Saturday, March 31, 2007

Learning to Succeed

It’s been true for some time now, that we don’t need MORE education -- but LESS. But we need to learn the one thing that enables us to learn all the other things -- as needed, when we actually have to -- because the old manner of learning as much as we can, in the hopes that one day something might be useful, is really an outmoded and fallacious understanding of knowledge, learning and understanding.

The one skill every person needs to learn is simply how to process any piece of information -- as in computer programming, which reduces any bit of information to a universal digital code. It doesn’t matter whether it is health, business, philosophy or technology now -- as in the traditional (obsolete) education of categorizing, fragmenting, specializing the world of experience into many jargons, jurisdictions and hierarchies -- mainly to keep out the casual learner. That has become an increasingly useless and irrelevant education.

The really useful education of these times is learning how to function optimally and practically in this world -- rather than just academically and theoretically. It used to be that people were very impressed if one could tell them all one knew. But in this age of abundant information, we all only have time for the information we want to know -- and not everything that could be known.

Obtaining just that, is really the easiest and most essential lesson to learn -- and one can learn everything else, when there is a real need to. Learning just for the sake of learning, is not a powerful enough reason and motivation -- especially for the wisest and most perceptive. That is frequently the problem with the most gifted students. They have a passion, focus and intensity for learning (and creativity) because they can see through the false and inessential.

When people are vitally interested in what they are learning, there is no limit to what they can learn -- or how much they can learn. But if uninterested, they are like the people who get on the bus each day with the same book for the last twenty years who can never get pass the first page because they always read the same line over and over again. When asked why don’t they read a different book, they insist they have to stay with that book until they finish it, before going on to any other.

And so they never get around to learning vitally, all the great things happening in the world -- and how much easier and better, life could be because of their learning all the things useful and practical to learn. We need to learn in this new way -- and not just the old politically correct way, to be “correct.” That kind of "education" has no meaning -- though undoubtedly, the professional educators can keep providing more of that same.

Life is too important to learn all those things just because somebody else says it is for our own good. We each can determine that for ourselves -- once obtaining the basic skills, for processing any piece of information -- of which the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are the fundamental orientation we need to have -- in order that we can live daily lives of our own inclination, temperament and talent -- as intelligently as possible. The great injustice is that some students begin kindergarten with that exposure to those enabling technologies and orientation -- while many others will regard that as a threat to their entire being and way of life.

We need to level at least that playing field for all our citizens -- to live the lives now possible that could never have been imagined possible even by the previous generation of "teachers."


At April 04, 2007 10:06 AM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

The only places where people "fail" -- and LEARN to fail -- is in schools. Everywhere else, people are only learning to succeed -- despite any outcome. Any outcome is just providing us with information and feedback on what works and what doesn't -- so to be obsessed only and always with being "right," is very destructive to the human personality -- because that is the valuable learning experience, including making mistakes.

Instead, young people are taught to condemn and admonish themselves for not getting things right always -- and the natural response is not to improve, but to deny that one ever makes mistakes. And of course, that is the greatest and only mistake in life.

Any "mistake," regarded properly and honestly as a mistake, is an important lesson in seeing things rightly. Otherwise, one learns early in life the confusion of wishful-thinking with the way things really are, which is reality.

As adults, such people come to regard what they want to believe, and want others to believe, as the ONLY reality, and that's why there is the often witnessed hypocrisy of saying one thing and doing something entirely different, that is the unfortunate consequence of contemporary liberal studies -- without the requirement that education be the integration of all knowledge rather than the fashionable fragmenting of it into all the different specialties so that each narrow self-interest group, can claim a wisdom and expertise that is not readily apparent to everybody else.

It should not be a contest between whether science or ethics is more important than the other -- or whether one opinion is better than the other. What is important is determining how the facts were arrived at -- which is seldom taught as the basic curriculum -- because most of the teachers find it too hard to teach.

Meanwhile, political correctness is very easy to teach, because all one needs to say is that everybody believes that is so -- to be convincing -- and especially, every body who should know, thinks this way. But that does not make it a fact -- and one should know that difference.

At April 05, 2007 9:36 AM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

There’s already a distinctive difference emerging from the writing/dialogue in the online and print editions of the local newspapers all over the country. The former is emerging as the superior product as the sign of its time and emerging technology/personalities. Notably absent is the control hierarchy and mechanisms of self-designated and self-imposed “very important people” -- such as the journalists have proclaimed themselves to be.

They have to go out into a world in which they have to demonstrate their merit -- without the protection and support of the Association (AP) behind them. That’s a frightening world for professionals of every category -- used to having their Association provide them instant credibility.

