GOOD NEWS! THERE WILL NO LONGER BE ANY “ELDERLY” PEOPLE IN THE U.S.!

Marco Island-20110903-00092

I read in the newspaper the other day that a certain person in Brooklyn was the victim of a home invasion; the person was 72 years old and he was described as an “elderly man”. It seemed a bit shocking to me that someone is considered elderly at age 72. I mean 80 or 90, yes, but 72…elderly?

The upper age to be considered a member of the baby boomer generation is, at this time, 69 years ( 2015-1946). I suppose then that the appellation,” elderly man” or “elderly person” in reference to someone who is 72 and therefore not a member of the baby boomer generation could be gotten away with; but, I can guarantee that “elderly” will never be accepted and will be considered an insult and definitely not P.C. if it is applied to any person in America who is a member of the aforesaid hip, slick and cool baby boomer group (of which I am a card carrying member). After all did not the baby boomers single handedly invent the term” America’s youth”?

I was reading in William Manchester’s excellent book “The Glory and the Dream“, that before World War II the term “teenager” was not known or used. One was either a ”youngster” or an “adult”. “Teenager” came into existence in the 1950’s to describe people formerly known as “youngsters” between 13 and 19 years old who became rebellious and full of angst or some such troublesome condition that went along with being a “teenager”. The people who carry the label “baby boomer” have the distinction of not only being the largest age group in America but also some of the first people to be known as “teenagers”.

Is it any surprise then that the age group known as baby boomers and the first “teenagers” with all that that label implies, just will never, ever accept the term “elderly” as applied to them?

The baby boomer generation generally is described as ending with those people born in 1964. When then, will the country be fairly well rid of this, its largest population group? Let’s say it will be when the youngest members reach age 95 or in other words (do the math with me) 2055. Between now and then the term elderly will gradually fade away until there will be no “elderly people”. The people who were the first teenagers will slowly but surely watch elderly people die off to be replaced by the other term that we baby boomers invented…”Senior Citizens”.

And how refreshing it will be to be rid of “elderly” people. This means that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards can keep rocking and rolling till the day they die. People can keep jogging, running marathons, getting married and divorced over and over! “Elderly people” rock in rocking chairs, “senior citizens” rock the night away! What a relief to know what we baby boomers have known in our heart of hearts since the day we turned 13 and entered the hallowed age of “teenagedom”…we will never be elderly and we will never have to totally grow up.

Dr. Carolyn Koos

Advertisements

Hordes of Lawyers have Invaded “Whoville”

NYC           My husband is an attorney and he is fond of a saying about lawyers in small towns: “If you have one lawyer in a small town she will starve- if two lawyers, they both will prosper”. That says something not only about lawyers, but also about people in general. Just as it takes “two to tango” and “tea for two is nice”, it takes two to get into a good fight, legal or otherwise. More about that in a bit.

When I was in college way back in the 70’s there were about 200 million people in this country and now there are over 300 million people. That is a huge difference in the amount of human beings this fertile land of ours is being asked to support. In terms of education, the total number of students in public schools peaked in the 1970’s and then went down for a number of years before steadily increasing to 1970 levels today (National Center for Educational Statistics).

So what does that have to do with the price of tea in China or lawyers in small towns? Here’s the point: as we push more and more eighteen year olds out into society whether into college or the job market, the American workplace is becoming a very crowded environment to live in. Put another way, there is less and less room at the “inn” and not everyone is going to be very comfortable. Just like the lawyer who has a very peaceful existence as the sole litigator in “Whoville”, when more lawyers move in, more and more fights start; and there certainly is a proliferation of fighting in our Dear Country today. It does not have to do with the fact that “Whoville” has two lawyers today (it most likely has ten) but that the neighboring metro area is about twice the size it used to be.

Short of some unspeakable catastrophic event befalling America, the population is not going to decline. Times have changed in the sprawl of over-population. Which means we are just destined for more fighting – fighting for jobs, for goods, for real estate, for the “American Dream”! Or are we?

The President (and others) say the solution is more jobs which are, by the by, on the way…soon. Does anyone truly believe that all the people in this fruited land who want a decent job, who desperately need a decent job, are going to get one in the near future? How many full-time jobs have gone to part-time? Does anyone really believe an economic stimulus from the government will end all the fighting?

