Tag Archives: college

Walking the Walk

I now have time for my own writing again. Having completed all the work required for my Master’s degree in Technical Communication, I don’t have any more academic writing on the horizon, affording me ample time to update my blog and work on my novels. The two novels I am working on, Unfinished and The Adventures of Braxton Carter, have been sitting for the past several months as I focused my attention on Instructional Design and the Graduate Final Exam research and the Graduate Portfolio. I am so looking forward to getting back to my own writing.

It has been a stressful month. I had a final project in instructional design to complete and a usability test for a fellow student’s final project to complete on top of researching material from about 14 books for my program’s Final Exam—which consisted of two questions for which I had to write about 2500 words each answer. The exam was two weeks ago, the week after my project was due. After turning in the exam, I had to wait a week and a half to find out if I passed. I was about sick to my stomach the whole time as stress worked its way with me. I finally found out I passed and it took almost a whole day before the weight lifted from my shoulders.

Last night, my wife and I started decorating for Christmas (after I submitted the last thing I needed to for the program: my portfolio) and it was only then that it dawned on me that I had no more school work waiting on me. I had no deadlines looming. I had no assignments pending. No discussion posts to update. It was a weird feeling. Pleasant…but weird.

I just finished my exit interview with the program coordinator who told me how proud the department was at my graduating and having passed the exam on the first attempt. I don’t know how common it is to fail—I meant to ask her, but I didn’t want to sound pompous. After four years of reading my fellow students’ work on discussion posts and essays, it is not outside the realm of possibility that some of them failed.

One of the questions on the exit survey was “do you intend on pursuing a PhD?” My answer was an unqualified “NO!” I have had enough of research and academics to last a lifetime. My advisor did invite me to apply to teach as an adjunct instructor in the department. I have actually thought about it several times. I think I could do it, if they paid enough and could work around my work schedule. And if I decided to stay in Houston.

So, here’s to no more school. Commencement is the last thing waiting on me and it is the 19th. If anyone wants to see me get my sheepskin, here’s the link for the webstream. It starts at 10: https://www.uhd.edu/computing/labs-technology-centers/technology-teaching-learning-center/itv/Pages/Commencement.aspx

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Not on My Dime

Once upon a time, a high school girl and her boyfriend found out they were expected a child in her junior year. She dropped out to have the baby while he dropped out to get a job. They struggled to make a life for their little family for a number of years while living with her parents before he left to find a better life elsewhere. She never graduated and lived off of her parents and what little support the baby’s father did provide. Once the child was old enough, she tried to find a job, but without a high school diploma, no one would hire her at a pay level to afford day care and provide for herself and her child. She lived on welfare and the generosity of others until the child entered high school. The young mom finally got her GED and found a grant and several college loans to pay for college, which she attended regularly until she earned her degree. She found a job making enough money to pay back her loans and provide for her life and family.

The baby’s father found a manual labor job working in the oil fields making pretty good money. He paid his child support and was an attentive father when he was able to spend time with his child, which wasn’t often, as he had to work a lot of over time to make ends meet. He advanced at his job until one day when his supervisor asked to speak with him about his future. The young man was capable and reliable and the company thought he would be a good candidate to move into a leadership position. The only problem was that he didn’t have a degree. He had not even finished high school. In order to keep his job, he did manage to get his GED, but he was unwilling to go to college. He enjoyed his job as it was and had no wish to take on more responsibility.2015-01-09_1246

Today, the president of the United States made a proclamation that every American should have two years of free college education. Of course, it won’t be free. It will have to be paid for by taxes. He did magnanimously offer to let the states split the cost, which will just mean state taxes will help the federal taxes pay for it. Either way, it is coming out of the pockets of every American. This is wrong on so many levels, but I will try to narrow it down to two or three key points. First, not every American wants or should have a college education. Second, the history of this nation is based on individual sacrifice for individual success. Americans who scraped and saved and worked their butts off for a college degree should not have to pay for everyone else to have one handed to them. Third, once the government gets involved in education, it will turn colleges into degree mills with success being measured by the number of degrees issued rather than the quality of the education offered.

I taught freshman composition for two years at a state supported four-year university. It was a major turning point in my life; putting me on my current career path in corporate training. After fifteen years in front of a classroom I can say with no reservation that the colleges are already filled with thousands of students who have no business being in college. I had at least one student in each of my comp classes who was in school only because it was either that, or get out of their parent’s house and find gainful employment. Neither option appealed to most of these kids and their work and attendance showed it. They were wasting their parents’ money and my time—taking my attention away from other students who needed it.

