Tag Archives: social-emotional learning

Cipher in the Snow, Revisited

I first came across a short story called Cipher in the Snow by Jean E. Mizer in a 1970’s college textbook that has been long lost. Even though it was fiction, Cliff Evans has haunted me since. Is this fiction all too often too close to reality?

An administrator once told me the toughest thing to accept for any educator is that you cannot win every battle. But the story of Cliff Evans drove me every day, not those cautions. What did they know?

This is what drives me, the burning question that stays with me still as posed by Mizer in this passage from Cipher:

How do you go about making a boy into a zero?

The grade-school records showed me. The first and second grade teachers’ annotations read “sweet, shy child;” “timid but eager.” Then the third grade note had opened the attack. Some teacher had written in a good firm, hand: “Cliff won’t talk. Uncooperative. Slow learner.” The other academic sheet had followed with “dull;” “slow-witted;” “low IQ. “ They became correct. The boy’s IQ score in the ninth grade was listed at 83. But his IQ in the third grade had been 196. The score didn’t go under 100 until seventh grade. Even shy, timid, sweet children have resilience. It takes time to break them.

How about outside of education? How much influence does giving a “ranking” to employees drive the reality of who they are and how they perform? Can we make people a “zero”? We seem to be obsessed with doing so, starting very early in the education system and continuing on with traditional competency-based development.

All in all, we’re just another brick in the wall. (somebody I know named Floyd…)

Yesterday I decided it was time to revisit Cipher. It was easy to Google as I had never forgotten the story’s title, or the lessons it imparted. Or Cliff Evans. But I had forgotten just a little how powerful Ciphers really is. The piece follows below, as it is a prime example of the importance of connecting.

How could a person not care?

Educators have a moral obligation to connect with kids, to encourage them to more fully engage in their education and in their own futures. They do so by having truly meaningful conversations, one-on-one. And by showing a genuine interest in students and their well-being.

Cipher in the Snow by Jean E. Mizer

It started with tragedy on a biting cold February morning. I was driving behind the Milford Corners bus as I did most snowy mornings on my way to school. It veered and stopped short at the hotel, which it had no business doing, and I was annoyed as I had come to an unexpected stop. A boy lurched out of the bus, reeled, stumbled, and collapsed on the snow bank at the curb. The bus driver and I reached him at the same moment. His thin, hollow face was white even against the snow.

“He’s dead,” the driver whispered.

It didn’t register for a minute. I glanced quickly at the scared young faces staring down at us from the school bus. “A doctor! Quick! I’ll phone from the hotel.”
“No use. I tell you he’s dead.” The driver looked down at the boy’s still form. “He never even said he felt bad,” he muttered, “just tapped me on the shoulder and said, real quiet, ‘I’m sorry. I have to get off at the hotel.’ That’s all. Polite and apologizing like.”

At school, the giggling, shuffling morning noise quieted as the news went down the halls. I passed a huddle of girls. “Who was it? Who dropped dead on the way to school?” I heard one of them half whisper.

“Don’t know his name; some kid from Milford Corners,” was the reply.

It was like that in the faculty room and the principal’s office. “I’d appreciate your going out to tell the parents, “the principal told me. “They don’t have a phone and, anyway, somebody from school should go there in person. I’ll cover your classes.”

“Why me?” I asked. “Wouldn’t it be better if you did it?”

“I don’t know the boy,” the principal admitted levelly. “And in last year’s sophomore personalities column I note that you were listed as his favorite teacher.”

I drove through the snow and cold down the bad canyon road to the Evans place and thought about the boy, Cliff Evans. His favorite teacher! I thought. He hasn’t spoken two words to me in two years! I could see him in my mind’s eye all right, sitting back there in the last seat in my afternoon Literature class. He came in the room by himself and left by himself. “Cliff Evans” I muttered to myself, “a boy who never talked.” I thought a minute; “a boy who never smiled. I never saw him smile once.”

