Who Cares About the Sun or How I learned to Love the Sun.

Here comes the Sun, here comes the Sun —- The Beatles, 1969
And I say it’s all right

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I am somewhat perplexed and sad.  The moon, the stars and the planets all seem to get a great deal of attention but the Sun is neglected.  There are many more songs, poems and stories about the moon and stars but much fewer about the Sun.  Why the moon should take precedence over the Sun is beyond my understanding.  If the moon suddenly left orbit and when sailing off into space, I am sure many of us would be very sad.  I for one would undoubtedly miss the moon.  I enjoy those evenings when there is a harvest moon and it fills the sky with its bright orange and yellow colors.  I also enjoy the full moon and the many phases it goes through weekly to come back to full again.

However, if the Sun flew off its orbit, or left its position, since I think it does not orbit.  (Last I remember reading; most scientists had agreed that the earth rotated around the Sun and not vice versa.)  Although, I think there were some Republicans and Tea Party members who disputed this scientific observation claiming it was a ploy by the Democrats to raise taxes for Sun screen and Sun protection.  Anyway, if the Sun did leave us, it would mean the end of life on earth.  No Sun, no life. No Sun, no photosynthesis. No Sun, no heat. No Sun, no plants.  No Sun, no sunsets. No Sun, no sun rises.

Here comes the Sun, here comes the Sun
And I say it’s all right

I will refrain from boring you with facts about the Sun.  Let’s just summarize with the following “awesome” statistics.  It is very big.  It is very hot.  It is very far away.  On the negative side, it is not very big as stars go and it will eventually burn out.  If you are (like me) concerned with solar burn out, the following remarks describe the death of the Sun or how long it is expected to last.  This material is from:  http://www.universetoday.com/18847/life-of-the-Sun/

In about 6 billion years, the Sun’s core will run out of hydrogen. When this happens, the inert helium ash built up in the core will become unstable and collapse under its own weight. This will cause the core to heat up and get denser. The Sun will grow in size and enter the red giant phase of its evolution. The expanding Sun will consume the orbits of Mercury and Venus, and probably gobble up the Earth as well. Even if the Earth survives, the intense heat from the red Sun will scorch our planet and make it completely impossible for life to survive. 

When the Sun has blasted off its outer layers, all that will remain will be central core of carbon. But it’s no longer generating solar fusion, and so it will slowly cool down until it becomes the same temperature as the rest of the Universe; just a few degrees above absolute zero. This will take about a trillion years to happen. The Sun’s death will be complete.

 Please note that the Sun will outlast the earth.  According to Universe Today, the earth only has about six billion years left before the death of the Sun ends all life on earth. The Sun will then slowly decay for another 994 billion years before finally burning out completely.

If you have been taking the Sun for granted, you might want to rethink those nice days when you stayed inside or those days when the Sun was shining and you passed up the chance to go on a picnic or simply sit on the patio.  Six billion years might seem like a lot of sunshine but if you live in the Northern Hemisphere, particularly in Wisconsin or Minnesota, you can go for weeks without seeing the Sun.  It really comes down to a lot fewer days of sunshine than six billion.  And of course, as we get older, particularly the baby boomers, six billion could be an irrelevant number, given that our days of sunshine will be considerably more limited than is reflected in this statistic.

Sun, Sun, Sun, here it comes
Sun, Sun, Sun, here it comes
Sun, Sun, Sun, here it comes
Sun, Sun, Sun, here it comes
Sun, Sun, Sun, here it comes

I would like to issue a warning here: 

“Go outside at your own risk.  This blog is not meant to substitute for sound medical advice concerning your health or the risk of Sun spots or skin cancer.  Please see your physician before going out in the Sun or taking any unnecessary Sun risks.  The author of this blog rejects all claims for liability resulting from heat stroke, Sun exposure, or Sun burn.”

There, now I feel safe from any liability claims or medical malpractice claims.  I have not heard of anyone being sued because of loving the Sun, but I suppose there is always a first time.

I want to tell you a story about the Sun.  There are the famous ones which you all know. The Sun and The Wind story is probably the most famous.  My story is a little different.  It begins with a confession. I confess I love rainy days.  This might seem strange to many if not most people.  Certainly, my wife Karen thinks it is very strange.   How did I come across this love for the damp cold drizzly days where the Sun is nowhere to be seen?  This was not an easy question to answer.

A psychologist that I was seeing a number of years ago taught me a technique to “unlearn” some old hidden childhood messages.  Through a form of mediation, I was taught how to replay some mental tapes that I had assimilated in child hood.  We all assimilate different messages and these messages can continue to dictate our behaviors in later life.  Sometimes these behaviors are very counterproductive.

The results from this technique were to me somewhat astonishing.  Why would  anyone love cold rainy damp overcast days?  Here was my tape:  Father:  “Get your butt outside, it’s too nice to be indoors.”  Now imagine this tape played over and over again a thousand times.  Never once could I stay inside if the Sun was out.  I had to be doing, doing and doing.  Since, I loved reading above every other activity in life, my reading life was relegated to those cold miserable damp days when even my father relented and allowed me to remain in doors.  Thus, a hundred years later and I still feel like I must go outside and play on a nice Sunny day.  I don’t know what or who to play with, but play I must do.  I feel like the police in the Pirates of Penzance:

Father
Then do not stay.

John 
Tarantara!

Father 
Then why this delay?

John 
All right, I go.

Mother/Sisters 
Yes, forward out the door!
Yes, forward out the door!

Father
Yes, but you don’t go!

John
I go, I go

Mother/Sisters 
Yes, forward out the door!
Yes, forward out the door!

Father
Yes, but you don’t go!

John
I go, I go

Mother/Sisters
At last he goes!
At last he really goes!

Yes, I left and when he was not looking, I snuck down to the library to find a good book to read until the Sun finally went down and I could return home.

