Background

Like many people my age, I am deeply unsatisfied with how our society functions. This has led me to be called, like many of us, a lazy millennial. So I would like to explain a bit about my background to explain why I am so passionate.

As I have mentioned, I grew up in a small town called Madrid. Later I joined the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). Both of these gave me a look at unconventional slices of society. Madrid is a town where many people live off grid, and can get by just working odd jobs. In many ways this is the basis of the lifestyle for Dystopian Dreams (with a whole lot less tech). In the SCA, people are very passionate about sharing knowledge and work together, often without compensation. This is why I know that people will be productive and cooperative by nature. Other people I know from many other contexts have very productive hobbies. Ironically this is often the same people who tell me that if people did not earn money they would not be productive. It all depends on out definition. Sure, without pay people would probably not flip burgers or pack boxes all day, but we are at a point where humans no longer need to take on those tasks. (See Work & Money).

My mother was an elementary school teacher and librarian, her parents were both college professors. They were able to maintain my love of learning even though I went to public schools. I cannot thank them enough for that, I am very lucky. I firmly believe that while educating a person will help them, it is really educating society as a whole that will make a difference.

I graduated from college in 4.5 years with 2 degrees and full honors. I have yet to find this helpful in my life. Once I graduated I found it nearly impossible to find a job in the small city where I was living. I was overqualified for minimum wage jobs and had the wrong degree for anything else. When I moved to a larger city I have still struggled to find a job in my field, but I was able to find a minimum wage job. While I do enjoy working in hospitality it is not really what I want to do as a career. I have a lot of other thoughts, but none of them will really work.

For a time I was a substitute teacher. I graduated high school just before the effects of No Child Left Behind caught up to my grade. Teaching, even less than 10 years later showed me the EPIC failures of that policy. There is an entire generation of students who have been taught a very strict, highly irrelevant, curriculum. Not to mention the test and forget problem. Everything these kids have ever been taught was in preparation for a test. As most people know, once you pass the test the knowledge on it tends to be forgotten. Let me re-state that. AN ENTIRE GENERATION HAS ONLY BEEN TAUGHT IRRELEVANT INFORMATION IN A WAY THAT ENCOURAGES THEM TO PROMPTLY FORGET IT.

I was teaching at the beginning of the Common Core age as well. There have been many viral homework assignments with this to blame. These standards are very damaging to the students and endlessly frustrating to the teachers. It is little wonder so many teachers are not sticking with the profession.

Today I have two kids, one two years old, the other three months. Of course I want to do the best I can for them. To this end I have been considering homeschooling. But I also do not believe that my kids deserve any better than any other kids. I want the public school system to be good enough that I feel it is the best option.

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Common Core

I was a substitute teacher for a time. Because retaining teachers is such a problem these days I ended up with a few long-term assignments. As such I have some experience writing lesson plans. On my single day assignments I have also had the opportunity to see many different teaching styles.

There have been many viral homework assignments renowned for how difficult they are to understand. Allow me to shed some light.

Common Core is a set of standards that must be met. For instance: students at a certain grade need to understand the concept of the place system (100s, 10s, 1s etc.). However the requirements are written so convoluted that they are nearly incomprehensible. (See whole site.)

Decompose numbers less than or equal to 10 into pairs in more than one way, e.g., by using objects or drawings, and record each decomposition by a drawing or equation (e.g., 5 = 2 + 3 and 5 = 4 + 1).
CCSS.Math.Content.K.OA.A.4
For any number from 1 to 9, find the number that makes 10 when added to the given number, e.g., by using objects or drawings, and record the answer with a drawing or equation.