The big ranch kitchen was clean and warm. I blurted out my news somehow. Mrs. Evans reached blindly toward a chair. “He never said anything about hem’ ailing.”

His stepfather snorted. “He ain’t said nothin’ about anything since I moved in here.”

Mrs. Evans pushed a pan to the back of the stove and began to untie her apron. “Now hold on,” her husband snapped. “I got to have breakfast before I go to town. Nothin’ we can do now anyway. If Cliff hadn’t been so dumb, he’d have told us he didn’t feel good.”

After school I sat in the office and stared blankly at the records spread out before me. I was to close the file and write the obituary for the school paper. The almost bare sheets mocked the effort. Cliff Evans, white, never legally adopted by stepfather, five young half-brothers and sisters. These meager strands of information and the list of D grades were all the records had to offer.

Cliff Evans had silently come in the school door in the mornings and gone out the school door in the evenings, and that was all. He had never belonged to a club. He had never played on a team. He had never held an office. As far as I could tell, he had never done one happy, noisy kid thing. He had never been anybody at all.

How do you go about making a boy into a zero? The grade-school records showed me. The first and second grade teachers’ annotations read “sweet, shy child;” “timid but eager.” Then the third grade note had opened the attack. Some teacher had written in a good firm, hand: “Cliff won’t talk. Uncooperative. Slow learner.” The other academic sheet had followed with “dull, “ “slow-witted;” “low IQ. “ They became correct. The boy’s IQ score in the ninth grade was listed at 83. But his IQ in the third grade had been 196. The score didn’t go under 100 until seventh grade. Even shy, timid, sweet children have resilience. It takes time to break them.

I stomped to the typewriter and wrote a savage report pointing out what education had done to Cliff Evans. I slapped a copy on the principal’s desk and another in the sad, dog-eared file. I banged the typewriter and slammed the file and crashed the door shut, but I didn’t feel much better. A little boy kept walking after me, a little boy with a peaked, pale face; a skinny body in faded jeans; and big eyes that had looked and searched for a long time and then had become veiled.

I could guess how many times he’d been chosen last to play sides in a game; how many whispered child conversations had excluded him; how many times he hadn’t been asked. I could see and hear the faces and voices that said over and over, “You’re a nothing, Cliff Evans.”

A child is a believing creature. Cliff undoubtedly believed them. Suddenly it seemed clear to me: When finally there was nothing left at all for Cliff Evans, he collapsed on a snow bank and went away. The doctor might list “heart failure” as the cause of death, but that wouldn’t change my mind.

We couldn’t find ten students in the school who had known Cliff well enough to attend the funeral as his friends. So the student body officers and a committee from the junior class went as a group to the church, being politely sad. I attended the services with them, and sat through it with a lump of cold lead in my chest and a big resolve growing through me.

I’ve never forgotten Cliff Evans nor that resolve. He has been my challenge year after year, class after class. I look up and down the rows carefully each September at the unfamiliar faces. I look for veiled eyes or bodies scrounged into a seat in an alien world. “Look, kids” I say silently, “I may not do anything else for you this year, but not one of you is going to come out of here a nobody. I’ll work or fight to the bitter end doing battle with society and the school board, but I won’t have one of you coming out of here thinking himself into a zero.”

Most of the time—not always, but most of the time—I’ve succeeded.

 

From Wiki: Cipher in the Snow, written by Jean Mizer, an Idaho teacher, counselor and guidance director, was first published in the NEA Journal, 50:8-10, 1964. It won first prize in the first Reader’s Digest/NEA Journal writing competition.

In search of the author to get permission, hopefully still alive so I can offer a heartfelt thank you.

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All-Community Development: Vision, Delusion or Simple Pothole Repairs?

Replaces two earlier “RWPS” posts, re-tooled with Part Two worked in here rather than separate, for continuity. But now it’s a big honkin’ Tolstoy. Hey, if it grabs you, you’ll still find enough time.