Here comes the Sun, here comes the Sun
And I say it’s all right
Here comes the Sun, here comes the Sun
It’s all right, it’s all right

Yes, now it is truly all right. I can stay in or go out. I can enjoy the Sun or enjoy the rain.  My affection for the Sun has grown over the years.  My appreciation of the limited amount of time that it has left to shine on and my limited time left to appreciate its shine has enabled me to embrace the Sun and truly appreciate its ups and downs. I only hope that my fellow baby boomers can welcome the Sunrises and Sunsets with the same eagerness and enjoyment that I now have for them.  I suppose it will be difficult in heaven to decide whether the weather is going to be Sunny or rainy.  I will be outnumbered if it comes to voting or majority rule.  Do you suppose there will be a heaven for people who love rainy damp dreary days?  If so, I will periodically pay a visit to all the other people in the Sunshine heaven.  I can now appreciate the joys of both.

Time for Questions:

When was the last time you watched a beautiful sunset or a sunrise?  How do you feel when you are watching such a beautiful experience?  How many more sunsets or sunrises do you think you will have time for in your life?  What if you could never see another sunset or sunrise?  How can you make more time to simply watch the sun rise and set?  Is your life too busy?

Life is just beginning.

 

What is the true meaning of Christmas? Does anyone really know?

ImageIt is around this time of the year that many of us start asking the question “What is the true meaning of Christmas.”  I am sure that for those who do ponder this question, the inquiry is no doubt prompted by an assortment of stimuli.  For example:   Black Friday, Cyber Monday, shop till you drop lists, Toys for Tots, Christmas countdowns, gift rages, children meltdowns, commercials, jingles and endless exhortations to buy that special gift that will truly show them your love. 

My first caveat must be humble.  Many have tried to answer this question before me.  I am nowhere near the first nor do I assume the last who will ever tackle this issue.  Thus, I thrust my opinion where no doubt many wiser have gone before and many wiser will go after.  If I merely offer you some new insights into the age old question, I will have accomplished my goal.  Perhaps I can see things in a slightly different perspective than all the wise people who have already treaded on this question.   

I am going to break the key question “What is the true meaning of Christmas?” into three parts or three sub-questions.  The first is “Why do we celebrate Christmas?”  The answer is obvious.  A man named Jesus was born on or near this date in the time of the Roman occupation of Israel.  He is alternately revered as a great prophet, the son of God, the Messiah or a humble man with a simple but profound message.

The second sub-question is “What should we celebrate at Christmas?”  The most common means of celebrating the life of a great person is to remember what they stood for.  Jesus IMHO stood for two major ideas which were radical in his time.  The first major idea was to “Love Everyone.”  This meant you needed to love your enemies as well as your friends.  The second major idea was to “Forgive Everyone.”   Again, not just forgiveness for your friends and relatives but also for those you hated and your mortal enemies.   Thus, at Christmastime, Christians and those who wish to venerate Jesus of Nazareth should be celebrating both Love and Forgiveness.  We see many manifestations of the first at this time of the year but much less focus on the second.  This will be more evident when we look at the third sub-question:  “How do we Celebrate Christmas?” 

“How do we celebrate Christmas?”   How do we take the two major ideas that Jesus stood for and remember them.  Each concept could be honored in a variety of ways.  The primary way that we seem to express the idea of Love is through the giving of gifts.  We can give gifts of the spirit or gifts of the world.  Gifts of the spirit express our love for others by giving some of our selves.  We give some immaterial expression of love to others that we care about.  We might choose to spend time with a love one or simply help them out with a project or task that needs doing.  We also give physical or material gifts.  These include toys, gadgets, technology, clothes, jewelry etc.  Material gifts express our love by transferring our money into presents for others based on their perceived wants and needs.  It is most common to see gifts given based on wants but needs are sometimes factored into the gift giving equation.  One could posit a hierarchy of gift giving, going from easiest to give to most difficult.  I think it would look something like this:

  • Material gifts based on wants (easy)
  • Material gifts based on needs (more difficult)
  • Spiritual gifts based on wants (difficult)
  • Spiritual gifts based on needs (very difficult)

It is not always easy to distinguish between wants and needs, particularly when dealing with children who often confuse the two.  The good parent should be able to tell the difference, but all too often parents are more interested in simply satisfying their child’s wants rather than dealing with their child’s needs.  The Love of Jesus becomes a love focused on completing a shopping list of wants.   Little attention is spent on needs while even less time is spent on spiritual gifts.  It is easier to buy a gift card then to spend time with a friend or loved one. 

How do we deal at Christmastime with the second major Idea that Jesus promoted, the idea that we should Forgive others?  This idea does not seem to have seriously entered the panoply of displays that we see or that are observed at this time of the year.  Somehow, Forgiveness gets forgotten at Christmas time.  A cynic might wonder if it is not because this is the hardest idea to implement.  Can you imagine sending a beautiful gift of flowers or jewelry to someone you loath and detest?  Can you imagine, spending time with someone you hate or giving some gift of the spirit to someone you disliked?   I submit that such demonstrations of Forgiveness would be unusual for most Christians as well as non-Christians.  

So “What is the true meaning of Christmas?”  After dicing and slicing this question what are we left we?  A short summary of the main points addressing this question might help:

  • We celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, a great prophet, teacher and to some God.
  • Jesus’s mission and purpose was to teach us Love and Forgiveness
  • We attempt to celebrate his concept of Love during the time we think he was born
  • We substitute gift giving for more substantive displays of Love or more difficult expressions of the concept
  • We leave out or neglect Jesus’s concept of Forgiveness

Perhaps this Christmas, we can all try to do more Forgiveness.  If there is a “True Meaning of Christmas”, if Jesus was alive today to, I am sure he would be most pleased if we spent more time trying to love our enemies as well as our friends and to forgive those who “Trespass against us.”  

