Education Story of the Year—Jon Kitna Returns to Lincoln High School

In professional sports, the media spotlight tends to shine on the knuckleheads for whom there’s no shortage. That’s why Tim Tebow became a pop culture phenom. Fans long for players they can cheer for on and off the field.

Jon Kitna is Tim Tebow minus the blinding spotlight. A devout Christian, who after playing quarterback for four NFL teams over fifteen years, just retired. Here’s his top ten salary years from largest contract to smallest.

SEASON TEAM BASE SALARY SIGN BONUS CAP VALUE SALARY POSITION
2001 Cincinnati Bengals $ 500,000 $ 4,000,000 $ 1,501,440 $ 5,501,440 Quarterback
2008 Detroit Lions $ 2,950,000 $ 3,500,000 $ 5,875,000 $ 5,000,000 Quarterback
2006 Detroit Lions $ 1,450,000 $ 3,500,000 $ 2,375,000 $ 5,000,000 Quarterback
2009 Dallas Cowboys $ 1,400,000 $ 2,000,000 $ 4,000,000 Quarterback
2004 Cincinnati Bengals $ 1,000,000 $ 2,375,000 $ 3,190,000 $ 3,377,500 Quarterback
2003 Cincinnati Bengals $ 2,625,000 $ 3,626,600 $ 2,626,600 Quarterback
2002 Cincinnati Bengals $ 1,500,000 $ 2,501,260 $ 1,501,260 Quarterback
2007 Detroit Lions $ 1,450,000 $ 3,500,000 $ 2,875,000 $ 1,500,000 Quarterback
2000 Seattle Seahawks $ 1,371,000 $ 1,373,600 $ 1,373,600 Quarterback
2005 Cincinnati Bengals $ 1,000,000 $ 2,188,820 $ 1,001,320 Quarterback

source—USA Today

Instead of spending his retirement counting and trying to spend his millions, Kitna’s taken another job. Part-time math teacher at Tacoma, Washington’s Lincoln High School and full-time football coach. Teaching and coaching at his inner-city alma mater has been his wife’s and his plan all along. He’s excited to begin fulfilling his real purpose in life. Giving up the cushy, glamorous life of hanging with Tony Romo and Jerry Jones on chartered jets for late night lesson planning, apathetic math students, footballers used to losing, and slow, lengthy Friday night school bus rides on jammed freeways. Remarkable.

Sad that a story like this is left to his local paper and this humble blog. Every one of the country’s sports writing cognoscenti should be leading with Kitna’s story. How he was a screw up at Lincoln High School. How he drank way too much at Central Washington University, cheated on his present day wife, committed to Christianity, and turned his life completely around.

Whether you’re religious or not, Kitna’s commitment to service should inspire. Here’s a short video of Jon talking about his vision for the team. Football excellence as a means to more important ends. After watching the vid, I’d be happy to coach the coach on how to set personal faith—public school boundaries.

Here’s hoping he inspires a generation of students and athletes. I will be watching Kitna’s second career whether the media shines their light on him or not. And I’ll be cheering lustily for him, his team, Lincoln High, and the larger community.

More here.

Women Make Better Money Managers

If you’re of the male persuasion, slowly step back from the check book or computer, and find a woman to take over your financial decision making.

According to Ronald T. Wilcox, a growing body of research reveals distinct differences in how married men and women approach money and investing. Because men tend to be overconfident, they trade stocks and bonds more actively because they think they know what the next market movement will be. As a result, they incur various transaction costs associated with trading but don’t pick assets any better than women. They’re also less likely to listen to financial advice.

Women are less confident than men about their financial abilities, switch investments less often, and are more likely to listen to financial advice. As a result, they generate risk-adjusted returns superior to those of men.

The Wall Street Journal summarizes Wilcox’s findings thusly, “Men may think they know what they are doing when it comes to investing but often do not. Women may think they don’t know what they are doing but often do.”

Truth be told, you can plug in anything you want for “investing” in the last paragraph. Now if you’ll excuse me, the market is about to close and I have some trades to make.