Common Core also limits the teaching techniques allowed. The shortcuts that many learned are banned. Even the way that most people do math is considered a shortcut. I respect that common core wants students to understand the concepts behind the math. When I was in school, we did. Once we had the concepts down, then we learned the quick and dirty shortcuts. As far as I know that is true of most of us. I know we may not all be experts at math but if I asked where the 10s place is, most grown ups get that. I learned with blocks how borrowing for subtraction worked. The problem seems to be that common core takes away things, without giving. There are ways that teachers are not supposed to teach, but they have not been taught any alternatives, so they have to come up with their own. Common Core is not a curriculum (how to teach), but only a set of requirements (what to teach).

There is such a focus on making sure that kids understand the how, that they get over-taught it. I understand counting up and down on a number line or your fingers. I even get skipping down that number line in larger units. I understand adding 4 and 6 fist in a big line of numbers to reach ten then add the harder ones. Some teachers struggle to interpret the question and end up teaching that in order to add 4 and 8 you have to reach 10 first. (4+?=10…4+6=10…8-6=?…8-6=2…so 4+6=10+2 leftover =12.

I understand that learning the concept is more important that getting the right answer all the time, but once the concept it there, learning to write it in a simple way is hardly a shortcut. If taught correctly, it is the how.

The other BIG problem with common core is the requirement of ever younger kids learning ever more complicated topics. I had a kindergartner in tears because he was not developmentally ready to learn subtraction. When I was in kindergarten we were still being taught to count. This leads to a frustration with learning, and a lack of self esteem that most children will never recover from.

 

What Do I Want to Do?

I have never been very good at choosing only one thing to do, but I know I have to focus on one thing in order to make it successful. So I am just gonna write out my ideas here, not that it will probably interest anyone else.

I have been in hospitality for a long time now, and while I don’t really want to continue working for others, I would very much like to own my own hotel. Unfortunately, as they say it takes money to make money. Working for someone else in the type of situation I am in is no way to be able to afford that type of purchase. I have looked into it seriously. That down payment is the big challenge. They also want management experience, which, on paper, I do not have.

The most immediately possible option is starting my own costume business. The problem is that there are already a lot of people doing that, and getting into it enough to make ends meet is a long shot.

When I graduated college I was convinced that I could make a living working at a living history museum. However I have since found that most interpreters are just volunteers. Other interpreters travel doing presentations. This is an option, however I have young kids so I cannot travel to far afield. Until I have made a name for myself, (and probably even after I have) the money would be scant. Schools don’t really have that kind of budget. Right now it would have to work with my work schedule.

I would very much like to get into politics. As anyone who has read much of my writings will know, I see a lot of problems in the world, and that I have solutions, although I cannot, obviously, guarantee that they are any better than any other.

I believe that the other way to make a difference is to educate kids, so that they can make things better. I would like to be a teacher, but like most others who truly believe in learning, I feel unable to provide the type of education that students would benefit from under the current policies.

The most comprehensive, get-to-do-everything idea is starting a camp. This camp does not have any good analogy. It would be a cross between a park, a community center, a school, a summer camp for kids, an intentional community, a farm and a museum. People would be able to visit and just explore, or take classes on anything from sustainability to art, survivalism to philosophy, cooking to religion. If someone wanted to teach it we would offer it, if someone wanted to learn it, we would try to find a teacher. It would be a place to foster a love of learning and pursue a person’s own interests. The people who run it would live on site and in many ways function as one large family. We would grow our own food as much as possible. A few times a year we would have living history events from different time periods. All of the buildings on site would be examples of different types of sustainable architecture, and all power would be produced on site. This is really my dream. We just need to find a way to support us while we build it, and find like-minded people to help.

 

Ideal Education

Okay, I have been putting A LOT of thought into this concept, and it will most likely take many more posts to really flesh out. The reason I have not posted sooner is a fear of not explaining my thoughts coherently enough, so please bear with me.

Children are inherently curious and they love to learn. I see this every day in my 2 year old. Schools today do an excellent job at stamping out that curiosity, and in the U.S. at least, it is getting worse. I will address these causes and specific problems at another time. This is my thoughts on an, admittedly Utopian, educational system.