Time for Questions:

What is your “meaning” for Christmas?  How do you celebrate the birth of Jesus?  What could you do more of this year to truly celebrate his message?  What can we do to help make Forgiveness part of the Christmas message?

Life is just beginning

Educational Arrogance: Why my degree is better than your degree.

Let’s get the truth out of the way as soon as possible.  This may hurt. 

Truth:  Credits are overrated.  Degrees are overrated.  Diplomas are overrated.  If you think you got your certificate because you were the smartest guy in the room, think again.  You graduated from the “School of your Choice” because you could sit complacently on your butt for four or more years, agreed with the majority of your instructors, did not make waves and paid your tuition on time when it was due.  If you had been the smartest guy in the room, you might not have finished college.  In fact, you probably would not have gone to college in the first place.  Just like in the Marines, when you are in college, loyalty must trump smart.

In the Forbes list of 400 richest people in the world, non-college graduates are worth an average of 1 billion dollars more than the college graduates.  The average net worth of billionaires who dropped out of college, $9.4 billion, is approximately triple that of billionaires with Ph.D.’s, $3.2 billion. Even if one removes Bill Gates, who left Harvard University and is now worth $66.0 billion, college dropouts are worth $5.3 billion on average, compared to those who finished only bachelor’s degrees, who are worth $2.9 billion. According to a recent report from Cambridge-based Forrester Research, 20% of America’s millionaires never attended college.[3]  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_college_dropout_billionaires

Wow, what a jerk.  I just spent $80,000 dollars on my college education and this asshole says it isn’t worth it.  I know he must be a disgruntled college dropout; some dweeb who could not make the grade so he gets his jollies knocking those of us who could; just another loser with an ax to grind.” 

Sorry to disappoint you though. I did get a BA and BS degree in 1975 and 1976 from Rhode Island College, an MS degree in 1979 from the University of Wisconsin and a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in 1986.  I graduated Cum Laude in my undergraduate work and my graduate GPA’s were above 3.5.  I have published over 50 articles in various assorted journals and had two books published by mainstream presses.  I was an Adjunct Instructor at St. Thomas College in the evening MBA program.  I taught the Capstone Class for the MBA and undergraduate business degree at Metro State University for 11 years and I presently am an Adjunct Instructor at Globe University where I teach undergraduate, graduate and doctoral level classes.

What is my problem then?  Well, somewhere along the lines I began to realize that whatever is happening in most colleges and schools today could actually take place more efficiently and effectively “out” of school and with a different process.  Yes, many people do learn things in school and many people with a degree may be better off with it then without it.  However, the process that schools use to transfer knowledge is redundant, antique and obsolete.  In short, our schools and universities have fallen behind the times and are no longer a cost-effective bargain.

The cost of a college degree in the United States has increased “12 fold” over the past 30 years, far outpacing the price inflation of consumer goods, medical expenses and food.  According to Bloomberg, college tuition and fees have increased 1,120 percent since records began in 1978.   Bloomberg reports that the rate of increase in college costs has been “four times faster than the increase in the consumer price index.” It also notes that “medical expenses have climbed 601 percent, while the price of food has increased 244 percent over the same period.”  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/15/cost-of-college-degree-increase-12-fold-1120-percent-bloomberg_n_1783700.html

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Nevertheless, the “Arrogance of Education” presupposes that courses, credits, degrees, diplomas and university affiliations are vital to one’s success.  The schools want you to believe this because they have become “institutionalized.”  Vast bureaucracies of inefficiencies and ineptness where coaches are paid fifty times what the President and professors are paid and college tuitions rise regularly at five to six times the rate of inflation.

“Educational Arrogance” can be defined as: “Feeling that you are better than someone else because of the degree that you received or the school that you attended.”  It can be further broken down into three components or types of “Educational Arrogance.”  I will describe each one and the negative effects that each has on students and society.  The three components are:  Credit Arrogance, Diploma Arrogance and Institutional Arrogance.

Credit Arrogance

If you have ever gone to college you may have experienced “Credit Arrogance.”  For instance, if you decide to transfer to another college, you may suddenly find that your former credits are discounted dramatically or even worse not even accepted.  Why?  Because the school you are trying to transfer to will say “Our standards are higher than theirs were.”  No proof is offered for this assertion and no evidence to support the reduction in credits is or will ever be seen.  The real reason is MONEY< MONEY< MONEY.  “Just give me money.”  This can even take place within institutions.  For instance, if you decide to transfer to another program, you may find that the courses you took cannot or will not be counted to your new program.  The same excuses will be given and there is no “court of appeals.”

When I was working at Metro State University, I once attended a meeting of the Minnesota State College and University System (MNSCU) organization. The attendees were primarily leaders from the assorted two year technical and community colleges that made up the system.  The subject was the transfer of credits between institutions.  Apparently, it was very difficult for students to transfer their credits and have them accepted when moving from one school to another within the system.  The meeting was an attempt to streamline this process and help students.  The attendees all had myriad excuses why accepting credits from each other was difficult if not impossible.  No one was honest and wanted to admit the real reason.  Who suffered because of these policies?  You want to guess?

I presently teach part-time at Globe University and we need to warn students who are considering attending that Globe credits will not be accepted “ANYWHERE” else they may decide to transfer to.  Of course, the “reason” is for the substandard education they receive from instructors like me at Globe College, who coincidently have taught at St. Thomas College and Metro State University.  I guess my standards of teaching and my abilities degraded when I joined Globe.  In fact, many Adjunct Instructors at Globe also teach part-time at other colleges and universities in the area.

