Friday, December 16, 2011


     Years ago a sportswriter named Blackie Sherrod used to write a Sunday column called "Scattershooting." Recently Dallas Morning News writer Kevin Sherrington has resurrected the tradition, and sports radio broadcaster Junior Miller does it on KTCK. I decided to take that approach in this post. Mainly for fun, somewhat as an experiment, but also as a way to put down a bunch of random thoughts which I might not use anywhere else or develop into full posts.
     Writing in this fashion reminded me of my days as a deejay on the campus radio station. My broadcast partner and I had completely different tastes in music, and we alternated songs. The show's name was Classic Whateverness in Full Operation.
     So don't expect what I want to believe you've come to see as the expected depth. But I hope you find a few nuggets that make you think.

Scattershooting while wondering what ever happened to Lumpy Ward (my best friend in first grade) ... Recent New York Times article talked about how some colleges have sharply reduced length of application essays while trying to give more "clever" topics. Some are even giving prompts such as "If I had to wear a costume for a year," to be completed with 25 or fewer words. I guess it's part of the Twitter phenomenon. It's worrisome that universities are lessening the premium on higher-level thinking and clear, developed expression ... I think there is a logical link between this and the growing scandal from Long Island, where dozens of students hired people to take the SAT for them. The test simply doesn't mean much when it comes to key skills and attitudes, particularly not the way the world is changing. But we want to quantify everything. It gives us some assurance. It also has too much weight ... Anyone actually remember your SAT scores? How about particular grades? I was kind of floored the other day when I overheard a woman who looked at least 60 talking about how she had done on a test in college ... How would I do on a high school exit exam? ... Now that scientists have discovered a planet that could support life, any knowledge we've safely assumed has to be questioned ... Recently the Yale quarterback had to choose between playing in "The Game" against Harvard and his Rhodes Scholarship interview. He chose to play. My question: Why should he have had to choose? He seems to exemplify what we should want in all our student-athletes. But we end up seeing much more press about sad events such as the brawl at the end of the Xavier-Cincinnati basketball game ... Watching our lower school choirs, I'm reminded why schools need arts programs, far beyond the current argument about creativity (although that is key): the arts are an intrinsic and gorgeous form of human expression. Cutting arts equals cutting an essential literacy program ... Managing enrollment, balancing classes, and cobbling a schedule is a massive challenge at time. Imagine trying to do it in the high school I just read about, where students and teachers have to go in shifts--and class size is still way too big ... I recently received an e-mail from the Race to Nowhere folks, calling for "no homework weekends." Nice idea, but it doesn't work. The kids just end up slammed on either side of it. This highlights the problem with movements such as RTN: complicated issues are reduced to over-simplified "solutions" when what's really needed is sustained, thoughtful dialogue ... Harvard Business Review blog recently ran a post on the law of disminishing returns. Here's the basic idea. Let's say you have two people who put in equally long days. Person A goes as hard as possible the entire time. Person B takes some well-timed breaks. As the day goes on, A's productivity lessens so much that even at less than full effort B can end up having accomplished significantly more worthwhile work. There are so lessons there for how we structure school--and kids' lives in general ... For however long, the universal brand logo of a teacher has been chalk, a book, or an apple. Not sure what it should be now ... Similar to the logo idea, I keep trying to thing of great tag lines for a school. I wish I had thought of the one The Rivers School in MA uses: "Excellence with humanity"... Recently I've heard many people talk about a quality education in terms of "maximizing potential" (a phrase I've used). I don't like it, particularly not when referring to kids. I'm 50, and I hope I haven't maximized my potential. A great education should set people up to approach their potential far down the road, when that potential may actually be clear...

No comments: