Education – Who is the Elephant in the Room – Conclusion

EITR

I had rambled about our obsession with marks and continued with a sneak preview of what is happening around us in the world.

So If I have to summarize here, the questions that we need to answer are

  1. What is the reason for our obsession with percentages?
  2. Who are the stakeholders and can they play a role?
  3. Who is ‘The Elephant’?

Obsession with percentages

I think this is a fool proof method of handling scale. It puts in the value of ‘forced discipline’ which ensures that any person coming out of this system will fit into the middle of the bell curve with a probability of 95% or more and shall continue in the middle of the bell curve for the rest of their lives. They would be the conformists. They know a formula that works, and they would stick to the formula. 5% of that 95% will somehow figure out that this is not what they want and move towards being outliers. So please do not undermine the value of this obsession!. Two of the current CEO’s of the two greatest companies(Google and Microsoft) are a product of this obsession!. So make no mistakes. This obsession works, and this obsession possibly needs to continue till we find an alternative that can guarantee a success probability like this obsession.

Well, if that sounded like an anti-climax to my argument, please hold on.

There is a cost to this obsession.

The cost is decreased curiosity and joy. Somewhere in this race, we make our children lose the connection with their inner core and convert them into a machine. Few of these children re-discover their inner core at a later stage in life, and few of them never get a chance to do that.

Who is then ‘The Elephant in the room.’

This is where the stakeholders come in.

Stakeholders and their roles

The stakeholders are

  • Children
  • Parents
  • Teachers
  • Institutions
  • Governments

 

 

Children – Some children have this phenomenal clarity of what they want to be, and they get this clarity pretty early. No matter what, they have a vision of themselves, and they will stand by that vision, no matter what.  You just cannot shake that vision. Unfortunately, this population is minuscule.

Teachers – Some teachers spot a certain unique talent in certain children and make it their life mission to ensure that these children achieve great heights. They wage a committed battle with all other stakeholders to ensure these children remain insulated from all other pressures. Many of these teachers are unsung heroes or heroines, but they do it because of their inner voice. We should worship these teachers.

Governments, Institutions – I would spare them, but I wish institutions can take a leaf out of what is emerging in the world and adapt. Especially, the prestigious institutes can make a real difference at scale, but somehow they remain reluctant. Both governments and institutions operate for success at scale, and quite frankly I do not think there is any other formula than the obsession with percentages

All the above stakeholders, excluding the category of children with early clarity, play a crucial role and shall continue to play a crucial role, but their utilitarian function of ‘Greater good for the greater number’ is in my view a valid argument.

So it boils down to one stakeholder, who can make a difference.

And they are ‘THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM.’

PARENTS

If it looks to you like I have scored a self-goal, you are right.

It is MEA CULPA.

As ever, I will leave you with my thought process, and if it hits one neuron in your system, then I would have made my point.

I think the first thing we want our children to be is a higher version of ourselves. We want them to succeed in things that we were hopeless. I will be frank. My joy will be absolute if both of my kids get into IIT! And then my KPI as a parent would be met.

All my subconscious behavior and actions would force me to do that in the name of well-intentioned parenting.

My son is an avid gamer. He is in his eighth standard. He is in some top percentile of the international gamers in some very popular games. Give him any game, and he will figure out in flat sixty seconds on how to navigate that game.

However, my behavior towards him as follows

  1. Daily lecture to him on why video games are harmful to his mental health.
  2. Making him read articles on why video games are harmful
  3. Block the port in which the game is played in my router firewall without his knowledge and make his day miserable
  4. Talk to him about the greatness of institutions like IIT, which he does not like to listen.
  5. Starting a battle with him on why his Hindi tuitions are important and emotionally threaten him to attend that when he has no leaning towards learning that.

I can see me killing his curiosity day by day and shortly I will succeed in my mission to put him right in the middle of the bell curve.

I will come to my daughter. She is in her sixth standard. Any stage she will grab the mike, a decent orator for her age and she has some inclination towards the traditional form of dancing Bharatha Natyam.

