Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Service of Perseverance Set to Music: A Story That Makes My Heart Sing

Monday, March 6th, 2017

Tyler Schuster. Photo: Amanda Halak

Tyler Schuster. Photo: Amanda Halak

Once 19th century British philanthropist William Edward Hickson retired he focused on elementary education and popularized the proverb “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” attributed to Thomas H. Palmer’s “Teacher’s Manual” and Frederick Marryat’s “The Children of the New Forest.”

The Facebook post that proud grandmother Judy Schuster sent family and friends–that I’ve copied below–is an inspirational testament to that adage. It’s about the perseverance and grit shown by her musician-grandson, Tyler Schuster, a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire [UWEC]. In addition to showing the glorious result of determination and hopefully inspiring others, it says a lot about this young man who proves he will achieve just about anything he sets his mind to.

Kudos as well to Michael Shults, PhD, assistant professor of saxophone at UWEC, a dedicated and caring instructor and skilled, exemplary coach who wrote the post. I can’t think of many in any field who would take the time. Dr. Shults is also an award-winning musician and active jazz and concert saxophonist.

He wrote:

So – I love a good underdog story, and maybe you do too.

Tyler was part of the freshman class my first year at UWEC in 2014. Our first year of lessons was long on constructive criticism and, frankly, short on breakthroughs; a LOT of squeezing and not much juice.

Music education majors at UWEC take one credit, half hour lessons. They are practicing more than ever (which means programming vital foundational muscle memory) and ALL 18-year old saxophonists come in with bad habits. The crucial need to correct these early on, coupled with the time constraints, mean that the ratio of positive-to-constructive feedback I’m able to give in the early going can be a little lopsided. It’s not easy for either party, but it’s much more difficult to correct once that muscle memory is programmed in an imperfect way.

Tyler, in particular, had a lot of things to iron out with his saxophone playing. Lessons were tedious for both parties. But what I could see (and his excellent high school teacher Scott Johnson will attest that this has been present long before I entered the picture) was that Tyler’s instinct when things got tough was to push harder and smarter, instead of shying away from a challenge or being defeatist.

Fall 2015 was really difficult for Tyler as he failed to audition into the Wind Symphony or Symphony Band (I asked him this morning if I could share that publicly, and he said “Of course – that’s an important part of my journey”). It was a really hard dose of reality, I think, but as frustrating as it was, Tyler didn’t challenge the result or place blame. He just put on the hard hat and got in the shed.

I remember a year ago, not too long after that, Tyler sat down in my office and outlined three goals. He wanted to audition into Jazz Ensemble I, Wind Symphony, and, the most ambitious of the three, win the concerto competition and solo with one of the wind bands. At the time I believe Tyler was in Jazz III and, based on the audition results from the fall, would’ve had to leapfrog at least 10 players to audition into Wind Symphony. So – speculative, to say the least.

Then came the fall ensemble auditions. Jazz I: √

Tyler also moved up to playing a principal chair in the Symphony Band (just shy of Wind Symphony).

Then came spring ensemble auditions. Wind Symphony: √

That brings us to last night, when Tyler performed the first movement of the Creston Concerto in our annual wind band concerto competition.

You guessed it: √

Please join me in congratulating Tyler on his incredible progress and for embodying so many of the ideals we preach in music and any other discipline: toughness, hard work, self awareness, ambition, goal-setting, etc. etc. and join us in person or via livestream as he performs as featured soloist with the UWEC Symphony Band – the same ensemble he couldn’t quite make the cut for a year ago – on April 28th.

(But don’t get too comfortable, kid. You have technique juries this week. And a recital next month. And and and…)

Were you—or someone you know–lucky to have a professor, instructor or mentor like Dr. Shults? Do you know young men or women as determined as Tyler Schuster who ignore the odds, carry on and reach their goals?

 

Dr. Michael Shults. Photo: Clint Ashlock

Dr. Michael Shults. Photo: Clint Ashlock

Service of Word Choice: dictionary.com Has The Answers

Thursday, April 14th, 2016

definition

Are you familiar with fracking, incarceration and incendiary? These were words used by presidential candidates for which dictionary.com recorded brisk activity during debates for president.

