Saturday Assorted Links

1. If you’re like me, it takes the World Cup to generate much interest in football. And if like me, your country didn’t qualify, you’re in search of a team. I present to you a cogent argument for Peru or La Blanquirroja.

2. Can you guess the language that is eating the world?

3. The beginning of the end for college admission tests?

“Starting this fall, Chicago will invite applicants to send a two-minute video ‘introduction.’ That idea echoes Goucher College’s recent embrace of video as a means of connecting with teenagers who grew up filming themselves with smartphones.”

4. I am often saddened by how casually acquaintances and friends of mine talk despairingly about the homeless. How best to help troubled men and women without homes raises more questions than answers. Progress is slow at best. In the meantime, there is something we can do for however long it takes to make genuine progress. We can acknowledge homeless men’s and women’s human dignity by treating them kindly. More specifically, we can take the lead from this African American man in challenging people’s anti-homeless cruelty.

5. Love never forgets.

6. This saddens me. Greatly. Of course the same could be written about Eldrick Tiger Woods and Ronaldo (no relation, despite the physical similarities) Byrnes.

LeBron James > Michael Jordan

We kid ourselves when we think we know public figures—whether actors, politicians, or professional athletes. Hell, our next-door neighbors seem like the nicest people possible, but I have no idea what goes on in the privacy of their home. All of us have inner lives and see into the mirror dimly. Despite this, we can make tentative judgements about pro athletes in the media spotlight based upon what they say and do outside of competition.

For the life of me, I do not understand the American sport fan who makes judgements about athletes based entirely on statistics and championship titles. Forget whether an athlete treats people well, obeys the law, inspires fans, and uses their fame and fortune to help others also succeed. Character is irrelevant. Championship rings trump social consciousness.

This is odd. In real life we gravitate towards specific co-workers, friends, and family based upon holistic judgments about their personal attributes—are they kind, generous, positive, self-effacing, humorous, caring? But in sports, job competence trumps everything. That’s why, to the American sports fan, LeBron James isn’t even close to as good as Jordan—two NBA championships versus six.

In the game of life, LJ has MJ beat already. By miles. Many sports analysts are not taking LJ’s letter on face value*. Their cynicism makes them suspicious of his motives for taking his talents to Northeast Ohio. I’m prone to cynicism, but I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt—he likes living in NE Ohio, feels a sense of obligation to the people and place that cheered for him before he was famous, and wants to inspire Cleveland third graders to also defy the odds of what society expects from them**.

And Jordan? He quit basketball to “spend more time with his family.” Immediately afterwards he signed a contract to play minor league baseball in a different state. What does he stand for besides basketball excellence? Gambling. Hanes underwear. Unbridled ego. Tennis shoes. Cash money.

Granted, I was a third grader in Northeast Ohio, so I might be biased, but LJ’s letter was so beautifully written I might ask my writing students to analyze it this fall. Then, for extra credit, he stuck it to Ann Coulter by acknowledging the World Cup final was a much more important athletic competition than any NBA championship series.

Call me naive if you must, but I’m down with LJ. And it’s important to note he’s not the only basketball superstar whose excellence is even more evident off the court. In sports, as in life, we should make holistic judgments. Magic and Durant (zero titles) also have Jordan beat by miles. There are lots of others.

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* I find this economist’s perspective interesting.

** I suspect there’s one other reason, that I haven’t heard a single person mention, why LeBron chose Cleveland. His wife wanted to return home.

Life (Right) After College

Hurray, the eldest is a college graduate. And I’m happy to report that apart from wearing shorts to the commencement ceremony*, and getting caught mostly naked (I had my watch on) in a co-ed dormitory bathroom**, I didn’t embarrass her too much.

I’m proud of her. A religion major, she wrote an excellent senior thesis on how Martin Luther King’s notion of the beloved community changed after the Watt’s riots. After reading it, her grandfather crowned her the “best writer in the family”***. Also, her college experience started out pretty rough, but she persevered, and in the end, flourished. She swam, co-hosted a groovy radio show, learned to write, and gained lots of confidence, meaning dinner conversations are more contentious now. Which is good. And she made lots of close friends.

That last point seems to be the all important one. Her friends and her seemed way more focused on close interpersonal relationships than my college classmates and I ever were. Maybe that’s explained by gender or because I went to a large public university, but I suspect there’s a lot more to it. Psychologists who study happiness recommend all of us do more to build community in our lives, but one significant trade-off may be less certainty about what to do after graduating.

