Learner-in-Chief


If my memory serves me right, both First Ladies Bush, and their husbands read to school children

(Ex-President G W Bush was sitting at one of those school chairs when he first heard about 9/11.)

So it is hard for me to understand the uproar about President Obama’s Back-to-School speech.

How can one protest something one hasn’t read? He himself has been a student, so was his father, and his school-aged children.

My contention is that we should focus our energy and effort on : raising academic standard, shoring up the innovation spirit to revert brain drain (Yahoo with 40 million eye- balls off-shored its engineering and web design to Taiwan)

beefing up security at schools (no drugs or guns) and cranking up teacher’s recruitment from outside of the female helping profession pool (by default, this Recession has brought in more professionals from non-educational fields – braving the old adage “if you can’t do, then teach”).

Here is my rehearsed and undelivered speech. Go ahead and protest. But read it first.

Dear fellow students,

First of, I want to congratulate you for showing up.

The rule has always been, must be present to win.

Second, there are 1 billion people at the bottom of the pyramid currently are living on less than $1.00 a day, so consider yourselves fortunate. Food, clothing and shelter (not education) will always be their concerns, now until they die. Some will never learn what “primary source” or “a priori” is.

Know yourselves and your learning style: audio, visual or kinetic?

While the internet, Google search, Wikipedia help you obtain information,

it’s parents and teachers who help you with formation (by being your role models).

Develop academic intelligence, as well as social intelligence. Resist peer pressure and stand up to bullies. Might as well fight your battle earlier than later.

You will be exposed to conflicting viewpoints, and dogmas. It’s OK to be confused, because if you are not, you haven’t learned enough. Jealously guard your time and attention, two of your most precious commodities.

Determine early on what’s most important to you and stick to it.

( Beckham of the LA Galaxy said he had known early on that he would play pro soccer).

You will appreciate your parents much more when you have children of your own.

But for now, return their kindness by helping out with household chores.

Everyone is tired after a long day. A kiss on their cheek will melt away the exhaustion.

Again, the Golden Rule rules: get along with others, be sensitive to group’s need as much as your own, and devote yourselves to various subjects (so that later on, you have more career choices). America is changing just as the world is. And even within America, we have people coming from all over the world seeking new opportunities everyday.

Learn to listen, even if the speakers have a heavy accent. English level itself doesn’t necessarily reflect one’s intelligence. Read widely, “Netherlands”, “the House of Sand and Fog” – fiction and non-fiction.

(Mandarin is the most popular language, while French is still used in many international treaties. Spanish will be the new Quebec French of the US).

And learn to forgive yourselves as you forgive the adults who have failed you.

Even adults are caught in situations where the chain of command was broken down (Challenger) or they compartmentalized themselves i.e. the silo’s effect which missed the big Ponzi scheme right under their noses (SEC asks, what Madoff investigation?). Great men are great achievers, but they are not perfect. Read their biographies. Chances are you will find a lot of humanity on those pages. Have them learn life lessons for you, borrow their brilliance and avoid their pitfalls.

And last but not least, enjoy autumn foliage while it is still available. Sorry Aspen. Respect trees, which will still be here long after we are gone. And never forget to write nice notes to your teacher, who is your third parent.

My mother was an elementary teacher of 30 years. So I know what sacrifices she  made for her students, whom I envied while a child. And one little tip: always be mentally prepared for the next step. Rehearsing helps you act reflexively and effectively. You have more control over your immediate future that way.

By showing up at school you are already winners. By learning something new everyday, you will one day become what you have meant to be all along. No matter what the situation, don’t let yourselves down.

Goodnight, Good luck and God bless.

P.S. when it comes to learning, you are your own Learner-in-chief, not the President.

 

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