Some words that President Obama used recently were “incontrovertible and overt.” The President “continues to influence word searches,” according to Rebekah Otto, director of content at the word website wrote Charles Bethea in his New Yorker article “Stumped.” Grace “trended” when the President sang “Amazing Grace” during his eulogy for Reverend Pinckney.

fool“Dictionary.com has a feature called Word of the Day; its lexicographers send vocabulary words to a subscriber list of nineteen million,” wrote Bethea. “Sometimes the linguists appear to be editorializing. Last Friday, after two more town halls, the site offered ‘ninnyhammer’ (‘a fool or simpleton’). Other recent selections, following primaries and caucuses: ‘rabble-rouser’ (‘Our users love agent nouns like this,’ Otto said), ‘rodomontade’ (‘vainglorious boasting or bragging’), and ‘skulduggery’ (‘dishonorable proceedings’).”

The content director loves it when words are misused such as when, in her speech endorsing D. Trump, Sarah Palin spoke of “squirmishes.” Otto described the word as “an unintentional portmanteau marrying squirm and skirmish.” She confirmed that bigly is a word, if little used. Trump chose it when he announced his candidacy.

Photo: cnn

One of the most intriguing aspects of Bethea’s column was Otto’s analysis of words most used by candidates during recent debates. Because unscripted they are more telling–”exploring each candidate’s linguistic essence.” Otto listed: “Clinton: systemic, children, seller. Sanders: speculation, tuition-free, cease-fire. Cruz: utterly, whatsoever, booming. Kasich: blue-collar, surplus, formula. Trump: nasty, sudden, tremendous.” Otto noted that the two Democrats use “concrete language” vs. the Republicans who use “descriptive language,” adding “with the possible exception of Kasich.”

Bet you can guess which candidate made which quote when Clinton and Trump addressed the American Israel Public Affairs Committee–AIPAC:

  • “If we look at the broader regional context, converging interests between Israel and key Arab states could make it possible to promote progress.”  
  • “What kind of demented minds write that in Hebrew?”

Were you familiar with all the words that Bethea reported generated vigorous searches on dictionary.com or that the staff selected for its Word of the Day? I didn’t know either ninnyhammer or rodomontade. What can you tell about a candidate by his/her word choice? What about the citizens who look up the words—are they curious or uneducated?

Curious George 2

Service of Ears to the Ground: Boards that Listen

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

ear to the ground

Last September I wrote a post “Service of Bigger is Better,” about institutions feeling pressure to grow bigger no matter what or how, a kneejerk impulse I disagree with.

Little Red Schoolhouse Photo: Thomas Schoeller, New Preston, CT

Little Red Schoolhouse Photo: Thomas Schoeller, New Preston, CT

At the time the school I attended from first through 12th grades was seriously exploring a move to a larger building. Responding to uproar from alumnae the board of trustees subsequently scotched that move. Good for them! My guess: trustees feared a deafening sound–the click of closing purses–although there were countless other sensible reasons to stay put.

In that fall post I also mentioned the Frick’s plans to expand which are again derailed. Granted the reason for the turnaround was to save the garden, not a protest over expanding simply for expansion’s sake. It  certainly counts as an example of directors listening.

Sarah Cascone shared details in artnet.com in “New York Times Reports Frick Museum Board Backs Down Over Plan to Destroy Garden.” She quoted an anonymous museum official: “There was just a number of voices out there, and we heard them.”

This is the fourth overturned Frick expansion since 2001. Cascone referred to all the other fat cat museums–Whitney, MoMA and The Metropolitan Museum of Art–and their dramatically increased exhibition space that must sorely tempt the Frick to follow suit.

Frick garden. Photo: Timesunion.com

Frick garden. Photo: Timesunion.com

Cascone wrote that her publication “was among the first to advocate for the preservation of the garden as an important green space and visual respite in the neighborhood” followed by the president of the Cultural Landscape Foundation, Charles Birnbaum, who let it be known that the garden was the only example in NYC of landscape architect Russell Page’s work. Bringing up a 38 year old press release, Birnbaum parried Frick Museum director Ian Wardropper who called the garden a “temporary placeholder for an addition.” The release described the “garden as a permanent addition to the institution’s grounds.”