Most of my daughter’s classmates’ plans were nebulous, meaning going home to work for the summer while trying to figure out the medium-long term. The Good Wife, my older sister, and my brother in-law and I and thought and talked about this throughout the weekend. My sister insisted that her friends and her all had permanent full-time jobs lined up right after crossing the stage. She said there was a stigma attached to returning home.

Here’s the problem, my sissy and I, like all fifty and sixty-somethings, fall into predictable traps when trying to make sense of our Millenial offspring.

Predictable trap one, our memory fails us; consequently, we accentuate our successes and downplay our challenges. Simply put, we forget about our parents’ continuing help, our struggles, and classmates who didn’t have jobs, who did return home, whose paths to independent adulthood were circuitous at best. When comparing ourselves with others, we almost always cut ourselves more slack. That’s why we routinely get angry at other drivers, but forget our own sudden lane changes or thoughtless maneuvers.

Predictable trap two, our selective perception contributes to an unhelpful, collective impatience with new graduates who aren’t sure what they want to do. We want our twenty-two year olds to be independent tomorrow morning even though, in all likelihood, the transition to complete independent adulthood will still be running it’s course during the next World Cup. Our impatience results in strained relations and dissension.

Predictable trap three, we routinely resist change. It’s difficult to understate the effect of social media on this generation of college grads, the pace of economic change, and the consequences of our more liberal parenting. Baby boomers label Millenials slackers for lacking gumption. That knee-jerk criticism is a predictable result of these mental traps. If social scientists ever quantify a generational gumption deficit, Boomers like me will have to take responsibility for it.

Predictable trap four, we overgeneralize from our lived experience and project our accomplishments onto others. Because we overcame “x” and accomplished “y”, others should be able to as well. As a result, we lack empathy for others, including recent college grads. For example, a close friend always struggled in school because of dyslexia. He overcame it with tremendous grit and now he’s often angry at others for “making excuses” for their relative lack of success. He writes off others without factoring in extenuating circumstances such as poverty, institutional racism, or neighborhood violence, because he didn’t experience those things.

I wish that by describing these traps, I was immune from them. In actuality, I can describe them because I’m so susceptible to them. As just one example, I’m as impatient as they come. Can I make it to the next World Cup? Truth be told, I’ve written this to myself. If you find something that helps you on your journey, all the better.

Postscript: Do NOT read this.

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* Someone has to establish the sartorial floor. And I probably should come clean that I did do one thing that greatly embarrassed, or at least “weirded out” both daughters. Cycling season = shaved legs. Way better for sunscreen and massage, way worser for father-daughter relationships.

** Fortunately, while getting into the shower, I was caught by my roommate, the Good Wife. “What was I supposed to do,” I protested, “undress standing in the tiny shower behind the curtain?!” To which she emphatically said, “YES!” New rule co-ed college dormitories, if you want me to undress in private, provide a door and a small bench before the shower curtain, like in Watson Hall, otherwise, be on guard for the Full Monty. Also, why the urinal RIGHT NEXT TO the door?

*** first signs of cognitive slippage

Weekend Notes

U.S. OPEN

• I was off Friday and spent some of the day prepping for 17’s Graduation Open House and some fantasizing about being at Pebble Beach. As great as the visuals were, listening to Chris Berman do the U.S. Open is excruciating. I’m sure he’d be a fun guy to play poker or watch football with, but he obviously did not grow up playing golf. I can take “We’re all just Dustin’ in the Wind Johnson” but I can’t take the “He shot a 9” and “That’s the second snowman there of the day!” and the “back, back, back” urging of a short putt. No one shoots anything on an individual hole. One MAKES a nine. And pros occasionally make eights, not snowmen. This is a MAJOR, not the Bristol Municipal Club Championship. Listening to Dick Vitale is soothing by comparison.

• Also on Friday, very interesting ruling involving Paul Casey’s chip on 14. Brutal uphill chip with zero margin of error. Casey hits it a tad chubby and in frustration hits/repairs the divot a few times. In the ensuing ten-fifteen seconds, the ball backs all the way off the green, eventually to almost the exact spot. Viewers alert the rules officials that Casey has improved his lie. Penalty? Rules officials huddle with Casey after the round, review the particulars of the two shots, and ask him whether he hit/repaired the divot in order to improve his lie in case the ball returned to the exact same spot. Based upon his body language they didn’t think so, and so they weren’t surprised when Casey confirmed that. There really was no way Casey could have known the ball would return to exact same spot. The rule is it’s a penalty if there’s intent is to improve one’s lie. I hereby declare that before wives rip husbands and daughters ban fathers from speaking in public that they adjust for intent.