I was having breakfast at my favorite Jersey Diner today and my usual waitress noticed the front page of the “Daily News” that I was reading. Her comment was, “It looks like some Middle Eastern country in a revolution. Why do people not learn that a little basic kindness goes a long way to cure all the fighting?” Why indeed. That made me think of the short piece that was making the rounds a few years ago, “Everything I needed to know about life I learned in kindergarten”. The drift of the article was that all the lessons about being kind to one another were learned in kindergarten. Apparently not for enough people.

The population is not going to regress and the government is not going to come riding in like the cavalry to save the day; so, whatever shall be done? Take a serious look at the job market these days. Many citizens in various states have lost full-time jobs and are now working two to three jobs without benefits. We do not know what jobs will be available for our country’s children in the future. Maybe our students are not really learning those basic lessons about human relationships in a competitive and over-crowded society that allegedly are learned in kindergarten.

Our already over-burdened schools, in this 21st century, challenged with academics, social and emotional issues, are fraught with societal issues with little backing. Maybe those lessons should be incorporated into the curriculum all the way through High School. Maybe, all the “skills” that we are emphasizing in our current curriculum are not teaching people anything about how to live and be successful in today’s society. Or are the schools being successful incorporating these lessons and they are not being supported by society? Is society saying, “We cannot teach civility, ethics and all that; it’s too close to religion.” What is of highest importance in an over-populated, competitive, over-crowded society? Is it civility and getting along with others? We need to start “thinking outside the box”- maybe throw the whole box away. At least it seems so from looking at the front page of the newspaper this morning.

Dr. Carolyn Koos

No More “Hoboes” Please

NYC            1932 was arguably the worst year the United Stated endured in the Twentieth Century. I have been reading William Manchester’s book “The Glory and the Dream” which is a narrative of American history from 1932 to 1972. I have spent a good deal of time on American history, but somehow I sort of skipped the depression. I knew it was bad so why not jump from 1929 to Pearl Harbor and the War from which America emerged as the most powerful country in the world. I never realized just how bad the depression was.

In 1932 there were no safety nets for American citizens. President Hoover believed that welfare and the Dole would destroy American business and that private institutions should take care of the unfortunate poor. There was a shame attached to being poor and people went to great lengths to hide the fact. There was no social security, no subsidized housing, and no food stamps. It was very possible to starve in a country with more natural resources than any in the world. A great majority of people had no money to buy anything, even food, that people so take for granted today. Quoting from Mr. Manchester’s book, “Millions stayed alive by living like animals. In the Pennsylvania country-side they were eating wild roots and dandelions; in Kentucky they chewed violet tops, wild onions, forget-me-nots, and weeds which had heretofore been left to grazing cattle.”

According to Mr. Manchester, teachers bore witness to the worst, for the most heart-breaking martyrs were in the classrooms. In October, of the terrible year of 1932, in New York City over 20 percent of children suffered from malnutrition. In mining counties in Illinois, Ohio, West Virginia etc. the figure was 90 percent, with children suffering from “drowsiness, lethargy, sleepiness and mental retardation”. One teacher suggested to a little girl that perhaps she should go home and eat something. “I can’t”, she replied, “This is my sister’s day to eat”.

The stories of destitution of millions of Americans go on and on. Many people, including President Roosevelt, when he came into office in 1933, thought there was a distinct possibility that the United States’ experiment with democracy would end, and a totalitarian form of government would be required to save the country. To learn more about the personal tragedies endured by millions of Americans during this time I would suggest one read at least the first couple of chapters of William Manchester’s book.

The story from this time period that struck me as most poignant concerned the “riding of the rails”. When 25,000 out-of-work, destitute, World War One veterans camped in Washington for several months in the summer of 1932, President Hoover and his then Army Chief of Staff Douglas MacArthur became irritated so to speak. The “vagabonds” were a nuisance and needed to be dealt with and General MacArthur was just the man to do so. He turned loose Army troops on the veterans and ran them out of town, not without bloodshed. And here is the part that is so poignant. The veterans (and their families) had nowhere to go and no way to get there, so they continued to be kicked out of every town they went to under the auspices of vagrancy laws. From town to town they went with no place to rest. The only alternative for them and millions of other homeless Americans was to continually travel from place to place by the only means available, railroad boxcars. Thus was created the nomadic tribe of “Hoboes” who rode the rails in the United States of the 1930’s.

