Emily and Robert:  A love story

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Our story starts in a bathroom.   Emily is brushing her teeth and thinking about her beloved husband Robert.  Emily is 85 years old and Robert is 87 years old.  Emily and Robert have had a long life together.  Often happy, but often tumultuous with the stress of family, money and work disrupting the natural harmony of things.  Through all the ups and downs, their love for each other was the one constant of their lives.  Despite all the cliches about true love and being made for each other and all the other tropes one hears about lovers, no two people ever loved each other more than Emily and Robert.

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For the past ten years, Emily had been taking care of Robert.  After he had his second stroke, Robert needed help to dress and shower each morning.  He was no longer able to take care of his house hold chores and he needed help to do the many activities that he had once taken for granted.  Robert was a proud man but Emily was also very stubborn and she showed her love for Robert in her dedication to helping him.  Robert was appreciative and demonstrated it by doing all he could to minimize the burden for Emily.  He never complained and he never forget to say thank you to Emily no matter how many times she helped him.

An-older-couple-sitting-i-0072Emily and Robert had been married for nearly 65 years.  They were both in their early twenties when they met in college.  It was love at first sight.  Their parents wanted them to wait to finish college but after a brief whirlwind romance, they simply eloped.  They surprised everyone when they came back to school and finished their college degrees.  Robert became an engineer and Emily was a school teacher for many years.  The careers they chose suited their personalities.  They were known as hard faithful workers.  Not once in over forty years did any employer ever have a complaint or problem with either Robert or Emily.  After forty-five years, they both chose to retire so they could spend more time together after Robert’s first stroke.

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The saddest part of their lives was their inability to have their own children.  However, they made up for this by becoming foster parents.  Over the course of their years together, they had helped to raise nearly twenty-five foster children.  The social service agency responsible for the placements always said that they could not have found two more loving parents.  As parents, they were strict with high expectations but they were always fair and compassionate.  They latino-couplewere loved by all their foster children who often returned home to visit or to simply stop by with a bit of news or something to eat.  Robert and Emily could not have loved any children of their own more than they loved their foster children.

 

Emily continued brushing her teeth and getting ready for bed.  The light was off in their bedroom and the bathroom adjoined the bedroom.  Emily kept up a running dialogue with Robert about her day and the trip she had taken to visit one of her sick foster children.  Robert never answered so Emily just assumed he was reading or perhaps had fallen asleep.  Even after all these years, they still slept together.  Robert always slept closest to the bathroom door and Emily slept on the other side closest to the window.

lady surprisedEmily finished brushing her teeth and then took her nightly pills.  She shut off the bathroom light and started out to the bedroom.  The light by Robert’s side of the bed was on and Emily started to say something to Robert when abruptly she stopped.  Her eyes fell upon an empty bed that was undisturbed.  The sheets and bed covers had not been moved.  Emily was surprised and shocked.  Where was bedroom at nightRobert?  Suddenly, Emily remembered.  Robert had died the previous week and had been buried two days before on Saturday.  Tears came to her eyes.  What would she do without her Robert?  She was all alone now.  No one to go to bed with.  No one to talk to at night.  No one who would regularly listen to her complaints and problems about the world.

Being the survivor of a pair of lovers is a terrible burden.  Most of us want to go first.  However, neither Emily or Robert had ever wanted to be the first to go for both knew how hard it would be for the other.  Sadly, someone must go first.  The survivor is left with a vacuum in their life and memories.  The vacuum can never be filled and the memories cannot be forgotten.  Events that happened many years ago seem like they just happened yesterday and events of a few days past seem like they happened eons ago.  Memories do not respect a correlation to physical time.

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Emily will die in five years.  In between today and her death, she will experience joy, sadness, pain and a certainty that life will once more resume for her and Robert.  She believes that somewhere in this vast universe, her atoms and Robert’s atoms will coalesce and the two of them will again be united.  As sure as you are reading this story, Robert and Emily will live joyfully ever after in a place where life and death can no longer challenge their happiness.

Time for Questions:

What is love?  Have you ever been in love?  How do you know?  Who was the greatest love of your life?  Why?  Is there anything more important than love?

Life is just beginning.

“The real act of marriage takes place in the heart, not in the ballroom or church or synagogue. It’s a choice you make – not just on your wedding day, but over and over again – and that choice is reflected in the way you treat your husband or wife.” —  Barbara De Angelis
 

Autobiographies from the Dead – Josh the Teenager

Each semester the Graphics Multi-Media Students select a global issue that is meaningful to them and then create a logo and infographic about their issue.