Somehow, I am very clear that I will allow this indulgence of hers for next two years. After two years, my coercing of her will begin. I will ensure that she follows the playbook and kill the above two skills of hers.

I have seen this pattern in everyone close to me as well. I have seen kids who demonstrated brilliance in singing, sports, being pushed to academics after a certain age. I have remained a mute spectator to the vanishing of their boundless enthusiasm and joy.

All this boils down to the below

  • I know what my children what want better than them. My vision for them is better than their vision of their selves.
  • I want society to measure children and me by an external metric. I cannot be seen as a failed parent.

 

Above all, given a chance between a probability of failure and Safety, I chose safety even if my all my experience has taught me it is OK to fail!

I go to bed in peace, having achieved the satisfaction of putting my two children in the safety of the hedonic treadmill.

That is all folks.

I am ‘THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM.’

Unless I find the inner strength to tell my kids

“Go after your dreams,” without any conditions; I shall remain ‘The Elephant in the room.’

Enjoy Maadi (Have Fun)

Zunder

PS: I have used a lot of ‘I’ and parenting is about ‘We’ (Me and my spouse). However, despite all the discussions we have, I force my way to ensure the buck stops with me and I did not think it is fair to include her when I am paying lip service to her views.

A Virtue , A Vice and A Delayed Prophecy

virtue_vice

Virtue

I am qualified to talk about an addiction. A positive addiction.

An addiction that

  • Removes negative thoughts from my system
  • Makes random strangers smile at me for no reasons
  • Helps me in establishing my priorities or lack of it for the day
  • Helps me reconnect with nature
  • Get me more vitamin D
  • Makes me re-discover old melodies
  • Helps me find new song genres
  • Helps me listen to interesting conversations
  • Helps me in absorbing audio books
  • Gets a free dose of unadulterated oxygen supply
  • Helps me eat whatever I want guilt-free
  • Helps me go to bed in time
  • Helps me get up in time

Guess what?

It is simple.

Walking. It has taken me around four decades and more to discover this addiction.

But over the last couple of years, this has become a habit. A snapshot for the last 5 months is as below and that would possibly convince you on why I am qualified to talk about this.

z_running_summary

This has become like a drug to me now. Even for a day, I miss it, I feel that I have lost out on something.

All, I can say is I was and am obese. If I can do it, anyone can do it.

Go, fall in love with the nature around you.

You will discover all that is good that is stored deep inside you.

Vice

All this talk of layoffs and finger pointing.

Did we complain in good times?

Why crib in bad times?

What is the insurance?

Stay Curious. Learn Continuously. Challenge yourself.

Realize work is fun and life becomes simpler when you realize for most things in life “Buck stops at you”

Be battle ready on a daily basis and increase your level of play in peace times.

Remember – Chance favours the prepared mind.

Okay, why is it is a vice?

Because, I do not follow any of the above. But I shall definitely not blame the organization.

Prophecy Delayed

I sometime feel the pronounced AI apocalypse is overstated. People are not losing jobs to automation or anything at least in this country. It is more due to fundamentals of business not being in place. Couple of examples that nothing has changed in a while.

Recent rains took away the internet from my home for couple of days. The broadband provider did not have a clue. Their phone lines could not be reached and were down.  The SLA’s of 48 hours were breached. Even after registering complaints, no one could get back on when this could be fixed. Only after my wife when to the corporate office to give them her piece of mind , things started to move and the next day it was fixed miraculously. These guys despite all technological advances did not have a clue for close to 72 hours on what was wrong.

The next day, I visited a famous departmental store chain and shopped something. I was amazed to see that the lady at the counter was patiently writing the bill in register. The systems were down. No one complained. I bought some three milkshakes , each priced 35 rupees. She had written the total as 70. Out of my honesty and terrific mathematics knowledge I told 35 * 3 = 105. She smilingly told, Sir – “This is buy two, get one free” and my mathematical intelligence took a hard hit. It was not written anywhere. Systems were down and still she managed to know this item had a discount! God Bless her.

