Sunday, 14 January 2007

Empathy Counts, Character Counts, But Both Seem in Short Supply in America

Have no doubt: Parenting matters, and if you aim to raise decent, empathetic kids who put doing and saying the right thing above expediency, start with the Book of Matthew's Golden Rule that reads, "So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them... " Even the non-religious among us should be able to wrap their minds around that, and yet...

A little boy cried his heart out well into the night after he'd learned that he hadn't been invited to one of his "best" friend's birthday parties. About that, the birthday boy's mother told his dad, "Well, maybe next year he'll make the list."

Then there's the dad who, after his kid's team struck out, told him within earshot of several team members and their parents, "You're the best, but you can't be expected to carry the team all the time!" That same boy invited only the best players on his team over to celebrate their having made the playoffs. Apples and trees...

So much for empathy, that know-it-when-you-see-it capacity to figure out how someone else is feeling and then acting accordingly. Ditto, it seems, for kindness and character. No wonder, then, that along with all the curriculum changes and other demands already in place, schools now have to step in and teach social-emotional skills.

And try they will. Indeed, currently eight large, mostly urban school districts are participating in an initiative spanning a number of years whereby researchers study their schools' social-emotional learning programs. These, explains Education Week's Evie Blad, "blend evidence-based classroom curriculum with school climate improvements and efforts to infuse social and emotional concepts into the teaching of traditional subjects like history."

Along such lines, one big change in Cleveland's schools nowadays, for instance, is that in-school suspension rooms are now called "planning centers," a place where kids who act up talk with teachers to help them work through their problematic or disruptive behavior. A definite change in disciplinary policy.

At the same time, an Education Week Research Center poll found that 60.5% of responding administrators said their schools' students have those desired social-emotional skills; however, just 46.5% of the responding teachers agreed, representing a bit of a disconnect. Meanwhile, 49.9% said their schools pay "about the right amount of attention" to those skills. Does that mean schools should be doing a better job instilling these attributes? How about parents?

On top of all this, since 2004, every January--yes, I'm a bit late on that score-No Name-Calling Week is recognized. Defined as "an annual week of educational and creative activities aimed at ending name-calling, bullying and harassment," it's designed to celebrate kindness in our schools, complete with online lesson plans. This, of course, simply underscores the need for instilling the Golden Rule right from the get-go.

Apparently, we adults could use some social-emotional training, too, starting with our current crop of politicians and media folks. Remember when Vice President Joe Biden likened Tea Party Republicans to terrorists? How about when New York Times op-ed columnist Joe Nocera wrote, "... These last few months, much of the country has watched in horror as the Tea Party Republicans have waged jihad on the American people." Similarly, writing for the same newspaper, Thomas Friedman described those same Tea Partiers as "the GOP's Hezbollah faction."

Such rhetoric seems to have no end nowadays. Take, for example, that after the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Gifford and her constituents, David Fitzsimmons, a cartoonist for the (Tucson) Arizona Daily Star, blamed the right in Arizona for "stoking the fire of heated anger and rage" and "making the attack inevitable."

Then there's our "role model" Hollywood folk emulated by so many, kids and adults, alike. Talk about mean. Take, for instance, beloved Sandra Bullock. While walking the red carpet one evening, a reporter asked what designer she was wearing, a question asked of most divas. Her response for all to hear: "How could you ask such a stupid question?"

For another Hollywood example, take the renowned Charlie Sheen who, in a Tweet, compared Rihanna to "84 interminable seconds of drinking Drano."

About such goings-on, author Daniel H. Pink reminds us that, "Empathy is about standing in someone else's shoes, feeling with his or her heart, seeing with his or her eyes. Not only is empathy hard to outsource and automate, but it makes the world a better place."

Yes, and it begins at home...

Carol is a learning specialist who worked with middle school children and their parents at the Methacton School District in Pennsylvania for more than 25 years and now supervises student teachers at Gwynedd-Mercy University and Ursinus College. Along with the booklet, 149 Parenting School-Wise Tips: Intermediate Grades & Up, and numerous articles in such publications as Teaching Pre-K-8 and Curious Parents, she has authored three successful learning guidebooks: Getting School-Wise: A Student Guidebook, Other-Wise and School-Wise: A Parent Guidebook, and ESL Activities for Every Month of the School Year.

