What is a Progressive Education Policy?

This is not an easy question to answer because the foundation of American political progressivism is quite fuzzy. Progressives want a more generous welfare state, a reduction in the United States’ military role in the world, an end to unfair discrimination, highly progressive taxation, strong worker protections, strong environmental protections, and meaningful investment in the social and economic development of economically struggling countries. What is the principle underlying all of these policy preferences? Fairness and long-term human, animal, and environmental well-being? I don’t think many progressives would disagree with that!

So how does the above principle apply to education policy? Are students and education workers treated fairly? Is their long-term well-being honestly being prioritized? The answer is clearly no. While tenured unionized public school teachers have strong job security, they generally have very limited discretion over their work. Instead, they are forced to follow a fairly regimented educational program, whether they believe in it or not. How can these conditions produce fulfillment and well-being? Instead, they appear to be the conditions for dehumanization.

This regimented educational program is what public schools students are forced to follow in their schooling. They spend 13 years enveloped in this dehumanizing environment. Clearly the status quo in public education is in screaming need of revolution in the eyes of progressives! At least according to the principles underlying American political progressivism.

Thus, what American political progressivism calls for is an education system that is fair to educational workers and students and that promotes their long-term well-being. Okay! That’s hard to argue with; so what would it look like in practice for an educational system to follow these principles? What comes to my mind is consent, freedom, opportunity, and community.

So what does this mean in terms of policy?

Learning requirements are oppressive rather than progressive. They directly contradict freedom and consent in education. State education standards must be eliminated.

Community is tough to grow within large, systematized environments. Smaller schools with lower student-to-staff ratios would provide the foundation for community-building and would also allow more support for students’ individualized learning endeavors.

In order to maximize opportunity for students, educators would need to play more of a “learning facilitation” role. They would need to have in-depth conversations with their students in order to find out what their interests and goals are. After gaining that knowledge, they’d be able to use it to connect their students with opportunities to explore their interests and progress toward their goals.

Does this educational model of freedom, consent, community, and opportunity sound progressive to you? It would require revolutionary change within the public education system to come into being. But I don’t hear political progressives talking about this very often. Why the heck is that?

I’m no political analyst, but I’ve noticed that political conversations on education have been dominated by talk of school funding and charter schools. These topics are important, but in the absence of the progressive changes I’ve mentioned above, improved school funding and changes to charter school regulations will have a minimal impact on the educational experience of public school students.

If we want to achieve a truly progressive public education system, it is imperative that we deepen the political conversation on education. We need serious discussion about the principles underlying the current education system and its proposed replacements. The great hope is that through a strong focus on underlying principles, the public and our elected representatives will finally see the light.

Why the Political Use of the Word “Privilege” is Not Very Helpful

Some people absolutely have unfair advantages over others. Some of these unfair advantages are based on the results of the genetic lottery, while others are based on deeply rooted systems of injustice. It’s very important for the latter to be pointed out for the purpose of moving us closer to a just society. However, not all ways of pointing out unjust advantages and disadvantages are equally helpful.

These days, it’s hard to avoid hearing the political use of the word “privilege”. People are made aware by others of the importance of being aware of a particular unearned advantage or entire set of unearned advantages they have. Awareness is good, but the problem arises with the limitations within the political language of privilege.

A big problem with the political use of the word privilege is that it doesn’t differentiate between an unfair advantage and an unfair disadvantage. You may think that these always go together, but that is not actually the case. Let’s take the example of two men being pulled over by the police in separate incidents. In the first case the driver is white and the police officer displays a certain amount of patience with the driver’s frustration toward him in an attempt to avoid an escalation to the situation. In the second case the driver is black and the police officer is from the beginning more on guard and less patient with the driver though his behavior is identical to the man’s behavior in the prior case. Within the political language of privilege, the white man’s “white privilege” would be pointed out. However, though I can see how the white man can be seen to hold a privilege in this situation, I believe there is an alternative language that can be used that brings out greater accuracy and clarity.