I remember by child hood days. My dad used to have this running battle with the electricity folks after the rain cuts off the electricity wires. The baton has been taken over by wife who has this running battle with the Internet providers after the rains, where the cables are cut.

Billing from department stores were always hand written and still that continues in some way.

Old is Gold.

Welcome, self driving cars.

I will not be around to realize the fun.

Enjoy Maadi (Have Fun)

Zunder

 

You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life

badass_book

Why did I pick this book?

Quite frankly, I am not able to remember. I think I added it sometime back to my Kindle queue and was clearing up the queue!

What do I like about the book?

It is written in an easy to absorb style. Cannot refute the logic of what was being said in the book, however clichéd it sounded. It was more like the style, which delivered non-fiction like fiction and I would put this in the category of light reading.

What is one interesting idea that I learned?

It gave an interesting definition of Money.

“Having money is like anything else; a tool. And if you see it that way, making it not just about you, but about a way that you can play a part in the dynamic by which money is used for the betterment of all things, then having money is not only a blessing, it’s a responsibility.”

How long would it take?

2-3 hours

Paras or Quotes that I liked

“Holding on to resentment is like taking poison and waiting for your enemies to die.”

“Most of the time it’s not lack of experience that’s holding us back, but rather the lack of determination to do what we need to do to be successful”

“Giving is one of our greatest joys. It’s also one of the most fearless and powerful gestures there is. When we trust that we live in an abundant universe and allow ourselves to give freely, we raise our frequency, strengthen our faith, and feel awesome, thereby putting ourselves in flow and the position to receive abundant amounts in return.”

“You are responsible for what you say and do. You are not responsible for whether or not people freak out about it”

Enjoy Maadi (Have Fun)

Zunder

Education – Elephant in the room II

EITR

Continuing my rant on education, I wish to place on record some of the interesting developments that are happening around the world in shaping young minds.

Scratch from MIT, helps young people to think creatively, and helps them to create fabulous stories.  Steven Levy states in his article celebrating the ten years of scratch state how it inculcates a very different set of values in a young age.

“These values include reverence of logic, an unshakeable belief in the power of collaboration, and a celebration of the psychic and tangible rewards of being a maker.”

In my view, scratch enables kids to dream of their stories and bring that stories to life in an extremely intuitive way.

What do you think is the most innovative product since iPhone?

In a research done by CBInsights, the answer was the humble Raspberry PI. It even beat the TESLA S model.

So, what can we do with Raspberry PI? I think you can do almost anything with Raspberry PI.  It has paved the way for an avalanche of crazy ideas and realizing them economically and easily. No better way for anyone to fall in love with computing in general.

Arduino, Raspberry PI’s cousin, makes it easier to build any electronic projects easily.

Duolingo has changed the way we learn English or any other language.

KhanAcademy has become my de-facto source to refresh or understand any topic in science or maths.

A couple of years back, I wrote about my experiments with MOOC, and till date, though I have reduced the pace significantly, I have not halted it.

Singularity University was created to work on exponential technologies.

AltMBA challenges the way we think about our work.

Peter Thiel Fellowship gives grants of $100,000 to drop out of school and pursue ideas of impact

CharacterLab advances the art and science of character development. Look at their character growth card template, and you would agree that they form the most important traits of development in an individual.

The list can go on.

So what is my grouse?

My grouse is that some of these things should become systemic.

I cannot find one good reason why Scratch should not be made mandatory.

I cannot believe that schools continue to source Windows-based PC in their labs. I am not against Windows, but for 5 windows desktop machines, it is possible to have 25 Raspberry and Arduino combinations, that shall help kindle the curiosity of children, and it is easy to have a mix of both.

I am not complaining that we do not have programs like this here or there is lack of awareness. But I do not have anything in my arsenal to counter the argument

How will it increase my pass percentage?

How will it increase the percentage of my student’s marks?

What role any or all of the above plays in increasing my kid’s marks?

Incidentally, I subscribe to James Altucher’s newsletter and I found the below in his recent mailer sent three days back.

I have a problem. I asked my 15 year old daughter what she’s learning in school.