Sunday, 20 August 2006

Infrastructure: What Happens When the Bridges Collapse?

As Congress finagles over finances for this and monies for that, the bridges, roads, and other infrastructures of our country fall into disrepair. Money to fill potholes, improve railroad lines, and replace aging bridges is crossed off the books while tax cuts march in and other funds march out to wars. What happens when all of our bridges collapse, when our roads are not drivable, or when public transit, still fledgling throughout much of the country, is forgotten? We will all be in a heap of trouble. Unfortunately it seems that action is only taken following a tragedy and even then, it is often too little too late. Or in the case of the recent Amtrak crash, Congress fights over the entire system rather than attending to individual segments and the service as a whole.

Spending time in Europe I have always marveled at the transit system. I can go virtually anywhere in cities like Paris and Madrid on the Metro and arrive just a few steps from my destination. Trains operate at high speed and efficiency in most countries and again take me within a few feet of where I want to go. Now I have not studied bridges and road conditions in much of Europe but it does seem that there are crews in action almost everywhere I glance. Even when funding is tight, there is an appreciation of the infrastructure's service and its critical importance.

I remember long ago when the San Francisco Bay Area began BART the Bay Area Transit System. Market Street was a disaster for years as this huge project was completed. It is now a very handy service, however, it still has enormous gaps. If you need a half-moon bay loop BART is ideal, however the western city of San Francisco is out as are subways under the Golden Gate Bridge and connecting service in the eastern bay. With millions of commuters it seems full service, including the many airports, would be a must. But when money is gone, it is gone. The dream lives on as people continue to drive one person per car on desperately crowded roadways.

Infrastructure is essential in linking our nation together. While I get restless as I sit on blocked highways waiting for the pilot car to arrive and guide me through, I also smile knowing that because of this delay roads and bridges are safer and well maintained. Infrastructure is the framework of travel. It sets the foundation upon which we depend. I realize that many in Congress fly rather than drive or take public transit, but it seems that their job is to look after all of us, not just themselves. What do you think?

Tuesday, 12 July 2005

Living a Small-Er Life

Perhaps you have noticed the same thing I have... a growing dichotomy of lifestyles. One is fast-paced and tech-filled, instant gratification, a very small urban footprint. The other is a modern twist on a more rural existence, replete with homegrown/raised, homemade everything. Each has its attractions and detractions.

Somewhere in between, there are many people just trying to manage day-to-day. There is a small percentage leading an extravagant lifestyle.

The truth is, it can take time, resources, and some level of self-awareness (plus trial and error) to create an ideal lifestyle.

The Path to a New Lifestyle

Personally, I spent about five years thinking about what my ideal lifestyle would look like. It was an unconscious endeavor at first, because I was shedding off a life located in the wrong place. I was in a difficult business enduring endless encounters with bitter, irresponsible people.

I knew I wanted to live a quieter life, in a house that was manageable for years to come. Beyond that, and given the abrasive conditions I was experiencing, I wasn't sure about anything else.

Finally, I figured it out. I'm not suited for life in a tiny house or urbane apartment. I don't want a large home that requires constant attention, with rooms I rarely use. Homesteading is for the intrepid, physically strong, and DIY skilled. Frankly, I know my limits. What I want is what I can manage, a small-er life.

First, I am in a new place. Where I landed is somewhat of a surprise, and happened by default. It is the result of timing that relied on other things falling into place. It turns out I'm exactly where I need and want to be. It is literally a breath of fresh air.

Because of where I live, I am gifted with the means to live my own blend of two lifestyles. I am close enough to two large cities, but far enough away to feel daily reprieve. I have neighbors. I have neighbors I actually talk with. It's a HOA-free hood. It's perfect.