Bonus link—a couple that has figured out how to enjoy a better quality of life despite making considerably less money.

My “not motivated by money” award nomination double bonus link—and favorite 2012 US Olympian and favorite youth sport parents—Missy Franklin, Dick Franklin, and D.A. Franklin.

What the Hell is the Presidency For?

The on-line magazine The Root recently asked, “Should Obama endorse gay marriage?” And then suggested, “Doing so before the election has some risks, but it could re-energize segments of his base.” Notice their question doesn’t have anything to do with whether it’s the right thing to do or not.

I’m so accustomed to “what will get me re-elected” political thinking, I had to read these two paragraphs about Lyndon Baines Johnson from my first book of 2012, Republic Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress–and a Plan to Stop It by Lawrence Lessig several times. Based on the assumption you may also be in need of inspiration, I share them with you as an abbreviated refresher on bold political leadership:

In his first speech to Congress, he (Johnson) placed civil rights at the core of his new administration, and hence at the core of the values of the Democratic Party. The decision was profoundly controversial. In a six-hour meeting before the speech, Johnson was advised strongly against making civil rights so central to his administration. As described by Randall Woods, Johnson was told, “Passage [of the Civil Rights Act]… looked pretty hopeless; the issue was as divisive as any… ; it would be suicide to wage and lose such a battle.” The safe bet was against the fight. Johnson replied, “Well, what the hell is the presidency for?” These were not the words of a triangulator from the U.S. Senate, but of a man who had grown tired of that game, and wanted to try something new.

When he decided to make civil rights central to his party’s platform, Johnson knew that he was forever changing the political dominance of the Democrats. His decision to pass the most important civil rights legislation in history was a guarantee that the Republicans would again become competitive. Yet his loyalty was more to truth, or justice, or his legacy—you pick—than to party politics. To that end, whichever it was, he was willing to sacrifice a Democratic majority of tomorrow in order to use the Democratic majority of today.

Indeed, what the hell is the presidency for?

Finnish Students are Running Circles Around U.S. Students. . . Without Trying

Policy makers in the U.S. desperately want to know why Finnish students are consistently among the top ranked students in the world. Anu Partanen, in a provocative essay in the Atlantic, points to a few things—less homework, more creative play, and equalized public funding for all schools.

A leading Finnish educator explains another critical factor, “In Finland all teachers and administrators are given prestige, decent pay, and a lot of responsibility. . . . teacher training programs are among the most selective professional schools in the country. If a teacher is bad, it is the principal’s responsibility to notice and deal with it.

Another significant difference—there are no lists of best schools or teachers in Finland. The main driver of education policy is not competition between teachers and between schools, but cooperation.

Damn socialists.

Partanen provides historical context. Since the 1980s, the main driver of Finnish education policy has been the idea that every child should have exactly the same opportunity to learn, regardless of family background, income, or geographic location. Education has been seen first and foremost not as a way to produce star performers, but as an instrument to even out social inequality.

And no, they’re not teaching to the tests or changing students’ score sheets. Partanen explains that since academic excellence wasn’t a particular priority on the Finnish to-do list, when Finland’s students scored so high on the first PISA survey in 2001, many Finns thought the results must be a mistake. But subsequent PISA tests confirmed that Finland was producing academic excellence through its particular policy focus on equity. 

Despite many differences, Finland and the U.S. have an educational goal in common. Partanen explains that when Finnish policymakers decided to reform the country’s education system in the 1970s, they did so because they realized that to be economically competitive, they couldn’t rely on manufacturing or its scant natural resources and instead had to invest in a knowledge-based economy. With America’s manufacturing industries now in decline, the goal of educational policy in the U.S. is to preserve American competitiveness by doing the same thing. Finland’s experience suggests that to win at that game a country has to prepare all of its population well for the new economy.

Since “No Child Left Behind”, we’ve talked similarly, but dramatic school funding differences and a litany of related educational inequalities prove we’re not committed to equity. We want the Finns’ results without their progressive tax system. We want to lose weight without eating less or exercising more.

