Waiting for Superman


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Education in America’s public school system has shockingly disappointed the nation’s future.  Arguments attacking the private school system have been founded as well, claiming the private system is experiencing just as much controversy; however the documentary entitled “Waiting for Superman” focused solely on the Public School system with its strengths and downfalls. The statistics of students and correlating proficiency-testing scores in America are depressingly below global standards. The design of the public system and its educators is the heart of the problem. It does not compensate for the downfalls of a lazy, unmotivated teacher nor does it reward a motivated, influential and dedicated teacher. The documentary, although controversial as most documentaries are, brought to light an existing issue requiring immediate focus. Our children of today are the world’s leaders of tomorrow. How can educators guarantee an educational reformation to provide more success in our children’s attitudes regarding the standards of their education? The film focused on five students who are mentally and emotionally focused on achieving college educations despite the roadblocks set by location, demographics, and attitudes, and the major figures struggling against complacency to transform predetermined failure to all-encompassing success. In a global economy, the success of education is pertinent to success as a nation. The demand for high-class education is undoubtedly higher than the supply of positively enforced quality educational facilities causing a shortage in the most important facet of success… education. As a meek alternative, a lottery for education has become the only hope and unfortunately so. The supply and demand of quality education and educators, the required assets in order to achieve success, and the individuals paving the controversial road to achieving success, prove that a failure in education is a failure in the global economy.

America has only a minute amount of time left to reach the goal of one hundred percent proficiency in reading and math. The “No Child Left Behind” program has not been a success and the performance gap between America and the international world is dismal at best. The demand for higher quality education in the nation is superseding the supply of valuable educational facilities. The amount of money spent on education has more than doubled since 1971 and test scores nation-wide have remained inadequately low. Following five students across the nation, the documentary focuses on the reality reducing low-income urban area children’s potential to a cataclysmic failure with success solely contingent on the fate of winning the lucky ticket. Success has been cheapened to nothing more than a lottery of who attains the opportunity to succeed and who is condemned to a mess of abysmal schooling. The eagerness to learn in young students is clearly being dampened by overcrowding in schools, poor teachers, and administrative neglect. This does not bode well for the future of the American economy. Americans are not keeping pace with the increased educational requirements of this age of advanced technology. In only a few short years, if educational supply of quality education does not begin to meet the current high demand, there will be a surplus of highly-skilled high paying jobs that we will not have the educated populace to fill and as the demand for such educated positions increases, the supply of workforce will have to come from other countries subsequently with dire consequences for the middle class and the entire U.S. economy. A sincere transformation of the educational system is required in order to produce higher levels of success.

The need for “good teachers” has never been more apparent in our school systems. A non-effective teacher on average will cover only fifty percent of the required curriculum in one school year; alternatively, an effective teacher is capable of covering one hundred and fifty percent meaning in one school year, students achieve about one and a half year’s worth of learning from the strongest teachers and only about half a year from the weakest. Unfortunately, there are no incentives for good or effective teachers and no consequences or bad or ineffective teachers. Evidence that the most experienced teachers may not be the most effective teachers should prompt policy re-examination. If a teacher’s effectiveness as an educator is not being taken into account, students are ultimately paying a price increasingly more detrimental to the nation than reducing the nation’s teaching force. The concept of tenure, although beneficial to effective teachers, can be considered evil when applied to mediocrity. Tenure makes no distinctions between effective and lazy work and offers the worst teachers the same rights as influential teachers and guarantees a job for life. The required assets for improving the education system have been explored and introduced by individual reformers but unfortunately, met with extreme prejudice.

Michelle Rhee is a very charismatic but controversial individual in the reform against poor education. Considered to be one of the leads in educational reform, Rhee has always had one motto: put students first. In 2007, she was assigned the Chancellorship of the D.C. public school system and immediately began to create a tidal wave of reform. Instilling on the educational system that children require the skills and knowledge demanded to compete in a global environment. During her term, becoming the most discussed reformer, she fired every objectively bad teacher and the principals that inherently protected them and their jobs. She closed failing schools, stirring up major debates, and confronted the teachers’ union. She decided that children needed to receive the education they deserved, and in turn began to clean house of ineffective leadership. As an influential reformer, Rhee understood that this would be her downfall but continued to push for educational improvement and reformation. The trials and consequences of pushing for controversial school reforms will always be apparent because there will always be those individuals or organizations who will impede accomplishment for selfish reasons. There are currently several individuals and organizations pushing for the recognition of fantastic educators and the absolution of bad teachers. Economic growth has raised the value of education and increased the importance of high quality and effective education. The goal is a successful improvement of the teaching and learning in schools nation-wide.