WORLD CUP

• After reading the comments about my “it’s poor form to complain about officiating” post, I’ve changed my mind. Merty’s comment in particular reminded me of the NBA/FBI/Tim Donaghy fiasco. I’m sure there’s far more $ coursing through World Cup matches than NBA games. Maybe the Malian ref who blew the call at the end of US/Slovenia is cut from Donaghy cloth. So here’s my revised axiom. Whenever athletes are amateurs, it’s poor form to complain about officiating. The corollary is “The younger the athletes, the poorer the form.”

SCHOOLING

• I understand it’s sociocultural/historical roots, but I’m still amazed at how prevalent individualism is in our schools especially when future success will inevitably hinge on interpersonal intelligence. The OHS awards assembly and graduation (where the same award winners were feted a second time) reminded me of that. Why is it that teamwork and groups are only emphasized in extracurricular activities? Our success in solving pressing social, economic, and environmental challenges hinge mostly on team/group work. Sarason’s concept of the “regularities of schooling” comes to mind. A “regularity of schooling” is some feature of teaching and learning that we no longer question, it’s just accepted as the natural order. For example, we always assign grades to each individual student and we only award individual student achievement. This also calls to mind Sarason’s “ocean storm” metaphor in the Predictable Failure of Education Reform. Lots of wind, waves, tumult on the surface during an ocean storm, but no change in water chemistry, temperature, etc, on the ocean floor. The ocean floor is the teacher-student relationship. How would teaching and learning change if we tempered our individualism and focused at least some of our assessment efforts on small group academic achievement?

• During his grad speech, the OHS principal honored the top ten students. A slide of the students flashed above. He said, “good job girls” with no sense of irony or urgency. I’m in the middle of a related article in the most recent Atlantic magazine titled “The End of Men”. Highly recommended.

• Byrnes Postulate (be sure to credit me). The more meaningful the curricular objective and related classroom activity, the more difficult to assess the associated student learning. Granted seems obvious, but I suggest that postulate informs more of what’s wrong with the “standards movement” than is first apparent.

WORLD POLITICS

• Heard an interview with the author of this book. He persuasively argued that no single nation can singlehandedly solve the immigration challenge. Made perfect sense, but it doesn’t seem as if anyone is acknowledging that. In fact, it’s true of most global issues today, but there are at least two serious impediments to thinking more globally and acting more in concert with other people in other nations to address pressing global issues like global poverty, environmental crises, and terrorism/war. First, the U.N. has a lot of negative baggage associated with it and there are wonderful NGOs, but few truly global alternatives. And secondly, no country/region (in the case of the EU) really wants to be take the lead in compromising their relative sovereignty.

FITNESS MALISE

• It’s 12:56p Sunday, we’re on the cusp of the summer equinox, and I’m sitting at my desk in half a cycling kit, staring at a cold, wet, dark gray landscape with 57 miles on the odometer for the week. Pathetic. I started down the street at 9:50a only to turn around when it started to rain. Mother Nature is testing all cyclists’ mental health this June. Look for some to start snapping. I was supposed to be Lance’s domestique on Mount Saint Helens today and then opted for a 10a club ride. Now I’ve performed the rare “double wuss”. My problem is I have nothing I HAVE to train for, not a single event on the calendar. I don’t even think I’ll do our local Oly triathlon in September. I’m 280th on the RAMROD waiting list. This is a desperate cry for help. Someone tell me what event should I do next and why? To add insult to injury, 14 informed me that if I had stayed in bed, her sister and her would have made me a “Dad’s Day” breakfast.

World Cup Notes

• I’m a casual football fan who shamelessly jumps on the World Cup bandwagon every four years. I am not a connoisseur, but after watching it in slow motion a few times, that disallowed goal at the end of U.S. v Slovenia was a terrible, terrible call. But the one thing I dislike more than missed calls, is people who complain about poor officiating. I didn’t see the first 67 minutes. There may have been blown calls that benefited the U.S. Human error is part of the game, deal with it. So, terrible call and points off for me for dwelling on it.

• Why do women always feel sorry for whomever is behind? After the second tying U.S. goal. “Oh no, it looks like the Slovenian fans are crying.” Note to self: teach daughters that whenever you have your foot on your opponent’s throat apply PRESSURE.

• Notice the coaches down jackets? Nice that there’s somewhere colder than Olympia, WA. Of course it is late Autumn in South Africa. It hasn’t reached 75 in this area yet this year. The previous “latest 75 degree” date was June 9th. The high temp on the 10 day forecast. . . 68. High 50’s this weekend. Apparently, summer has been cancelled. Is Rush Limbaugh right, is global warming a crock?

• Why do people complain about things they can’t change? Like the weather.