Many still are not used to communicating in that way -- especially those in the highly protected enclaves of the media, schools and universities -- of privilege in the oligarchy of these times -- or at least the previous one. Societies always become more free and more equal -- because that is the better choice. People once free, tend to choose not to give up those freedoms -- but to desire more freedom, which eventually, is the freedom to make up their own minds about how their lives can be, rather than having self-designated and self-imposed people tell them what that must be.

That struggle is best characterized in the issues of “political correctness” -- which was previously determined by a self-designated and self-imposed few -- “for the good of all.” In a previous time, people went along -- feeling less confident to challenge the pronouncements from on high. Their “education” largely was an indoctrination of who the right persons were to listen to -- which invariably was themselves.

The techniques for discovering the truth of any matter for oneself (scientific methodology) fell out of favor to the arts of persuasion and manipulation as practiced by the various professions -- that taught one how to seem “professional.” Primarily, that was by familiarizing their practitioners with their exclusive jargon and protocols -- that would also intimidate those unfamiliar from such advantage.

Such a strategy works if information is scarce and difficult to come by. When those are no longer the conditions, there is no longer the group immunity but each individual has to demonstrate their own competence in the open forum -- that many, not having had a challenge to their authority, are unprepared to deal with.

At April 05, 2007 4:12 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

Since we won’t read all about it in the daily newspapers:

Who's Running the Asylum?
By Malia Zimmerman, 4/5/2007 2:26:15 PM

Who would want to head up a notoriously dilapidated, dysfunctional and dismal state prison system where people from all walks of life from the mentally ill, to unionized prison guards, to criminals with extensive rap sheets including convictions of rape, murder and assault and their ACLU backers, to the 25 members of the Hawaii State Senate - would tell you how to do your job? Not only that - they would have a say if they weren’t satisfied with your performance. No, this isn’t a reality television show. No, this isn’t an episode of Survivor on a remote island. But this is the reality that anyone heading up Hawaii’s Public Safety department will face.

Surprise! There aren't many takers. Especially for a salary under $100,000 a year. But Iwalani White was willing to take the challenge. She believed not only in the cause, but in her ability to make the changes that would make a positive difference. But would she get that chance?

White was raised in the projects, and pulled herself from poverty to achieve greatness as a state family court judge and the city’s first deputy prosecutor. She didn't go to charm school. She didn't take Politics 101 to learn to grovel to politicians. She missed that public relations class on how to deal with the media. That much is obvious.

But all that aside, White is a local woman who exceeded by a long shot what statistics would say she would, and she went on to become the first woman to run Hawaii’s prison systems.

Gov. Linda Lingle appointed White as director of this department 8 months ago after tremendous turnover. White hoped the Senate would confirm her as director so she could continue with the makeover she’d started.

But her life long struggle towards success, (or a night in a pit of poisonous snakes and ravenous rats), might have seemed easy compared with the extended confirmation process she endured in the Hawaii State Senate these last couple of weeks.

After two long, grueling hearings before the Senate Public Safety Committee, White was not confirmed on the Senate floor on Monday by a vote of 16 to 9.

Before White even set foot in the Senate Public Safety Committee, Senate Committee Chair Wil Espero, egged on by the mental health “advocates” working in the system and Lynette Mau, mother of alleged triple murder suspect Adam Mau-Goffredo, had waged a successful campaign to unseat her. Lynette Mau sent out regular emails to lawmakers and the community on perceived failures of the state’s mental health programs and facilities and asked for testimony against White. With these opponents’ guidance, Espero sought out and subpoenaed 9 people who were unhappy with White during her brief time on the job. The Senate chair didn’t seek positive testimony in the same fashion.

Apparently White had shaken up the historically dysfunctional prison system, because of the 100 people who testified at her hearing, 21 people were opposed to her confirmation.

To the casual observer, the hearings were actually quite a frightening reflection of what White must have endured during her brief tenure. So called “mental health advocates” looked and spoke as though they’d endured one too many shock treatments or possibly had swallowed an overdose of Prozac. One sitting in the front row even openly fell asleep during the hearings, waking only to occasionally nod her head or offer her testimony. Prison guards, some who looked as though they ought to be behind bars and not overseeing the prisoners, grunted almost unintelligible complaints about White’s management style and objected to being put under investigation by her for various and sundry alleged deeds. A couple of well-respected professionals in the system testified against White citing her management style, but those negative reports were miniscule compared to the big names that backed her.

No one opposed to White claimed that she was corrupt, dishonest, or incompetent. Her critics either complained about the prison system that has been over-crowed and poorly managed for the last 4 decades, long before she arrived. Or they accused her of being a poor communicator and manager who hadn’t done enough – or had done too much – in her brief tenure.