The concept of reform based on school choice has not led to substantial improvements in the educational system. What separates the current reform from others is the degree of which millions of American students are suffering, dropping out, or being labeled as failures at an early age. Our children’s futures depend on good and efficient teachers. In every other career field, employees are acknowledged for exceptional contributions and teachers/educators should be no different. The success of our students depends on the success of our educators and should not be determined solely on zip codes. Students are assigned to public schools based upon location and this forces far too many children forced into chronically failing educations when every student should have equal access to excellence in education. There are reformers every day pushing for excellence and equal educational opportunities. The future depends on this. The required assets for success begin with the educational system and those governing the statutes of academia. Educators should have the recognition for excellent leadership and alternatively the exposure for weak and insufficient educational skills. The supply and demand for education in our country needs to be re-examined and repaired with haste. Not only will our children face economic challenges for which they will not have the tools to succeed, but also they will be forced into economic change that requires the American jobs currently available for the students of tomorrow to be ripped from their hands and placed into other countries’ power for lack of educational equivalence. Teaching is an art that requires full dedication because without teachers, the world cannot benefit from the likes of doctors, lawyers, etc. We place our children’s futures in the capable hands of educators every day in order to prepare them for the economic whirlwind that beckons at the world. The concept of preparing children to fail is outrageous and no individual who does not have the heart to teach should be allowed in the profession. Good teachers are the heart of success and must be acknowledged. Educational reformation in America’s school system is crucial to the future success of America. We must keep and praise effective teachers and on the other hand, dismiss those who will not be a benefit to the growing and thirsty minds of our nation’s future leaders.

Music and Intelligence

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Does learning how to play a musical instrument have any effect on the brain?

 

Brain scanning technologies have permitted neuroscientists to test ideas about the link between music and intelligence.

If you examine the brain of a keyboard player, you’ll find that the region of the brain that controls finger movements is larger than the same region in a non-player (Pascual-Leone 2001).

Brain scans of 9- to 11-year old children have revealed that children who play musical instruments have significantly more grey matter volume in both the sensorimotor cortex and the occipital lobes. Musicians in general, have significantly more grey matter in several brain regions. It’s not simply that people with more grey matter volume are more likely to become musicians. Research suggests that the brains of non-musicians change in response to musical training.

In one study, non-musicians were assigned to perform a 5-finger exercise on the piano for two hours a day. Within five days, subjects showed evidence of “re-wiring”. The size of the area associated with finger movements had become larger and more active (Pascual-Leone 2001).

It is definitely reasonable to assume that the brain grows in response to musical training.

In the study of 9 to 11-year olds, musicians performed better on several tests than did their non-musical peers. They scored significantly higher on tests of vocabulary and finger tapping. They also exhibited a strong, but statistically non-significant, trend towards better spatial and math skills (Schlaug 2005).

So… How do you decide which instrument is best suited for the child in question?

Following are some instruments that have been analyzed according to children and behaviors:

Violin:

Temperament: A well-behaved child will do well.  This is not an instrument for a hyperactive child. The violin is a complicated and challenging instrument. A young violinist needs to be able to relate well to adults and to learn to accept help from teachers and parents.  With violinists, there is a lot of competition about who gets to play the top part in a group.

Physique: A child who likes dancing will probably enjoy playing the violin.  The instrument transmits a lot of vibration to the chin and shoulder.  Some children like this, while some hate it.  A good sense of balance, as the playing position is a challenge for young children.

Mind Power: Playing the violin is complicated and needs a lot of perseverance. Very bright children, who learn easily, are likely to become frustrated by the amount of repetitive practice needed.

Transport: Small and light.

 

Viola:

Temperament: The same as the violin.  However, a violist likes to be in the middle of the group and generally enjoys a more holistic feel for music.

Physique: The same as the violin.  Small violas are no bigger than violins.  Older violists need more physical strength, long fingers and flexible hands to cope with larger instruments.  Children with a lower voice are often drawn to the viola.

Mind Power: The same as the violin.

Transport: Small and light.