In the situation discussed above, the white man isn’t being treated in a special way: we would hope that all people would be treated with a reasonable amount of patience when interacting with a police officer. So this man received treatment that was in line with a socially agreed upon standard of appropriate treatment from a police officer. Thus, it’s odd to view how he was treated as a privilege. Instead, it was the black man that was treated unfairly and thus held the unfair disadvantage coming into the situation, based on the unfair racial bias held by the police officer. In this case, the white man did not hold an unfair advantage, but the black man did hold an unfair disadvantage.

Let us now imagine another situation where two equally qualified men are applying for the same job. In this case, the white man receives the job over the black man nine times out of ten simply because his race is preferred by the hiring manager. In this case the white man holds an unfair advantage at the same time that the black man holds an unfair disadvantage.

While the political language of privilege doesn’t differentiate between situations of unfair advantage and unfair disadvantage, the alternative language I’ve introduced here does.

There are additional problems with the political use of the word privilege. This blog post is in response to a tweet I saw from Kim Tran that struck me as as odd:

Earning money for doing something that aligns with your values is a privilege.

To this I responded:

In what sense do you mean?

In the same way that having quality healthcare is a privilege? Or having emotionally supportive parents?

What’s the difference between a privilege, a human right, and a moral entitlement?

To this, Adhlere Coffy responded:

Oooo yes this is a weird take on both sides. Your examples, christian, point to valuable nuance often left out in these convos. Kim’s point still resonates w/ a lil bolstering: getting paid [a living wage or more] for values aligned work is a privilege. More to unpack though

Me: What are your thoughts on the meaning of the word “privilege” in this type of context? Privilege as opposed to what? Also, what is the point that is attempted to be made by naming something a privilege in this way?

Kim Tran: Two points. 1. You’re working with the world as it should be (i.e healthcare) and I’m working with it as it is. So we’re talking across each other. 2. Generally, people who make a real living on the meager wages of political work often inherit wealth or are supported by affluence. 3. By definition, privilege is an unearned, unrecognized advantage (i.e inherited wealth)

I discovered in the process of this dialogue that I find the concept of moral entitlement to be the most relevant to the pursuit of social justice. I believe every human being deserves to be able to earn a living doing work that is aligned with their values (given that their values are ethical, of course). So to highlight the fact that a person didn’t earn an opportunity that they were already morally entitled to, strikes me once again as odd. What’s the point of that? Why place a somewhat shaming spotlight on the people whose lives are in line with their inherent human moral entitlements, when we could instead place the spotlight on the moral entitlements themselves and how to progress toward a world where no human being’s moral entitlements are violated?

My final criticism of the political language of privilege is regarding its impact on political discourse. The word privilege in its political sense is very much out there in American culture these days, along with other terms associated with certain left-of-center notions of social justice. We’ve experienced in America great polarization around issues of prejudice and justice regarding race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and class. To be clear, conflict is not something to be avoided when necessary. The fight for the just treatment of human beings is absolutely essential and needs to continue until we achieve a just society (and the work must continue thereafter to maintain that justice). People are inevitably going to feel uncomfortable when confronted about their unjust prejudices and contribution to injustice in society. The goal is not for everyone to be comfortable; the goal is not to pretend the uncomfortable truths do not exist for the sake of short-term harmony. Instead, the goal ought to be awareness, understanding, and clarity for the sake of moving closer to a just society. With this understanding, we must then ask whether the political use of the word privilege serves or hinders the mission to achieve a just society. Is the word being used to bring forth clarity and insight and confront people in an honest and constructive manner? Is the word being used to shame people for the sake of egoistic motivations? What I come back to is the lack of clarity the word’s use produces, at the same time that there exists an alternative terminology that avoids this problem. What I also come back to is the unconstructive shaming of people when the issue at hand is not their advantage at all, but rather the unfair disadvantage of others. It is these problems that I see as contributing to an unnecessary and destructive moral-political polarization in our society. Thus, my hope is that we move away from this language and adopt in its place the clearer and more constructive language of unfair advantage and disadvantage.

An Independent Perspective on Election Integrity

Donald Trump is the type of person to always claim fraud when he loses, but, nevertheless, I think it’s a good idea to closely examine America’s voting system. There IS room for fraud–by either Democrats or Republicans. Perhaps even the Republicans cheated more than the Democrats in this election. How would you know?