I Had a Dream Last Night…

….a wickedly delicious dream. My community had somehow put together an all-stakeholder collaboration complete with shared vision, ethics and goals. We had even initiated a well-coordinated action plan with no infighting, no control freaks, no country clubbing. Very strange.

What is this thing called all-community development? It apparently involves education, employers, parents, civic leaders—all the players—doing their part. Burden had partially shifted away from the overextended education system. Collaborative needs analysis, co-design and delivery by employers, community leaders and educators ensured actual workplace needs were met. It was working…our town was booming! A banner inside City Hall was kind of a vision statement-looking slogan:

We are a vibrant, economically and emotionally prosperous community.

Our model of development is a magnet for economic growth, attracting

families with children, new employers, and working adults to our community.

A smaller wall chart beside the banner was titled “Community Strengths and Objectives”. As I read the bullets I said out loud “pinch me! No…don’t!” This looked like a great environment for families, employers, the whole community to grow together:

  • Well-stocked Talent Pool! We have a highly skilled, fully engaged world-class talent pool co-developed and fully utilized by local employers;
  • Community retention and recruiting! New families and new businesses stand in line to come here. Strong, stable generational roots have rejuvenated-our young people have a reason to stay;
  • Employability among learners and the current workforce is assured. Free and meaningful “higher education” and skills updating for adults is provided with targeted, relevant topics leading to a great position with an excellent company that is a pillar of the community;
  • Equal opportunity to develop and grow! Each person is enabled to reach their full potential along their chosen path, maximizing the probability of a long, fulfilling life on their own terms;
  • Strong relationships community-wide! Mutual respect, appreciation and inclusion are the norm regardless of gender, ethnicity, nationality, or social / economic stature;
  • Well-informed and highly involved community members! The community’s greater good is held above individual gain, and citizens are fully engaged in civic matters. There is ample opportunity for all to contribute toward community goals, regardless of status or position as long as the willingness is there. The good of the many outweighs the good of the few. Ubuntu!

Can you imagine? Must remind myself…it’s only a dream. I didn’t want to wake up but I did. Grabbed a pad and pen and scribbled down details before they faded. As I wrote, the fuzzy dream became more clear.  Then I got to thinking…“why not? ”

Hold my beer.

***********

Why would I dream all this? Maybe it has something to do with the issues that had been consuming my waking thoughts for too long. I’ve been trying mightily to get involved in repairing just a few of the multitude of potholes in the intersection of Workplace and Education, and Life. There are many issues in the interface among these, or more accurately the lack thereof. While the academic and workforce issues are well known, there’s a Grand Canyon of a gap between knowing and doing. Here are a few of the heavy hitters.

Potholes Needing Repair—Intersection of Workplace, Education and Life

People Issues Poor prep for post high school life: (1) socially / emotionally; (2) for the workplace; (3) for higher education. All ages: hopelessness, lack of direction, apathy…why bother? Increased stress, anxiety, substance abuse, self-harm, suicide; youth bullying, workplace harassment, social polarization.

Economic, job market, demographic and political issues all point to the need for a different approach to preparing young people for post-high school life, as future workers able to meet the moving target of workplace expectations but especially how we prepare them for life itself (social-emotional needs).

System Issues  Education budget and school resource cuts, talent pool skills shortage, poorly / unrealistically defined workplace skills needs, unrealistic expectations of “degree required” by employers; higher ed identity crisis, rising cost of higher ed, inaccessibility and irrelevance. Real-world expertise is outside the academic wheel house, and education resources are too thin to change.

EMPLOYERS:  “Our talent pool is a mud puddle. We need job candidates who are better prepared!”

EDUCATORS: “But we’re doing a-b-c already, and x-y-z too. We’re doing what we can the best we can with what we’ve got to work with.” It’s just not enough. The Big Question: is it the right stuff?