  1. Everyone chooses what, and when, they learn. If a child starts learning letters early, they can be in the letter class. If someone has a difficult time, they can re-take the class at any age, and as many times as they choose. (Preferably without stigma). This also gives people the ability to balance school with their own lives, whether that is being a kid (see Finland) or raising kids.
  2. Classes are broken down into small units. Rather than having to figure out how to teach letters, sight words, and sentence structure in one class, each student can move on to the next building block at their own pace.
  3. Each teacher creates their own curriculum. All classes on the same topic must cover the same material, resulting in the same end knowledge. However the path to that result can be wildly different. This allows for differences in development and learning styles.
  4. There is a certain level of knowledge required to vote. This would be very elementary. Reading, some basic understanding of numbers (to comprehend the facts behind the issues), basic political systems, and FINDING AND EVALUATING SOURCES for instance. Just the bare necessities to be an informed voter.
  5. Each job would have certain qualifications. Rather than having a bachelor’s degree that shows a person went to school for a certain amount of time and focused on a general field, they could say, ‘I want ___ job, I need to take these certain classes.’ This would make people far more qualified for the job they want.
  6. Education is free for all. No matter how high the level of education, if we want to move forward as a society, everyone needs to be able to better themselves without setting themselves back.
  7. No grades. You either know the information at the end of a course, or you don’t. I hate tests, so finding a way to establish this might be a challenge.

I hope that this brief outline gives an idea of how this system would function. I would love to hear input, and work with others to create a new system, and find a way to implement it.

 

Political Involvement

This election cycle a lot of people are getting very involved in politics. This has made me ask, why aren’t more people involved?

That is a very complicated question. The first, and most influential reason I think, is that people feel like politicians don’t have their interests in mind. This is probably why involvement has gone up so much. There are some candidates who are becoming the voice of people who have not been heard.

Another big reason is that people do not believe that they make a difference. This one, I struggle with myself. We really need to make changes to the electoral system so that every voice is heard and heard equally. ( If you don’t know what I am referring to, look up “electoral college”).

Another big problem is when a person’s life gets in the way. It isn’t that politics are not important, but that something I their own lives has to take precedence. Usually this is because they do not have the freedom to be somewhere art the prescribed time. This disproportionately affects people working unusual hours. Often these positions are low- paying jobs. These are the positions where the employee has very little influence over their schedule. In many businesses, someone must be present 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This means that someone must work on election day, getting time off for other, more influential events, such as caucuses and local elections is perhaps even more difficult.

Is it really surprising then, that these are the people who have very low voter turnouts? These are the people who would benefit the most from things like raising the minimum wage, but they are the least able to influence it.

Some places have, in part, tried to solve this. Washington state sends ballots I the mail, along with a official information book with background on candidates and issues. These can be returned anytime before the end of the election day. This is an amazingly simple and elegant solution.

In order to get people involved, not only do we need to engage them emotionally, but we also need to make sure they have the access to make their voices heard.

Chapter 17 (WIP)- Where Do We Go From Here?

Still amazed by what he was learning, about money and artificially restricted supply chains Rodney stood up. “Jessica, what would you like to see next?”

“I’m not sure. There is so much to see, and I’m still not quite 100%. What is nearby?”

“Well, most of what you wanted to see is pretty close. Let’s save the vehicles until you want to venture out a bit more. So how about we check out some of that automation?”

“That sounds good. Since we are thinking about food, maybe we should start there.”

Rodney thought for a minute. “The delivery is by vehicle, so that can wait. And preparation, well I’m not sure you ready for that.” He paused. “Why not? I can tell you about some of the infrastructure on the way.”

Jessica stood up to follow. “I know, most of our infrastructure is automated too, but people have to maintain it, don’t they?”

“Everything has sensors and routine maintenance is done by specialized robots. Initially building those and the sustainability overhaul took a lot of labor, but now it basically runs itself.”