Even now, in my role in learning and development, I meet adults who just do not possess the mental capacity to learn complicated thought processes or critical thinking skills. They are simple folk who know how to do what they need to do. Why should they be bothered with higher education? Just because it’s free?

America takes all kinds of people. Some are thinkers and some are doers. There are plenty of jobs that still need to be done that require no degree. In fact, even a high school diploma is wasted on some of these jobs, but they still need to be done. TV host Mike Rowe highlights many of these jobs in his cable TV show. These jobs require hard labor and a good work ethic. Many of them are not pleasant and not many people want to do them. Those who do, do not need formal education to perform them. Having the workers spend two years of tax payers’ dollars to get an associate’s degree would be a fundamental waste of money. But then again, that is what government is best at, isn’t it?2015-01-09_1245

Public education has been the law of the land since before the Constitution was written, and many of the most successful people throughout history have benefitted from state-sponsored learning. The flipside of that is the millions of people who drop out or barely pass gaining absolutely no benefit from 12 years of coerced mandated attendance. Many schools are merely churning out as many kids as the state requires in order to maintain their funding. The quality of the education is secondary to the process of moving the kids along the conveyor belt to graduation. Now the administration wishes to extend that process another two years on taxpayer’s dimes. Nothing will improve.

The utopia that the progressive leftists dream about is a land where every person in the land has a college degree, is in peak physical condition, does not worship any one diety, does not think or believe in any way that is contrary to the populous and does not question the authority of the state, since after all, the state is doing such a good job taking care of them. This ensures that every citizen is able to contribute to the welfare state with the taxes collected from the high paying jobs they get after graduating. The unfortunate reality is that the state cannot take care of the populous, since many humans are not lemmings willing follow blindly the leadership of others. Not every person is cut out for college. Not every person will benefit from a college education. Not every job requires a college education.

In his address, Obama started off making a broad generalization that, on the surface, is easy to support. “I think everybody understands that it [education] is the key for success for our kids in the 21st century.” I have already poked holes in that assertion.

He went on to say, “It’s not just for kids. We also have to make sure that everybody has the opportunity to constantly train themselves for better jobs, better wages, better benefits.” This is so Americans can earn more, thus providing more tax revenue for the nanny state programs.

“It’s something that we can accomplish, and it’s something that will train our workforce so that we can compete with anybody in the world,” he said, adding “So that it benefits everybody and not just some.” Again, this is the socialist agenda at work, absolving the citizen (drone) of any personal responsibility and by extension, initiative.

There are already many programs in place to help those who wish to get a college education if those people are willing to work for it. The GI Bill pays for a full degree for those willing to serve in the military. There are grants available for those lower income families who wish to improve their situation. Many corporation offer tuition reimbursement for employees who wish to go to college. The reality is that many people who don’t have a degree don’t want one.

Those who do complete college feel a great sense of accomplishment in doing so. A four-year degree requires dedication, hard work, discipline and a significant investment in time and money. Not so many high school graduates feel that same level of accomplishment because while high school does take four-years, even the laziest student can complete it with the least amount of effort. In fact, it is almost impossible to fail at this point. High schools all over the country are turning out kids with diplomas who cannot read past a seventh grade level.

Obama would have us believe that every American is like our young mom; willing to work hard to make a better life for herself with a college degree. This is not the most common case. We have several citizens who cannot read, not because they didn’t go to college, but rather because our public education system does not work properly. If we wish to fix the problem of literacy in our country, if we wish to have a generation of educated citizens, sending the illiterate to college won’t do it. We have to stop graduating illiterate kids from high school, and we have to imbue a sense of responsibility in our young. The welfare state is the exact opposite way to do that.

Do not support this initiative. If people want education opportunities, let them work to pay for them as people have done for generations. They will value them more and work harder to be successful at them.

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For the Love of Chicken Scratch

It has been a while since I have blogged anything, mostly because, in all honesty, I have been too lazy to try to put ideas down on paper.  Well, that’s not really true.  I haven’t put ideas down on paper in a long time.  Paper and pen are old technologies that I rarely employ these days.  I was watching the TV show “Almost Human” with Karl Urban which is set in a techno-advanced near future where half of the police force is staffed by robots and everything is done electronically.  On this episode, Urban’s character Kenex is confounded by some scribbles on small pieces of paper.  The witness tells him that her dead boyfriend was old school and wrote his phone number on the paper and kept it after she tore it up.  She thought his sentimentality was sweet.  Kenex then searches all over the precinct for a piece of paper to impress a girl.  It takes a long time.  No one in this dystopian future uses paper anymore.  I know I rarely do.

