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Authors Who Avoid Hasty Conclusions

Much of the information that we encounter, especially via the internet, is only partially true, if not completely bogus

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So much of the information that we encounter today, especially via the internet, is only partially true, if not completely bogus. As such, I admire the work of selected authors over the past few decades. They remind me to check out what seems to be common knowledge, for the truth the lies beyond it:

Self-help author Denis Waitley observed Albert Einstein always scored quite well in math and science. Some “historians” noted that his top grade of six on a scale of one to six dropped to a level of one from one year to the next, and they arbitrarily assumed he had started to flunk those courses. The school had reversed its grading system, however, to make the highest grade a one instead of a six.

For decades, no one had bothered to examine the original “evidence” leading to the proclamation that Einstein was an academic failure.

Trending on PolitiCrossing.com: Academic Underachievement As a Permanent Condition

Pop Trends

In her book, Backlash, author Susan Faludi told how “pop” market forecasters made a fortune by reviewing popular media, such as newspapers, television, movies and so forth, and then concluding what trends are looming in America. The extreme fallacy with this method of forecasting, Faludi noted, is that it tends to promulgate that which only a handful of editors, publishers and directors believe or perpetrate. No hard data supports the “forecasts.”

One such forecaster was credited with coining the term “cocooning” for the 1980s, where working men and women, particularly women, decided to spend more time in the household. Faludi shows that the assertion has no relationship to U.S. Department Bureau of Labor Statistics that indicated an increase in the number of women in the workforce and in the time each spent outside the home.

Nevertheless, corporations paid hefty sums to be told where we were all headed next. Because many other factors can obscure results, if the predicted “trend” then doesn’t help the corporate customer, it is rarely linked back to the forecaster. Such companies would do better, observed Faludi, to simply consult the U.S. Bureau of the Census, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and other sources that independently collect data, presumably with no bias.

Dastardly Dads?

Faludi also uncovered this: The “fact” that an epidemic of divorced fathers refused to pay child care, which is a falsehood that distorted reality for decades. According to U.S. Census Bureau figures, the great majority of fathers with joint custody of their children – nearly 90% – paid their entire support obligation, in full and on time. Some 80% of fathers with visitation privileges, but not joint custody, paid regularly. Only when the courts deprive fathers of both custody and access do support levels drop to under 50%, the figure mistakenly attributed to all fathers.

Despite the strong correlation between a man’s ability to have joint custody or visitation with his children and his willingness to make regular support payments, most legislators and judges didn’t seem to see it. Their automatic and immediate response in cases of nonpayment was to blame the male, instead of enforcing the man’s right to visit his children and encouraging father-child relationships.

By continuing to make the majority of child custody awards to women, the courts systematically disregarded the role fathers played and all but ensured that the children would have adjustment problems. Even if a man legally wins visitation rights, his ability to visit his kids isn’t guaranteed. Judges don’t often put uncooperative mothers in jail. So, fathers end up going to court repeatedly – a costly venture. Sometimes after many attempts to visit their children, some fathers withhold support payments to force what the courts will not.

The media, charging to no one’s rescue and in search of thirty second sound bites, label such fathers as deadbeat, or worse. Hence, the widespread misconception about the true nature of what’s going on in this critical arena continues even to this day.

Abounded Influence

In his acclaimed 1990 book, Agents of Influence, author Pat Choate debunked the myth that the Japanese, as a whole, significantly contributed to the development of innovation and technology as evidenced by their annual lead in the number of U.S. patents they had filed and obtained. As Choate explained, the Japanese tilted the economic playing field, via the ruthless art of “patent flooding.”

When a U.S. firm, for example, applied for a patent representing an innovation on which the Japanese wanted to capitalize, Japanese firms issued a flurry of patent applications that surrounded the technology at hand. Thus, the original developer or inventor could not market his invention  without getting clearance from the Japanese, who could tie up an invention in the courts simply because they held nuisance patents for a component or contributing element to the major patent.

After decades of such tactics, and with China included as a leading culprit, the U.S. government still has failed to install comprehensive, necessary protections to safeguard the toil and genius of the original American patent applicant. As such, our government has unwittingly contributed to the redistribution of billions of dollars in royalties and revenues to others.

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Jeff Davidson is the world's only holder of the title "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" as awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He is the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit www.BreathingSpace.com for more information on Jeff's keynote speeches and seminars, including: Managing the Pace with Grace® * Achieving Work-Life Balance™ * Managing Information and Communication Overload®



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Education

Academic Underachievement As a Permanent Condition

Academic achievement occurs through individual effort: One boy and one girl after another rising above

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On the state and local level, as decisions are made about how and in what form we will educate the nation’s children, an age-old issue remains. The underlying causes of income inequality and civil unrest likely has less to do with media-inflamed coverage and more to do with a lingering issue that few people want to earnestly discuss: educational disparity.

In virtually every U.S. school system, the disparity year after year, decade after decade, and even longer, in mathematics competency, reading proficiency, test scores, honor roll status, and graduation rates, between African American students and other students is disturbing.

A Disturbing Reality

Here in the third decade of the third millennium, with a male African American high school dropout rate at 40% across the U.S., can anyone view the situation optimistically? Any responsible American would understandably be concerned.

Trending on PolitiCrossing.com: Common ‘Wisdom’ that Just Ain’t So

As Eric Hanushek, who is a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, as well as a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, exclaimed “It’s remarkable.” Following his extensive analysis of the situation, he remarked, “I knew that the gap hadn’t been closing too much, but when I actually looked at the data I was myself surprised.”