What I Appreciate about Living a Smaller Life

Smaller home =

Fewer expenses, lower taxes
Lower maintenance, fewer fixes and renovations
Fewer possessions, better organization
Smaller footprint, but with individual privacy

Smaller life =

Reduced garbage, more recycling
Far less stress, inexpensive entertainment
More cooking, homegrown foods
Virtually no debt

Calmer life =

Improved health
Opportunity for more quality, face-to-face interactions
The rules of the house are buy smart, save for larger purchases. Support local businesses. Be smart by buying used or new, whichever is best, taking time to consider each purchase.

Changed Priorities

Early on, I was driven to travel. There were places in the world I wanted to visit. My work made it possible, and I am so thankful for the privilege. At the time, I had no interest in owning a house. Fast forward, and because of the company I now keep, I relish having a place to call home. Every morning I walk around and feel such bliss being here. This is the perfect size life for me. I do not take it for granted.

Pick Your Lifestyle

There is a lot of pressure, especially via social media, to lead a particular lifestyle. On any given day you can feel the pull to be an uber stylish and globe-trotting hipster, bohemian wunderkind, hearty self-reliant homesteader, suburban DIYer, minimum footprint dweller. As long as you seek to lead a responsible life; as long as you are respectful of others and the planet you live on, you're OK by me. Just take the reins to create your own, perfect-for-you lifestyle.

Friday, 11 March 2005

Why Indie Magazines Continue to Rule the Roost

Despite the apocalypse predicted for the print industry for almost a decade now, more often than before new indie magazines are finding their way on to the magazine racks in bookshops across the world - making it difficult to buy into the prediction entirely. Here's why we think indie magazines continue to rule the roost, as it were, despite the unpredictability plaguing the print industry, in general.

1. Content

Most of the indie magazines approach their chosen subject/theme in ways that have rarely been experimented with before, thus making the content fresh and distinctive. The Gentlewoman, an independently published magazine based out of the UK is one such case in point, which celebrates modern women of style and purpose. This magazine is not just a mere catalog of faces and costumes; instead it showcases real women in the real world wearing their personalities as a style statement - offering a fresh and intelligent perspective on fashion. There are independent magazines showcasing an extraordinary range of topics, from travel, food, popular culture, visual communication to cats, dogs, running, surfing, skate boarding, cycling, graffiti et al, out there today. You think of a genre/interest and surely there will be a couple of super creative and competent blokes somewhere on the globe sharing these interests with like-minded people by way of a magazine.

2. Design

Each of these indie magazines bear a very distinct visual identity. With the use of creative layouts, type and designs, these magazines are carving a new future for editorial design as an art form, distinguishing them from the mass of glossies swarming the magazine stalls, each looking like the other. The indie magazines are designed with an objective of being part of your shelves for a long time to come - true collectibles.

3. Advertisement free

Working in small teams, self-funded and with limited circulation these magazines are carving out a new culture, which focuses on building relationships with its readers and not selling products. Most indie publishers are working towards replacing advertising with sponsors allowing the content to remain independent and instead acknowledging the sponsors who supported the print of the issue in an unobtrusive design that blends with the rest of magazine, with infinite grace. Thus ensuring an uninterrupted reading experience. Magazines such as Offscreen and Works That Work are stellar examples of those who have adopted an advert free approach from the very beginning of their print cycle, and very successfully at that.

4. Easier to publish

As the debates rage on about the future of print publishing in light of the digital age that we live in, where everything is at your finger tips (literally), good print continues to thrive. Perhaps the reason is that print and digital are not mutually exclusive after all; in fact, the digital revolution has allowed the publishers of today to push their limits and challenge the norms. Like everything else, print, both as a medium and product, has evolved. The result is that technology has made the necessity of having big budgets to produce good work redundant. Today all you need is talent and passion to produce your work with the use of digital tools available widely. This ease of producing a magazine is giving rise to the number of people who wish to showcase their creative vision using print as their medium of choice.