I could EASILY sign and date my mail-in ballot and sell it to someone. Though of course the solicitation of these transactions would likely be uncovered fairly easily as well. So it’s unlikely this could happen large scale.

My biggest concern is actually the discretion inherent in deciding whether a mail-in ballot signature matches what’s on file. I could see Republicans deciding to be more stringent on this and Democrats deciding to be less stringent, since mail-in ballots overwhelmingly favor Democrats.

People’s signatures change. Especially when you’re young and when you’re elderly. I remember being concerned in the past that my mail-in ballot might not be counted because the signature I used was so different from the one on file from when I was 18!

Also, mail-in ballots make the voting process a lot less anonymous. Your name is literally next to your ballot! This sure makes it easier for domineering or abusive spouses to guarantee their spouse votes how THEY want. And this is just one example of how this lack of voting anonymity could be exploited.

In terms of poll watchers, I have to agree that it’s not very meaningful if the poll watchers are not close enough to see what’s going on. I have to be honest and say that I don’t have a very clear idea of how things go inside the ballot tabulation centers. Maybe there are additional checks on the system that keep the counting honest. I would really like to gain a clearer understanding on how exactly that system functions.

But yes, as citizens we should have a good understanding of how the system works and what measures are in place to keep the system honest. And when those integrity measures are not followed, we ought to protest, because if the proper procedures are not followed, we can no longer guarantee that the results are legitimate, even if they are. It’s like buying a Pringles tube and realizing the seal is missing when you get home. Maybe it just slipped off on its own and the chips are fine, or maybe someone tampered with the chips to intentionally poison people. Are you gonna eat those chips?

So it would be good for America to get to the point where everyone understood exactly what procedures are in place to keep the voting system honest, and where we all collectively become concerned when those procedures are violated.

I’m not saying to declare a conspiracy whenever you hear a report of something not going according to proper procedure. Honest mistakes happen and not all reports are credible. What I’m saying is that it’s dangerous for Americans to assume without verification that their voting system is functioning honestly. There is a level of healthy skepticism when it comes election integrity.

Why Social Justice Educators Need to Give Up Working Within The System

The following is an expression of my thoughts and feelings about social justice education activism based on my own limited personal experiences. These thoughts and feelings are being communicated in a spirit of humility and conversation with the intent to contribute positively to the movement to establish an educational system that treats all human beings ethically.

I regret any combative tone, but have prioritized the honest expression of my thoughts and feelings over being diplomatic. I have great respect for all those who have dedicated themselves to bringing justice to this world, whether I agree fully with their perspective and strategy or not.

Ultimately I’m here in a spirit of authenticity and cooperation. I want us to talk things out and move forward together.

– – –

The contradictions of so-called social justice educators kill me. They are not revolutionaries; they are not fighting for justice. They are incrementalists with a fuzzy vision of how children deserve to be treated and what an ethically sound education system looks like. For all the talk of decolonization, their actions work much more to preserve than to resist the oppressive social institution of standardized, state-controlled compulsory schooling.

It honestly does baffle me. These folks have read Paolo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. They know about conquest, cultural invasion, and the antidialogical cultural action of our oppressors. They theoretically understand what it means to treat a human being with respect. They know that compulsion is anathema to liberation. So why in the hell defend an institution of compulsory standards-based schooling controlled by your oppressors?! Are you a masochist?!

You’re going to dedicate your energy to bring more funding to a fundamentally oppressive system and you’re going to fight legislation that aims to bring some decentralization to this system (charter schools, vouchers, education savings accounts)? What???

It seems to me that social justice educators are not being as bold as justice requires them to be. We need to tear apart the oppressive public schooling machine and completely redesign, on an ethical foundation, our education system.

A liberatory education system is a consensual education system. It is compassionate, dialogical, and student-directed. It is a system that provides opportunity and exposure to rich experiences to students of all incomes who want it. It provides diverse learning options to a fundamentally diverse human species.