In one community after another, and one school system after another, when strenuous efforts to bridge the gap do not bear fruit, invariably someone yells “foul,” as if some grand conspiracy is occurring and a magic wand, yet to be waved, could suddenly redress all. And, as if hard-working, dedicated teachers are not attempting their utmost for each of their students.

An Undesired Path

Consider the school system in Chapel Hill-Carrboro, North Carolina. This locale, deemed, “The southern part of heaven,” by a variety of writers, is among the most progressive in the United States. The teachers and educators here have a vested interest in demonstrating that their school system, beyond all others, can succeed in the vital area of closing achievement gaps between whites and minorities.

Nevertheless, year in and year out the gap remains. So, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Board of Education becomes primed to try anything! Another in an endless line of supposed “fixes” was to eliminate the advanced math classes in the middle schools and to lump all non-pre-algebra students together, with similar plans to eliminate other advanced classes such as in language arts.

Just as you cannot easily erect a sound building on quicksand, and you cannot expect to solve a decades-old problem by starting with a shaky foundation. Taking a lowest common denominator approach to developing school curriculum has never consistently worked, anywhere. It frustrates the students and dramatically increases a teacher’s burden – all such students must then be taught at individual learning speeds. Do you know any superhuman teachers? If so, could you afford them?

Face the Real Issues

Permanently closing the academic gap between underachieving students and the rest of the student population requires addressing reality – airing the truth about the disparity – not resorting to politically “correct” psychobabble and curricula finagling for another ten years, and then another ten, and then another.

This disparity encompasses such issues as the number of hours the television is on in given households, family or parental encouragement for completing homework assignments, a regular workspace, and established hours for studying in a quiet environment, among other factors.

Until solid analysis, exploration, and programs that address these issues are undertaken, no amount of wrangling with classes will prove to be the “winning formula.” And, school boards will have no chance of effectively addressing the continuing problem of poor academic performance among student groups.

In Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story The Sign of Four, detective Sherlock Holmes says, “…When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” The schools in U.S. communities routinely exhaust talented teachers with a task that cannot be solved by them, nor is it theirs to solve.

Students Eager to Learn

However improbable to those who wish to pretend otherwise, academic achievement occurs through individual effort: One boy and one girl after another rising above and cracking the books, then coming to class as serious students, eager to learn, and primed to excel. Such achievement is not likely to occur any other way.

Otherwise, expect that income inequality and civil unrest will continue for decades into the 21st century.

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Business

Common ‘Wisdom’ that Just Ain’t So

Much of what we read, think, and repeat is not accurate, at all…

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Much of what we read, think, and repeat is not exactly so. For example have you encountered the phrase, “Those who give up liberty for security deserve neither”? Often incorrectly attributed to Benjamin Franklin, the phrase is nonsensical. With no national security, soon enough you’ll have no liberty.

With complete security, you’ll have no liberty as well. A trade-off is always needed. For the record, Benjamin Franklin actually said, “Those who would give up essential liberty, to pursue a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” That makes more sense.

‘A penny saved is a penny earned’? Once again, Ben Franklin is in the mix. A penny saved is not a penny earned. A penny earned is a penny earned and even then it might not be a full penny depending on taxes, inflation, and other hidden costs and expenses. If you save your money in a long-term CD, you can’t have access to it months. If funds are tied up when you need them that is not a pretty penny.

Trending on PolitiCrossing.com: Academic Underachievement As a Permanent Condition

Not Actually

Consider the phrase, “Experience is the best teacher.” Perhaps, this is so, but not as a given. Generally, an excellent teacher is the best teacher. Experience might teach us the wrong lessons or send us down another blind alley. If we don’t fully comprehend the meaning of our experiences,we’re as likely to make bad decisions in the future and have unfortunate experiences as a result.

Closely related is, ‘practice makes perfect.’ Practice does not make perfect. If your practices are off the mark, then you will continue to be imperfect and you might be reinforcing a bad habit. As they say in Tae Kwon Do, “Practice makes permanent.”

On my daughter’s softball team, a young girl named Whitney was regarded as the star pitcher. Yet during the pregame warm-ups, time after time, she could barely throw a strike. With luck, she averaged 20% strikes out of all her pitches thrown. Sure enough, when the game started, she was no better. Why would anybody expect the outcome to be different?

The best chance for you to excel is to have perfect practices. An array of imperfect practices leads failure.

Lemons and Life

‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.’ This sounds like good advice, but to actually make and sell lemonade, you’d also need to have clean water, a good lemon press, some type of sweetener, a paring knife, a pitcher, an implement for stirring, and cups. Such bromides leave out 90% of what else you’d need.

Periodically, I encounter authors and speakers who write or say ‘to live life more fully’ by pretending that “you have six months to live.” If you had six months to live you’d engage in behaviors different than now.

You might sell your house. You might go on world travel, or at least travel more than you’ve been doing. You might dissipate your assets. You might spend your money down to nothing, or give it all away. Then, when you undoubtedly live beyond six months, you’re likely to be penniless!

Thank You For Sharing (!)

‘Think outside the box.’ What does the “box” even mean? The phrase has been so overused that it is now rendered meaningless. Would it be better simply to say “expand your thinking,” or “brainstorm,” or “reach beyond the norm”?

‘There is no ‘I’ in team.’ Michael Jordan once remarked that while there is no “I” in team, there certainly is a “me.” Acronyms and creative word use might have their place in a corporate pep rally, otherwise let them be.

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