Paradigm Buster–You want it? Help make it happen! It’s not just education’s responsibility. Need front-end partnering and ongoing collaboration on design and delivery among education, employers, and community.

Education and Workplace Prep Issues

High school graduation rates are unacceptably low. Grads aren’t ready for college rigor or are unable to attend for various reasons. Our obsession with standard test performance and common core is under fire. The battle cry: “we need a new education model” but academia is painfully slow to change. It’s no one’s “fault”: it’s the nature of the education system.

“College is the new high school.” But college is out of reach for too many. The relevance and value of higher education is being challenged too, with over-priced and under-valued degrees (“diploma inflation”). Employers set unrealistic demands for “degree required” even for entry-level jobs when there is no real position-based need. Many positions simply do not require a degree as much as they require specific job skills training. Result: degree or not, employers consistently hire what they feel is unprepared workers and education, counselors and parents still push young people into college-or-bust, especially into STEM fields. The real issue is our perception of “well-prepared” and unrealistic expectations of how much an academic education can prepare the future workforce.

A high school education with an accurately defined curriculum could be of more value than a post-secondary academic degree….if Real-world Prep School (RWPS) is driven directly by employer-identified needs, to ensure content is relevant and timely.

Wait…There’s More

There is no longer any luster in providing a service or making things people want and need …“that’s blue collar, not good enough for my kid.” No matter if the work is skilled, pays well and has a huge upside. “Get a degree so you can get a professional position” is the only game in town. No matter if you’re miserable jockeying a desk the rest of your life, if you manage to find a desk. No matter if you end up owing a ton of money for the privilege of being miserable. Everyone deserves fulfillment.

“Free college” is a sexy political hot potato initiative, but deeper questions need to be answered. Relevance and affordability are an issue. For starters, is a degree even necessary for a field, realistic position and required job skills? A trades program may meet immediate workplace needs better than a STEM education and degree. Mike Rowe isn’t an often-quoted academic expert. But he’s a highly regarded champion of workforce skills development. Mike feels that we’ve created much of the skill gap problem ourselves. He points out that we’re millions of workers short for existing jobs in high-paying occupations:

     This is the great, underlying fiction that’s allowed the skills gap to widen. It’s the reason vocational arts have vanished from high school, even as those same vocations now go begging. It’s the reason we now hold 1.3 trillion dollars in student loans. And it’s why we continue to lend money we don’t have to kids who can’t pay it back, educating them for jobs that no longer exist.

The skills gap is real, but it’s not the problem — it’s a symptom of what we value…. we have to stop elevating one form of education over all the others, and begin treating all jobs for what they truly are — opportunities.

Employers are part of the problem, imposing artificial “degree required” stipulations even for low-paying entry level positions. As RWPS coursework is built around employer input, it provides targeted pre-job skills training that is of more value than a degree. Need alignment: stakeholder collaboration to determine actual, realistic pre-employment job requirements: what knowledge and attributes would most likely ensure a new hire’s rapid assimilation?

Also needed: help people redefine “good career choice” (hint: “me” is key, not others’ expectations, and values-based is the key to “me”). We also need to redefine higher ed’s role: when is it of value, for whom and for what career paths, and what should it consist of?

It’s wrong to recruit, coerce or mislead students into choosing a STEM career path, turning them away from a more desired career choice. While a STEM degree may be of value, technical skill sets vary too much from employer to employer. Fine-tuning job training may be more ideally provided after a high-potential candidate is placed. And, tech giants are realizing that social-emotional “soft” skills can be a greater indicator of employee success than STEM-related capabilities. See Google’s Ginormous (Non-technical!) Breakthrough. This Google epiphany has nothing to do with algorithms or SEO…surprise!