I’m not writing this to complain. I’m writing this because I am hopeful that we can take the necessary next step in education activism. I see a hunger for justice in America right now and I love it. I want us to take full advantage of this moment in history by thinking profoundly and ambitiously, by coming together in dialogical solidarity, and by championing a clear, just vision that pulls at the moral fibers of the people like a powerful magnet.

I want us to unleash an ethically-centered, profound, people-powered cultural revolution. And I believe we as a people are ready to do it.

Remember: a warrior for justice doesn’t settle for a less oppressive version of a fundamentally oppressive system. Social justice demands much more from us than that.

Perseverance vs Practicality (Part 2)

In this post I will go back to the original question of my last post: “the question of whether to continue to struggle toward a particular path that refuses to open up any gates for you, despite your years of knocking; or to instead cut your loses and transition your energy toward a more sure thing, despite it not being what you feel called to do in this life.”

I explained how my feeling of being on a special mission pushed me strongly to continue on a path that wasn’t producing any fruits for me. But it was more than that too. I had a lot of trouble thinking of anything else worth living for: “If the world has such major problems that are causing so much harm to people as I speak, how can I just ignore that and live a life focused on my own happiness?” Nothing else seemed worth living for in perspective.

But then we have the question of a situation in which your best efforts are not contributing anything considerable to solving those major problems. If you can’t change the thing most worth trying to change, even if you want to, what do you do then? Shouldn’t you then at least work on making a smaller positive impact? And if the only positive impact you can make is on your own quality of life, isn’t that still better than nothing?

It makes sense to “give up” on what’s not working and then look for the next best thing. But of course you can never be sure that you will not succeed if you keep trying. You may indeed experience a big breakthrough the following week if you keep at it. Or you may go another five years and still find yourself in the same place, with nothing to show for your effort. At the end of the day it’s a judgment call with no reliable statistics to go off of.

Or am I wrong about that last point? Though I didn’t scour the world’s datasets to find relevant data for the big life decision I had to make, that might actually have been a helpful exercise. I can imagine that if I had hard numbers of job applicants’ success rates based on their college majors, that likely would have greatly altered my expectations coming out of college. And I can just as well imagine that access to other relevant statistics would have further altered my expectations. And then with changed expectations, my cost-benefit analyses would have all been different, and I imagine that I would have made different choices as a result. So perhaps I am wrong about that last point in the previous paragraph.

Looking back, I believe that access to relevant statistics would have been helpful, though the statistics themselves wouldn’t have been enough to make my decisions for me. It’s impossible to find statistics for people exactly like me looking for exactly the same opportunities at exactly the same point in history. I could seek out more detailed, qualitative data, and that certainly could be helpful, but at the end of the day, it’s still up to me to relate the data to my own situation and determine whether I’m special enough to be the exception to the statistical norm. I still have to evaluate myself and determine whether I’m going to believe in myself to beat the odds or not. I suppose I can take personality tests and compare myself in an organized manner to people in my competition pool that I have more detailed knowledge of. Surely it seems that this would be helpful and that it would reduce the role of the judgment call further. But can any amount of analysis completely eliminate the role of the judgment call?

After all, psychologists haven’t proved to be able to predict human behavior to a reliable degree. Science doesn’t yet know enough about humanity to provide each person with the verifiable best response to each problem. And we certainly don’t want to get so carried away with data and theory that we end up promoting harmful pseudoscience. We don’t want to fall under the spell of scientism. So yes, let’s use data and theory to the best of our ability, but let’s not get carried away with it to the point where it becomes counter-productive.

Trying to statistically analyze our way out of a problem has its opportunity-cost as well. Even if we knew that through the correct analysis of the appropriate data, we would come to the optimal solution, the cost would still outweigh the benefit after a certain amount of time and effort invested in conducting the analysis. And how could we possibly know beforehand how much time and energy would be necessary to arrive at the data-driven solution to our problem?

Furthermore, is that even the best way to live one’s life . . . through statistical analysis of every significant problem? This in itself brings up the question of the best rules to live by to live the good life. We might be incredibly successful in terms of worldly accomplishments and wealth accumulation, but if we’re experiencing high levels of stress throughout the process, have we really lived a successful life?