Today from time to time I hear “just get rid of all the bums in New York. Kick “em out (not referring to New York politicians, but homeless people); or “why can’t we simply kick the trouble makers and ne’er-do-wells out of the schools so the kids who want to be there can learn in a more peaceful learning environment”. My response is that we need to remember history, not only remember it but learn from it. Millions of “Hoboes” cannot exist in this country for very long before the country as we know it no longer exists. President Roosevelt referred to the “Forgotten Man”. In politics today we are hearing a lot about the “Common Man”. Could this be the same person Roosevelt was talking about?

Educators realize that the success of the mission we are engaged in, to teach every child so they can reach their maximum potential, will determine the very existence of our democracy. We cannot shirk our responsibility as a nation. As various politicians set off on the campaign trail, they should keep in mind that the country cannot have a traveling hoard of “Hoboes” again.

Dr. Carolyn Koos

Superintendent and Change Efforts

Dr. Koos presents an overview of 2015 dissertation “How Superintendent facilitate or effect instructional or curricular change in their districts.”

Background:

  • Qualitative
  • Interviewed: Superintendents with longevity in large K-12 multi-building districts in New Jersey
  • Keywords: Superintendent, Change, Organizational change, Barriers to Change, Strategies to Overcoming Barriers, Superintendent Skills

Research Questions:

  1. What are the drivers that propel educators to the superintendency?
  2. What and how are the strategies applied by superintendents to facilitate or effect changes in teaching and learning?
  3. What skills do superintendents perceive are required for effecting these changes?

Dr. Koos indicated in her presentation that superintendents must “overcome barriers to change” before they could move forward with any change or reform efforts.  Among the several barriers perceived by the large district superintendent interviewees were: The Board of Education, Toxicity, Unsafe Learning Environment, Lack of Trust, Political-Fiscal-Media-Legal concerns.

In Dr. Koos’ presentation summary of her dissertation, she gave what the interviewees perception on several strategies to overcome these barriers and suggested certain superintendent skills were needed to accomplish this.

The presentation and overview were attributed to:

Koos, C.S. (2015). How superintendents facilitate of effect instructional or curricular change in their districts (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. (UMI N. 3670582).

THE WHIFF OF “MANURE IS IN THE AIR” IN IOWA

IMG00347

Spring draws nigh and in Midwestern states like Iowa, in which I have spent a considerable amount of my adult life, the sweet smell of cow manure, is in the air. It is time to fertilize those grain fields in the biggest chunk of prime prairie farmland in the world. The smell of manure hangs heavy in the Great State of Iowa and the smell is, well, pungent. Which jogs my memory of something that is happening in Iowa this spring, the start of the presidential campaign.

I heard this on the radio the other day, a rather cynical comment, but probably fairly true: “All politicians are bought by special interests, and because they are bought and paid for one should vote for the candidate who has been bought by the interests you agree with”. Of course, theoretically, politicians will vote their conscience and not be solely motivated by pleasing their contributors and supporters. If the first observation is too cynical the second is probably extremely naïve.

The comment did start me thinking. We all know that money plays a huge role in national politics. As the presidential campaigns start gearing up in Iowa political pundits are already predicting that for the first time a candidate’s campaign will top one billion dollars in individual contributions. And even on the State level, Legislative races that were funded by twenty or thirty thousand dollars many short years ago are into the hundreds of thousands. We Americans have been trumpeting the need for campaign finance reform for many years, probably back to the 1950’s or before, yet the dollars just get bigger every year. It seems that Americans somehow, for all their complaining, really like the fact that if one has enough money a politician can be owned. So why should one even listen to the campaign rhetoric? All that needs to be done to make an intelligent voting decision is to obtain the list of donors and vote for the candidate whose list most matches your own interests. There is a grain of truth in that.

In education the special interests are gearing up once again to raise huge amounts of money to buy not just one, but several politicians. The teachers’ unions are pitted against the “standardizers” i.e. the people who want standard tests, standard curricula and standard teacher evaluation, probably even standard uniforms. The special interests break down pretty much along party lines; the democrats are backed by the underpaid, over-worked and much maligned teachers and the republicans are backed by the corporate behemoths that need employees with the skills required to generate ever greater profits for CEOs and other high level corporate fat-cats. Or is it the other way around? Doesn’t this seem to fit into that category of “same old, same old”, or “SSDD, Same Stuff, Different Day”? Which gets me back to that sweet smell of cow manure.