Each semester the Graphics Multi-Media Students select a global issue that is meaningful to them and then create a logo and infographic about their issue.

For the next several weeks, my blogs are going to consist of “autobiographies” written by some very special people.  They have one thing in common.  They are all dead.  Some have a burial place and some were simply discarded like pieces of trash.  Their stories will be told by the deceased themselves.  They cry out from the fields, rivers and graveyards to speak.  I have heard their cries.  They want me to tell their stories to you.  They want you to know what their living and dying was for.  This week, Josh will tell you the story of his life and death.

Josh the Teenager

teen suicide by hangingThey are sorry now!  They are all weeping and crying.  They care more about me now that I am dead then they did when I was alive.  All I ever heard from Mom was her telling her friends how handsome I was and what I good student I was.  Bullshit!  The only time Dad ever talked to me was to tell me how well Robert (my brother) was doing in law school and why couldn’t I be more like him.

Robert was a real suck-up.  He is 21 years old and is forever gloating about his accomplishments in school and in sports.  The big shot was our high school football hero.  Dad spent all his time with him and never had any left over for me.  Robert was a four letter athlete and was in every league in town.  If he wasn’t getting A’s in school, he was getting medals and trophies for his athletic exploits.  I hated him.

I also have a sister Maria who is fourteen years old and the most popular girl in the high school.  That’s because she goes to bed with anyone who has a zipper in their pants, girls as well as boys.  Mom and dad think she is an angel.  She is the biggest slut in school.  My friends are forever making fun of me about her.  Like: “When can I come over and screw your sister?”

My father works for an investment firm as some kind of an analyst.  He makes good money but is always busy.  He probably invented multi-tasking and 24/7 work.  Anytime, I ever suggested doing anything together, his standard reply was:  “Great idea.  Let’s hold it for a while until I catch up on my accounts.”  I have been holding it for seventeen years and still waiting.  He can go to hell.  I hate him also.

My mom was some sort of a medical worker in the local hospital.  She did not like to cook or clean so we went out to eat a lot.  Twice a week, we had a housekeeper come in to do our laundry and straighten up the house.  Mom spent a lot of time at Robert’s ball games.  She also spent a lot of time shopping with Maria.  My mom liked to spent money on clothes and sometimes I could not decide whether Maria was the teenager or my mother was the teenager.  My friends all said that my mom was one hot MILF.

teen_suicide girl thinking about it.I am seventeen years old and a junior in high school.  I have a Facebook page and do lots of on-line stuff.  I hate school and I hate my teachers.  I hate most of the kids in school.  The majority of them are either jerks or snobs.  I don’t belong to any groups and I mostly hang around with one or two friends.  My father wanted me to play sports but I knew I could never be as good as my brother so why bother.  The teachers at my school treated me like I did not exist.  I was a B student and I can’t say I really excelled at anything.  Most of the time, I felt like a born loser.

I often thought of making a big name for myself by blowing up the school or maybe killing both of my parents and my sister and brother but I decided against it.  Not that I did not think they were good ideas but what if I screwed up?  My father was forever telling me what a screw up I was.  What if I screwed up my high school massacre?  What if I botched killing my entire family?  That would prove what a screw up I really was.  I decided that I could not risk it.  Safer to simply kill myself!

cd206d692c9e7c516d212dee1a3e-do-you-think-social-network-site-are-responsible-for-teen-suicide-and-cyberbullyI thought of shooting myself but that would be too messy.  I thought of jumping off a high bridge but that might not be fatal.  I had heard of too many people who had survived such falls.  I finally decided to hang myself.  I would hang myself in the closet at home.  That would be great.  They might not find me for a few days and they would be worried sick.  That would serve them all.

Anyway, I could be pretty sure if I killed myself at home mom and dad would be the ones to find me.  And sure enough they did.  The look on my mom and dad’s eyes was priceless.   There I was swinging from the clothes hook suspended by a leather belt which I had wrapped around my neck.  I had stood on a small step stool and kicked it far away so that I could have no second thoughts.  It was much less painful than I had imagined.  A few choking breaths, a feeling of swelling in my head and that was it.  Lights out!  I think I must have died about ten minutes after I kicked the stool away.

teen knife slashingI am hanging with my tongue and eyes bulging out.  My face is quite red and swollen.  I look rather pitiful.  There is a pool of piss on the floor under me and an awful smell coming from my pants. I suppose I shit myself when I died.  I am glad.  They deserve it.  I hope they are really sorry now for the way that they treated me.  I just wanted them to like me for who I was.  But no, I was never good enough.