Another irony to this “Game of Credits” is that whether you go to Harvard, Yale or Globe, chances are you will be using the same textbook. There are only four or five major college textbook publishers in the country.  Each publisher may publish a dozen or so different texts on a subject.  Thus, you have perhaps 50 or so textbooks to teach Intro to Business to select from.  Given that there are over 7000 accredited colleges in the USA, there is a very good chance, that your Ivy League school will be using the exact same textbooks as I use at Globe University.

Of course, at Harvard, you will have much better instructors than at Globe, right?  Well maybe, but there is also a very good chance that as an undergraduate, you will get a teaching assistant and not the renowned Harvard Professor that was listed on the course itinerary.  In fact, you may not even see the highly renowned Harvard Professor during your entire four years at Harvard.  He or she will be busy writing, researching, consulting and publishing.   Most tenured professors will do anything to avoid the grind and frustration of teaching entering college freshman.

In a Harvard Education Isn’t as Advertised,” Alexander Heffner states:

For three centuries, Harvard has led a masterful public relations campaign to claim the mantle of what is best in American education, even if that means less community, less intimate interaction with professors and classmates, less “we” and more “me.” In reality, more often than not, faculty here are inaccessible, students are unengaged interpersonally, and two way education is an anathema. After a recent class, I remarked to the tenured professor that I had completed more in-depth research papers in high school, where I had possessed unrivaled access to my teachers and unlimited guidance during the research process, than I had in my time in Cambridge. “That’s the problem with this place,” the professor grinned, not in the least surprised. “There is not enough contact between professors and students.”

Diploma Arrogance:

My Ph.D. degree trumps your Ed.D. degree.  My engineering degree is better than your liberal arts degree.  My MBA degree is worth more than your MS degree.  The universities work very hard to inculcate a sense of superiority that is based on the degrees they are providing.  Each department head will tell you why their degree is better than another degree.  Higher degrees are worth more than lower degrees.  Four year college degrees are worth more than two year college or high school degrees.  Endless charts are trotted out to show you how much more a college degree will earn than a high school diploma or an MS will earn than a BS or a Ph.D. will earn than an MBA.  In many cases, the data for these comparisons is out of date, erroneous or spurious.  For instance, the Economist ran an article in 2010 titled:  “The Disposable Academic.” The article noted many fallacies concerning a Doctoral Level degree.

“There is an oversupply of PhDs. Although a doctorate is designed as training for a job in academia, the number of PhD positions is unrelated to the number of job openings. Meanwhile, business leaders complain about shortages of high-level skills, suggesting PhDs are not teaching the right things. The fiercest critics compare research doctorates to Ponzi or pyramid schemes.”  http://www.economist.com/node/17723223

While earning my Doctorate degree at the University of Minnesota, I did some volunteer work as a Graduate Student Advisor for other students contemplating or working towards a Ph.D. degree.  I would often encounter angry students who were disgruntled at the inequities in their Ph.D. program.  I still remember my most cogent advice.  It went like this:  “Either fight the system and forget earning your degree or learn to kiss ass, keep your mouth shut and get out with a diploma.  You might beat the system but in over 125 years, I can’t think of anyone who has.”  Those who took my advice graduated and those who did not usually became what is known in Higher Education as ABD or All But Dissertation.   The attrition rate for Doctoral students has been cited as between 40 to 50 percent.  Another good article on this subject was published in the Chronicle of Higher Education, May 3, 2012 titled “The Future of the Ph.D. degree.”

I was told how prestigious a University of Minnesota degree would be and how much it would help my career.  I found it funny that in over 40 cases of working with clients as a management consultant, I cannot remember one who ever asked me a single question about my vaunted Doctoral level degree.   Not one client even asked where I got it from or what I got it in.  I will never forget meeting Dr. W. D. Deming for the first time and his comment about my degree.

I had been hired by Process Management Institute (PMI), a management consulting firm shortly before finishing my Ph.D. program.  PMI was working closely with Dr. Deming at the time and my boss (Lou) asked me if I would be a helper at one of the four day Deming conferences.  It was a request that could not be turned down.  I was really going to be more of a gopher running errands for Dr. Deming but it was also a chance to meet the famous Dr. Deming and to attend one of his four day training sessions.  I ended up attending four of these sessions as a helper during my time at PMI.

It was around noon on the first day of the conference and the attendees were breaking for lunch.  The conference was being held in San Francisco and everyone scattered to find a place to eat.  My boss Lou Schultz asked me to come up and meet Dr. Deming who was just leaving the podium.  Lou introduced me:  “Dr. Deming, this is our new employee, Dr. John Persico.  He has just finished his Doctoral Degree at the University of Minnesota in business.”  Dr. Deming took my proffered hand and replied “Humph!  Doctorate degrees in business, teach you all the wrong things.”  Needless to say, I was speechless.   All I could think about was the four years of work, the time and effort I had spent and the money I now owed to pay off this “worthless” degree wherein I had learned all the “wrong” things.  I thought he was an arrogant SOB but I had learned to keep my mouth shut in academia and thus managed to refrain from telling Dr. Deming what a pompous ass he was.

It took me four years more to learn how right Dr. Deming was.  What is it they say makes a genius?  They see things that other people don’t.  Or perhaps it was a case of the fish not seeing the water.  I learned much from Dr. Deming over the next seven years at PMI and I soon found out how erroneous the models and theories I had been taught at the university actually were.   In retrospect, I would say that Dr. Deming was 90 percent right about the University teachings I had acquired during my four years in a Doctorate program.  As a point of fact, most business textbooks still teach the same fallacies that Dr. Deming (1900-1993) spent most of his life condemning.  Perhaps after another one hundred years or so, business schools will manage to revise their business texts and teach graduates more appropriate theories.