White supporters said just the opposite – that she’d been aggressively pursuing fixes to the department’s long-standing problems and that she was just the person to make much needed changes.

Behind the scenes, an unusual combination of people lobbied on her behalf. The state’s top private and public union leaders as well as Honolulu City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle, her former boss, Mark Bennett, the state attorney general, and the Republican governor and her staff, asked lawmakers to confirm her. They packed the Senate chambers on Monday in support of White.

It was an unfortunate reality that through the process, White was one of her own worst enemies. Her biggest supporters quietly acknowledged that White had been so focused on fixing the problems in her department, that she often ignored media requests and phone calls from the public. Freedom of Information Act inquiries were stacked up in her office, going unanswered for months, if answered at all. She didn’t communicate well enough with her 2,400 employees so that they understood the changes she was trying to make. And finally, she didn’t lobby adequately on her own behalf, not even taking the time to meet with all 25 Senators before the final vote, as all nominees inevitably should.

But was that enough to can her – especially when so many of the state’s most prominent people came out to rally for her? Nine of 25 Senators said no, but they lost to the majority vote.

Sen. Espero led the charge against White. In a speech on the Senate floor before her supporters, Espero said he was not putting down White’s talents or past accomplishments, but did not believe she was the right person for the job. He laid out several accusations against her made by detractors, mainly focused on management style or personality.

Four of the five Senate Republicans gave speeches on White’s behalf. Sen. Fred Hemmings argued not only was she the best person for the job, but that no one else wants the job. Sen. Paul Whalen, who supported White’s confirmation in committee, said she was more than qualified and had many, many more supporters than detractors. Whalen questioned why detractors, many who had conflicts of interest, had more weight than supporters. Sen. Sam Slom noted White was hoping to head up the “Department of Public Safety”, which was supposed to live up to its name and keep the public safe. He asked if the public would be safer with a department with no leader, than with a leader with the mental toughness, the academic and law enforcement experience and passion to make the necessary reforms and stand by them. Slom also dismissed the few criticisms about her management style, pointing out several made no sense and were not backed up by facts.

Several Democrat Senators who voted in opposition said privately that they potentially would jeopardize the careers of those who came forward to testify against White, if they didn’t vote to oust her. Slom countered, “What about Iwalani White’s career being put in jeopardy by her critics?”

Outside the governor told the media how disappointed she was in the Senate’s decision, saying she believes White is the right person at the right time for this job: “Iwalani has proven to be an effective director of a department that has very tough challenges. Iwalani has brought stability to the department and structure to the staff, which was made clear by the number of Public Safety Department employees who turned out to testify in her favor.”

Peter Carlisle, who drafted White from her position as a family court judge nearly 10 years ago to serve as his first deputy director, is one of her biggest supporters. He said the vote was disappointing, not only for White and those who believe she can make a difference, but for the people who work under her.

White isn’t the first person this legislative session that Senators planned to oust through an organized solicitation and subpoenaing of disgruntled employees.

She certainly won't be the last.

In fact, Department of Human Service Director Lillian Koller is on the hot seat this week. Department of Land and Natural Resources Director Peter Young will be next. Fourteen people have already been subpoened against Young next Wednesday in what one Senator says is sure to be a "bloody" event. Deputy Prosecutor Glenn Kim was subjected to the same just days ago, but overcame a seemingly sure defeat on the final floor vote.

The question Sen. Hemmings asked from the Senate floor during the White confirmation - “Who the hell would want this job?” - is a poignant one.

If people fear that everything they may have said, thought or done in their life might come out in a confirmation hearing, they won't apply to work in public service. After all, whose closet is skeleton free? Certainly not the Senators'.

While it is appropriate to assess a candidate’s credentials and make sure they are not a shyster or a mass murderer, it is important to weigh the pros and cons, and look at the motivations and credentials of those who do come forward against the candidate.

If not, the Senators might get so desperate to find someone they approve of to take the job, that they will have to do it themselves. That is, in between running their own assylum at the Hawaii State Capitol.



* Roz Baker
* Robert Bunda
* Kalani English
* Wil Espero
* Clayton Hee
* Gary Hooser
* David Ige
* Les Ihara
* Donna Mercado Kim
* Russell Kokubun
* Ron Menor
* Clarence Nishihara
* Norman Sakamoto
* Jill Tokuda
* Shan Tsutsui
* Colleen Hanabusa


* Carol Fukunaga
* Mike Gabbard
* Fred Hemmings
* Loraine Inouye
* Sam Slom
* Brian Taniguchi
* Gordon Trimble
* Suzie Chun Oakland
* Paul Whalen


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