Lastly, we must think about who we want to be. What is our identity? What do we stand for? This sense of identity can make it very difficult for a person to change course after repeated failures. When your life trajectory is fundamental to your sense of self, changing course can bring forth an identity crisis. It becomes more than just a change of careers, it becomes a change of identity.

For me, I found a way to keep pursuing my ultimate mission in life through a different path, that, though more indirect, I believe will be more effective in getting me to where I want to get. Though I’ve managed to maintain my identity and mission, for some people in certain situations, this can be a near impossible challenge.

It’s incredibly difficult to refocus your life away from what you feel called to do in the world and toward something less significant to you—even if you’re not completely leaving behind your original focus. However, at the end of the day, I think we need to do our best to look at our situation objectively and pursue what we believe will realistically get us to where we want to get. And I think the more information we can gather about ourselves and the world outside us, the easier it will be to view our own situation through a realistic lens.

So I believe that if you want to be in the best position to make the right decisions about your life trajectory, you’re going to need to have clarity about your values, your mission, your strengths, your weaknesses, your personality, and, most importantly, the job market. Though the statistics may not be easy to find, it will be extremely advantageous to find out how the job prospects look for the people with your educational and employment background. How many positions exist for what you’re looking for, how many people seriously want those positions, and how do you compare to those you are competing against? Also, where do the people with your educational background end up working? How many of them find work within the occupation they had their sight set on as college students?

I want people to persevere and stay true to their biggest passions, but I want them to do that in an effective way that’s based on the actual present existing world. I believe that this is complex and difficult due to the complex nature of our world. Therefore, we need to be able to think flexibly to have the best shot at successfully navigating the complex terrain. What this means is that we keep our mind open to a variety of opportunities and that we not get overly stuck to certain paths, ideas, or decisions. If we think flexibly, we’ll be able to use our creativity to find alternative paths to those very same goals we’ve been pursuing with so much heart. It will likely seem uncomfortable at first because we’ve become so attached to our old ideas, but once we get passed that, the world will begin to open up to us.

Perseverance vs Practicality (Part 1)

I’ve been writing about college and careers and want to continue that theme for at least one more post.

I’ve been thinking about the question of whether to continue to struggle toward a particular path that refuses to open up any gates for you, despite your years of knocking; or to instead cut your losses and transition your energy toward a more sure thing, despite it not being what you feel called to do in this life.

I think for me it was the feeling of obligation to humanity combined with a distrust in the rest of humanity to bring forth my vision to this world. “If I fail,” I thought, “the people of this planet will continue to suffer unnecessarily for who knows how long.”

Yes, I thought I was special. And I put a lot of pressure on myself to accomplish the mission I thought I was put on this Earth for. Honestly, I still feel that I’m special and that I’m here on a mission. But I’ve managed to remove much of the pressure from my shoulders. I figured that if it indeed is my destiny to bring forth certain changes to this planet, then it’ll happen regardless of the decisions I make. Destiny is destiny.

In addition, I also started to seriously question this feeling I’ve had for so long. Maybe it came from watching too many superhero shows when I was a kid. Maybe it’s the same genetically caused delusion that our many “Messiahs” experienced throughout history.

And then I’ve also personally met a number of other people (probably all of them men) who have expressed, in one way or another, their feeling of having a special understanding that would transform the world in a positive way if they could only figure out a way to spread their message.

When I hear those people speak, I think “C’mon, who do you think you are?” But then how am I any different from them? Maybe the same thing that is making them seem so arrogant and delusional is making me appear that way as well. Maybe I’m no less crazy than them!

I really wonder, where does this feeling of specialness and mission come from? I’ve expressed some of my theories, but ultimately I do not know. Am I just a product of evolution that happened to catch this certain “Messiah gene”? Did I just never fully outgrow my childhood imagination? Or maybe I really am special and on a mission. But then, if I cannot provide any evidence for my belief in this grand idea, isn’t it kind of crazy for me to keep believing it?