Case Study: Right Here In River City

It’s not that “nothing is getting done”.  FRI (follows) is a stellar example of good stuff developed by good people with the best intentions. It just needs better focus. A local state legislator pointed me toward this state-wide workforce prep initiative, and some related in-process legislation. My original reaction was critical, but as RWPS needs allies not enemies focus must be “Improve on Existing Effort”! Future Ready Iowa (FRI) is politically vested, it’s here to stay. But it can be better. I am bound and determined to do what I can to help focus and bring this to meaningful action!  The original is here:  Future Ready Iowa Alliance’s Final Recommendations.  Following: a few potholes in the FRI highway and how a community development approach may smooth out a few of the bumps.

FRI is driven by projected workforce skill shortages in STEM fields and high-paying, targeted industry positions. The related goal is 70% post-secondary education or training by 2025. This is my biggest concern. While lofty and noble, the post-secondary goal ignores the entry-level jobs–a more realistic starting point for grads. It’s dangerous to assume that even an advanced degree is a reliable indicator of capability to succeed in a specific position. College-for-all is often not necessary or appropriate, and too many people take on half a lifetime of college debt but still miss the employability mark.

The FRI model is based on industry sector and / or region needs. Not an effective education / training design driver–it’s too broad, too big! And even with a convoluted mashup of agencies and players there has been only minimal action! A terminal case of complexity, overkill, programitis.  The need is for more local employer need focus. The RWPS community model is scaled down from FRI, key players are directly connected and involved, coursework is designed to more tightly meet specific needs. Do what makes sense, when it is necessary to do so. Too many times the tool controls the craftsman, the process is sacred and the users’ real needs become secondary. While it is a solid resource, FRI appears to be too overly complex to fully embrace without significant help.

Employers are asked to contribute to a broad pool for scholarship / grant funding: to provide financial support for unknown recipients, unknown studies. Contributors may or may not see a direct benefit. RWPS ensures early relationships / first contact with high potentials. RWPS increases the odds of a better employer-to-candidate fit than FRI. RWPS builds relationships from middle school on, with young people in the local community talent pool. High potentials learners are known to employers early on, and knowing they are being “scouted” for a future job is a powerful motivator for learners!

Along with direct and early interface with their most likely future talent pool—local students—employers need direct input to the local education / training curriculum and process, more control over their talent pool’s preparation.

Front end employer input kick-starts the RWPS model: define actual position skills requirements and realistic requirements to be met with a degree program. And workplace must align with coursework.

Employers aren’t done once they simply provide a list of needs and contribute to scholarship / grant funds. In-depth involvement is ongoing, from needs assessment to co-design, co-delivery and determining placement. Smooth handoff must be seamless from academia to employer, from education to internal training and development.

The need: a co-designed model that promotes systemic change. All we stand to gain is community prosperity, social well-being, personal attainment and whole life satisfaction. Social-emotional development is critical to the greater good.  Community-level action is the key, with the catalyst or enabler being a collaborative effort among community stakeholders—education, employers, legislators / local gov’t / civic and community leaders, families. Shared vision and goals. The RWPS model includes adults, not just kids in school.

Families, employers, learners, education, legislators, community…we’re all in this together.

What’s Really At Stake? (from Kids Bully, Big Kids Harass)

Too many young people suffer irreversible long-term harm, even commit suicide because of pressures they can’t handle. Key triggers: education demands, bullying, growing up in a vacuum. Too many adults are in pain too, suffering from isolation, lack of purpose, workplace pressures, big kid bullying a.k.a harassment.

     Stress, anxiety, formally diagnosed mental / emotional illnesses, self-harm, suicide are increasing across all ages. Hypothesis: we’ve turned our backs on the importance of treating each other like human beings, we have no purpose or meaning in our lives and we’re far too often killing ourselves and each other. We’ve devalued our humanity. Harsh? Reality usually is.

“Big” community development targets are a sub-surface iceberg. These are the critical issues: bullying, harassment, youth (all ages!) suicide; lack of civility anemic values and ethics, social and political polarization, inability to discuss our differences. Apathy, disengagement, low awareness of civics and issues = no community involvement. We can and must do better.