 

Cello:

Temperament: Some children just fall in love with the cello’s beautiful singing voice.  Like other string players, cellists need to be able to relate well to adults.

Physique: An adequate sense of pitch is useful.  Cellists often come with big hands, long arms and lower voices.  A child with a big chest cavity will enjoy the resonance of the cello.  This instrument requires a certain amount of strength, not only to play but also to carry.

Mind Power: The cello suits a quiet, shy, deeply thinking child.

Transport: You will have to be the cello slave till your child gets strong enough.

 

Double Bass:

Temperament: A supportive child who likes rhythm will enjoy the double bass.  Not many small children are drawn to its low gentle sound.

Physique: It is really helpful for a young bassist to be physically big and strong.

Mind Power: There is a repertoire of virtuoso music… the bass is simpler to play than the cello.

Transport: Big and heavy.  A child will need a double bass slave for years to come.

 

Guitar:

Temperament: Children who like gathering and cuddling things close to themselves will enjoy the guitar.

Physique: A child who is well coordinated, with nimble fingers and enjoys arts and crafts should do well

Mind Power: Having a good head for numbers helps as does being naturally conscientious and methodical.

Transport: Children seem to find it cool to carry their own guitar case.

 

Harp:

Temperament: Your child will just know that this is his or her instrument.

Physique: A parent will need the strong physique and a larger vehicle in order to transport it.

Mind Power: Understanding 46 strings and 8 pedals, requires intelligence, focus and dedication.

Transport: Big, heavy and awkward.  A child will need strong and dedicated harp slave for years to come.

Piano:

Temperament: This is not an instrument initially designed for social children… playing the piano is rather a solitary activity.  A loner who relates well to adults will do well.

Physique: The piano doesn’t require too much energy and would suit a delicate child

Mind Power: A child who does well at school, is good at figuring things and has plenty of mental energy will find the piano easy to learn.

Transport: Don’t.

 

Organ:

Temperament: Like the piano and harp, this is an instrument for a child who is a bit of a loner.  It would suit a child who needs to feel more powerful but who hasn’t found a way.

Physique: The player will develop excellent coordination and powerful core muscles from balancing on the bench and using all 4 limbs at once.

Mind Power: The same as the piano.

Transport: Not unless you are moving a small keyboard.

 

Flute:

Temperament: Shy, quiet and sociable, not dominant or aggressive.

Physique: Children who like dancing will enjoy this instrument.

Flutes can be played with a U shaped head joint.  This makes it possible to play with the hands in front of the body instead of stretched out to the right side, ideal for a young child.

Mind Power: The flute suits a wide range of intelligences.

Transport: Easy to carry.

 

 

Just to name a few…

Greatness

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“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” 
– Robert F. Kennedy

Greatness is not primarily a function of circumstance; but largely a matter of conscious choice and discipline that can not be achieved without an enormous amount of hard work. There is simply no evidence of successful high-level performance without experience or practice. High expectations are exceedingly important and you must always expect more from yourself than anyone expects from you. You must dream more, learn more, do more, and become more. Jim Collins states that “while you can buy your way to growth, you cannot buy your way to greatness.”

Perserverance… Humilty… Initiative… Productivity… Integrity… Vision… These are all essential qualities that must be developed by combining intelligence, education, and knowledge learned with sustained practice. One must have the constant pursuit of innovation and improvement in order to ensure long-term success and the drive to follow through and make things happen. Charles Darwin said that it is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor is it the most intelligent… but rather, the one most responsive to change… Adaptability is key because simply put, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result each time. General Eric Shinseki, Chief of Staff. U. S. Army, says “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”

Ask yourself, “Who do I intend to be?” and “How will I achieve it?” rather than “What am I going to do?”… “Who do I intend to be?” Ghandi said it well when he preached, “You must be the the change you wish to see in the world.”

Excellence… Passion… Enthusiasm… Empowerment… Creativity… Positivity… Greatness. We become who we associate with. Surround yourself with positivity and you will learn to be positive; surrround yourself with negativity and you will learn to be negative; surround yourself with greatness and you will learn to be great. Re-imagine and re-create… Learn and grow… Phil Daniels says, “Reward excellent failures. Punish mediocre successes.” The best thing an individual seeking greatness can do, is learn the term “I don’t know.” By admitting “I don’t know,” that first step towards learning has been accepted and the journey towards achieving one’s absolute best begins the pursuit of greatness.