It seems like our society is full of heroes and idols and celebrities and athletes and rich people and music stars and famous politicians.  I was a B person in an A society.  Nobody cared about me.  Nobody gives a damn about B people.  Not my mother, father, sister, brother or teachers.  I was not popular or smart or athletic enough to get the girls like the A guys got. The only girls that were interested in me were the losers like I was.  I went out with one girl once and that was my last date in high school.  We kissed a little but she got all agitated when I put my hand on her tit.  She asked me to take her home.  I was a loser with girls as well.

Well, now they will all be sorry.  Screw them.  I don’t care.  They had it coming.  I finally feel like somebody cares about me.  It only took my death before I really mattered to anyone.  I look forward to visiting my funeral service.  That should be funny.  I can imagine all the good things that they will say about me.  At last they will all be able to spend some time with me, even though I am now dead.

I am going to go look for God now.  I would like to ask Her why I was such a loser.  How come I did not get the brains or skills or something that would have made me stand out and be noticed?  Why was life so unfair to me when everyone around me seemed to get some sort of special treatment?   Maybe God will be able to tell me why I was a loser.

Time for Questions:

Can we spot potential teenage suicides?  Are we taking neglecting our teens?  What do we have to do to help decrease teenage suicides?  How does our culture contribute to the problem?

Life is just beginning.

Suicide (i.e., taking one’s own life) is a serious public health problem that affects even young people. For youth between the ages of 10 and 24, suicide is the third leading cause of death. It results in approximately 4600 lives lost each year. The top three methods used in suicides of young people include firearm (45%), suffocation (40%), and poisoning (8%).

suicide warningsDeaths from youth suicide are only part of the problem. More young people survive suicide attempts than actually die. A nationwide survey of youth in grades 9–12 in public and private schools in the United States (U.S.) found that 16% of students reported seriously considering suicide, 13% reported creating a plan, and 8% reporting trying to take their own life in the 12 months preceding the survey. Each year, approximately 157,000 youth between the ages of 10 and 24 receive medical care for self-inflicted injuries at Emergency Departments across the U.S.

Suicide affects all youth, but some groups are at higher risk than others. Boys are more likely than girls to die from suicide. Of the reported suicides in the 10 to 24 age group, 81% of the deaths were males and 19% were females. Girls, however, are more likely to report attempting suicide than boys. Cultural variations in suicide rates also exist, with Native American/Alaskan Native youth having the highest rates of suicide-related fatalities. A nationwide survey of youth in grades 9–12 in public and private schools in the U.S. found Hispanic youth were more likely to report attempting suicide than their black and white, non-Hispanic peers.  (Center for Disease Control and Prevention)

 

Social Legacy Systems:  How They Block Change and Prevent Progress:  Part 1- Education

KuhnCycle_BasicCycleAccording to Thomas Kuhn when a paradigm shifts, you cannot be successful doing what you did in the old paradigm.  In a new paradigm, you must obey new rules to be successful.  Our culture and world are going through one of the greatest paradigm shifts in history.  It has been happening now for four generations starting with the Baby Boom generation.  The transition or swing generations have been Generation X and Generation Y.   These later two generations have been stuck between paradigms.  The final or new generation has been somewhat appropriately called Generation Z.  Generation Z *(See Footnote) represents the end of the paradigm shift.

The rules and cultural norms that have traditionally applied to: family, education, government, employment and law are all legacy based and present significant barriers to change.  In computers, a legacy system refers to either hardware or software that is out of date but is difficult to replace because of its widespread use.  I am using the term as it is known in the IT world, to refer to our outdated social and economic systems that are difficult to replace because of first: their widespread use and second: because of attitudes and policies that make it difficult to either change or replace them.

(Listen to Tracy Chapman sing  “The Times They Are A Changin.”  A song made famous by Bob Dylan)

Generation Z must create new rules for success and happiness to reign in this new order.  The emerging social and business systems will march to a different set of norms and standards.  Those systems that fail to change will gradually erode and die.  Their deaths will not be without casualties or bloodless.  Already we see the decay and decline of our antiquated educational system.  Our justice and prison systems are not far behind in obsolescence.