5. Slow Journalism/ Slow Web

The web today though serves up news real fast, often rates being first above being right. As proponents of 'The Slow Web' and 'Slow Journalism', the indie magazines are giving an opportunity to people to step back from the sensory overload and multiple mayhem of the web and read investigative reporting, and thought-provoking long form features in a distraction-free environment. Delayed Gratification is a quarterly indie magazine published by The Slow Journalism Company and is a very strong case in point. A company that holds itself out, with pride, as being the 'Last to breaking news'.

Paper Planes brings the world to your doorstep with its International Indie Magazine Subscription service. Niche Independent Magazine Subscription services with competitive pricing and discounts to boot.

Thursday, 16 September 2004

Plausible Deniability

The political arena appears to be filling with multiple cases of plausible deniability. Having never heard this term until this pre-election year, I have noticed its use again and again. For example, when Trump stated that McCain was not a war hero, he utilized plausible deniability. Because McCain was captured, because he survived, because he returned to the United States to live a good life, Trump is free to deny him his hero status with the plausible reasoning stated that he was captured, survived, and returned alive. I suppose in Trump's mind, had McCain escaped or had he come back mentally and physically destroyed or had he died, then he could have been recognized as a champion and an idol.

Another example of plausible deniability is the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage. This right can be denied by those who find it unacceptable for multiple reasons such as poor court judges, the bible says it is wrong, and homosexuality is moral corruption. To some these are completely plausible reasons. For others, those who find the decision plausible and the deniability implausible, the court stayed true to its responsibilities in that the judges studied and discussed to make a wise decision, that the bible is a book among many and that there is a separation of church and state in this country, and that the court is not in charge of morality but rather dedicated to reading and translating the Constitution into modern situations while allowing for freedom of choice.

You can name just about any hot topic and one side or the other will come up with plausible deniability. While it is good to apply reasoning to support an opinion, there is also the breakpoint when it is time to move forward. Issues like abortion, Benghazi, and misuse of email cannot be resolved if a compromise agreement cannot be obtained. Instead fighting to fight takes precedence over intellectual rationality. Because of this repetitive cycle of accusations using the "old" facts to try to generate a new decision, a quagmire of contempt arises. Nothing can be solved or resolved.

Children love to use plausible deniability as an escape from punishment. Even though Sweetie has been told numerous times to not leave her cup on the edge of the table or it will spill, she continues her pattern. When it does come crashing to the floor shattering glass and shooting juice, she can rely on the safety of plausible deniability including reasons for the disaster such as "Brother wiggled the table" or "I forgot" or feigned tears of repentance and sorrow to shift the blame from her and the mess to outside forces.

Adolescents wallow in plausible deniability when a school report arrives at home decorated with failing grades. "The teacher never explains"; "Mrs. Smith lost my papers"; "Mr. Jones doesn't like me" and so on and so forth are handy justifications and explanations. Many parents fall into this trap making excuses for the child and laying culpability upon another. Sometimes this system works well, frustrating the education efforts of the teacher as he is forced to lower standards and accept administrative decrees to raise a grade. Baby is happy, the grade becomes acceptable, and the child recognizes the value and significance of his wailing trump. When you question school organization and the academic delivery it provides, stop to think about the plausible deniability instituted by some parents and students and you may have a different view of the problem. No, teachers are not faultless as many utilize their own plausible deniability too, "I taught it but students did not learn" being a prime example, but most teachers want their students to learn and succeed.

Plausible deniability is a sort of no-fault, fail-safe situation. When it is acknowledged as the best route, the safest choice, the wisest decision, intellectual reflection, analysis, and thinking are tossed right out of the door. This unending rational of innocence or undeserved attack demoralizes our morality as it obliterates our ability to seek the truth and live with compromise and decisions made for the greater good.

Wednesday, 2 June 2004

Benefits Of Digital Magazines

Digital magazines are quickly replacing hardcopy magazines. Some of the benefits that come with digital magazines include:

Instant Access

When you subscribe to the magazines you will get an email with the login details that will allow you to start downloading your issues. The cool thing is that when there is a new issue you don't have to search for it-you will get a notification and a link to where you can download it.

Cheaper Price

Many magazines provide you with different types of subscriptions. For example, you have the option of making weekly, monthly or even annual subscriptions. The price that you pay for these subscriptions is usually very cheap compared to the price that you'd have paid if you had bought a printed magazine.