The list of voices against destroying the garden grew louder, from a former Frick Museum director to a “Unite to Save the Frick” initiative involving high profile protestors such as architects Robert A.M. Stern and Maya Lin as well as former directors of the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Quoting Wardropper, Casone wrote: “Preserving the unique residential character and intimate scale of the Frick will remain our top priority.” And that’s my point.

Have you seen happy endings like these? Do you think the Frick trustees will try for a fifth expansion? If an institution can’t grow physically, what does an art museum director or president do to make his/her mark? Is growth and change necessary to keep an institution alive?

Photo: Pinterest

Photo: Pinterest

Service of What Am I Worth To You?

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

Graduation 1

It’s hard to place values on earnings these days: Writers are paid a pittance, far less than garbage collectors or sports figures, and college presidents’ compensation averages in the six figures—up to $6 or $7 million in public and private colleges respectively—while students fall into deep-dish debt to pay the freight.

Valerie Strauss shared the list of college presidents’ compensation in her Washington Post article, “The surprising top 10 highest paid private college presidents.” She read the information in The Chronicle of Higher Education which, she noted, just reported on the latest data. It’s from 2012.

The amounts surprise me, not the people—about whom I graduation 3know nothing, with one exception: The man whom she listed at the $6 million level, according to a May 2014 report by the Chronicle. He was E. Gordon Gee. But she didn’t identify where he earned it so I turned to Google to find out.

That’s where I discovered Jordan Weissman’s article in slate.com: “This State College President Earned $6 Million Last Year. Should You Be Mad?” He confirmed the amount Ohio State University paid Gee, $6,057,615, much of which “came from built-up deferred compensation and severance,” wrote Weissman. He continued: “Gee retired from his post last summer after he was caught on tape disparaging Notre Dame and Catholics. (He’s now running West Virginia University). But his $851,000 base salary was also the highest among state school leaders.” Some model for students and a real fundraising magnet, right?

graduation 2So whose compensation–$7,143,312–was the top among private college presidents? Shirley Ann Jackson, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, N.Y.

According to the Chronicle, “on average, a private-college president’s salary accounted for about 0.5 percent of his or her institution’s overall budget in 2012,” wrote Strauss. I have no way to determine the impact of the $6 and $7 million on Ohio State’s and Rensselaer’s budgets.

How do boards of trustees justify such figures? What makes one president worth so much more money than anyone else—their fundraising track record? Do you find that the range of compensation these days is unrelated to what a talented person in certain industries made 10 years ago?

graduatuin 4

 

 

Service of a Mistake You Wish Hadn’t Happened

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

oops 2

My senior year in high school was one of the most stressful of my life. That’s why this mistake caught my attention. Someone in the admissions department of Johns Hopkins sent an email with the subject line, “Embrace the Yes,” to 294 students telling them that they had been accepted when, in fact, they had been rejected.

EraseAccording to coverage in thedailybeast.com, in an article by Jonathan Ernst for Reuters, the college immediately admitted its mistake and apologized. “Admissions decisions days are stressful enough. We very much regret having added to the disappointment felt by a group of very capable and hardworking students, especially ones who were so committed to the idea of attending Johns Hopkins that they applied early decision,” Ernst quoted David Phillips, vice provost for admissions and financial aid at the University.

Mistakes happen. The university did what it could to address the matter and with speed. But oh, gosh! In this discussion I’m not including fatal mistakes by physicians, surgeons or parachute folders. Have you made such an error, been the recipient of one or heard of slip-ups with no happy ending that make you slap your head and exclaim, “Oh no!”

slap head

Service of a Timely Partnership: Tourneau Just in Time

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

watch 4

Sohpia Hollander’s story, “Time Tinkerers: Finding a Future Repairing the Workings of Watches,” she wrote about students who are saved by a time-honored profession: Clock repair.

A partnership program between a school for kids who’ve not made it in traditional high schools and the Tourneau Repair Center in Long Island City trains the students. Of 25 from the Manhattan Comprehensive Night and Day High School who finished this program–twice a week for two months–Tourneau employed six. Hollander quotes one student who “couldn’t focus and felt embarrassed asking questions or speaking in groups, he said. ‘I felt I was a kid with a hoodie on his head,’ he said. ‘I thought I didn’t have much to say.’