I have been a proponent of getting rid of college business text books for many years now.  My efforts have been fruitless.  Several times while at Metro State University, I was told that I must select a textbook to use in my classes.  I eventually incurred the hostility and ire of the Dean and some of the faculty by my insistence that these textbooks were worthless.  They were worse than worthless since several of them cost over $200.  The inflated costs of textbooks would not be quite as bad if the information had any value.  However, when students are asked to pay $200 for a fallacious and obsolete book that does not even make a good paper weight, I think you have a grievous miscarriage of justice.  However as Thomas Kuhn noted paradigms do not change easily or without much strife.

Institutional Arrogance:

I saved the best or is it the worst for last.  The most egregious of the Educational Arrogances lies in the concept of which school is best or who has the better programs.  Harvard is better than Yale.  Yale is better than Boston College.  Boston College is better than the University of Massachusetts.  The University of Massachusetts is better than the University of Phoenix and the University of Phoenix is better than ———“Fill in the blanks.”  The more prestigious the school, the more renowned its academic reputation, the more the school can charge for tuition.

  • Estimated 4 Year Cost at Current Tuition for Harvard University:

At current published tuition rates, the estimated total tuition and living expense cost of a 4 year bachelor’s degree at Harvard University is $218,384 for students graduating in normal time. Our methodology for estimating the 4 year cost is a multiple of the most recent reported annual cost and does not factor in tuition increases.  http://www.collegecalc.org/colleges/massachusetts/harvard-university/#.UquTL_RDuSo

Now if you went to a “cheaper” less prestigious school, you could save a bunch of money.  For instance four years at Salem State University (also in Massachusetts) would only cost you $80,356, a savings of $138,028.  Of course, the first argument you might hear about such a choice would concern the “quality” of education you would receive.  Who in their right mind would imagine or choose Salem State University over Harvard?

Thomas Sowell in his book “Inside American Education notes:

A Harvard education is no better than your average state school education. The only reason they turn out the best graduates is because of name recognition, and for that reason, they attract the top high school graduates.  When you input the brightest students, your output is the brightest graduates.  It is not because an education at Harvard is any better than you would find at any state university.  In other words, it’s all hype with no actual substance. People are paying huge sums of money for the name Harvard and nothing more.

Dr. John Kotter, a Harvard business professor and rated as one of the greatest thinkers in the world today has noted in his ongoing study of MBA graduates, that it was not what they have learned at Harvard which allowed them to make substantially more money than those at public universities but it was factors such as individual motivation and high standards which correlated with subsequent earnings.  His twenty year study of the 1974 MBA graduating class is prolifically described in his book:  “The New Rules.” 

Every year, the US News and World Report publish an annual list of College Rankings.  The best schools, the best value schools, the best specialized schools, the best graduate schools, the best up and coming schools along with a cornucopia of other college related information is listed in their annual compilation.  I don’t have enough time to go into the problems with the rankings but if you are interested, go to:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/the-problem-with-the-us-news-college-rankings/2011/09/13/gIQAY5zPQK_blog.html

The main problem I have though is the rankings themselves.  Prestige becomes the criteria for quality and for education.  Prestige means more money and more applicants.  The system is self-serving and perpetuates the status quo.  Substantive change cannot occur when academics brag about their schools, students fawn over certain colleges and parents will kill to get their children into the right school.   People are so dazzled by the hype and future earnings that they are blind to other possibilities.  The key question of what is the best way to learn or what is the best way to become educated is cast aside in a mad rush to attend the most prestigious schools, ostensibly because this will translate into higher earnings.  Earnings become more important than substance.

Think you’ll be making top dollar with that Harvard diploma hanging on your wall? Sure, the Cambridge, Mass. university topped U.S. News & World Report’s 2012 annual list of the best colleges in the nation (again), and is third best in the world according to the QS World University Rankings.  But no matter how many accolades Harvard rakes in or how much praise it garners, its graduates are paling in comparison to their peers at lesser institutions in one crucial field: starting salary. It’s a list on which Harvard ranks #37.  —-The School Ranking List Harvard does not Top.

Our desire for more stuff, for more prestige, for more money leads to an unbridled arrogance that tops everything really important in the world.  Where is the room for passion, where is the room for dreams and vision, where is the room for spirituality, where is the room for valuing the things that will really lead to a fulfilling life:  Friends, learning, health, love and service.  The dream of getting a “name” brand degree trumps all the real values and meaningful goals in life. Our students become “Corporate people” and not passionate citizens.  Our every effort is tied to success and upward mobility.  The final measure of happiness becomes the almighty dollar.

Arrogance means believing that you are better than others.  Our universities and colleges perpetuate this arrogance because it conforms to their desire to enroll you in their school and to be able to charge a hefty fee that students and society will unhesitantly accept.  Few people question the value of a college degree and fewer yet would substantively change the way we educate and train our citizens.  Unless, we start rethinking and recreating our system of education, we will find that rising costs, educational irrelevance, antagonism towards educators and a growing number of unskilled unemployed workers will come to define our “American System of Education.”   We need to focus our efforts on educating our citizens for life and not simply sending them to school to get a diploma.

Time for Questions:

Did you go to college?  What were the important lessons you learned in college?  How many of the facts that you were taught in college are still relevant to you?  Were you able to apply your degree to a meaningful career?  Why or why not?  How would you change your college experience if you could?  Do you think all people should go to college?  Why or why not?

Life is just beginning

Religious Arrogance: Will the Meek Really Inherit the Earth?

My religion is better than your religion.  “My God” is better than your God.  My beliefs are more righteous than your beliefs.  My faith is more valuable than your faith. Image

How many people have been killed in the name of “My God” and “My Religion?”  How many wars have been fought over religious differences? How many countries have been devastated and destroyed because of religious intolerance? How many true believers have killed the infidels because of religious beliefs?  How many heretics, witches, blasphemers and apostates have been burned at the altar of religious intolerance?  How many missionaries have persecuted and converted the “godless” pagans who did not share their religious ideologies?