But these questions lead to deeper and more universal human questions:

Why doesn’t everyone feel special like I do? After all, if you think about it, each one of our consciousness is completely unique. Everything you’ve ever known has been experienced through impressions on your unique consciousness. Everything. You can’t experience life through someone else’s consciousness and they can’t experience life through yours. Everything you’ve ever experienced has been through your unique consciousness. In fact, your existence is the only thing you can be sure of. Other people may be conscious too, but there is no way for you to know that for sure. You can only got so far as assuming.

If we all indeed are conscious, then every individual life is a truly awesome thing. Each life, in a sense, is everything. Though life continues after each death, that life is gone forever. And each life that comes after it must experience everything anew. Death extinguishes everything of that living creature but the physical matter.

With that being said about each life, how can I not feel special? Surely, I am. As is every other conscious being. Now, if I feel special relative to every other conscious being on Earth, that’s a different issue completely. As is the issue of the feeling of mission.

But just the recognition of a human’s power is enormous. What grand creatures we are! Though most of us don’t live anything like it.

So is my feeling of specialness just the feeling of being human? Is it just the awesomeness of my consciousness of my consciousness?

I’ll probably never know.

But what I can do in the meantime is to try to do my best to bring the greatest life experience to each conscious being on this planet.

Which brings me back to the original question of this post . . . which I will continue to explore in my next post.

If I Were To Give A High School Graduation Speech

Remember, this is YOUR life. There will be a lot of pressure to aim your life in one direction or another, but if you allow yourself to be swayed by the pressure, where does that leave you? What does that say about you? What does that say about who you are?

I encourage you to ask the big questions before making any big life decisions. What is your purpose in this life? What makes something important? What are the most important values to follow?

Once you have answers to these questions that you’re truly confident in, you then have a foundation to build on. But if you start building before that foundation is firmly in place, your life could all come crumbling down one day when you realize that everything you’ve been doing has been for the wrong reasons.

So I encourage you to find your purpose and live true to that purpose, even though it will be frightening at times.

Remember, this is YOUR life.

Now, it would be irresponsible of me to give you the idea that if you just figure out what your mission in life is, then everything will just fall into place and you’ll live a beautiful life with sunshine and rainbows.

The truth is that life is hard. And that high school and college often don’t prepare you well to succeed.

For those of you going off to college (and it’s fine NOT to go, by the way) . . . but for those of you going off to college, know that most professors are going to train you to be academics, even though they know that most of you are not going to become academics. It’s stupid, I know, but that’s the culture of most colleges.

Now, it’s not all terrible. There are many amazing things to learn in college, many of which are very much applicable to the non-academic working world. The thing is that it’s likely going to be completely up to you to make sure you learn both what you want, as well as what you need to be able to earn a decent living after you graduate.

You might very well get that dream job right after college, but don’t assume that you will, even if you’re the valedictorian of your college.

I encourage you to spend time figuring out what skills are in demand in the economy, and then supplement the college classes you really enjoy with the study of those marketable skills that most appeal to you. You can learn these skills through college classes, through private workshops, or completely on your own. It doesn’t matter how you learn them, as long as you learn them.

Or you might even want to say “the heck with working for someone” and seriously explore ways to start your own business. What matters is that you spend some serious time learning about the marketplace and figuring out the most appealing ways for you to generate income in that marketplace.

So whether you end up going to college or not, my advice is the same: live your own life, learn what you love, and figure out the best ways to blend what you love with what the market wants.

If you’re too idealistic from the start, you could end up in serious financial and emotional trouble after you’ve finished your formal education. But if you merge your idealism with practicality, and plan your career strategically, with the realities of the economy in mind, you can set yourself up to dive right back in to your true mission in life just a little while later.

Remember, the goal isn’t survival, it’s the fulfillment of your mission. It’s not easy. However, if you take the long view, plan strategically, and keep getting up after you’re pushed down, you’ll have a solid chance at achieving your dream.

The College Debate (Part 2)

In my last post I mentioned that I switched my career path to financial planning. I want to clarify a few things that might have been left unclear.

Number one, I want everyone to pursue their passion. I do not want anyone to give up on their dreams due to practical concerns. Sure, sometimes you realize that your ambition is completely unreasonable, but if you have a deep passion for something, you can always find a way to continue to pursue it in one way or another. If you wanted to become a world renowned musician, maybe that will never happen, but you can continue to compose and perform music. There’s almost always a way to engage in what you love.