Take a sample of ten representative high schoolers from the U.S. The top three can easily hang with average Finn, Singaporean, South Korean, and Chinese students. The middle four, not so much. They’re graduating high school and continuing their education even though they’re unprepared for college level work. They’re taking remedial classes and are a large part of the 45% of students who enter college seeking a bachelor’s degree and fail to graduate. The bottom three, someone tell W, have been left behind, and are apart of the 1.3 million students that leave high school every year without graduating. That’s 7,000 students a day. That’s a tragedy for them, their families, and our economic prospects.

There’s not just an achievement gap between the top three and bottom four students, there’s a dramatic family political influence gap. “Top three” parents focus mostly on making sure their sons and daughters have a competitive advantage in getting into the best colleges by agitating for tracked college prep classes. They may care about the educational or life prospectives of the other seven students, but not to the point of de-tracking classes or equalizing funding through higher property taxes.

Spare me the talk of replicating the Finnish educational model. We’re not cut out for it. Our worldview rests upon the exact opposite values—intense individualism, competitiveness, and selective excellence; not collectivism, cooperation, or equity. With rare exceptions, we haven’t been a “greater good” people for a long time. And the more other students from around the world lap us in the classroom, and the better their economies perform relative to us, the more “Top Three-ers” we’ll look out for themselves, the greater good be damned.

Multilingualism Enriches Us

This is embarrassing to admit, but I spent last Saturday night watching the Republican Presidential Primary debate.

Romney said he’d get tough with the Chinese and tell them in no uncertain terms to quit floating their currency. Very funny stuff. A person with his supposed business acumen clueless about who has the leverage. Huntsman got so riled up he replied in Mandarin. The crowd sat in stunned silence. I’d bet my beautiful Chinese peasant painting that it hurt him with the Republican base.

I regularly skim the LA Times online. I recently noticed a feature at the bottom of the website, “Hoy,” or “Today” for the one or two of you more linguistically challenged than me. Under the “Hoy” link there are nine or ten articles in Spanish.

Here’s guessing the Republican base doesn’t like the “Spanish creep” on the LA Times website either.

Language facility is not a zero-sum game if you’re internationally-minded and multilingualism is enriching if you think cultural diversity is an asset. It’s threatening if you’re first and foremost a nationalist who worries that your nation’s superiority is waning. Especially if you think that superiority is exclusively the result of English speaking peeps.

Bonus link for the polyglots. Double bonus link for those wanting to learn German.

Beautiful, Powerful, Markedly Different End-of-Life Celebrations

The on-line description of Mount Rainier Ranger Margaret Anderson’s memorial service was moving. As was the on-line retelling of Southern California surf-tech pioneer Sean Collins‘s recent memorial service.

Pictures of Anderson’s memorial are here. And here are more from Collins’s service.

One regimented, formal, set in a university auditorium, steeped in tradition. The other, free-flowing, informal, set in the ocean.

Notably different, yet equally beautiful and powerful celebrations of life.

Understanding Teens

Turns out adolescent anger is contagious.

Mary Daily in the January 2012 issue of the UCLA Magazine summarizes Psychiatry Professor Andrew Fuligni’s and colleagues new research on adolescent development and family relationships.

A study that involved 578 ninth-graders from three ethnically diverse LA public high schools (redundant phrase) showed that adolescents had more arguments with parents or other family members on days when they also had conflicts with their peers, and vice versa. The participants completed a questionnaire at school and kept a diary for 14 days. The daily family-peer link was the same across ethnicities.

In Fuligni’s own words, “Adolescents interactions in the home and with peers shape each other on a daily basis, at least in part, through emotional distress.”

He adds, “Adolescents tend to respond with more extreme and negative emotions than do preadolescents or adults, probably because it’s the time in their lives when they are experiencing multiple transitions that might be stressful—puberty, dating, and changing schools as examples.”

Therefore, do everything possible to minimize family conflict in the interest of improved peer relations, and don’t take every argument personally, instead try to find out if things might have gone sideways with a friend or friends at school.