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.

The True Costs of War

Sorry if you were wanting to ease into the weekend with a new girl scout cookie review.

In a chapter titled “Economics Confronts the Earth,” Juliet Schor, the author of True Wealth, writes about a group of economists, natural scientists, engineers, systems dynamic researchers, and other who came together twenty-five years ago around the view that ecosystems should be at the core of economic analysis.

“They were especially interested in what conventional economics wasn’t measuring or studying,” Schor explains. “These dissenters recognized a fundamental point about how our system has been operating. If the market economy gets large, and nature remains external to it, threats to basic ecosystem functioning will arise.” “Ecological economics,” she notes, “has mostly been ignored by the mainstream.” 

And she adds, “Environmental economics has also been closely intertwined with energy economics, which in turn has ties to energy companies and interests. And in the last few decades, special interests acting against environmental protection, often from the energy sector, have enlisted economics to water down regulations and forestall action.”

Put most simply, mainstream economists, by ignoring ecosystems, underestimate the true costs of production and consumption. Similarly, we grossly underestimate the true costs of war by slighting the devastation inflicted both upon civilians in the war zone and upon our surviving soldiers and their families following their return from combat. This MIT-based “The Human Cost of the War” website touches upon unaccounted for domestic costs, but is an especially good place to start to learn about the war’s devastating impact on Iraqis.

When economists total up the costs of the Iraqi war, they calculate the costs of the planes, artillery, food, energy, equipment, training, salaries, and Veteran Administration hospital costs. But they don’t factor in a litany of qualitative, post traumatic stress-related costs including substance abuse, depression, conflict-filled marriages, separated families, violent crimes including murder, and suicides.

More specifically, they don’t factor in Benjamin Colton Barnes and vets like him who can’t shake the violence of their war experience. They don’t factor in the loss of Margaret Anderson, the Mount Rainier park ranger that Barnes recently shot to death before fleeing and dying himself. They don’t factor in what Eric Anderson’s life is like, Margaret’s husband, also a Rainier ranger. And they don’t factor in what Eric Anderson’s 1 and 3 year old daughters lives are like now without their mother.

Just as many special interests that don’t want environmental economists to highlight economic costs to ecosystems, many others don’t want a full accounting of war’s costs. The tragedy of this failed accounting is aptly described on the MIT “The True Cost of War” website—”. . . if there is no accountability for the human toll of war, the urge to deploy military assets will remain powerful.”

A Mean and Nasty Job Description—the New Economic Reality

Sundays are glorious rest days. The week’s physical activity deposits are in the bank. It’s just me, myself, and my iPad in bed. Surfing aimlessly, wasting time because I can.

Craigslist. Seattle. Olympia. Jobs. Managing Editor. I could do that. Where’s it written I have to die an egghead professor? Check it out:

Managing Editor (Olympia)


Leading health related website is currently searching for a Managing Editor to join our company.The Managing Editor is responsible for quality control, editorial consideration, and publication of all written content published to our website, ensuring content accords to website mission and vision.

The Managing Editor’s duties are as follows:
-Manage all aspects of written content editing and publication.
-Make editorial consideration to website content, ensuring all content accords to website mission and vision
-Work in conjunction with Content Marketing Coordinator on various content related projects
-Develop ideas for user generated, pop-culture, and traditional content
-Manage and coordinate with writers on various projects
-Work with programming team and managing editor to design improvements to design of content pages
-Manage other related duties as assignedThe successful candidate will have some combination of experience in communications, content management, literature, journalism, and creative writing. We are looking for someone who is self-motivated, prioritizes effectively, communicates well via written and verbal mediums, thinks strategically, yet can focus intently on day-to-day details, feels confident in ability to learn the ins and outs of various content management systems, and works well in a collaborative, team environment.Required Qualifications:
Bachelors or Master’s degree in communications or social science related fields preferred
-Interest in mental health and psychology
-1 – 2 years of relevant experience.
-Strong background in computers and ability to learn new technology quickly
-Able to handle a variety of projects simultaneously and prioritize effectively
-Communicate effectively via email and in collaborative meeting environmentsThis is a full-time, 40-hour per week position. Pay starts at $15 per hour, with opportunity for increased wages. Interested applicants please reply to the anonymous email and please be sure to include your cover letter and resume as word docs.

I’m not sure what’s more frightening, the fact that they require a Bachelors or Masters, experience, and pay $15 an hour with no medical benefits, or the possibility they may get qualified candidates applying for the job.

Do the math. $2,400 a month before taxes, so at most $2k take home. Without medical benefits especially, that is not a “livable wage”. What’s the cheapest, catastrophic private medical insurance cost a month? How much to insure and maintain a beater car? Rent an apartment? Travel on an occasional weekend? Save for large, unplanned future expenses? Walk or bike to work, share an apartment, live really simply, basically keep living like a college student indefinitely, then it’s probably doable.

This is a mean and nasty job description that speaks volumes about the new economic reality.

College administrators, the people running for President in 2012, and the sitting president won’t tell you the truth—that a college diploma does not guarantee a job that pays a livable wage. Not even close. That is the new economic reality.

In the U.S., in the 20th century, most adults expected their children to live a more comfortable and secure life than themselves. In the first decade of the 21st, anxiety has replaced hope and most parents are deeply worried about whether their children will achieve economic independence even if they complete internships, graduate college, and outcompete others for the title Managing Editor of a “leading health-related website”.

Count me among them.

This Cal Bear Gives Me Hope

And that’s no small feat because I confess, after thirty years in the game, I’m too cynical about the potential of educators to reform schooling in the U.S.

Tony Smith, a 44 year-old former offensive lineman for the Cal Bears, and current Superintendent of the Oakland Unified School District, gives me hope. Never mind that parents in the district are trying to recall five board members for supporting Smith’s proposals for improving Oakland’s schools.

If you need an infusion of hope, take eleven minutes to watch the interview with Smith embedded in this PBS story. I like what Smith says and how he says it. Money quote, “You can’t just transform a single institution and expect to change all the (negative educational) outcomes.

In essence, Smith is saying the dropout, or “pushout” rate, is not the fault of just the schools; consequently, reversing it will require the help of the County Health Department, Housing Authority, and lots of other groups and people in the community.

We have a choice. We can continue to think simply and single-mindedly about the dropout problem and blame teachers exclusively, or as Smith suggests, we can reframe the problem in terms of community development. Smith’s approach emphasizes school-community partnerships so that students begin developing the necessary skills to succeed at specific jobs in the region.

Liberals like me who are skeptical of meritocratic rhetoric will support Smith. Conservatives who lambasted Hillary Clinton’s book “It Takes a Village” will push back, hence the effort to recall the board members.

A note of concern. Eleven minutes isn’t nearly long enough to get much of a feel for Oakland’s schools, but I dislike when the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) religion sidelines the humanities and schooling is thought of strictly in utilitarian, preparation for work ways. Smith alludes to some female students becoming passionate about math and science work. Great, but what about the potential of the humanities and arts to light similar fires in students? Curriculum development shouldn’t be a zero-sum game.

The thing that most intrigues me about Smith is his use of language. It matters because ideas matter. “Pushout” versus “dropout” and “opportunity gap” versus “achievement gap”. Here’s hoping the Oakland parents chill and give Smith more than the typical three years to implement his ideas and see if they Bear fruit.