She told me that in math she’s learning about how to find the “volume of a cone”.

I’m thinking to myself: hmmm, if I’m ever an Ice Cream Man (I capitalized it because I sort of feel like “the Ice Cream Man” was a superhero to me when I was a little kid)…if I’m ever an Ice Cream Man and some little kid asks me, “Can I please have a 0.33 liter vanilla ice cream cone?” then how am I going to figure out how much to put in that cone?

How will I do it? Do I need a refresher course?

So I asked my kid what she’s learning in a course called “Global”. I’m not sure what a course called “Global” is about but I’m afraid to ask because I think I asked it 100 times before.

She told me she has a special project. She has to write about what she’s learned from all the homework they did this year.

“So…” I said, “you have homework now ABOUT your homework.”

“Yes”.

“Well, what about Science? What are you learning there?”

“We’re learning about acids and bases.”

“That’s good. Stay away from acids because you can burn yourself.”

She said, “Well actually you can burn yourself from bases also.”

I did not know that.

My problem is that I’ve learned a lot in life. I’ve learned about how to deal with people, how to have ideas, how to be creative, how to be healthy, how to sell, how to negotiate, how to know who is good for me to be around and what sort of people I should avoid.

And, even given that I know these things, it’s still hard for me to live a steadily improving life.

Life is difficult, it’s really hard to survive every day. It’s hard to make decisions. We constantly have harder problems as we age.

So the problem is: my 15 year old is learning NONE of that.

No kid will ever need to learn how to find the volume of a cone for the rest of their lives.

No kid will ever need to know what a base is unless the are the one kid out of 100,000 that becomes a nuclear chemist.

That’s my problem: how to educate kids better. [Yes, this will get to book].

I just told the beginnings of a story of why I think this is important. I can flesh out this story a bit more:

– Incomes for young people ages 18–35 have been going down for the past 25 years.
– Most jobs created are part-time jobs or jobs for companies of less than ten people.
– Student loan debt is higher than ever at almost $2 TRILLION dollars that our kids have to pay back.- Income inequality at the workplace is higher than ever.

And so on. Lots of problems combined with the fact that kids are learning the wrong things and successful people eventually learn the right things.

So I just told a story and I mixed in some hard truths about that story.

Now I can make a list.

Here are the things people need to learn at a young age in order to be successful:

– Health
– Creativity
– Emotional connection
– Communication skills
– Negotiation

So, is there a way out?

All is well or do we find the need to shift the status quo?

I will conclude this next week, but my thoughts and research on this shall continue.

Enjoy Maadi (Have Fun)

Zunder



 

A Left Jab Delivered Right

leftjab

I have been way too serious in the previous articles.

I will lighten the mood a bit.

As I have stated previously, I have a goal of running the half marathon in two hours twenty minutes by end of this year.

I got the necessary support from my walker’s WhatsApp group. This group  helped me complete my 100 KM OXFAM India walk.

Our usual practice sessions are on Sundays mostly at Cubbon park. After that, we indulge ourselves or to put it aptly, over indulge with a heavy duty breakfast in Hotel Chandrika, Cunningham Road. Hotel Chandrika has a new look and a variety of dishes. We are familiar faces on a Sunday.

Though most of the group threatens to come, it has been mostly me and Syed who have kept some level of consistency in the weekly huddle.

Syed is much younger than me and started with around 60 minutes for a 10 KM run. That is the usual distance we cover. Over a period of three months, he got a personal best of 48 minutes for a 10 KM run. So by applying Girish’s Mathematics (one more in the walker’s group, who always promises to come, but never turns up), he is well in line to complete the marathon in two hours twenty minutes.

A note on Girish’s Mathematics. When we did the 100KM walk, Girish said this.

“We do an average of 5 KM’s in an hour. So we should be done in twenty hours”.

Nothing wrong with the extrapolation. It is logical, and that is the way it should have been. Only we took around 36 odd hours to complete and the final kilometer we were crawling.

