I recently was talking with a recent college graduate. I heard him complain that university didn’t prepare him for work. He somehow felt ripped off, like he spent ALL THAT MONEY on an education and when he finally got his first job, he was completely unprepared. So I asked him to explain, and these were the core points he made.

College has really narrow individual effort and originality values that are 180 degrees different from the workplace.

That is interesting, I thought. My work experience is that collaboration is powerful, and that we share and borrow each others work product all the time. Whatever gets the job done faster and better is what is valued. If that is three people working together, or if it is looking at the “archive” of previous presentation materials, templates, knowledge management or research, all is available to use. With internal publication, you only cite resources to assume the credibility of the source, not to disclaim originality.  Colleges punish students for “plagiarizing”, even repeating their own output from prior coursework!  Colleges expect individual work, so they punish collaboration when they can detect it.

Course projects at college are abbreviated, and mostly hypothetical. No credit is given for pragmatic approaches. Team projects distribute the grade equally.

In the workplace, most of what matters is pragmatism. Will it work? Do we know how to do it? Can we afford it? Can we get it sponsored? Theory is interesting, but application is king. Taking concepts out of a book, an article, or a methodology are interesting, but if we can’t get everyone to understand it how effective will it be?  Scholastic projects are too short to actually prove very much. You are required to follow the methodology, even if you know a faster more effective way. You are required to reference the concepts in the text, even if your own ideas are proven from experience. Work projects tend to be longer and have to produce actual value. Work projects have asymmetrical contributions from team members and rewards are also asymmetrically distributed.

Coursework does not fit into a larger picture.

In the workplace, things we do are valuable to someone. Since they reward us for doing them, we can assume they are valuable. In order to maximize rewards, we can understand who values our work, and why it is important. There is a frame of reference, even if it is limited to your team and your boss. At University, context, if discernible is artificial. The big picture is defined by your diploma, and perhaps some (very aspirational) career goal or notion. It is really hard to see how any one course, let alone an assignment or project fits into that bigger picture.

Grades and Diagnostics are not differentiated in coursework.

This may be the most damning critique. At work, we should receive feedback on how we are doing. That feedback should be designed to help us improve. Bosses often structure work so that our learning does not compromise the “real world delivery” of value. There are “grades” in the workplace in the form of performance evaluations for the purpose of rewards distribution (a.k.a. annual performance reviews). These are done after we receive regular and frequent “diagnostic” feedback.

In a collegiate setting, we rarely get any feedback that is not accompanied by a grade (which is immutable). Grades are “cumulative”. That means that our overall grade is “degraded” by any momentary performance gaps. We cannot invent extra credit or any way to “make up for performance gaps”. Once a grade has been assigned, we are stuck.

In the workplace, we are usually rewarded for improvement, and for extraordinary effort or heroics. We are rewarded when our teammates use us as a resource (copy our answers). We are rewarded for volume of output or throughput as well as quality of output. We are rewarded for staying late, showing up early, skipping lunch or any other measures to meet important goals. We are rewarded for thinking about what the boss wants, what the customer wants and making those wants come true.

So What?

Here is what I think.  Academia is the way it is because it is insulated from competitive work.  There are restrictions and limitations that make it very expensive for students to change colleges mid degree.  There is almost always a loss of time and credit.  The organizations that accredit colleges – that make college degrees “meaningful” – help enforce that monopoly.   There is no incentive to change the system; it is a mostly closed system.  The closest thing we have had to real change in education in the last 100 years is the online course.  But that hasn’t really changed to process of diagnostic feedback and rewards.  That hasn’t addressed any of the differences in values between workplace and university.

But do we go to college to get jobs?

You bet your sweet “bippy” we do, Gilligan.  Is that a rational thing to do?  Probably not.  University or College was established to make people well rounded, intellectual, critical thinkers.  The system was not really intended as mere career training.  In fact, I think that most people capable of achieving a baccalaureate degree could probably learn enough to start a career in about 18 months of intensive study.  Some technical disciplines require more,  even 24 or 30 months.  The mandatory 4 years is a completely arbitrary number.  Now given the mostly ridiculous cost of higher education, and the level of debt most students incur to receive their degree – it seems that arbitrary length (and associated cost) is ripe for re-examination.

What is the deal with “gen ed”? Why can’t an engineer skip half of his general ed. requirements? Why do foreign language majors require statistics? And why is it that in 2017 every degree does not require some practical exposure to computer science or technology applications?  It is completely arbitrary.

Have you considered the cost?