“But seeing the inside of watches sparked questions, he said. He was astonishedwatch 2 by the sheer number of parts. He found a new ability to concentrate as he tinkered with the tiny pieces. Understanding watch innards has become as addictive as a new videogame, he said. ‘Now I can take something that’s broken and fix it,’ he said…. ‘It’s a good feeling to solve other people’s problems.’”

Hollander reports that watch sales and production are brisk but that there are only six repair schools today as compared to 50 in 1955. She quotes Terry Irby, technical service director at Tourneau who told her that “If they didn’t make another watch, I think there’s enough work for another 50 years.” He admits there aren’t enough watchmakers. Where Irby works, some of the watches are in the $36,000 range. You’d want to take good care of such a piece.

Hollander continued: “Pablo Gonzalez, 19, enrolled in the program’s first class last spring. He was flunking his courses, clashed with his parents and hung out ‘with a bad group of kids,’ he said.

“‘I was really going downhill,’ he said. ‘Everything was going wrong.’ But he found peace in the three-dimensional puzzle of hundreds of miniature watch pieces. He began experimenting with other activities, learning how to play handball and rediscovering his love of skateboarding. ‘It makes you confident about what other things you could do,’ said Mr. Gonzalez, who was one of the first program graduates hired by Tourneau.”

Do you know of other such programs? Do you agree that while small, this apprenticeship approach, multiplied by businesses around the country, could have the kind of impact we need to get back on our economic feet?

watch 5

Service of Student Coddling on Steroids

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

 

Application form 3

NPR’s coverage of Goucher College’s innovative application process was an eye-opener and not in a good way.

Juana Summers, in “Lights, Camera College? Goucher College Introduces Video Applications,” wrote “Goucher College, a liberal arts school in Baltimore, is offering students the opportunity to skip submitting standardized SAT and ACT scores, as well as the traditional college application packet that includes a transcript, letters of recommendation and essays. Instead, students can apply with a self-produced, two-minute video that explains how they see themselves thriving at Goucher, and why they want to go there. Students are also asked to submit two ‘works of scholarship.’”

She quotes the new president, José Bowen: “The college admissions process is broken. The Application form 1application process is complicated; it’s stressful.”

Summers reports that the president hopes to increase “diverstiy of thought” and, she posits, add to the number of applicants and the student body. She quoted Cornell professor and former Tufts dean of arts and sciences, Robert Sternberg, who agrees with the concept of “overhauling a college admissions process that he says lacks creativity and doesn’t serve students well…But, he warned, video applications might backfire for some students. ‘It puts an emphasis on how well you perform for a camera,’ says Sternberg, the author of College Admissions for the 21st Century. ‘Unfortunately, people can’t help things like interpersonal skills and attractiveness.’”

Will cushioning students’ path to college entrance help them in equally stressful internship and job searches and the inevitable knocks that life brings or is keeping a college open at all costs more important?  Is the idea for a college to gather and educate the brightest students or to get any old student who can pay the freight or collect enough scholarships to do so? Is the goal to reinforce the easy out when successful people work hard? Will lowering the bar help students and a college in the long run?

Linus

 

 

Service of Words II

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

Porch

In an article, “The Friendliest Place in the House,” Amy Gamerman advised Wall Street Journal readers not to call a porch a deck. She wrote: “As porches have grown in popularity, ‘deck’ has become the new four-letter word of high-end home design. ‘We never use the word deck, it’s a pejorative term; we always use the word porch. It could be any covered outdoor space,’ said Stephen Vanze, a partner in Barnes Vanze Architects in Washington, D.C.”

deckArrogance aside, what puzzled me was that to me a porch doesn’t resemble a deck, a covered deck is just that, so why use the wrong word for the sake of fashion or to confuse?

I take words literally. I was studying the online catalog of a prominent NYC continuing education venue to promote appropriate classes to members of New York Women in Communications. I noticed that the prices were listed “From $385” or adult education class“From $485,” or “From $Something” so I called customer service. In that context, “from” meant that the prices started at $385 or $485 and I wanted to learn what might cause them to fluctuate upwards. The customer service person confirmed that these were the prices. I suggested he ask someone to delete the confusing word in every course description and he giggled and asked why—“if they have a question they can call customer service,” he said.