For more on the absolute criticality of social-emotional strength, especially for our kids, I hope you’ll take a little time to read Searching For Our Mojo which describes my personal WIIFM…why I am so passionate about S-E development. Focus on our “people” needs and all that economic prosperity stuff will come along for the ride.

The Dream Grows Legs

RWPS is an application-intensive enhancement to existing 5-12 curriculum, balanced between interpersonal / social-emotional development and workplace preparation / hard skills.  Modular design is based on employer needs and works within the school’s constraints, ranging from quick-hitter stand-alone lessons to ongoing projects and full-term coursework. Lessons provide resume-worthy bullets in lieu of job experience and learners are continuously coached on how to increase their employability, building portfolios with specific examples of their work.

Initial focus may be on high school students unable to go to college, students nearing graduation or recently graduated from college; employed, unemployed or underemployed adults needing an upgrade of workplace knowledge, skills and abilities.

Important: the RWPS curriculum consists of topics employers identify as essential foundational skills, and utilizes private sector experts for much-needed subject matter expertise as adjunct instructors when possible. RWPS is not in competition with education, as it provides course content typically unavailable in the education curriculum.

RWPS Nurtures Community Growth. It is the education component of a broad community well-being and economic development initiative in disguise. “Whole-person / All-person Development” is the true focus, and it extends into the working adult population and community’s families.

STEM + Social-Emotional Learning: = Develop People, Save the World! Current Shortcomings:

(ONE) Team-based learning and project assignments are the rage right now. But kids are lost when they are assigned to a project team. They don’t have the soft or hard skills needed to ensure project success. Teachers and kids are not natural-born project managers—they need development. A related issue: schools and employers call the same basic tools and techniques different things. The simplest resolution: learn a common language!

(TWO) A huge concern is bullying and the growing numbers of youth suicides. And bullying morphs into big kid bad behavior…harassment. Society is a mess, there is general disregard for how to treat each other, human life is de-valued and there’s a huge void in ethical leadership to get us out of our funk. Current social-emotional development in education isn’t effective. It’s not deep enough, it’s too infrequent, there’s no ongoing adult coaching. And we need to reach out to the adult population too.

(THREE) Social-emotional development (SED) is typically provided for elementary age kids, if at all, then it stops. Nothing for teens, even though adolescence is a particularly tough road to navigate with future blues, social issues, peer pressure, raging hormones. Teen years are high-risk and common sense says there should be more and deeper attention given to their social and emotional development.

Workforce Prep: More Than Job Skills

It is essential to balance how we prepare learners for the real world. Technology is here to stay, but so is the need for emotionally grounded people. The two are not a one-or-the-other proposition. RWPS coursework includes (1) social-emotional development and (2) mainstream workplace concepts, methods and skills. Priority order is people before process:

  1. People: purpose / vision, values, social consciousness. Help people develop emotionally and socially; guide learners in personal branding, and in establishing a meaningful connection to themselves, others and their environment. Only then can skills development truly take hold;
  2. Process: toolbox mastery / workplace skills preparation. Provide hands-on experience with mainstream workplace tools and techniques, and include direct interface with employers.

Employer WIIFM

Employers are a key stakeholder group, and their commitment and direct participation is essential. But there is plenty to gain for them, a hat trick (three!) of benefits in RWPS involvement: (1) additional internal development resources; (2) community Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) that matters; (3) goodwill and connection into their future talent pool, extending into earn while you learn, a highly effective internship program.

Employers develop a workforce committed to strengthening the company and community. A cohesive, sustainable culture grows, and future employees come on board already aligned with the culture and vision. My community is a good example: three employers are green industry, all three have high turnover making productivity levels unsustainable. A community-wide, shared Green Movement vision would be a natural: fight environmental destruction especially atmospheric / climate damage, and health problems from fossil fuel production, transport and usage. Go for the emotional jugular by adding “leave a world worth living in for your kids.” This shared Green vision could boost employers’ retention and recruitment and drive community growth and cohesiveness.