What our higher education system needs is a better understanding of the future value of money.  The debt that I incur now, must guarantee me a long term higher paying career that I care about, in order to be worth the investment.  So if I spend $80,000 on college now, and wait 4 years to get a job, how long will it take to “break even”?  If I get a job at UPS making $15 per hour, and I work for 4 years at 2000 hours/year – that is $120,000.  So after 4 years of college, I am $200,000 behind.  Let’s say at UPS, my wages grown at 3% per year, and post college I get a job earning $18 per hour an if I am lucky my salary increases 5% per year.  In this scenario, it is in year 21, from high school graduation, or 17 years after college graduation that I have finally made up the difference, and start to pull ahead of the non college me.  Now of course this assumes that there are no career advancements on either side.  No promotions to management, or any other changes.  It is simply shocking how long it takes to pay back.

What ever made us think that 17 year old humans could make these decisions for themselves?


This has been an extraordinary election season. The amount of vitriol on both sides has been higher than any in recent memory. Without directly defending our president elect, Donald Trump, I want to talk about the persuasion on the left.

The thing that I noticed the most, though was that Donald Trump was called a racist, and his followers referred to as racists. I disagree with many of the things that Mr. Trump has said, and as much as anything, the way he has said them. I simply can’t understand why he is being called a racist. From my own readings, he has advocated two distinct policies that have been interpreted as “racist”:

  1. He wants to actually enforce immigration laws.
    1. He has proposed building a wall to prevent/reduce illegal immigrants from arriving in the US by crossing the border with Mexico.
    2. He did refer to Mexicans as criminals, and bad people.  His point, though was that the purpose of immigration policies is to prevent those exact people from entering our country.  By not stopping illegal immigration, we are by default letting criminals and bad people in, and we don’t even know it.
  2. He wants to prevent radicalized Muslims from entering our country.
    1. He proposed stopping all immigration from Muslim countries until we can figure out a way to accomplish identify radicalized Muslims.
    2. He also proposed some kind of extreme vetting protocol to accomplish this goal.

I am sure that there have been other things that he has said that people have called racist – but most of those claims stem from these two policy proposals.


My problem is not whether Trump is actually a racist, but whether any reasonable claim to racism can be made from these proposals. In short, it can’t. These policies are not racist. Let’s start with one simple statement. Neither Muslims nor Mexicans are a race. End. Of. Discussion. Muslims are practitioners of Islam – a religion. They are neither a race, nor a nationality. So at worst, Trump is discriminating based on religion not race. Mexicans are citizens of Mexico, a nation. So here we at least have some ethnic discrimination – but still, no racism. None.

But the confusion is caused by insipid attempts at persuasion – like this one that came up on my facebook feed a few days ago shown on the right.

Race is based on biological characteristics, and there are 4 main races – Australoid, Caucasoid (White), Mongoloid (Asian), and Negroid (Black). Most of us recognize that the biological factors are really minute differences, and so it is ethnicity that matters which includes more social and cultural factors.

What this piece of persuasion purports to say is that the only thing that white people have to be proud of is their skin color, but what it actually says is this, the hundreds of ethnic groups that make up the other races are not necessary to imply pride does not equal racism, but white people are required to specify which ethnic group they participate in so that their “pride” is not considered racist.

The really dopey part is that when you add Mexican and Muslim in, it directly implies Trumps policies and it makes it less about race than about other human groups.

Racism is the belief that one race is somehow inherently superior to the others, especially when it is expressed as  discriminatory or prejudicial treatment or other form of oppression toward the inferior race(s).

But races are truly made up categories.  They may have some genetic basis, but the lines are artificially drawn.  Moreover, the probability that any one of us has multi-racial ancestors is very, very high.  I think I have about 1/128th Native American in my DNA and a lot of northern European and Jewish (which implies some middle eastern, somewhere). So what does it all mean?  Answer, nothing.

What really matters is culture and values.  When we fight over culture, that is where things get ugly.  Frankly, culture includes values like religion, sexuality, economics, and more stylistic values, dress, art, music, activities etc.  It gets uglier when we attribute these values as sets to groups rather than individuals.

Nobody really has a problem when we disagree about cultural values as individuals.  When we assign those values to groups, we have created our own categories, and assigned properties to them.  That is the ugliness.  Now it as if everyone in that group is the same.  It doesn’t matter what group it is, and how that group is identified.  Lets take democrats and republicans – self -identifying groups?  or Liberals and Conservatives?  Christians and Muslims and Jews?  Gays and Heteros?  Blacks and Whites? Men and Women? Puerto Ricans and Mexicans?  Italian Americans and Irish Americans?  When we act or talk like membership in a group, whether self identified or by birth, automatically imputes ANY of the cultural values that can be attributed to that group to individuals in that group, we are expressing our prejudice.

But it’s not racism, it’s not bigotry, and it’s not chauvinism.  It’s just plain old prejudice, and we pretty much all do it.  The closest word that I find that describes the behavior is ethnocentrism.  This is judging members of other groups by the culture and standards used within our own groups culture.