The fact of the matter is that there is not all that much cow manure spread on Midwestern farmland each year. That is because the agriculture industry has modernized! Amazingly, farmers now put nitrogen and other chemicals on farmland, and they take advantage of genetic engineering of grain seed to produce higher crop yields. But politicians are stuck in the cow pies of yesterday. They still feed the country, on the one hand, whatever pile of fertilizer the teachers’ unions dish out, and on the other hand whatever cow manure big business comes up with for “educational advancement” in the increasingly competitive global quest for the almighty dollar.

I for one will be attempting at every level of the political spectrum from national to local school boards to identify those few candidates (believe me there are only a few) who may not have been bought and paid for, who just might attempt to infuse some new concepts such as common sense into the equation and not be governed by who paid for their campaign. In other words candidates who will take the risk of being one-termers to put students first over special interests. In simple terms, people who are not slinging the same old cow manure. And the issue of the Common Man? Who is the common man? Who do the politicians think the common man is? That is another story. There is a whiff of manure in the air in Iowa, but very little of that whiff is coming from farmers.

Dr. Carolyn Koos

ARE “FROGS JUMPING OUT OF HOT POTS” THESE DAYS?

Here is an anecdote that I heard. If you put a frog in a pot of cold water, put the pot on a stove, and turn the heat on low, the frog will sit and sit and not jump out of the pot until it is parboiled. But if you put a frog in a pot of hot water it will jump out immediately. I am not sure if this is true or not, and I am not going to try it to find out-I do not need any bad karma, the frog-kind or any other. It’s an interesting story. Just hold the thought for a bit, and I will get back to the frog in the pot.

My husband was in Manhattan yesterday and the marchers for a $15.00 an hour minimum wage were out in force at Columbus Circle then marching down Eighth Avenue. Yesterday being April 15, I was at the tax preparer to do my income tax (I normally do not procrastinate, and I will explain later why I waited until the last day). While I was getting my taxes done my tax preparer struck up a conversation about how tax season had gone this year, and a couple of things she mentioned were quite interesting. The first is that not nearly as many working folks have come in to do their taxes this year as in years past. She attributes this to the fact that there is a penalty imposed for people who did not sign up for Obama-care. The second thing of note that she mentioned is that many more W-2’s than in the past have come from part-time jobs. She also attributes this in large part to Obama-care.

I realize that my tax person is only one individual out of millions, and that her empirical evidence and cause and effect conclusions certainly are not based on any sort of scientific research. However, she has been doing tax preparation for several years in the most densely populated State in the country (New Jersey). I am reminded also of the story of the Wall Street big-wig in 1929 who got out of the market just before the crash because his secretary was buying on margin. He thought that when everyday people figured out what’s going on in the country it was time to move on. So maybe my tax person has a point.

Which gets me back to the frog in the pot. Little by little, degree by degree the heat has been turning up on American workers. Over the past few years we have seen employee benefits being reduced again and again for people in all areas of work. Health benefits, retirement plans and other benefits are a fraction of what they were 10, 15 and 20 years ago, and in the past year they have become non-existent for many employees. This is because the full-time job is becoming a thing of the past for many people. Retail employers in particular have gone the part-time route solely to get out of paying any kind of benefits. And now we have the start of what may be the first major labor movement this country has seen in many years. At the core of the movement at this point is this proposition: If the corporations are not going to pay any benefits or employ people full-time, they can at least pay a decent wage.

Just as my tax preparer has noted, more and more employees are part-time with no benefits, and Obama-care has only made matters worse. Americans are not frogs, and I am skeptical that even frogs will sit in hot water till they are served as frog legs. Will Americans and frogs jump out of the pot if the heat gets too high. Little by little the heat has been turned up on America’s workers. I think we are seeing the beginning of a whole lot of American workers jumping out of the pot before they get boiled. Or on this issue and other serious issues, do we sit in tepid water not realizing the unfortunate ending until it is too late. Oh, I almost forgot…I don’t have time right now to explain why I did my taxes on the last dayJ.