The answers to these questions my friends are not blowing in the wind.  The answers to these questions are written in blood, murder, rape, assassination and pillage from the time of Cain and Abel to our present day battles between Christians and Moslems, Jews and Arabs and Hindus and Tamils.  From the battles between the Israelites and the Philistines to the Inquisition, to the Salem Witch Trials, to the Holocaust, to the Genocide in Rwanda and the rapes in Bosnia, religious beliefs and religious differences have been center stage to some of the most horrendous crimes in history.

 Lowest estimate killed

Highest estimate killed

Event

Place

From

To

Religions involved

3,000,000 11,500,000[10] Thirty Years’ War Holy Roman Empire 1618 1648 Protestants &Catholics
2,000,000 4,000,000[11] French Wars of Religion France 1562 1598 Protestants &Catholics
1,000,000 3,000,000[12] Nigerian Civil War Nigeria 1967 1970 Islam &Christian
1,000,000[13] 2,000,000 Second Sudanese Civil War Sudan 1983 2005 Islam &Christian
1,000,000[14] 3,000,000[15] Crusades Holy Land, Europe 1095 1291 Islam &Christian
130,000[16] 250,000 Lebanese Civil War Lebanon 1975 1990 SunniShiiteand Christian

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_war

I have a t-shirt that says “God Bless Everyone, No Exceptions.”   Most of the shirts that I wear sport some kind of a motivational quote or political idea.  I refuse to allow my apparel to advertise football teams, sporting companies, motorcycles or most any “for profit” endeavors.  I figure they make enough money so they can do their own marketing.  However, I do like to share my ideas about how the world should be run.  Of the several t-shirts I wear with a “motivational” message, the “God Bless etc.” shirt never fails to get a response.  I have had dozens of people who come up and say “I really like that message.”  I am sure some wonder just what I mean.  Can he really be suggesting that everyone deserves a blessing?

I find it gratifying that so many people are willing to endorse the idea of a God who knows “No Exceptions.”  This fact really surprises me since I have been to countless religious meetings and festivals wherein people shout and sing about “MY GOD.”  Here are some lyrics from a typical song about God.

My God is awesome, awesome, awesome, awesome

My God is awesome and awesome, awesome, awesome

Holy, Awesome, Awesome

He’s Great, He’s Great, He’s Great, He’s Great, Awesome, Awesome

He’s mighty, He’s mighty, He’s mighty,

Charles Jenkins – Awesome Lyrics | Metro Lyrics uo

I wonder as I listen to such outpourings of religious fervor, whether “MY” God is not also the same God as the Jewish God, Hindu God, Buddhist God, Catholic God, Muslim God and all the other Gods that various people believe in.  Is “MY” God the only “awesome” God?  Or am I so uncertain in my faith that I must continually recite how powerful and awesome “MY” God is.  The thought that the “Man doth protest too much” comes repeatedly to my mind.

Why do I have to keep repeating ad nausea how awesome “My God” is?   What is the difference between “MY God” and your God?  I guess your God is really a loser and probably a wimp.  Unless of course, your God and “MY God” are the same.  But then your God would be as awesome as “My God” and that could not be.  See, if your God was as awesome as My God, then your religion would be as awesome as my religion and that would never do.  How could I justify killing you or at the very least trying to convert you if your religion and God were as awesome as “MY God?”

“The earth is flat, and anyone who disputes this claim is an atheist who deserves to be punished.”Sheik Abdel-Aziz Ibn Baaz, Supreme religious authority, Saudi Arabia

“No, I don’t know that Atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.”– George H.W. Bush, USA

Many people in America believe that this is a Christian Nation.”  There is a firm belief that this country was founded by men who were deeply religious and had a profound commitment to the principles of Christianity and the rule of a Christian God.  The Ten Commandments are often noted as principles upon which this country was built.  The dollar and many USA coins say “In God We Trust.”   Unfortunately as with much of the erudition among our citizens, these beliefs do not mirror the conceptual foundation upon which the constitution was established nor the primary intentions of our Founding Fathers.

True, a substantial portion of the delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention were Christians but the leading Founders (Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Wilson, Morris, Madison, Hamilton, and Washington) were not Christians but Deists.  One must remember that the foremost reason for our constitutional freedom of religious expression lay in the all too recent memories of many of the Founding Fathers regarding state sponsored religious oppression in Europe.  Thus the First Amendment:

Prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances.

It is true (as some have noted) that the Constitution does not call for a separation of church and state.  Nevertheless, there is no evidence that the Founders wanted a Christian state as opposed to a secular state.  By secular, I mean that their intentions were clearly to establish a nation wherein “Freedom of Religion” would be tolerated.  This means ALL religions and not just Christian religions.  Our dollars say “In God We Trust” not “In Jesus We Trust.”   The Old World was full of religious persecution.   Our Founding Fathers wanted to avoid the Religious Arrogance that had so dominated the Old World where Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Protestants, and many other sects all tried to eliminate each other.  “My God” is better than your god.  My religion is better than your religion.  My prophet is holier than your prophet.

“The supreme arrogance of religious thinking: That a carbon-based bag of mostly water on a speck of iron-silicate dust around a boring dwarf star in a minor galaxy in an underpopulated local group of galaxies in an unfashionable suburb of super cluster would look up at the sky and declare, it was all made so that I could exist!”Peter Walker

I suppose I should conclude this blog with some good advice on:  How to overcome “Religious Arrogance” or Ten steps towards becoming less of a militant Jihadist or How I personally overcame my desire to start a new Inquisition and learned to love everyone.  Alas, I doubt it would do any good.  Chances are those of you reading this are already among the “Tolerant.” Those who have not read it, would burn it, not heed any such advice or label it as the ranting of a Commie, Faggot, Intellectual, Atheist jerk doomed to hell.

