing your life learning?



Get some pool time in before first semester begins. Have a great summer.sun

Victoree Takes A Lap!



51tlCigbjwL._SX295_BO1,204,203,200_My 62nd birthday was this past week and usually, I have an annual personal retreat. That’s when I take a long, hard look at my life and plan the steps for any course corrections and adjustments to honor the past year’s learning on the journey. It’s also a celebration of survival. You can say it’s a “Victoree lap”. This year I am extending this blessed time because it is a major  “passage”/transition point in my life. I have decided to retire early and to complete the career shape shift I have been working on for the past 5 years or so. So, let me bust just one more myth today, namely:

People stop growing after adolescence.


Even if we somehow missed Gail Sheehy’s “Passages” and “Menopause…”, we should understand this today more than ever because of dealing with the effects of the boom generation’s now heading into retirement. Growth, development and change continue throughout an entire lifetime. Adulthood itself has several stages. Our generally longer lifespan has spawned an entire new industry centered upon the other stages of adulthood. (hint–it’s not all about nursing homes and cemeteries). Here’s the thing: many places in society are unprepared to use the knowledge and did not heed certain warnings/predictions that were clearly and unmistakably written in bold letters across the sky. We are going to take a little side trip to explore this subject in the next series of thoughts.

As we dismiss New Professionals summer camp we prepare for the reopening of the academic year. Harvest time is just ahead and we must see what is ready to be gathered in.  At last, if you are a “moon child” and celebrating your birthday with me, a very blessed and happy birthday to you too!

Industrial Myth #4: Careers Do Straight Lines


Please observe the illustration found at a career blog I saw at:

Real Career Path

I could talk until the wind shifts.

I could write until the words run together like tears and mascara.

Compare the “fantasy” with the “real”.

Stare at it as many times as you want. Chances are your consciousness will return and return to this when the mind is just wandering around as our monkey-mind thoughts do whenever we’re bored or stressed.

Let the learning tattoo itself on your soul.

A career begins with divine desire, intention and aim; if the intention is strong

And the aim is true–

Real purpose will meet you in the maze of living.

Real purpose is the surprise at what seems to be a dead end.

There is a path,

But it is not entirely of our own making

And it sho’ nuff ain’ straight.