The long-range community and economic development potential: once RWPS is established, it is a highly marketable economic development magnet for additional employers, younger families with school-age children, and working adults (see “Develop People” model). This is CSR on steroids with substantial employer WIIFM. It’s not just the right thing to do. It’s good business.

Parting Shots (FINALLY, Right?)

Workforce skills have been my long-time private sector focus, being closely involved in skills development. We saw the demographic projected impact of baby boomer retirements as well as the changing economy and workforce. RWPS was to be my “crowning career achievement” and I’ve grown into a real passion for social-emotional development (SED) from my involvement in the classroom. But I’m driven especially because I want to leave behind a better world for my grand kids. RWPS and SED are a powerful combination that can re-engineer this broken society and save the world.

I’ve spent considerable time in both education and the workplace. These wild notions have evolved for over fifteen years, it’s my passion. It still needs in-depth analysis to make sure it makes sense. It’s not a natural partnership to marry theoretical, research-based eggheads with pragmatic, results-driven managers. I understand the issues and needs through both sets of eyes, and speak both languages.

My greatest frustration is not inaction. It’s that there is so much being attempted, huge initiatives and some are really, really good. But they’re just a bit off target here and there, or there’s no real focus or cohesiveness and no shared, systemic effort among a broad base of stakeholders. Even more frustrating: with all the shotgun effort and even in spite of all kinds of experts with the best intentions, nothing sustainable is happening! No results.

I want to help bring things into focus and make it happen—a catalyst / liaison who brings the players together, a resource that is shared among education, employers, community. Most of all, I want to be a proud grand parent who is reasonably sure we’ve done all we can to make things right for our kids.

 Additional Thoughts and Support

 

 

Fish Outta Water Gonna Die Every Time

Education improvement, youth development, workforce preparation, global competitiveness, quality of life, species sustainability…..these are the things I am passionate about. They’re all tangled together in one big Gordian Knot. Ginormous? Yes. Overwhelming? Pretty much. My sphere of influence? No way. These are the things we need to build a serious national dialogue around and I don’t see much attention being paid to these issues. Good thing I’m an Iowan because all I can do is plant seeds.

How can we expect academic experts to prepare young people with real world skills? Teachers teach. They’re trained to provide an academic foundation of knowledge and are ruled by Common Core and making sure kids can ace standard tests. Schools are assessed on students’ standard test scores and graduation rates, right or wrong. You get what you pay for.

How can we prepare young people socially and emotionally for what life will throw at them, by only providing occasional learning in short snippets provided by minimally qualified counselors, then leaving them on their own to sink or swim? No systemic support, no mentoring or coaching, no direct involvement by their classroom teachers or parents.

Why do employers filling entry-level jobs expect a four-year degree? How can we expect graduates to be well-prepared for a specific position, even though they’ve gone into hock to get that “degree required” caveat covered? A post-secondary degree cannot, repeat cannot, provide job skills for a specific position. Employers must more clearly define expectations (see three levels, below) because they are certainly creating a good deal of problems with their inappropriate, unrealistic degree expectations.

“We need better prepared candidates!” But what exactly is “prepared”? Do employers have good reason to cry over the sorry state of the talent pool, and how unprepared the new entries into the workforce are?

Improvement must begin at the front end: what are employers’ real needs? They also need better definition and more realistic application of the “degree required” hiring criteria. Prep goal: provide the right learning to the right people in the right way at the right place and time. What learning is provided to whom, by who and when? Critical first step is to determine needs, at three levels:

  1. Pre-hire attributes and core capabilities: what kind of people are we looking for generally? May be legally touchy as hiring criteria / interviewing questions but should include “soft fit”… culture, vision, values;
  2. Foundational, broad workplace skills that may be provided and practiced pre-hire, in school;
  3. Position-specific skills: training that is much more tightly focused on real needs specific to the position must be provided post-hire and placement. It’s common sense: this type of training is irrelevant and will not stick without immediate on-the-job application and reinforcement!

