Maybe (slightly) Reducing the Consequences of Government Education

Government education generally carries with it certain traits.

  1. The history books they purchased by the government tend to focus on the government’s history instead of the history of the people.
  2. They see everything as geography based.
  3. They introduce jobs that tend to have heavy ties to the government. Ask a group of students in elementary school what they want to be when they grow up and you’ll get a bunch of firemen, police men, teachers, lawyers, astronauts, and doctors. Every one of those industries is heavily involved or subsidized through the government.

I’m probably a little more sensitive to this issue than most parents, but there is a part of what my kids were being exposed to at school that seemed nothing more than a marketing campaign for public sector jobs.

So, I decided to do something about it.

Thankfully at precisely the time that I discovered Erin McKean online he was getting asked what he wanted to be in school. So I trained him that if he ever gets asked that question he should respond with ‘I want to be a Lexicographer.’ Then explain that it’s the person who puts words in the dictionary. I then went the next layer knowing that my son would probably get asked what his favorite word was, I proceeded to teach him the word absquatulate.

Fun adventures have ensued.

We’ve learned that Lexicography will not pay a living wage, but he’s no longer trapped in the firefighter, police officer, teacher paradigm. He wants to be an engineer.

This is not what freedom looks like

The next time you hear the song Proud to Be an American please remember this photo.

This is America.

I’m not sure how freedom looks like razor wire and a school bus that limits a student’s ability to go to a non-geographically assigned government oriented educational facility.

I totally agree with those who will say America has more freedoms than other countries. No argument there, but should we be comparing ourselves to other countries? Isn’t there something better and more grand for us to compare ourselves to?

Know Your Spouse–Or at Least Their Transcripts

My wife was helping our oldest son select classes for High School. As the process was taking its natural course (teenager becomes less engaged). She asked if he wanted to take economics.

I recommended it.

Then I remarked that I’d never taken an economics class.

The wife didn’t believe me.

You see, I’d helped her through her macro and micro economics coursework when she had questions and my answers were spot-on with the text books and research she did for the class. Totally makes sense that she would have that impression.

But it was wrong.

So I pulled up my transcript and sure enough. No economics classes.

Years of listening to Freakanomics podcasts and reading Freedman, Hayek, Sowell, and for fun have paid off.

My wife finally told me I was right about something.

Crafton Cougars Song

When I was a kid our school used to have assemblies and we would sing all kinds of patriotic songs.  I imagine this is common across America, or at least was for my generation.

What we didn’t have was a school song.  So, my mom wrote one.  Thankfully the school had the same mascot as her college did.  It’s been at least 30 years, but as of my last inquiry the kids at Crafton Elementary still sing this song.  In this post, I share the lyrics and the story behind them.cougars.png

We are the Crafton Cougars,
We love Crafton School.
We’re the tops, we’re number 1,
Going to Crafton School is fun.
Cougars are loyal students,
We do our very best
We study hard and follow the rules
We’re the Cougars of Crafton School
Rah! Rah! Rah!

Hi there. Nobody asked me to do it. Over a few days the words were just coming into my head, and I’d rattle them around and rearrange them and finally thought it might make a nice school song. When I was in elementary school we’d had one, so it seemed like a reasonable thing. At the elementary level I thought of it more as a school spirit song, than a fight song. The PTA president was in our [congregation] so I ran the idea past her, and she thought it was nice but said she didn’t have any say in something like that. So When I had the words all written down I went and talked to the principal to see if he thought it was an OK idea, and then I got linked up with Mrs Billings to do the music, and we sat at the piano in her room one afternoon so she could create it (I knew how I wanted it to sound, but she firmed up the tune and the notes.) And then we got to teach it to everyone. That was a real fun project.

Interview Feedback

Two weeks ago my daughter had her first job interview for a local pizza company (she got the job). Similarly I did several hours where I was being intervewed for positions within the valley. One of the companies I interviewed with scheduled 5 1/2 hours of interviews. That’s a lot of answering questions. When I was finished I started thinking about the purpose and process of conducting interviews.

In at least two of my previous positions I’ve conducted hiring boards, written interview questions, and even trained others on a hiring process that’s was scaled by one of my previous organizations. I’ve always believed and taught that interviews should be conducted to ask questions that can’t be answered from the resume or other available material like the cover letter, resume, or LinkedIn.

All of those mediums are designed to be one way. It’s the applicant’s part to communicate about themselves using those mediums. A large part of the way our society structures the labor market process is one way. One of the first things to practice in applying for a job is the personal elevator pitch. Pitch is an interesting word to have in that phrase.


  1. to erect or set up (a tent, camp, or the like).
  2. to put, set, or plant in a fixed or definite place or position.
  3. to throw, fling, hurl, or toss. [emphasis added]

The 3rd choice is most apt when refering to the phrase elevator pitch becuase it’s literally the candidate tossing information forward towards the audience.

The problem is, unlike a pitch at a baseball game, few interviewers bother to give feedback to the person making the pitch. Could you imagine a baseball game where the umpire lets four pitches land in the catcher’s glove before announcing the pitch count? “Two balls, two strikes,” he says. That’s a good status update, but it doesn’t exactly give feedback to the pitcher to allow him to change his behavior.

One of the requirements of learning organization is to absorb and respond to feedback. No feedback = No improvement.

I have amazing friends. We look forward to opportinities to work together. I was elated a couple of weeks ago when Sarah Maycock asked me to help do mock interviews at Columbia High School in Nampa, Idaho.

The setting was the exact one that was missing from my high school experience. A caring teacher helping his students prepare for their future created a fictional company and each of the students were supposed to apply for positions in the company. I was one of several fictional ‘hiring managers’ interviewing 3-5 students in 20 minute increments.

All of the fictional hiring managers were recruiters and others with amazing portfolios of experience. I was impressed to be in the room with them. Sarah has a great way of networking with some of the best talent the Treasurer Valley has to offer.

Teenagers are more expressive. I did my best to maintain a neutral expression and I could see they were frustrated by some of the interview conversation norms. So I started responding to their frustration by providing more immediate feedback–especially the parts they did well. After all, we needed to assess them for a grade, but not at the expense of helping them improve.

When I was designing hiring processes one of the key things I’ve brought to the table was to help those on the panel realize that their questions were actually training someone who would be joining our staff. After all, we’re going to hire someone from the pool and the questions we ask are going to teach them what we care about and what the job requires.

For the high school students I let them answer as themselves, and when there were opportunities to compliment their experience, tone, or overall communication style I did so. Nerves relaxed and their confidence grew.

There are may good reasons why I’m grateful high school is not real life, but the lesson here can be applied beyond high school. It’s ok to interview people and provide them feedback when they’re doing well. A good job, or a kind follow-up question can go a long way to help people improve. Be open to providing feedback and be humble enough to receive it.