Nothing is more fun than hating and despising those who don’t believe in the same things we do.  Those who fall in the category of the “Religious Arrogant” are well established in their beliefs and I doubt this blog or any number of blogs would have much impact on their thinking.  My advice (for what it is worth) is for those of you reading this to stand up and start speaking out against such arrogance and intolerance.   It is well said that when good people do nothing, say nothing and take no actions, then evil will surely triumph.  Add your voices to mine and let them be heard.  God Bless Everyone, No Exceptions. 

Time for Questions:

Why do religions persecute one another?  Did God say that one religion is superior to another?  Who decides who God is? What is wrong with believing in many Gods?  Do we anthropomorphize God?  Why should “My God” be any different than your God?

Life is just beginning.

Cultural Arrogance and How it Destroys our Goals: Part 1

ARROGANCE

 

Before you start reading my blog this week, you should understand one thing.  I am smarter than you are, stronger than you are, faster than you are, more disciplined than you are, more educated than you are, wealthier than you are and healthier than you are.

Paradoxically, I am also more humble than you are, more loving than you are, more compassionate than you are, have more friends than you, am better liked than you and have more love for others than you.  Believe me; it is truly hard to be humble when I am SOOOOO superior to you.

If you can stop gagging, you will notice in the first paragraph that my superiorities have to do with having more worldly or physical things than you.  In the second paragraph, I allude to having more of the virtuous or spiritual things than you.  Putting things and virtues together is the paradox.  Can I really be more of everything than you are as well as being more humble, more loving and more compassionate?  What is wrong with this idea?  Look closely, and you will notice the problem.  It is not wealth or health or things and it is not spiritual gifts.  The problem is “More.”   We want more and more and more.  It does not matter whether it is more health or more compassion.  More for the sake of more becomes our guiding principle.  When I have “More” than you, I am better than you.  Culturally, spiritually, or physically, I measure myself by the “more” I have than others have.  I have arrived when I have more.  More money, more clothes, more compassion, more humility becomes our goal in life.  When do we have enough?

In this blog and my next two blogs, I want to look at three areas where “more” causes or leads to substantial problems for us.  I refer to our quest for “more” in each of these areas as an evil of arrogance.  The three arrogancies that lead to disasters for us are:  Cultural Arrogance, Religious Arrogance and Educational Arrogance.  In my blog this week, I would like to address the subject of Cultural Arrogance.  Next week, I will address Religious Arrogance and the following week the subject of Educational Arrogance.  

Let’s start by defining the term arrogance.

: An insulting way of thinking or behaving that comes from believing that you are better, smarter, or more important than other people

Thus, Cultural Arrogance would imply that one believes or acts as though their culture was better than another culture.  E.g. Americans are better than Europeans or Japanese are superior to Chinese.   Here in the USA, we tend to believe that the “American Way of Life” is superior to other ways of pursuing our stated goals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  We often act as though Americans only included people from the fifty states.  It would surprise many Americans to know that Mexicans and Canadians and most indigenous people also live in America.  In fact, unless we distinguish North America from South America and Central America, we must also include people from about 22 other countries as Americans.   Time for a caveat!

This blog is going to be about the Cultural Arrogance that I specifically see in the USA.  This is not to say that Cultural Arrogance is not a universal trait.  Sadly, it is and does exist in probably every country and every culture in the world.  Each group thinks their group is better than the other group.  However, since the USA is perhaps the most dominant country in the world today, our attitudes (for better or worse) have far more impact on the world than say the attitudes and biases of people from Belize or Switzerland.  (Perhaps I am being arrogant in assuming this?)

The Cultural Arrogance of the USA may impact the peace and stability of the entire world.  My goal in sharing the negative issues that arise from this arrogance lies in the simple fact that all change starts with awareness.  Awareness precedes choice, choice precedes action and action precedes change.  Unless, we are aware of the attitudes, prejudices, biases and sometime simple minded assumptions we make about other countries and other cultures, we are doomed to keep making major strategic and tactical mistakes when it comes to dealing politically and also militarily with other nations.   Two examples will illustrate the negative impacts of Cultural Arrogance.

The first is funny and trivial.  It is one that has been repeated ad nausea in most college marketing Classes.   General Motors wanted to create a small economy car that would also sell in the Mexican market.  They created the NOVA and tried to sell it south of the border. The car never sold well.   As it turned out, when the experts went to do some market studies they found that the word NOVA in Spanish means “No Go.”  I guess no one wanted to buy a car that “Did not go.”

The second example is much more serious and concerns the Vietnam War.  This war was an unmitigated disaster for both the people in the USA and the people in Vietnam.  Part of our premise for the war was that the Vietnamese would go Communist and ally themselves with the Chinese to take over all of Southeast Asia.   The concept of the “domino effect” was endlessly repeated as a justification for this totally unjustified war.  A few years ago, I watched the documentary “The Fog of War” which was based on a series of interviews with Robert McNamara.  He was Secretary of Defense under Kennedy and Johnson and one of the leading architects of our Vietnamese war strategy.    McNamara was one of the “Brain Trust” that Kennedy appointed to his cabinet based on their accepted intellectual and cognitive abilities.  McNamara was over 80 years old when the “Fog of War” was produced and his comments are made with both the wisdom of age and the advantage of hindsight.  His conclusion was that the war was a total fiasco.  The question which McNamara still could not seem to answer was “Why?”  However, the answer was forthcoming.

McNamara Died Without Finding the Right Equation for the Vietnam War

During McNamara’s meeting with his counterpart in Vietnam, General Vo Nguyen Giap; Giap asked McNamara if he had ever read any Vietnamese History.  McNamara asked why?  To which, Giap replied that if he had, he would have understood that the Vietnamese hated the Chinese and given their history, there is no way they would have allied with the Chinese.  The Communist movement in Vietnam was a national movement for independence and not a movement to dominate Southeast Asia.  Our lack of understanding of the Vietnamese culture led to numerous mistakes in policy and war strategy.