The cool thing is that many digital magazines have apps that not only make the magazines affordable, but they also make it easy for you to download your favorite magazine.

Easy To Track Your Readers

If you are a publisher, you don't have to ask your readers to give feedback on how they find the magazines as you can easily track the content that your readers are reading. To do this you only need to go through your data and find out the topics that most of the readers are interested in. This helps you to enhance your future publications.

Easy To Measure Your Advertising Goals

Digital magazines come with ad-management and ad-serving technology that helps you to easily identify the number of readers who have clicked on the hotlink provided by the advertiser. This helps you to tell the advertiser the exact number of people who have seen the advertisement. You will also help you to know the types of advertisements that are receiving a lot of views.

Multiple Downloads

As mentioned, almost all digital magazine publishers have an app that allows you to download your favorite issue on a wide range on of devices. For example, you can download your magazine on your phone, iPad, or computer. This allows you to read your magazine on your favorite device. All you need to do is to download the magazine's app into your device.

Easy To Store

It's stressful to store hard-copy magazines. For example, you may be required to find an empty cupboard to store the magazines. With digital magazines you don't need to create storage space as they are stored online. Most publishers will provide you with crowd space where you can store your magazines.

Friday, 12 September 2003

She Lived For 42 Years in a Vegetative State

Feminism is there, but primarily in developed world only. Plight of women in developing countries leaves a lot to be desired. It is still humiliating life for majority of women. They are denied even equal religious rights. There is a ray of hope; a light seen at the end of a dark tunnel, but it will take time. Humanity is moving in the right direction, but too slowly. A young nurse in a developing country was sexually molested in 1973 and was in coma for 42 years before death. Her molester was imprisoned for just 7 years in jail. This was grossly unfair. We need to amend old laws in developing countries. Euthanasia was denied to her for 42 years. Her relations had deserted her. Her colleagues in hospital served her and out of love, opposed her euthanasia. Were they right? It is a debatable question!

27 Nov 1973, 5PM

A young nurse had just finished her duty. She was changing her dress in the change room and was looking forward to meet her fiance, a doctor. But God had other plans for her.

A few days ago, she had reported to hospital authorities that a hospital staff - who looked after sick dogs - was stealing dog-food. He was angry and he had planned his revenge.

At an opportune moment, he entered the change room and molested her. She was found in an unconscious state after 12 hours. She was in coma.

Surprisingly, and unfortunately she was alive. She was in the vegetative state for 42 years, till 19 May 2015, when she died a natural death. She was denied euthanasia, as it was not legally permitted. Her relations have deserted her. Her friends - nurses and doctors - looked after their senior colleague with love and dedication. They too opposed her euthanasia.

Where is the accused!

He was caught and awarded seven-years imprisonment. He must have started his new life long ago, when released from jail. He may be living somewhere with a new, false identity. This is a punishment, he has to live with, till his death. If he is married and has a family, he would be always scared of his past catching up with him, and getting revealed to his wife and children. His inability to lead a normal life, is God's or his victim's curse on him.

What was the purpose of her life?

She, in her vegetative state, brought out the best in humanity. The nurses and doctors in the hospital served their suffering colleague selflessly, for 42 years.

Her vegetative state for four decades, influenced her country to legalize euthanasia, in extreme cases; although she was not its beneficiary.

Where is she or her soul!

It is a mystery. God knows the truth. Humanity has no answer. Is her soul waiting for the day of judgement? Was there a rebirth planned for her by God - in a suitable species, depending on her good or bad deeds in her life as per her religious beliefs?

Thank you, the brave fighter, for visiting the World for 67 years - including 42 years in vegetative state.

God bless you, with peace, happiness and harmony in your next life.


Lesson to learn

Don't try to fix a person, who has not much to lose in life. Sometimes we get involved in a situation, where we have to deal with a menial, illiterate worker, from a lower strata of society, involved in a criminal activity. It is advisable not to deal with such persons directly. Better inform the bosses, with a request, not to divulge your name.