Legacy ChangesIronically, the Baby Boomers started the paradigm shift and are now the major roadblocks to change.  As Baby Boomers age, the systems they are most comfortable with (What I am calling the legacy systems) are increasingly dysfunctional.   In this blog, I want to talk about how the traditional systems have become barriers to change and the ways that these systems will need to be changed in order for Generation Z to achieve the success and happiness undoubtedly their parents want for them.  Indeed, the one thing that has not changed in six thousand years is the desire by parents for their children to live in a better world then they did.

What is the New Paradigm and what was the Old Paradigm?

The change in paradigms is embodied in the following dominant forces:

  1. From an Analog to a Digital world
  2. From Family centered to Child centered
  3. From Independence to Interdependence
  4. From Text to Visual based
  5. From Linear to Nonlinear sequencing

Each of the above factors has played a major role in the decline of social systems and economic systems in the USA if not also in many other parts of the world.  However, before we look at these individual factors, let me repeat a very important fact that is often ignored.  The changes in our systems will happen whether we want them to or not.  They are as inevitable as the weather changing or the mountains eroding.  There is nothing anyone can do to stop them.  Examine any of the five factors noted above and ask yourself “how likely is it to be turned back or changed back to what we once knew in bygone years?”  The only choice that we as a society and culture have is whether we want to try to restrain these changes or whether we want to help facilitate them and make the transition smoother and easier.

The old system and its rules and norms are barriers to change.  Laws and policies that support the old legacy systems now have the vice of creating friction and turmoil.  Just like two tectonic plates sliding over each other, when smooth transition is not permitted, one result may be an earthquake that shatters reality with its violent upheaval.  We are seeing many examples of both the inevitable frictions and resulting earthquakes in many areas of society and business today.  Sometimes, the changes are smooth but as often as not they are violent and chaotic.

Let’s look at two of what I am calling our legacy systems to see how these explosions and cultural clashes are playing out.  We will start with our education system (which is now quite similar all over the world).

How Does the Education System Block Change?

Paradigm-ShiftIn the late nineteen century, the American education system was one of the most progressive in the world.  Offering access to people that before could never have gone to school or college, the system was a reflection of many of the emerging industrial era virtues.

  • A mostly democratic system of mass education
  • Standardized learning
  • Linear and hierarchical movement through a graduated system of grades, curriculum and tests
  • Experts in various fields who could bring ideas and knowledge to a centralized location
  • Easy availability of texts and reading material
  • Credentials essential for the new Industrial Age that was emerging

For nearly one hundred and fifty years, the elements of the Education or School paradigm were beneficial and coveted by many other nations of the world.  Witness, the vast numbers of foreign students who came to attend Higher Education in the USA.  The factors making our education system a success in the early 20th Century have changed.  The need for an education system is still there but the “School” system that now dominates the “education” paradigm is hopelessly obsolete.   Each one of the five forces has played a role in this obsolescence.    Let us look briefly at the role that each has played in degrading our present education system.

  1. From an Analog to a Digital world

analog to digitalStudents now carry as much information in their ubiquitous smart phones as in all the encyclopedias in the world combined.  Many schools that once banned IPADS and Smart Phones are beginning to allow them in the curriculum.  Attempts to control what students can see are rather fruitless and doomed to fail.  (The 12-3-14 Casa Grande Paper reported today that the FBI seized 20 boxes of an LA school’s iPad documents.  “Hundreds of students initially given the IPADs last school year found ways to bypass security installations, downloading games and freely surfing the web.”  HORRORS (My comment)

2.  From Family centered to Child centered

family versus child centeredSingle parent families are now nearly 40 percent of all households.  About 4 out 10 children were born to unwed mothers in 2013.  https://singlemotherguide.com/single-mother-statistics.  Children are now the center of attention in many households.  Whereas the family was once the most important component, children are increasingly the center of the family system.  Evidence for this is numerous.  From Soccer Moms to Helicopter Moms to parents that blame teachers for all that is wrong in the school but would never blame their children.  As an educator for over 40 years now, I have seen this shift firsthand.  Today, in all too many cases, if the child misbehaves or acts out, it is the teachers or schools fault.