Do you change terminology after reading an article like the one about porches/decks? Have you questioned a word in instructions, regarding prices or a procedure enough to have to call someone about it?

Words

Service of Full Measure II: Pay more and get less for health insurance, education and toilet tissue

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

Full measure

I first wrote a Full Measure post in 2010, a topic very much related to the Service of Inflation series launched the year before and I risk little in predicting there will be more to come. An eye doctor appointment, results of New York city and state student tests and a newspaper article inspired today’s post.

Insurance strikes another black eye hitting doctors and patients where it hurts

Boxer punchingBefore seeing my doctor and his staff for my annual eye exam the receptionist gave me an agreement–a first. I would check one box if I was willing to pay $75 to be tested for refraction; another if not.

In a nutshell the form explained that most insurance companies will no longer pay for a doctor to test for eyeglasses.

This was the wording: “Refraction is the testing done with lenses to determine and correct the errors in the eye causing problems with both distance and near vision. This information is required to prescribe glasses. Insurance carriers do not consider refraction a medical procedure. Medicare and most commercial carriers will pay for covered benefits only. When you receive a service that is not a covered benefit, patients are responsible to pay for it.”

eye chartBut guess what? Staff told me that if you go to some optometrists–they mentioned a rip-off eyeglass store chain I’ve been warned by friends and colleagues to avoid–the insurance might pay for the test.

It’s easy to forget the precise differences between the training and expertise of an ophthalmologist and optometrist but it’s pertinent so I checked out webmd.com: “Ophthalmologists are physicians. They went to medical school. After school, they had a one-year internship and a residency of three or more years. Ophthalmologists offer …..Vision services, including eye exams; Medical eye care — for conditions such as glaucoma, iritis, and chemical burns; Surgical eye care — for trauma, crossed eyes, cataracts, glaucoma, and other problems; Diagnosis and treatment of eye conditions related to other diseases, such as diabetes or arthritis; Plastic surgery — for drooping eyelids and smoothing wrinkles.” [I didn't know about wrinkles....hmmmm].

EyewearWebmd.com continues: “Optometrists are medical professionals but not physicians. After college, they spent four years in a program and got a degree in optometry. Some optometrists undergo additional clinical training after optometry school. They focus on regular vision care and prescribe eyeglasses and contacts.”

This course doesn’t lead down a healthy road. It means that the physician who chooses to become an ophthalmologist will soon be left only with treating eye disease, severely cutting into his/her income and customer traffic. I also wager that the nations’ eyes will suffer. On the rush to the $500 eyeglass frame counter in the chain, diseases that should be diagnosed and treated/controlled early may be missed. How shortsighted.

Taxing information

ClassroomNew York City spent $25 billion on education, the state $74 billion according to research by WOR 710 NYC radio producer Michael Figliola for the John Gambling Show, yet the results are not equally stratospheric. The state spends more on education than anything else.

Lisa Fleisher wrote in The Wall Street Journal, “Less than 30% of the city’s third- through eighth-graders scored proficient in math and English Language Arts on the new exams, which are an attempt to measure whether students are on track to do higher-level work when they graduate and start their careers.”

Yoav Gonen of The New York Post reported: “The eye-opening passing rates for third- through eighth-graders of just 29.6 percent in math and 26.4 percent in reading reflected the first real measure of how many students are considered to be on the path to success after high school.”

One plus one equals 3Gonen continued: “Last year, before the exam standards were significantly boosted, 47 percent of city kids passed the reading exams and 60 percent passed math.” In a bulleted list he noted “New York City outperformed the state’s other ‘Big 4′ cities by leaps and bounds. Second-place Yonkers only had 16.4 percent of students pass in reading and 14.5 percent in math.”

What else is there to add?

Nothing to Sneeze At

Toilet tissueDesheeting doesn’t relate to making beds, operating sailboats, rain [in sheets] or drinking too much [three sheets to the breeze]. It’s how the tissue and toilet paper industry describes fewer sheets of tissue in a box or roll.