Jessica thought for a moment, “I know I don’t know a whole lot about how modern life runs, but I’m pretty sure that in my world no one has bothered with a ‘sustainability overhaul.’ Is that just to make it something that allows it to be run by robots, or does it have to do with the environment?”

“Well, yes it got set up for the robots, but it was primarily because of the environmental damage we were doing before.

“For instance, to replace old fuels, the roofs, windows and sidewalks collect energy from the sun. The roads were replaced with parks like this one. It’s not really my field, so I couldn’t tell you all the things they do. I know they are more pleasant and clean up something that would have wreaked havoc on the world.”

“That must have been expensive!” Jessica exclaimed before she realized how illogical her comment was here. “But I guess that is kind of a non issue here, as long as people are willing to do the work.”

“The people who did that work knew that as soon as it was done everyone would have less work, most were passionate about the benefits. Some needed the hours for something they wanted. The more things that people don’t really want to do gets taken over by machine, the more that people get to do the work they love.”

“That’s really awesome that people here were able to get together in time to do something before the world starts going all to hell. Where I’m from, the people who are in a position to orchestrate something like that refuse, and tell everyone else that it’s not happening.”
Rodney was confused, but that quickly became concern. “Why would they do that? And how would people let anyone who would do that get into a position of power?”

Jessica started explaining about elections and loyalties and disheartened people and betrayal, before she stopped and just said, “Money”.

Rodney wanted to ask why people would put up with a system that caused so many problems, but he could see that Jessica was wondering the same thing. And his confusion was no match for her frustration.

They walked in silence for awhile, before Jessica stopped. ” Can I tell you something?”
Rodney was encouraged by her trust. “Sure, what is it?”

Jessica took a moment to figure out how to say what was on her mind. “I have been frustrated for a long time by the way things work in my world. This place seems to have all the solutions.” She paused for a chuckle, “Which might be why it seems like a dream.” She became serious again. “In my world I work all night long, every night of the week, just to have a roof over my head and food on my table. My boss won’t pay more than they have to, I have no time to look for a better job. Then one night a kid comes in to steal money and shot my coworker. Now I have not been working for awhile to recover. I don’t know how I will pay my bills. And on top of that I spent some of that time in the hospital. Each hour there costs more than I make in a whole night. I am beginning to wonder if I am making up this world as a coping mechanism. Each time I am here, it feels more real than the last time. Sometimes I think I am going crazy.”

Rodney took Jessica’s hands. “Do you feel this? Is this real?”

“It feels real. But how—”

“Never mind how. Never mind what other people think of it. You are here right now. Maybe you are only here in spirit, but does that make your experience of it any less real?”
Jessica was beginning to cry. No matter how many times she thought that she had released her stress and anxiety, it kept creeping back. She looked at Rodney, who lifted up her face to look at him.

“It’s alright. You will be taken care of here.”

Jessica sobbed, “But it is there that I am worried about.” Rodney gave Jessica a great big hug.

“I know I can’t help with there in any way but through your mind. How about we fill your mind with solutions, and try to find a way for you to make a real difference back home.”
Jessica pulled back and looked at Rodney. She was beginning to trust him, in spite of the strangeness of this place, these people, and his own persistence. “Thank you.”

 

Table of Contents

Millennials

I am coming to terms with the realization that I am a part of the ‘Millennial’ generation. I had been under the impression that this was a group that was a few years younger than me, but from what I gather, I am actually right in the thick of it.

Why did I have that impression? Probably because I do not associate myself with the stereotypes. OK, yes it is stereotypes, and I know how much worth to put into those, but forgive me for not wanting to be grouped with people who are considered ‘entitled’, ‘lazy’ and ‘narcissistic’. I know that, like most stereotypes, this describes only a small percentage of my generation, but you know how it goes, the bad apples ruin it for everyone.