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I have been writing on a laptop, netbook and tablet for years.  I use my mobile phone to dictate notes to myself.  It just makes sense to me.  I was working with a technician the other day and he had this stack of index cards in a cup holder in his van.  I asked about it and he told me that he takes notes on every job he works to keep a ready reference.  Outstanding idea that more technicians should adopt.  When I was a technician, I similarly kept notes on my jobs, but I did it on a laptop.  This tech has an iPhone and an iPad and still uses pen and paper to take notes.  I felt like I was back in 2000.  Someone get me a cd player.

I went rambling though a Barnes and Noble and one of the largest sections they have are journals.  Some are very well put together, bound in leather, heavyweight, low-acid-content paper journals.  Now, I love leather.  Anything leather.  Seeing a leather-bound book gets to me in a real , almost physical way.  Every time I see one, my first thought is ‘buy it.’  Then I look at it and ask myself when would I use it?  Could I see myself carrying this everywhere I go?  I already carry my tablet and phone everywhere.  Which would best facilitate writing?  The answer to that question is obvious to anyone who has tried to read my chicken scratch.

When I went back to college in ’98, I studied writing and most writing classes have in-class writing assignments.  I know at least one syllabus required that we buy these annoyingly expensive composition books just for these assignments.  After struggling to write neat enough for the professor, I found myself barely finishing before the class ended and of course, the comments by the prof usually praised my style and cursed my penmanship.  That, coupled with the sensation of someone driving nails through my metacarpals drove me to look for a technological solution.  Finally, I bought a laptop and a portable printer and a bag the size of an encyclopedia salesman’s sample kit.  In 1998, laptops were not the tiny featherweight slates that populate first class on airplanes these days.  No, laptops were were the size of your average family Bible and weighed about as much not including the power supply brick (which bore a startling resemblance in size and shape to its namesake).  The printer I had was not much smaller than the average desktop printer.  The only thing that made it portable was the fact that it had a battery.  A heavy battery.  That lasted about an hour.  It wasn’t WiFi, it wasn’t Bluetooth, heck, it wasn’t even USB.  It had a parallel cable!

I came to class and started looking for a power outlet (since back then, a laptop was lucky to get two hours use on a charge and I had to make it last all day).  I found one not too far from where I usually sat.  Ever notice how just changing a seat makes everyone act weird?  I opened my huge carrying case and began untangling cords and plugging in my equipment.  Once, I had the laptop opened and booted on my desk and the printer set up on the vacant desk next to me, I was ready to begin and I still had about two minutes before the class was supposed to start.  I looked around and everyone was staring at me.  The professor came over with the furtiveness of someone pointing out my fly was open and asked about my setup.  “I’m ready for today’s writing prompt,” I announced.

“You know you have to turn it in at the end of class, don’t you?  I can’t give you time to go to the computer lab to print it out.”

I patted the printer next to me like a race car driver stroking his formula funny car.  “I’ve got that taken care of,” I replied.

I not only finished my paper with time to spare, I had enough time to almost totally revise it before printing it for the prof.  She was more than satisfied with the results of my setup and didn’t mind my using it for the rest of the term.  I have used it in every class from then on.  In fact, several other students began pulling out laptops in class.  Today, in my classes, EVERY student has one, and for the few that may not, the university has several computers in every classroom.
Handwriting is a dying art.  I have heard many people lament the decline of penmanship, while others clamor for a faster demise, stating that technology has made the ink pen obsolete.  I remember sitting in a classroom decorated with a running border along the walls illustrating the proper way to form cursive letters trying to make the lower case letters touch the dotted line on the Big Chief notebook while keeping them all leaning the same way.  I HATED cursive writing.  It hurt my hand and it took forever.  I liked print.  I wrote a blog a couple of years ago when I started my graduate studies about having to write a paragraph in order to take the GRE.  Handwriting is painful and slow.  But then again, isn’t said that one must suffer for one’s art?  The love letter, the sympathy note, and the thank you note are all examples of the best uses of handwriting.  Sometimes its not what you say, but how you say it that matters.  Suffer through script to share sentiment, but for everything else, ticka ticka ticka I say.

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