Tuesday, September 20, 2005

More College Students Graduating in Four Years

College students getting degrees quicker
"Fifty-six percent of students entering Penn State's main campus graduate in four years, the highest rate in at least a decade and a share that is 14 percentage points higher than two years ago.

Included are students who studied abroad, tackled multiple majors and faced all the other stresses that caused most of their predecessors in the 1990s to switch to five-, six- or even seven-year plans."
This seems to contradict a lot of the data I've been seeing about increasing dropout rates, longer times to complete degrees, and multiple major switches. They also talk about one of the possible reasons:
"Tom Mortenson, a higher education policy analyst, argues the upswing should surprise no one. He says students who take longer -- usually the poor -- are being pushed toward community colleges and proprietary schools as many four-year campuses hungry for prestige target better prepared applicants, who tend to come from wealthier backgrounds."

Monday, September 19, 2005

Fun as Self-Actualization?

Worthwhile Thought:
"The key to a happy life is to accomplish things that you really feel like are good for somebody beyond just you. Nothing else will do it. A lot of people think happiness is about lots of time to play. I was a manic kayaker for a long time. And there were some people who just managed to arrange their whole life around kayaking and of course, we were all insanely jealous. But then, with the benefit of hindsight, that choice doesn't work out so great and I think it is because it's all about you. OK, maybe you like kayaking, but what are you going to be proud of at the end of the day? You may pass the time more or less pleasantly, but you're not going to feel too good about it. The same thing is true with getting rich." -- Green developer and Mindspring Founder Charles Brewer, interviewed in the Premiere issue of Worthwhile magazine
You could substitute "mountain biker" or "snowboarder" for kayaker and this would apply to me more directly. You could substitute your favourite leisure activity to make it personal, and I'm sure we all know people who are HARDCORE into the things we enjoy, perhaps even inspiring the same kind of jealousy he talks about. I've always included these types of pursuits as part of self-actualization, but are they really? Maybe if you're training to achieve professional status? I've occasionally blamed parenthood for forcing me out of my hardcore leisure focus, but I wonder if I would have tired of it eventually if we hadn't had kids.

It seems now that mountain biking is less an identity thing for me now, and more about how it contributes to the rest of my life: health benefits, appreciation of the environment and my community, and the social aspects. I'm a happier person and I accomplish more in the rest of my life when I ride twice a week, but I don't think I'd be happier and more productive if I rode five times a week.

What about you?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Wealth and Isolation

Chris linked to this interview with Tracy Gary, a woman born into a super-rich family who decided to give away her money and spend most of her time helping people. She has some interesting insights into wealth and happiness, including the link between being rich and social isolation:
"They were suffering from enormous isolation. They'd chosen that fate for themselves by living in 5,000-10,000-square-foot houses where, you know, the desire was to have space and a certain amount of privacy and solitude. But eventually they realized it was making them miserable. They were craving something that money couldn't buy."

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Another Take on Flow

Flow: A new focus, a new idealism...this blog is one of those mind-benders that you might not agree with at first, but it sure gets you thinking outside of your comfortable patterns. From A World of Healthy, Happy People Doing Good and Having Fun:
"We need to create an honorable, pluralistic ethos according to which we acknowledge that many people are dissatisfied with many things in our society – fine, we welcome dissatisfaction as the source of craving for the good. But we never accept whining or criticizing of others or critiques of “society.” If you don’t like it, go fix it, go create a world, a community, a sub-culture in which your ideals can be instantiated, realized, in which you can show us what your vision of beauty and nobility looks like. Create a new social reality, so that I can see your dreams come true. I want to see a world in which billions of dreams are coming true constantly."

Teaching Happiness?

What Does It Mean to Educate the Whole Child?:
"Recently, I have suggested another aim: happiness (Noddings, 2003). Great thinkers have associated happiness with such qualities as a rich intellectual life, rewarding human relationships, love of home and place, sound character, good parenting, spirituality, and a job that one loves. We incorporate this aim into education not only by helping our students understand the components of happiness but also by making classrooms genuinely happy places.

