Monday, January 24, 2011

The Over-Education of America

We are a great nation.  We are.  We help the world, we change ourselves when we need it, we have grown up and grown strong in a short number of years as a country.  I love America, I love the fact that we fight the good fight and we stand as a symbol of freedom for the world.  The USA makes me proud.

We are a country where anyone can become anything.  Seriously, despite what the propagandists want us to believe, if you can dream it you can achieve it, regardless of circumstance.  Bill Clinton grew up in a trailer fer cryin' out loud.

And in that excellent vein of being able to become anything we want, higher education is available to all.  To everyone.  Unlike other parts of the planet, no one will be excluded because of socioeconomic status, race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.  Everyone can enter.  There are standards, yes, but if one studies, learns and graduates high school or gets a GED, anyone can go to college.  It might not be Harvard or Stanford, but one can go.

So, we in America are free to attend college, and attend we do!  We get technical degrees, and baccalaureate degrees, and masters and doctorates and specialities galore!  We are students for years, for decades!  We sign up and go, go go!

And, we pay, pay, pay.

When I worked for the Red Cross I met so many young people saddled with large amounts of college debt.  I couldn't believe how much these young kids, fresh out of school, owed.  They were swimming in it.

And, yet, here they were working for their hearts at a non-profit.  They say you really work at a non-profit for the benefits because the salary is rather thin, and that's pretty much true.  Here are these young idealists pouring out their hearts and souls for a cause, and carrying around a mass of college debt that will take them decades if not a lifetime to repay. 

And, yet, the atmosphere in the social services industry promotes even more education.  Sure, you got your bachelor's, but what you really need now is a masters.  And, don't forget that doctorate!  The people who can least afford to continue racking up tuition bills are the ones being pushed back to the books.  The theory is that they can advance in their careers if they have more letters after their names.

And, that's not just true for social work, it's true in every industry.  More degrees equals more pay, better titles, advancement.

But, I have to ask, at what cost?

Nearly 70% of students graduate with debt, and the average student in 2009 graduated with $24,000 debt.

That's a really nice car.  If you're not making much money, that can be a staggering number.

For some professions it totally makes sense because one's salary power can increase dramatically.  A general physician can increase his or her salary by specializing.  A chemical engineer can increase his or her take home with advanced degrees and certificates. 

However, with other professions, it only allows a slight bump in earning ability.  The degree for the lower-paid professionals acts a status symbol to placate peers and expand resume rather than a driving force to increase income.

The problem is now pandemic because industry reasons why hire a bachelor's when we can get a master's or a doctorate?  We've got highly educated and degreed professionals doing monkey work because the field is littered with over-educated and over-qualified individuals fighting for the few positions open in these hard economic times.

Higher education IS a good thing, it really is.  But, look what's happened.

According to numbers out at the end of 2010, college debt in the US is nearing $1 trillion.  It has surpassed credit card debt. 

These days if a person wants to get hired, he or she must ensure the right degrees appear on the resume, otherwise it's back to campus...

...and the financial aid office. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Princesses and Honey

Theme: Encourage others in a positive way.

My sister and I grew up with means.  And that fact, the fact that Daddy made money, enveloped some other people's perception of us.  We were "the princesses."

Not, they have such loving hearts.  But, they are spoiled princesses.  Not, they care about others and devote their energies to causes that help others.  But, they are spoiled princesses.  Not, they are kind, stand up for those who can't stand up for themselves, and give generously.  But, they are spoiled princesses.

They just saw the external and didn't bother to check out the internal.

(Note: I need to tell you that I currently don't have means. My Daddy had means, but I don't. We live a simple life, we have a modest home, a modest budget to which we religiously stick, we give as we can, and we splurge a little.  My goal is to make my life as simple as possible, and I'm working diligently on that.)

Because of my upbringing, I know firsthand how seemingly good people can allow the enemy to prosper in their hearts because they are looking only at the surface...and perhaps reading their own agenda into someone's life.

When people are seen through a lens of what they have, the exterior and material, and not who they are, then prejudice takes root.  And those doing the judging can feel self righteous about it because it fulfills a stereotype and highlights how much better they are at living and giving. 

An ego not reined in by self and God can misjudge.  Even a good, beautiful, giving Christian ego.