Mass Shootings. Racism. Protests and resulting violence Terrorism. Jihad. Ecomonic and Political Systems. Genocide. Imperialism.

Is it even possible that any human society can be fixed from the inside?

Is reform possible, or is our civilization destined to spiral downward out of control? If I have learned nothing else in 2016 is that both of our political parties are completely devoid of integrity, with platforms and values designed to appeal to their constituents with only one goal in mind. Continue reading

The whole world’s gone crazy.  There are a lot of things in this election that don’t make much sense.  The media has been completely bamboozled.  The republican party has been taken over by aliens.  Cats and Dogs living together, mass hysteria.

…and we owe it all to “The Donald”.

He has put on a pretty amazing display of showmanship.  He acts like a blow hard.  He acts like an arrogant self-promoting narcissist.  He attacks, attacks, attacks.  Anybody lands a blow on Trump gets a surprising amount of payback, and Trump is a master.  Continue reading

I saw a post on Facebook today about how other countries (namely Germany, Finland and Denmark) provide free access to university education to their citizens.  So I did a little research here.

While I agree that the nearly 7% interest rates on student loans is criminal, and I content that the availability of student loans has allowed the tuition of even public universities to grow at nearly 3x the rate of inflation for the last 30 years creating a situation where paying for college is a tremendous burden on the middle class who earn too much to qualify for “real” financial aid.


As difficult as it is for us to hear, the reality is that Germany, Finland and Denmark on income and sales or vat tax – are much higher than the US for comparable income. So if you want to pay 25% sales tax instead of 8% we probably could afford free universities.

I really don’t want to pay the kind of higher taxes that other developed countries pay.  However, I think that in the information age, university education is becoming more and more essential for the kind of growth careers that are emerging.

Every politician says they want to fix it, but have you heard a concrete proposal from any of them?

Continue reading

Every politician that runs a campaign has a plank in their platform about education or education reform. They have it because it is necessary. The vast majority of voters have an interest in education – either their own or that of their offspring. We have decided as a nation that education is our path to better careers, higher income, and higher living standards. We have invested the responsibility for most of that in our state and local governments.

If you go back before world war I, this was still true – as soon as there was a community with enough kids, they would hire a school master or mistress and erect a school to help make their community literate. Students learned in one room schools together throughout elementary school. But as families flocked to urban centers, one room schools seemed to not answer the needs of our increasingly industrial society. Schools became more about preparing students for life in an increasingly industrial and corporate environment. Continue reading

The problem with education is…

The problem with education is the reason we value education.  There, I said it.  That thought has been bouncing around in my mind for a long time.  The problem with education is that we care about it for many of the wrong reasons.  At all levels, from kindergarten through graduate level, we care about education for the wrong reasons.

My son (a college sophomore) told me recently that he didn’t think he was making enough progress. that he felt that school was slowing him down or something like that.  Of course it is.

One of his friends has been frustrated because he is required to declare a major by some date for some reason.  Another friend is considering changing schools/majors or dropping out altogether.  Given the cost of a baccalaureate degree, it amazes me that we allow 17-18-19 year old students to make decisions that will impact their financial status for 10 years post graduation or more.

So what are the reasons we value education?  Truth be told, ranked in some order we value education for the following reasons:

  • Citizenship
  • Independent Living Skills
  • Better Career Options
  • Social Opportunities


Since the advent of social media, I have been increasingly exposed to diverse opinions and imperatives. Not only do I see and hear the opinions of my “friends” on social media, but I increasingly see and hear the opinions of those who influence them. This barrage of ideas requires me to sort through and constantly decide whether my current opinion is properly informed. I have had to formalize my guiding principles for whose opinions I am willing to listen to, at least deeply enough to support potential challenges to my own. I thought that others might feel this same way, so I offer to share my guiding principles so you can decide if they are helpful to you: Continue reading

OK – before we know much about what happened.  Before the analysis, and the blame, and the political posturing.  Before anyone starts to grind their typical axes.  Pray.

Pray for the victims and their families and loved ones, for those who perished and who were injured.  Pray for the perpetrators – that they would repent of their actions, and that they would ask forgiveness of those they injured.  Pray for our culture – not just in the USA, but world wide – that this global society would be able to stop for a moment and see that this – chaos; anarchy; violence – this is not the answer, nor the way forward.

Pray for our children, all of them, that they could possibly grow up in a world where this sort of attack is not seen by anyone as a solution, but only as a problem.

Pray for our leaders that they could respond with grace and civility to set an example for the generations to come.

Pray for all of us that we would not cower in fear, or react with malice or out of vengeance, but would respond with love and grace.