I have actually been having a hard time finding someone to tell me, or anything online, that actually sums up ‘the quintessential millennial’. I keep finding things on ‘how to market to millennials’, which, now that I think about it, really does sum up how many people of my generation think of themselves.

We are a generation who has been molded by marketing. I know that this is true of other generations too, but I think that it is very obvious with people my age. We are obsessed with physical beauty. Any small imperfection that people find in themselves they tend to latch on to. That said, there has been a lot of push back against this lately. Women especially are learning to fight back and to be proud of who they are without bowing to the ideals that are being pushed on them by the media. Men are having a harder time, I think that it partly because the media has less specific standards to be met, but instead reinforces ‘what it is to be a man’. Stepping outside of those confines is also more socially unacceptable for men. Women are allowed to do masculine things, but men are not really allowed to do girly things.

We are a generation that was raised in a time of great prosperity in this country. We were raised with the expectation that growth would continue, and the world would keep getting better. People would continue making gains with regards to equality, income would continue to rise (not that they really compared it to inflation), if anyone paid attention to the problems of global climate change, they saw that more people were making strides to conserve, for whatever reasons. We were promised that if we did well in school, and got a degree we would be set for life. It didn’t even matter what the degree was in, as long as we had one we would have an easy time finding any job. All in all, the world was a very promising place.

Then, just as we were finding our place in the world, everything changed. With 9/11 we were told that America was the victim in a religious war, and certain people became ‘the enemy’. Suddenly we were told to be afraid all the time, of anyone who was not like us. The government created a way to not only keep a pulse on the fear of the nation, but to control it. Soon the economy fell. My generation was in various stages of starting their careers, some people were looking for a first job, others were just getting out of college.

This is when people really started to get disillusioned. Right now, a college graduate has, on average, tens of thousands of dollars of student loans. We were told that loans were the way to go. We have to build our credit, and once we graduate, our job will easily cover the bills, no problem. Now, where is that field of jobs, ripe for the picking? It does not exist. People who lost their retirement are not going to leave their jobs, so no jobs are opening up. Companies are more careful about how many people they need, and more picky about who they hire. All of the people who were laid off in the aftermath of the crash are out there looking for jobs too. And they have experience on their side, and on their resume. That is not to say they have it easy, no-one is hiring, and the longer you are out of work, the harder it is to get a job.

So now people without a job do not have the luxury of finding the right job, they have to take what they can get. In my case, as for many others, this means a job that starts at minimum wage. I am lucky that this company actually does raises, but most do not. I am lucky that I am making enough to get by, but many others do not. They need government assistance just to make ends meet. The requirements that they must meet in order to continue receiving assistance are already enough to show that these people are not just lazy, as they have been made out to be by the media. In order to qualify for many, they must have, or be actively looking for, a job. Many of the people on these programs have more than one job.

While I may qualify for some of these programs, I have not chosen to take advantage of them. Partially due to the stigma associated with them, and partly due to the trap they often catch people in. In order to qualify, certain income levels must be maintained, but if you make more than that number, the amount of benefits you lose far outweighs the gained income. I am lucky enough to still be able to make this choice, although luck is the only reason. Sometimes things happen in life that cannot be planned for. Sometimes those things turn out okay, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes, even if you have a backup plan, it cannot cover the realities of life. And once that plan gets used up, it just takes one more case of bad luck.

My generation may act entitled, but I guess that is what happens when we are promised the world and then the rug gets pulled out from under our feet. We are being judged by the people who reaped the benefits of that golden age. They do not understand why we are struggling so much, and they think it must be because we are lazy. We have been told all of our lives that if we are just that much better, that much prettier, that much stronger, we will succeed. So is it any wonder that people latch on to these things as the things that will make them happier?

Please, stop blaming us for the economy falling apart, we were handed a broken plate and expected to return a meal on a silver platter. Please, stop telling us that our failure to thrive is our fault. Please, stop telling us that it is our own fault that we are struggling. I am not blaming you, I am just telling you how it is for us.