My first professional exposure to the Cultural Arrogance endemic in the USA was in 1981.  I was attending a speech by Dr. Robert Cole at the University of Minnesota sponsored by the Minnesota Society for Training and Development.  Dr. Cole was talking about the Japanese quality effort. Dr. Cole spent seven years studying blue collar workers in Japan and is the author of numerous books on quality and productivity.  Dr. Cole noted that every major trade, scientific and technical journal published in the USA was reprinted in Japan in Japanese.  He asked how many Japanese trade and technical and scientific journals did we think were reprinted in English and available in the USA?  The answer was ZERO!  That’s right!  Not one Japanese article was reprinted in the USA.  Remember, this was 1981 before most Americans realized that the Japanese were already producing higher quality products in many areas then we were in the USA.  We have been working for 30 years now to catch up but the arrogance that led to our export problems has still not abated.

In 1971, I was in a grocery store in Racine, Wisconsin with a Mexican American friend.  We were waiting in the checkout line and when we finally were being rung up; the cashier said to my friend “Oh, I see you are a Puerto Rican.”  My friend simply replied: “No, I am Mexican American” to which the cashier replied “Oh well, Mexican, Puerto Rican, it’s all the same.”  Too many people in the USA still assume that “it’s all the same.”  The only measurement that counts is the standards we use in the USA.  Thus, our jury system is better than others, our government system is better than others, our constitution is better than others, our economic system is better than others, our workers are better than others, our culture is better than others.  These attributes are the heart of arrogance.

We go into Iraq and Afghanistan and because our democracy is “better than their systems” we are going to stay there until we see that the primitive Arabs are now voting regularly and have all the same benefits we do of a fair and impartial election system.  Ignored are the thousands of lobbyists working daily in the USA to subvert our democratic system or the hundreds of examples of cronyism, nepotism, greed and corruption that plague our political system.

Made in America trumps made in any country in the world except when it comes time to buy products and services as cheaply as we can.  We snap up the latest bargains regardless of where they are made in the world.  We used to say “Jap Crap” but we cannot use such phrases anymore since we are now importing low cost high quality products from over one hundred countries in the world.  We probably don’t have enough slang terms to scorn all the countries we buy from:  Polacks, Japs, Gooks, Slopes, Commies, Frogs, Limeys, Dago’s, that’s about all I can think of.  Only 90 more to go and I can denigrate the entire world import economy.

How do we overcome Cultural Arrogance?  This is a question that should concern each and every person in this country.  It is one thing to be proud of your country.  I have often stated that having visited 33 other countries, I have not found another nation I would want to live in. I am proud of my country and proud of my heritage.  However, remember the admonition: “Pride goeth before a fall.”  Hubris has been the downfall of many great leaders and it can be the downfall of a country.

France, and the whole of Europe have a great culture and an amazing history. Most important thing though is that people there know how to live!  In America they’ve forgotten all about it. I’m afraid that the American culture is a disaster.” — Johnny Depp 

Depp is a highly popular movie star.  He is known throughout the world and his movies are viewed by millions.  He has become somewhat of an icon with his wild portrayals of pirates, Native Americans, vampires, and other interesting characters that many main stream actors would not attempt to portray.   He is a brilliant actor but that does not mean his views are right or that I agree with them.  I used his quote to point out that not everyone thinks the USA has the world’s greatest culture.

“Every aspect of Western culture needs a new code of ethics – a rational ethics – as a precondition of rebirth.”  – Ayn Rand 

Ayn Rand is one of the foundational thinkers of the new conservatives in the USA.  A popular intellectual and proponent of individualistic ethics, she has been outspoken in her criticism of big government and centralized government planning.   It is interesting that many of her followers would probably not realize that she was disgusted with Western ethics and had a strong belief in the need for culture change.

Preservation of one’s own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures.” — Cesar Chavez 

Cesar Chavez was an American “Gandhi.”  “Chavez became the best known Latino American civil rights activist, and was strongly supported by the mainstream American labor movement.  His public-relations approach to unionism and aggressive but nonviolent tactics made the farm workers’ struggle a moral cause with nationwide support.” (Wikipedia)  Chavez pursued the idea of respect for others in his strategies to help migrant workers and numerous farm workers achieve decent benefits and wages.  He did not see the need to denigrate other cultures in his efforts to win respect for the predominantly “Latino” farm workers culture.

To Conclude:

We could look at the pros and cons of USA culture through the eyes of thousands of interesting thinkers, intellectuals, celebrities, politicians, radicals, liberals and conservatives.  What would it prove?  Many would strongly support USA culture; some would strongly condemn USA culture. Whether we support or condemn our culture is really unimportant.  Such a discussion actually misses the key point.  The point is that we can be proud of our culture but also recognize that other people are and have good reason to be proud of their cultures.  I have been to 49 states and 33 countries and everywhere I have been, I have seen people, attitudes, habits and behaviors that I found admirable.  I have never been to a place that I thought had NO redeeming value or that was 100 percent condemnable.  I have found good people everywhere I have been and I have found some bad ones.  We need to be more like the famous commentator Will Rogers but instead of never meeting a person we did not like; we need to be able to say “I have never met a culture I did not like.”

People can only live fully by helping others to live.  When you give life to friends you truly live.  Cultures can only realize their further richness by honoring other traditions.  And only by respecting natural life can humanity continue to exist.  — Daisaku Ikeda

Time for Questions:

Do we have to put other cultures down to elevate our own?  Do we respect other cultures when we assume they all want to be “democratic” or capitalistic?   How can we elect politicians who will respect the diversity of nations and other cultures?  Do you teach your children respect for other cultures?  Do you show respect for other cultures in your daily activities?  Do you think living in the USA makes you superior to other people?

Life is just beginning.

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