  1. From Independence to Interdependence

independenceAmerica has always prided itself on rugged independence.  Many examples exist to show that much of this was image and not reality. Nevertheless, from individual grades to individual tests and individual merits of achievement, our schools have reflected this standard in its policies and procedures.  Sharing information with others in school whether on a test or writing assignment is usually labeled as cheating.

In business as in school, the individual performance ethic also reigned supreme.  This has gradually but inexorably been changing.  Today, the team norm has become increasingly dominant in the work place as we see that the old saying “two heads are better than one” is an essential platitude for innovation and creativity.   Schools are still lagging considerably behind the marketplace on the value they place on team work, cooperation and interdependence.

  1. From Text to Visual based

Visual-Tsunamis-Ketchum-first-pageFrom the early Jane’s readers to English Classics to modern stories like Harry Potter, the school system is dominated by a text based paradigm which has made the text-book the center of learning for most classes. This is true from kindergarten to Ph.D. programs and is of course reflected in ideas like Common Core and standardized curriculum.   At the college level, I have been told that I had to use a textbook because everyone else was using a textbook.  Recently we have seen that most hard cover textbooks have become e-books but this is a minor change and does not reflect the real underlying fact that kids today are increasingly living in a visual world.

Examples of this change abound:  Windows based interface systems, Smart Phone icons, You-Tube videos, documentaries, and just about every famous novel in history has been rendered into some form of video.  Children today are visual learners while the school system has standardized on text books, written assignments and term papers.  I wish I had a dollar for everyone that has said “Kids today do not know how to read or write.”  While, they may not express themselves in ink and papyrus, one only has to look at YouTube to see the abundance of musical and visual creativity now being displayed by young people today.

  1. From Linear to Nonlinear sequencing

non-linear-narrativeSchools are like factories with assembly lines. Everyone moves together at the same pace doing a standardized set of procedures designed for maximum efficiency.  Of course, these procedures were wonderful during the Industrial Era and propelled the USA to world leadership in manufacturing and production.  They also made the USA education system the envy of the world.  Today, these concepts are obsolete in business and also in education.  Just as businesses are moving to mass customization, so our schools need to move to customized learning curriculum designed for team of learners with similar interests and goals.  Our school system is now a testament to inefficiency, boredom and frustration for more than half of all students attending.

Conclusions:

Why are children dropping out of school or getting pregnant in school at horrendous rates?  I think the answer is simple:  School is boring and not meeting their needs. If in a business, your customers stopped coming, you would assume that something was wrong with your products or services. This does not seem to have occurred to either politicians or educators.  Perhaps, it is a case that “The fish is the last one to see the water.”  Schools have become obsolete.  The American education system now serves well only a small percentage of the students that enter the system.

Drop Out RatesMany will survive the system only to be glad when they finally get out.  Critical thinking is not well tolerated and the system does not accept challenges to its fundamental premises. Nevertheless, every school shooter represents a distorted but none the less serious challenge to the education system in America.  There will be many who ask “Is he crazy, how can he say that?”  One only has to understand the concept of a chaotic system to know that in any system that is undergoing decay, outliers or special causes will spring up that do not seem to be part of the system or that seem to have no relationship to the other elements in the system.  These special causes are all part of a normal system of variation.  In systems with a high degree of instability or inconsistency, the amount of variation results in increasingly greater episodes of chaos and breakdowns.   Looking for reasons for these “special causes” only results in speculation and frustration and failure.

No single theorist has painted a profile or single underlying reason for the increasing violence in our schools.  I submit, the schools and their dysfunctional paradigms are ultimately the cause of this violence.  If this is true, we will see more and more examples of such violence as our school system gradually deteriorates and becomes increasingly less relevant.  No amount of police in the hallways or concealed weapons will stop this inevitable and remorseless deterioration.   We are well past the time when we need a new education paradigm for the 21st Century.

In Part 2 of “Social Legacy Systems:  How They Block Change and Prevent Progress”, I would like to show how our legacy Prison and Judicial System has become a negative and restraining element in our present social system.  The result has been escalating and unsustainable increases in prison costs, legal costs, police costs and costs associated with our judicial system.

Time for Questions:

What is your opinion?  Do we need to change? Why or why not? Why are so many people only interested in half measures of change?  What will it take to change our education system?  Are you willing to work or financially support the changes that are needed? Why or why not?

Life is just beginning.

“And suddenly you know: It’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.” ― Meister Eckhart

* Footnote:

Gen Z, Gen Y, baby boomers – a guide to the generations by Harry Wallop

 

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