And, I 'm guilty of it!  Despite the fact I've been on both sides--the judged and the judger.  Maybe you understand, too.  Have you been on both sides, too?  I know I still work on not judging others in a self-righteous snit.

It's easy to judge another person's lifestyle when you see a thumbnail and not the full picture.  It's easy to think that people who live in a big house and eat out a lot have ample money and should be giving it to the poor or those in need.  In our financial services business (closed 2 yrs now) we saw client after client who bought into the American Dream, buying big and often, yet still barely living paycheck to paycheck. 

In American today, granite countertops and hardwood floors don't necessarily indicate wealth, in fact they could spell poverty.

My point is that when people are in the trenches and life is difficult they could think they work more than anyone.  They could also think that they help more than anyone, and that they suffer more than anyone.  It's very, very easy to place blame on those perceived to be sitting on the sidelines. 

When a person gives it all, emotionally and physically, practically out of breath and shirt dirty and dripping with sweat, it's very easy to judge the person in the clean, dry shirt.  I know, I've been scratched and bruised and wondering why the manicured hands aren't helping me. 

But, it's all about perception.

Maybe people have don't have the time it appears.  Maybe people don't have money they seem to have.  Maybe something external simply doesn't exist on the internal.  Maybe we don't see the hours or dollars donated, and the needy people uplifted and served.

To be effective and help others be effective, we have to be encouragers and supporters.  Because when we look at other people, regardless of their circumstances and our prejudices, we truly don't know the whole story.  We can never know. 

So, we have to assume the best and inspire others.

Honey is a much better attractor to a cause than vinegar.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Rex Ryan, "It's Personal" Plan to Victory

Theme: Rex Ryan had a winning strategy and I didn't see it.

So, in the week leading up to Rex Ryan and the Jets playoff game against the Patriots, Ryan shot his mouth off about Brady and Belichick and how "personal" his beef was with the Pats.

I'm like, dude, you're a head coach of a nationally ranked football team.  You're a leader and captain of your ship.  You're the elite.  Stop talking smack!  Let your linemen talk smack.  You have to rise above it and guide the vessel.

I think I might have been wrong.

Let's see, what did that smack talk produce?  Ryan galvanized his team.  They shut the Pats down and won handily.  Two players being interviewed before the game talked about how personal it was with them.  Ryan had gotten into their heads.  The whole team had a chip on their shoulders and they were out for blood.  (Pats had beat them into the ground earlier this year with a 45-3 blowout, btw.)

Then, AFTER the game, after the big win against his personal rivalry of Brady and Belicheck, Ryan pulls a 180!  I'm like, huh?  In his post game interview, Ryan's talking about how Brady is a formidable opponent, the best there is, and how Belichick is the greatest coach in the NFL, probably the best coach of all time.  He was sugar coating it so much I about had an insulin rush.

I have to admit, the guy knew what he was doing.  Here's Ryan's winning game plan: 

1. Make it personal.  Engage your team in your vision and have them make it personal, too. 

2. Study your opponent.  Ryan admits he watched the entire footage of the Pats grinding them into the ground 45-3 about 20 times.

3. Elevate your victory.  When you've conquered your created foe, lavish him/them with praise, thus making the win even more substantial.

Could I say Rex Ryan was tilting at windmills?  Maybe.  Could I say he had the Pats beat before the game even started?  Definitely.

P.S.  Here's a funny tweet from Jon Acuff (Stuff Christians Like blog): "Rex Ryan announces there's a Pittsburgh hot dog vendor who once slighted him. It's personal with Steelers."

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Arizona Shooting is the Haiti Earthquake Part Two

Theme: Giving to others might not come in the package we intend, so we have to change our idea of how to give.

So, the Lefties say the Righties are to blame, and the Righties say the Lefties are to blame for blaming the Righties.  To me, the AZ shooting had nothing to do with politics so I don't know how any one of them can insert themselves into the sadness.

But, wait!  I do know.

Here's what's going on: EGO!  Yes, ego.  The egos of the Righties and Lefties and Nutjobs are what is driving this insipid political posturing. 

In Arizona they have found a tragedy to exploit to their own benefit.  They harumph, pontificate and incite to appear as if they are "concerned," "caring" and "righteous" but in reality, their words are merely noise, blather to shine their faces in the spotlight and garner a little bit of attention that their egos lap up like kitten milk.

