The News

“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends.

If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaking suspicion… love actually is all around.”
~ Hugh Grant as Prime Minister in Love Actually (2003)

It is never too early in the year to throw around Love Actually quotes in my mind.

This one comes into play as I see what is happening at Rutgers. Sure the coach was out of line, yes it is a terrible thing (and if you think it doesn’t happen anywhere else, wake up), and yes it deserves the attention it has gotten. I can only imagine how much more of a circus it is after seeing that the AD is getting 1.2 million as a pay out. But that’s not the point of the news.

See, I hope to think that at some point the news actually shared the good news with the bad. That the news actually thinks about the arrival gates at Heathrow Airport from time to time. I hope you think about Heathrow Airport from time to time. As news around your campus spreads this spring, focus on the good that is around.

I guess the fact that while the media continues to find a new way to play the clip of the coach pushing players, they dismiss the fact that RU campus keeps moving forward. The news rather focus on who gets paid what rather than the fact that the students lives go on. They go on to the point of going out and raising over $500,000 this weekend in a dance marathon.

No, the news rather tell you about all the negative things about the day and then leave you on a high note or latest viral clip of a dog in pantyhose.

So as Aprilay comes around (a combination of months which a mentor of mine likes to call “Eff You Month”) because of the stress levels that come with closing out the year. When it seems like every student can be an annoyance, every co-worker seems to not be pulling their weight, and the fifth chicken dinner you’ve had at your seventh banquet is overcooked and the cheesecake is still frozen. Remember the arrival gates at Heathrow Airport.

Remember that while in your microcosm of a world may seem cloudy with a chance of meatballs, there probably is a student, staff member, or faculty member doing something great and no one is recognizing or acknowledging it on your campus.

It may even be you. Now that’s news worth sharing.

Destinations and Intentions

Driving the other day, we plugged in the address to our phones and started the car. Now, we know the way to our destination and have no need for the GPS but it gives us an insight into traffic and accurately predicts time of arrival.

I take the time of arrival as a challenge, so you think it will take 1 hour and 20 minutes? I bet I can be there in 1 hour and 10 minutes. Rarely happens.

We plug in our GPS and we drive, following the route and knowing exactly when we will show up at the door.

We choose our destination and are given a direct path complete with steps, warnings, and even if we go off course, it routes us back to the destination.

Sounds a lot like college is turning into life GPS. Pick your destination (major), follow your route (curriculum), end at your destination in this amount of time (2-5 years). End of story.

What if we didn’t do that? What if we didn’t force choosing a major on our students but instead had them figure out their intentions? No more step-by-step GPS guided directions. More of a “here’s a map, you want to get to point B. As you can see, many routes will take you there – go explore and find YOUR route.”

The trouble is students who attend college sometimes think life is the same way. Get a degree, get a job, get a partner, get a house, get a car, 2.5 kids. All before the age of 35. That’s what life is right? As if life after college is a package you buy from a broker.

There is no GPS for life. There is no map with direct routes to guide you where you want to go.

Let’s not arm our students with step-by-step-by-step instructions anymore. Empower them to define their intentions, provide them the resources, and let them explore on their own. Our job is to be like Haymitch from Hunger Games. You see them in distress so you send them a resource or tool to assist. Last I checked, Haymitch was not about to go jump in the arena and save them. He simply put them in the best position to survive and hopefully win.

Isn’t that our destination AND intention as educators? Challenge, support, provide, guide, empower, and push?

What do you think?

Bowling Alone – Book #8 of 2013

Bowling Alone was written in 2001 but don’t let the publish date fool you. It was pre-Facebook, pre-MySpace, pre-social media but amazingly the lessons and warning Robert Putnam provides still ring true.

If he were to write a follow up to the book it would most likely be something along the lines of drawing attention to slacktivism, how online communications lets us talk to everyone and no one at the same time, and how we are using the tools we have incorrectly.

If you are going to read this book, plan to read it in bunches. I usually can digest a book a week, this one took almost 4 weeks. It’s data heavy and almost 400 pages (my average book is 200-250).

In the end though, if you want to feel like you should be talking to your neighbors, signing up for PTA or community meetings, and acting more like Ned Flanders then pick up the book.

Here are some of my favorite quotes and passages:

Page 23
Bonding social capital is, as Xavier de Souza Briggs puts it, good for “getting by”, but bridging social capital is crucial for “getting ahead.” (Good thought point here for networking and Linkedin)

Page 117
Social capital refers to networks of social connection – doing with. Doing good for other people, however laudable, is not part of the definition of social capital.

Page 169
Daniel Boorstin, “The telephone was only a convenience, permitting Americans to do more casually and with less effort what they had already been doing before.” (Sounds like social media to me, leave your thoughts in the comment section below.)

Page 244
Parallel Play – two kids in a sandbox, each playing with a toy but not really interacting with each other. The public spectacles of television leave us at the arrested stage of development, rarely moving beyond parallel attentiveness to the same external stimulus. (Again, social media?)

Page 312
Robert Sampson, sociologist, “Lack of social capital is one of the primary features of socially disorganized communities.” (Could this be one of the main reasons (aside from financial) that students withdraw from school? Lack of social capital?)

Page 341
Citizenship is not a spectator sport.