Few of these aims can be pursued directly, the way we attack behavioral objectives. Indeed, I dread the day when I will enter a classroom and find Happiness posted as an instructional objective. Although I may be able to state exactly what students should be able to do when it comes to adding fractions, I cannot make such specific statements about happiness, worthy home membership, use of leisure, or ethical character. These great aims are meant to guide our instructional decisions. They are meant to broaden our thinking—to remind us to ask why we have chosen certain curriculums, pedagogical methods, classroom arrangements, and learning objectives. They remind us, too, that students are whole persons—not mere collections of attributes, some to be addressed in one place and others to be addressed elsewhere."
Via Stephen

Monday, September 05, 2005


A little self-actualization parody from The Onion, about an invented chipmunk created to help kids believe in their potential:
"I knew I could do it—it was hard, yes, it's true. But if chipmunks can climb to the sky, so can YOU!" Chipper said, punctuating his message with a thumbs-up sign and a wink.

According to Dr. Roland Gibson of the American Council For Literature & Ethics, Chipper's core message—that people can be or do anything they want—is a fallacy widely perpetuated in children's books.

Along similar lines, Gwen sent me a link to this: Buddy Lee Guidance Counselor. I guess Lee Jeans has created this character as a sort of surrogate brand and creates these odd interactive sites based on the character. Weird, and I'm not sure it totally works, but some of it is pretty funny.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Not Taking Vacation

Yikes. From Canadians skip vacation, fear falling behind at work:
Benjamin Hunnicutt, a historian and professor at the University of Iowa, argues leisure time has become "trivialized" while work has been "elevated to the modern religion," a way for people to define themselves and find meaning in their lives.

As a result, he says, time off can lead to a feeling of emptiness and boredom.

Surveys find that many Canadians - almost one in five - blame a lack of cash for not taking holidays.

Update: Chris Bailey bounced off this post with some wise words about fear. Also, I keep forgetting to link to this post from the Future of Work blog, pointing out the darker side of being self-employed, at least in the realm of vacation time:
"Those of us in business for ourselves, especially microbusinesses (the very small), find it really hard to take any time off at all. And when you do sneak in a Saturday off, or a long weekend, there's no guilt like the guilt of thinking about what you could be doing right then to generate cash, or build up inventory, or improve your personal infrastructure (like putting away all those old file folders, or organizing your PC files, or doing some research about the future)."

Friday, September 02, 2005

Gems from the Parking Lot

Two divergent gems from the Parking Lot this week. Chris linked to Jon's post telling a story about an engineer at Apple who just kept coming to work after being sacked, and apparently he kept showing up until his project was finished: "His swipe card worked, there were lots of empty offices, so he just kept going, unpaid, for months, creating a fully-fleged and entirely unauthorized skunkworks at the heart of the company." Now that's engagement in your work.

Chris also had some fascinating comments on the looting following the flooding disaster in New Orleans. Class struggle, materialism, greed, poverty, drugs, weapons...the psychology of this stuff makes you wonder how close we are to the collapse of everything we take for granted:
"The looting seems so instinctive, so without purpose (except for the survival necessities of course - what is the immediate survival value of a flat screen TV and a mink coat? What value does such a thing have in a flood? Why waste time and energy acquiring something so useless when food and water is in short supply? One wonders just how close under the surface the possibility for this lies in places where there is a great disparity of wealth."

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Play "Pitfall"

Pat Kane hasn't been posting much about the Play Ethic this summer, but he did write a recent article about the benefits of a playful approach to life. In it, he playfully points to a potential pitfall of engaging in your life on a deeper life -- you start to realize that you can't pursue all of the interesting angles and opportunities that emerge:
"But it's a paradox of the play mentality that the more enthusiasm you have for your self-chosen activities, the more of those activities seem to be on offer. Which leads to a counter-intuitive truth: you need more energy for a player's lifestyle, not less.

Time spent freely surfing on the web crowds your brain with ideas. Lengthy conversations with fellow players at odd times in the day suggest new projects, new angles on things. Your mind-maps teem with possibilities. And where the worker worries whether they'll ever attain the life they want (see the smokers in BBC2's The Smoking Room), the player's anxiety is whether they can realise all the opportunities that life presents them with."

Independent America

It was very cool to follow along virtually with Hanson and Heather as they toured around the U.S. looking for Independent America -- mom 'n pop shops and other non-chain businesses. They're in the process of going through hours of footage and gleaning the best. This week they posted about what they've discovered. The first theme rings most true for me after researching some of this stuff over the past year:
"There's a growing hunger for community in the country -- an appreciation for relationships and civic responsibility. A realization that since we can control so little of what is happening in the outside world, what we can control closer to home matters more than ever. Citizenship vs. consumerism."
I keep blathering about values and how most of us aren't very good at aligning our lifestyle decisions with our core values -- I think the hunger they talk about here is right in the middle of that tension. I'm looking forward to seeing the result of this excellent project.