Maybe you’ll never be president, but you almost certainly can make a difference politically at some level. It can be very good to humble our ambitions and focus our energy on the work that’s at the core of our passion. Instead of wasting all our energy struggling to gain a certain title, we can invest that energy in engaging directly with our passion.

I by no means have given up on my objectives in life. What I gave up on was the pathway I was pursuing to achieve my objectives. With the stability of my new career, I plan to devote much of my free time to the causes I care about. With the increased income, I plan to attend more conferences and retreats in order to make more connections and be part of the conversation on the issues I care most about.

It’s hard to build without work stability. But once you no longer have to worry about applying to jobs, you can mold your non-working time into meaningful projects. And you can commit to those projects long-term because you have a predictable schedule and income to plan around. Strangely, sometimes structure can be very liberating to one’s life.

The College Debate (Part 1)

It is 2019 in America and the common sense idea that college is the ticket to success is being questioned.

I was born in 1986, smack-dab in the middle of the millennial birth years.

Growing up, school was all about preparing for college, which was the gateway and major obstacle to a secure and fulfilling career. The idea was to do well in school in order to get into a good college in order to get a good job. We’ve all heard it before.

It turned out to be a lie though.

The bachelor’s degree has become very diluted throughout the decades. What once was a mark of elite education is now what a high school diploma was a few decades ago.

There are so many people that have the damn degree, that there is a surplus of education in the job market. So now with so many more competitors in the competition to be among the best educated, the task has become exponentially more difficult.

And even then . . . just because you’re the most knowledgeable doesn’t mean there’s a market for your knowledge. Or if there is, it doesn’t mean that market is one you have interest in.

Now don’t get me wrong, bachelor’s degrees can be extremely advantageous if you’re interested in studying a field with big market demand like computer science, engineering, or nursing . . . or really anything with fairly specialized knowledge and a decent job market.

The thing is that not everyone has a passion for working in one of the in-demand careers. Those who happen to, really luck out; while those who happen to not, are likely to struggle greatly in their transition from school to career. That’s definitely what happened to me and many people I know.

I was naive. I wanted to work for a non-profit working toward transforming our social and economic paradigms. Well . . . it seems like common sense now, but there’s not a ton of funding for that type of work. Now, I didn’t think about how much funding there was for that type of work when I was in college. I just figured that since I’m so passionate about that work, I was bound to be given an opportunity by a like-minded organization.

At this point you already know that things didn’t work out how I had expected. Not even close.

I tried and tried to land a job that would lead me toward what I had envisioned, but eventually, after a little over seven years of being rejected, I said “enough is enough” and embarked on another route.

I came to the conclusion that the non-profit sector wasn’t the route that was going to get me to where I want to get. Though it seemed like the most direct route, my experience demonstrated to me that I needed to find an alternate path.

In my case, that alternate path is financial planning because it allows me to utilize both my analytical orientation and desire to help people within a field I happen to find very interesting. Though it’s not my dream career, I nevertheless envision myself thoroughly enjoying my job due to my satisfaction from learning more and more about finance, teaching valuable lessons to clients, and helping people in ways that will concretely improve their lives.

That’s the path I came to. Others have come to other paths that better suit who they are. We all have to figure out how we can best adapt to that real world that is out there. Just or unjust, rational or irrational, right or wrong, it’s the world we need to navigate through. So in this clearly non-ideal world that we live in, it’s no surprise that our strategy will often have to be non-ideal in order for us to succeed in our objectives.

So college or no college, we need to figure out what we want to achieve, what the paths are to achieving those goals, and what the realistic likelihood of success is for each path.

I’m grateful for what I learned in college. It’s something I would never want to give up. But I’m grateful for the intellectual development it provided me; not the preparation for work and life.

The thing is that college can be valuable in different ways. It can be valuable for personal development, intellectual development, career development and so on. What sucks is when you expect it to be valuable in a certain essential way, and it’s not. So it’s essential for us to know what we’re getting and what we’re not before we sign up.

