Something New

I’ve been reading a new series of essays, by Paul Graham. Well, technically, they’re not NEW – but they are new to me.

This one has got me thinking – it’s about the way that writing is taught in schools, and what’s wrong with it (short answer: a lot). But, it also touches on what we should be aiming at when we write an essay.

Well, that got me thinking about blog posts, and how they differ from either news reports or argumentative essays.

The thing is, the posts that stick with me the longest, that have the most impact on my thinking, are NOT those that are fully structured, traditional-type essays.

They are an exercise in writing down the progression of thought, in a way that allows me to gain insight into the subject of that essay.

That’s it. Not the most polished. Not the most elegant.

Just a peek into the meanderings of one person’s thought process.

New Thought – towards the end of the essay, there is something about surprises, and how they occur, and what can come from them (some very good things).

Something else new:

I started listening to music while I write. I’m not one that usually does that; I can go for DAYS in silence.

But, I started thinking about tapping into another part of the brain, and an easy way to facilitate that access is to use a part that I don’t normally use – for me, speech/sound processing.

So far this morning, I’ve used an internet radio site to play:

  • Let’s Hear it for the Boy
  • I Want a New Drug
  • Footloose

Why, yes, I DO like the songs of the 80s! And, the music seems to tap into that memory-generating part of the brain, so, yes, playing that music is worth it – for me. Not necessarily for others.

New Thought:

Dear Heavens, I seem to be a veritable font of those today.

This one was unleashed by another essay, about money and wealth.

If I had to pick one area where the thinking of most people is hopelessly wrong, it would be in the realm of money. Most people are wage-earners. A few have run a business. Even fewer have subsisted by independently selling their labor/products in a crowded market.

Most people, when they think of investing, turn it over to other people – mutual funds, bank accounts/CDs, or pension funds/IRAs. Even the relatively independent will generally look at putting their money into traditional means, such as setting up an account on RobinHood or E-Trade, and picking from among those options.

What most do not do is consider the work of their life as an investment.

When they INVEST in training or education, they look at “things I’d be good at”, rather than the overall cost/benefit for that purchase (including the years needed to be an earner in that field).

They also don’t consider the long-term payback. Will you be able to pay for the amount that was loaned – and interest – with the income you will generate? Even after the cost of setting up an office (for medical people and lawyers)? Even if you have a large overhead (you can find out by talking to someone in your field – most will be quite candid about the huge amount paid in workers, rent, insurances, continuing education, loss of money from unpaid bills, the downsides of managed care or having to scramble for clients/patients)?

It’s relatively simple to work at a job in a related field, and get some understanding of the economics of that work, and whether it would appeal to you. Even if the person had to put some volunteer time in, it would be worth it to check whether the investment was worth the cost – for them.

At the other end of a working life, few realize that having no debt – paid-for housing, no loan/lease on transportation, some savings, and NO credit card debt – is worth more than any number of investments. And, that having a decent relationship with productive family members is worth even more (you never know when you will need that safety net). Having some skills and tools that you can use to generate a part-time income is also handy.

No amount of ‘trips of a lifetime’ will replace the comfort of knowing that you will always have a snug roof over your head, particularly in these inflationary times.

Now, what about that “gap between the rich and the poor”?

What about it?

“One often hears a policy criticized on the grounds that it would increase the income gap between rich and poor. As if it were an axiom that this would be bad. It might be true that increased variation in income would be bad, but I don’t see how we can say it’s¬†axiomatic.

Indeed, it may even be false, in industrial democracies. In a society of serfs and warlords, certainly, variation in income is a sign of an underlying problem. But serfdom is not the only cause of variation in income. A 747 pilot doesn’t make 40 times as much as a checkout clerk because he is a warlord who somehow holds her in thrall. His skills are simply much more valuable.”

The same is true in school. Those students who have mastered skills that are valued in our society (hint: with those skills, they are ready to train for a job paying more money), will get better grades. The grades are a reflection of what valuable skills they have picked up, and how well they have demonstrated they mastered them.

Too many people look at grades as a measure of the worth of a human being. They are not. But they do reflect how well their skillset matches what others will be willing to pay for their labor.

Teachers don’t generally understand that – for most of them, “a teacher – of ANY subject/grade – is worthy of being paid the same as any other teacher with the same educational level (Bachelor’s, Master’s, or doctorate) and number of years doing the job.

This is why we lose so many STEM teachers every year. Because most of them can transfer their skills to private industry, and equal or even make more than they did when teaching.

Not generally true of elementary or non-STEM teachers. They have acquired a skillset that is narrowly useful – only in schools can they make that kind of money. Just about all their education or training is not seen as necessary or valuable by companies outside of the education industry. Most would have to expand their skillset before finding a job paying a comparable amount.

With that mindset (ALL workers in a field should earn the same amount), is it any wonder that kids end up at graduation holding such erroneous ideas?

And, speaking of erroneous ideas, don’t neglect the end of the previously cited article, because what he has to say about Heresies is worth reading.

1 comment

  1. The thing is, the posts that stick with me the longest, that have the most impact on my thinking, are NOT those that are fully structured, traditional-type essays.

    What this? I work my fingers to the bone, slaving over a hot word processor all day, and this is the thanks I get?! (:-)


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