It's like the Haiti earthquake all over again. 

I was working for the Red Cross at the time setting up blood drives.  We couldn't say that the blood we collected was going to help Haiti victims, but in NC we all knew that FL was sending blood to Haiti and we in NC were sending blood to FL to make up for the loss.  We were on appeal for blood, and really pushed getting those extra pints in, extra pints we knew were greatly needed both locally and globally.

BUT, I can't tell you how many people wanted to set up a blood drive "for Haiti."  I told them I couldn't do it.  We couldn't promise that the blood would go to Haiti. 

As I was taking appointments for one drive, a man came up to me.

"I want to make sure my blood is going to Haiti."

"I can't promise that, we need blood everywhere, not just Haiti."

"Then I'm not giving."  And he walked away.

Um, okay dude.

Another potential blood donor, a gal asked me, "Can't you just send my blood to Haiti?  I can't give in the States, but if my blood just goes to Haiti, then it will be okay, right?"

Um, no.   

Of the myriad of things going through my mind, the first was picturing a healthy Haitian baby contracting a disease from the deferred blood donor. 

I understand that people want to help, I understand that people want to give, but when it doesn't come in the package they intend, instead of changing their outlook on how they can help, they walk.  That's ego-giving, not giving.     

When people make it about themselves, even for the good of others, then God isn't working in us.  When our egos drive our ambitions, even when we appear magnanimous, then it's not really touching other lives in the way God intends.

We have to be careful of our motives.  Our motives are the true barometer of our hearts, and when we act to satisfy our own egos then we fail to act for God.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

It's worth fighting for

Frodo: What are we holding on to, Sam?

Sam: There's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it's worth fighting for.

Yes, I believe there IS good in this world, and it's worth fighting for.

Something about the Arizona shooting, not the shooting itself, or the people killed, or the lives fractured, but the aftermath of the tragedy has given me hope. It's given me hope that decent people still rise up, take action, and protect those who need it. 

Politicians and others (while victims were still fighting for their lives and families were fresh with grief over those killed) used the situation to promote their particular ideologies.  BUT, saner heads prevailed, and those who might have used the devastation to springboard their agendas have been silenced.

Those idiots who protest funerals are planning to picket the 9-year-old little girl's funeral.  BUT, they will be shut out.  Quite literally by angel wings, built high and large to shield the family and friends from their satanic protest and destructive signage.

People can do good, and they do.  People can see truth.  People can help others.

There is good in this world, Mr. Frodo, there is.  And, it's worth fighting for.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


I'm trying to stay away from the news, but I just can't.  It assaults me everywhere.  I was listening to the radio on my one, one, one day to Xmas shop without the kids, and I heard about a little girl about Anna's age dying in a car accident.  Her mother was driving.  Days before Christmas.  I picture her presents wrapped and under the tree.  I picture her excitement and parties and fun.  But, then she's gone.

I can think of no words, not even a prayer.  I remember driving and crying and screaming. 

Now, today, I happened upon the news and the mother of the little girl shot to death at the AZ shooting massacre was being interviewed by phone, and the mom's distraught voice tight and hard with grief still echoes in my ears.

And sadness fills my heart.

There is no pain greater on this planet than a parent losing a child.  None.

And, I revisit driving to my former coworker's son's viewing on Friday night, and attending my friend's son's funeral, and the Haiti blogs of children no longer here.  Death that comes too soon and too suddenly to children fills me with so much loss and hopelessness.

I try to turn to God, and I pray fervently for the parents left behind, but I still seek His hope.  His promise of hope, and it's hard to find it behind the cloud of grief and the tears shed too many.

So, I hug my children tighter, and relax more in the moments that would cause me stress.  I stroke their hair and brush their cheeks and cling to them. 

Life is fragile and short.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


It's dificult to say who's learned more from Homeschooling this past semester, me or the kiddoes.  I would gather moi. 

I fretted over curriculae that turned out we didn't need.  I worried about them falling behind, which is a fallacy of traditional school.  I agonized that I wasn't cut out for out this. 

But then, as always, the kids put it into perspective for me.  "Mom, I get to hug you anytime I want during the day."

Wow.  Doesn't get much better than that.

I'm still fretting and worrying and agonizing about the delivery system, but I rest comfortably knowing it's the right thing at this right time for our specific family.