So now Girish has adjusted his extrapolation to be something similar to the Duckworth-Lewis formula in Cricket. Except that he has not published it yet to the world and revealed it to only close circles. I am privy to that, and even with the revised formula of Girish, Syed will complete it in two hours twenty minutes.

On Sundays, I start 30 minutes earlier to Syed, so that our finishing time matches. When I started, my benchmark was around 90 minutes for ten kilometers. If I present a video grab of my running, you may not be able to give it any label. It is not walking. It is not jogging. It is not running. In my view, it is a fusion of walking and jogging. The only appropriate term I can think of is dragging.

In the same three months, I improved from 90 minutes to border around 80 minutes for 10 kilometers and I am stuck at that. My personal best was when I ran without shoes, and I got close to 78 minutes.

78 minutes for 10 kilometers is not good enough for a 21.1 KM in 140 minutes even with Girish’s original formula.

I have tried every possible method suggested in the book, tried the famous Run-Walk-Run method of  Galloway, but the time gods are harsh on me. It is not budging a second below 78 minutes.

With an exasperation, I told Syed that I seem to be plateauing out.

Syed looked at me in the eyes and told me gently

“Sir, you should watch your diet.”

Then it hit me. It hit me like a rock.

It is physics.

It is something like a body with a certain mass can only achieve certain kinetic energy and acceleration. I wanted to deny physics, like the Nike experiment that I shared last week and they just fell short of 26 seconds. If I did that, it would become metaphysics.

If Syed had hit me, I would not have minded, but he touched a nerve within me.  He touched the core of a person who lives to eat. The foodie within me refused his suggestion, even without considering it.

When I set the goal of running 21.1 KM in 140 minutes, I modeled this as a linear programming problem with the constraint as ‘no reduction in calorie intake, ‘ and now Syed wants me to change that model. I do not think that is fair!

On a serious note, there is something else I observed. If I interchange our positions, I would not have been as polite as Syed. I would have descended into a furious attack on Syed in the pretext of candid feedback and made his life a nightmare. Every time he tried to binge on something, he would have demonic images of me coming into him.

It made me wonder.

What kind of feedback works better?

Syed’s way or my way?

What do you think?

In the meantime, let me go and get my seventh helping of Ratnagiri Alphonso gifted by many wonderful people.

Enjoy Maadi (Have Fun)

Zunder

Solitude: In Pursuit of a Singular Life in a Crowded World

solitude_book

Why did I pick this book?

Call it the confirmation bias. I like solitude and anyone who can elaborate solitude finds a place in my book shelf.

Also, I liked the author’s End of Absence, which I had written about sometime back.

What do I like about the book?

In a world that encourages you to be connected always, the boons solitude and the banes of not having solitude are elaborated in a nice way.  I vanish at times and when people ask me how can I do that, I have now enough arguments to defend my hoodoo act.

What is one interesting idea that I learned?

I learnt a term called Ludic Loops and could easily relate that to my day to day life.

Ludic loops are short cycles of repeated actions that cater to our id, and to a brute, reptilian desire for play (as opposed to more developed, narrative driven ideas of play that have coherent beginnings and endings). Behavioural psychologists have found that we fall into these miniature, repeating loops of pleasure and are driven to access that pleasure again, again, again, without wondering when it will end. Even the faintest of dopamine hits will work. The discovery of repeating patterns works well—humans are hardwired to enjoy finding patterns

 

How long would it take?

3-4 hours

Paras or Quotes that I liked

True solitude—as opposed to the failed solitude that we call loneliness—is a fertile state, yet one we have a hard time accessing. Once we do make room for it, though, we discover there are needful things hidden in that empty space, still waiting between the flash and action of our social lives.

Perhaps you can judge the inner health of a land by the capacity of its people to do nothing—to lie abed musing, to amble about aimlessly, to sit having coffee—because whoever can do nothing, letting his thoughts go where they may, must be at peace with himself.

Only in solitude could those youths develop the creative habits—journalling, doodling, daydreaming—that lead to original work.