Serena Ng reported in “Toilet-Tissue ‘Desheeting’ Shrinks Rolls, Plumps Margins” that Kimberly-Clark’s Kleenex packages contain 13 percent fewer sheets simultaneously claiming that each one is “bulkier” by 15 percent. Guess they know folks who want bulky tissue instead of lots of it when cold or allergies strike.

While on the subject, here’s some toilet paper trivia brought to us by Kimberly-Clark research via Ng: In five bathroom trips/day, Americans use some 46 sheets of toilet paper and according to Euromonitor International, companies sold $10.6 billion of tissue and toilet paper in the US in 2012.

Mayor Bloomberg, who watches NYC’s waistlines, would approve of some of the additional information in Ng’s article though as a consumer even he might expect the price to reflect less product which I’m certain it doesn’t. “Cereal boxes and bags of chips have in many cases become lighter over the years in what the food industry refers to as taking ‘weight out.’ A regular Snickers bar now weighs 1.86 ounces, down from 2.07 ounces in the past, which Mars says was done to cut calories to 250 per bar. Tropicana Pure Premium orange juice is now sold in 59 ounce bottles, versus 64 ounce cartons prior to 2010.”

I didn’t notice a decrease in my insurance premium to compensate for one less essential covered procedure. Does this new wrinkle smack of lobbyists at work along with insurance greed leaving men and women with limited incomes, their children and another specialty of doctor yet again in a reject pile? Have you examples of paying for and receiving full measure lately or the opposite–which seems to be increasingly in fashion?

More for less

Service of Language: Yale Alumni Magazine Cover Story Touts “Bad English”

Monday, July 15th, 2013

Linquistics

Homer Byington didn’t sleep well Friday night and it wasn’t due to the heat. My husband was disturbed by the cover story of his college’s alumni magazine, “Why ‘bad’ English isn’t.” The writer, Peggy Edersheim Kalb, ended the article in the July/August issue of the Yale Aulmni Magazine: “But by showing that different kinds of English are used almost everywhere in the United States, [Raffaella] Zanuttini and her team are determined to teach us that variation is the rule, not the exception. And grammatical differences should be celebrated, she says. ‘You don’t have to be ashamed of a local language.’”

Zanuttini is a linguistics professor at the school. The professor and some dozen undergrads and graduate students in the university’s Grammatical Diversity Project study the arrangement of words and phrases i.e. syntax, [not vocabulary]. The team “wants you to let go of your prejudices,” according to the article’s subhead.

East West North SouthKalb again quoted Zanuttini: “ ‘Certain people want to get rid of features that are stigmatized, but that’s certain people,’ says Zanuttini. ‘Some people want to get rid of any linguistic feature that marks them as coming from the South. Other people like to have their own identity’—and those who are proud of being recognized as Southern don’t want to homogenize their language to match other parts of the country.”

Identifying and recognizing colloquial turns of phrase is nothing new but suggesting that twisting the language is acceptable merely because someone might discriminate against the speaker—or the speaker might  feel discriminated against—makes little sense. For those “proud” of being recognized as Southern as Zanuttini said, or from New England, New York, New Jersey, the Midwest, etc., let them rely on their regional accent, but leave the language alone.

Map of the USPhrases such as “ain’t nobody a man,” “We might can go up there next Saturday,” and “You know, if you drank a half a drink, you might oughta go home and sleep it off,” are spoken in New York, Texas and Utah respectively according to one of the illustrations in the article. Could you have recognized the states of origin? I couldn’t. Doesn’t that water down the argument that people enhance their identity via quirky/incorrect turns of phrase that tie them to a region?

What happened to the melting pot concept here in America?

What would the professor say about those who feel pride in their mother country? If those of us first generation Americans mimicked the way our parent or parents spoke English there would be verbal chaos. What would happen to communications?

Shouldn’t we look to places like Yale to set the standard and help us all speak English correctly? Isn’t there enough satisfaction in being an American? There’s so much we can’t change about ourselves–our DNA, color, race, age–and much, such as language, that we can.

lower the barWhat benefits are there for individuals, regions and this country to lowering the linguistics bar? Why not raise the education bar? Are these linguists ashamed of their advantages because they attend or teach at a prestigious university? If you were to move to a foreign country, even if you couldn’t ace the accent, wouldn’t you want to learn to speak the language correctly?

speak

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