That clarity has been lacking for a quite a while now. And this has created a tremendous social problem. Now a ton of people feel cheated, lied to, and way too many are struggling economically.

And yet regardless of this social catastrophe that we’ve gotten ourselves in, the high schools still continue to promote the same tired, inaccurate narrative about college.

We continue to lie to our youth.

I ask you to please help disrupt this dangerous false narrative.

We know better as a society. And teachers must know better as well. I mean . . . it’s hard for me to imagine that they actually don’t know better.

I believe it’s the pressure to conform within hierarchical, bureaucratic organizations that keeps teachers promoting nonsense. Most of them know better deep down inside. It’s just too scary for them to speak out. The possible consequences are so bad that they don’t dare take the risk.

But if the teachers aren’t willing to put their quality of life on the line to disrupt the false narrative, someone is going to have to if our society is going to evolve in this enormously important area.

I hope that person is you.

Authority Over Children

Who has greater responsibility over the wellbeing of a child, the child’s parents or the government?

When there is a disagreement between the two entities, who ought to win out? What is the line that the government cannot allow to be crossed? What principles are in place to protect a family from government overreach into their lives? What principles protect the family’s values against those of the government?

I find these to be difficult questions. While it’s necessary for individuals to be protected from the tyranny of the government, the government must also protect individuals from unjust harm.

In the case a child abuse, it is difficult to lay out a clear line. Many American citizens believe that restrained spanking is completely acceptable. Many deeply resent the idea of government officials telling parents how to raise their own children. But then who else is going to protect children from the verbal and physical abuse of their parents? Indeed it seems that under the current legal regime, way too many parents are getting away with abusing their children. Having worked in education, I’ve talked to counselors and made the calls to Child Protective Services. I’ve seen the hopeless (“it’s sad, but we can’t do anything about it”) attitude from counselors, as well as the impotence of Child Protective Services (“If there are no marks, we can’t do anything.”). But we, as a society, have to make sure every child is protected, whether the government is currently up to it or not.

We need a firm line: no hitting children. That’s somewhere to start. When it comes to verbal abuse, we need to understand that humans are only human and that they’re going to lose their temper from time to time. But if they’re calling their children disparaging names and/or cursing at their children on a regular basis (every week or more frequently), that cannot be tolerated.

When it comes to religion, things get even trickier. Should male and female circumcision be allowed for religious reasons? Absolutely not! Permanent bodily harm of a person should not be allowed until that person voluntarily agrees to it at the age of 18 or later.

But even trickier is the policing of values by the government. Should the teaching of hate be tolerated under any circumstances? If parents teach their children the religious beliefs that gays and apostates ought to be stoned to death, should that be allowed?! On the one hand, it would seem unbelievable for a government to be tolerant of something like that, but, on the other hand, the idea of the government deciding what the acceptable versions of religion are is frightening.

But let’s think about it: if we as a society decided that parents are not allowed to teach their children that particular categories of people ought to be killed, that seems to go too far since the belief that murderers and rapists ought to be killed does not seem completely unjustifiable. But what about the killing of adulterers or liars? Where’s the line? If children cannot be taught that the killing of innocent people is justifiable, who gets to define the meaning of innocent?

Perhaps we can say that children must not be taught that it is justifiable to murder a person on the basis of their religion, race, sexual orientation, family associations, political beliefs, consensual sexual actions, utterances, or misdemeanor crimes. Sure, it seems ridiculous to be that specific, but what else can we do? It seems impossible to lay out a fine line.

Another option would be to allow parents to teach children whatever they want and then simply rely on the deterrent of the consequences of the rule of law to keep those children from violence during their childhood and beyond.

It is, however, possible for communities in America to nearly completely isolate their members from the outside world (think of the Amish and Hasidic Jews). So relying on the consequences of the rule of law as a deterrent in these cases would likely not be very effective. Thus, the more invasive first option seems to me to be the preferable one.

Indeed multiculturalism is not all it’s cracked up to be. It can be okay up to a point, but when the value differences are too severe, it can become harmful to human beings—even fatally harmful. Dangerous values, no matter where they come from, are exactly that. And it is the responsibility of society, through the powers of government, to protect the entire citizenry from those dangers.