The solitary reader rehearses the lives of others. And I think that must be the definition of empathy—to rehearse the lives of others

Enjoy Maadi (Have Fun)

Zunder

Money – Pain Killer or A Necessary Vitamin

GIFSec.com

I deliberated a lot before writing this.

This article is about my position on money, and mostly my positions are seasonal, but somehow I feel  I am converging on this.

Fredrick Herzberg motivational theory held money as a hygiene or a maintenance factor and not as a true motivator.

An HBR article states the below

“The results indicate that the association between salary and job satisfaction is very weak. The reported correlation (r = .14) indicates that there is less than 2% overlap between pay and job satisfaction levels. Furthermore, the correlation between pay and pay satisfaction was only marginally higher (r = .22 or 4.8% overlap), indicating that people’s satisfaction with their salary is mostly independent of their actual salary.”

I search for World’s most admired companies, and I get the following as top ten. Apple

  • com
  • Starbucks
  • Berkshire Hathaway
  • Disney
  • Alphabet
  • General Electric
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Facebook
  • Microsoft

 

I do not wish to emphasise the market capital of these companies.

 

I did a search for the world’s most admired top business leaders, and you can see the results here

I think you should just take a look at the individual net worth of the people who are listed.

So, what does admiration, success has in common?

Please note I am in no position to question the impact these people or organisations had in the world and continue to have.

I think we admire them because of their ability to deliver a higher return to their stakeholders consistently and as a result their individual net worth.

Closer home, Patanjali is more in the news because of its disruption in the FMCG and in short the numbers they are making.

I do not admire these companies because of their committed mission to eradicate poverty in the world.

I am admiring companies and people, where the measurable impact is the money and still individually I feel, I do not work for money.

Cognitive dissonance seems to be at play here.

I look at myself, and I have the following summary.

I worked for money. Nothing surprising. Before you jump to conclusions, let me add a caveat here. We all know about the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. As long as what I was earning exceeded the physiological, safety needs, money played and continued to play an important role. I have not transcended the need for money.

I have also begun to realise that money is a personal thing.

I have realised in my experience

The hierarchy of needs is different for the different individual. Getting the next villa is important for some,  planning for the next summer is important for some, having a curd rice and taking an afternoon nap is important for some. You need to realise which gives you inner peace and stick to it. There is nothing wrong in any of these choices, as long as the choices are made by you consciously.

To find the sweet spot between what is a need and what is a need++ is dependent on the individual’s circumstances. I was watching the classic ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, and a famous line goes something like this ‘You don’t know a person unless you have walked a mile in their shoes’.

So it is an individual choice based on your circumstances.

Aren’t you the master of your circumstances?

I am motivated to continue on this ramble, as I am flooded with continous stream of thoughts, but I think I will summarise my position as follows.

  • Money is both a pain killer and a much-needed It functions as an effective lubricant for many things that you do not anticipate or cannot anticipate.
  • I am not going to be driven by guilt when chasing it for my need or need++. It’s not the ‘money’ makes good academic sense.
  • I have understood though occasionally I dream about luxury and opulence, my peace comes from that shared by2coffee in that half sized patented cup from the roadside tea shop. You could argue that this is a case of ‘grapes are sour’ syndrome, and you will win that argument.
  • I do not want to lose sleep over not having it nor having too much of it. Incidentally, the latter will never be the case.
  • My heart says ‘Be contended’ and my pig head says ‘Go after it’. At this moment, the battle is on between them. I am just a neutral observer, though I have a fair idea of who is winning.

So here are my two rupees of not so prolific wisdom.

  • If you enjoy making it, continue the dream run. Don’t say if not for the money; I would have done something else. Do not fight making it. Instead, enjoy it. If you manage to change the world and have a great impact in the process, so be it.
  • If your “DIL”, ‘MAANGE MORU’ of that vitamin, experience it. It might not be worth accumulating. That is only a suggestion.

The only thing I am not able to get a handle on ‘why everyone says money is not the top motivator’.

In my view, Money is ‘THE TOP MOTIVATOR’.

I rest my case.

Enjoy Maadi (Have Fun)

Zunder