Dr. Carolyn Koos

A KINDERGARTNER NAMED “ROVER”

Dog

Going to kindergarten on the first day was a pretty scary thing back in the long-ago fifties when I went. One reason was that most of us including me had never been to anything like school except for vacation Bible school before we were five years old. Now days, children start in at the Day Care Center when they are a couple months old and never spend much time at all at home during the day. By the time that first day of kindergarten comes along they have a couple of years of pre-school under their belt. For the modern day kindergartner the experience could be described pretty much the same as my father used to say as he headed out the door to catch the morning commuter train, “just another day at the office”.

But when I went to kindergarten that first day of school, well, it was nothing less than traumatic. When I was five I had just gotten to the point where I could spend a good portion of my day outside roaming around the neighborhood doing what kids back then did in a very safe environment. I admit I won the birth lottery. I was five years old when the country was pretty safe for five year olds. My parents were part of the middle class, upwardly mobile and such. They had just won the war to make the whole world relatively safe, let alone our neighborhood. My Dad went to work and my mom stayed home. In fact most of the mom’s stayed home and one of their bigger jobs was to make sure the neighborhood was safe.

They did that by keeping an eye out, watching what was going on outside and inside the house. If I was down the street or at my friend’s house, an adult was never very far from a call of help away. I really liked my life before the age of five. I didn’t pack up my stuff in a backpack every day to head off to pre=school to hang with kids and adults that I “sort of” knew. I headed out for adventure with my pals- building forts in vacant lots (not too many tea parties for me), playing ball and riding my bike with playing cards clothes-pinned to the spokes to sound like a motor cycle. No organized activities, no play dates (what on earth was a play date?) for this kid. All of which is to say that the first day of kindergarten was a real bummer.

There I was in my new first-day-of-school dress with only a few kids I knew and a teacher who I absolutely did not know. Gone were the carefree days, making a tent with a blanket thrown over the clothes line, wearing my jeans and play shoes (although I really liked my new Buster Brown school shoes). Even recess was a bummer. The “playground” was nothing like the playground of my neighborhood haunts. It was just a flat asphalt and grass “yard” with a couple jungle gyms and a basketball hoop. Big whoop-not a tree to climb in sight. Which brings me to our pal “Rover”.

My friend had a collie whose name was Rover. Back in the day people actually named their dogs dog-names, like Rover or Spike, Lassie, Duke or Bowser. Rover did exactly what a dog of such a name would be expected to do. He roved around the neighborhood. There was no leash law at that time which gets back to the fact that the moms were in charge of neighborhood safety. Nobody had a dangerous dog because it just was not allowed by the moms to let a dangerous dog rove the neighborhood. And nobody cared much where the dogs did their “business” because you would have to clean up after one dog or another, yours or the neighbor’s, in any case. So there was no need for a leash law which made dogs like Rover very happy I am sure.

Everyone walked to school back then-no buses, no parent rides. So Rover came to kindergarten with us that first day. Not just that day, but every day. My dog would follow along for a while but eventually go back home. Not Rover. He stayed on a porch right outside the kindergarten door the whole time we were there. In the winter time our teacher brought a blanket and Rover had a place inside. He was part of our kindergarten class and school was just barely, well…okay.

Looking back on it Rover was quite a special dog. I doubt that many dogs have the disposition to be a member of a kindergarten class. How lucky we all were to have him. Having Rover made it considerably less scary going to school and even allowed me to relax enough to like school-just a little at first. Of course by today’s standards we, that is, our school teachers and principal could never have Rover in kindergarten-the violation of the leash law, the safety and health Codes involved, the lawyers to consult, the School Board, complaints of parents…the objections are never ending. And today kids have all that pre-school background so why on earth would any of them be afraid of going to kindergarten? They have all been prepared for the big day when they will succeed with all due diligence and lack of fear. Why on earth would any kid need a Rover today?

No one can turn the clock back and no one can bring their dog to school today. Life is different for many of our children today. Many of us recognize, that some children do not come to us emotionally prepared and with the need for some sort of Rover that they can hang onto…just long enough to maybe make school and learning a little bit more comfortable. Perhaps the challenge for educators is to find the modern day” Rover” to have in our school.

Dr. Carolyn Koos