How can we expect people to be happy with their lives when they are herded, almost forcibly, into a career path that does not suit them? Yet, we preach that STEM is da bomb, that you need to make financial considerations #1 in your career choice, and that you better go into a lifetime’s worth of student loan debt to get your STEM-related degree or other high-return field. IF you can find the work, welcome to a future of eventual regret.

How can we ensure that a college degree is truly worth the time and investment? College has become the new high school. Everybody “needs it” so we zone in on ways to get a college education for everyone. Relevant or not, thou shalt possess a degree or you will not work.

How can we expect employees to be satisfied with their jobs and put forth their best efforts when they are trapped in a toxic environment of bullying, berating, demanding more more more “because I said so and I’m the boss”?

Hey boss, if you’re still into command and control you’re lucky to still be in business. It would behoove you to read up a little on “engagement theory”…a powerful motivational philosophy to maximize performance…and hard bottom line results.

How can we expect different results if we continue doing what we’ve always done?

Ten. Again. Nothing. Again.

“Why do you drive yourself nuts over all this gloom and doom violence and murder? It is what it is, no matter what you think or say.”

Can’t accept it, can’t buckle under, can’t go numb. My hot buttons revolve around our kids and their future. Bullying, mass murders, apathy, stress, suicide…they deserve better, don’t you think? If I can nudge the needle just a little, I have to try. Move the needle, make a difference. The first step is awareness…help enough people understand and maybe care. A movement requires grass roots, a critical mass. We’re out there, somewhere.

All this nobody can do is drop my little pebbles into this one pond, and hope the ripples reach others. Even if I never know the effects I have to believe I’m making some kind of difference. How about you?

******

(real time) Oh great, another school shooting. I guess another rant is due. A broken record, but can’t get numb. Just had a school break, home long enough to find out about the Santa Fe, TX shooting. Ten more and counting. This time, the weapons of choice were a shotgun and handgun. IED’s too but none set off. Like the shooter was consciously trying to make a second amendment statement.

OK, maybe not by intent but that’s what is happening….”see, NOT an AR. And it’s not guns. It’s people”. Book it. And stay tuned for another lightning round of thoughts, prayers and outrage–an emotional gusher for an appropriate time then…. nothing. Again. (Update: not even two weeks later…this “event” came and went in a huge hurry. Numb)

After break, my classroom will be filling up again with 6th graders, and I can only hope that for now they are blissfully ignorant that more kids have been gunned down. It won’t ever happen here…will it?

Oh, but it could.  The kids in Santa Fe probably thought “never here”. They participated in the last protest.

I know myself well enough that I expect to have a hard time keeping it together every time I look at all the faces, kids I’ve watched get older for several years. What if….?

We’re in a science classroom. A big aquarium with a couple of painted water turtles is 3 feet away. One of them was on their rock sunning, and got startled…thumpity thump, splash. I’m on edge, I jumped. This sucks. If you haven’t been in a classroom lately, if you haven’t been painfully aware of the “what ifs” you can have no idea how this feels. I’m not a badass but I do know how I’d react if some nutjob tried to come after my kids. I think about it every day, first thing in the room it’s recon time, get the plan in place….this sucks.

Do something! Someone please….we all deserve, we all need better.

It won’t kill me to say it…it is NOT just guns, and gun control is not “the” solution—that’s just a band aid, but it’s one we need now. There, I said it OK?! It’s more than laws, policies, regulations. We cannot legislate values and ethics. We CAN use a little common sense to keep the wrong stuff out of the wrong hands. What is so stinking radical about that?

The highest priority is for long-term systemic preventive action, a resolution of this inhuman funk we’re in, starting very young in school and extending into the workplace and community, solidified in the family.

The most shocking issues: mass murders, gun violence especially in schools., followed by youth suicides. But also harassment, abuse, bullying; bias, bigotry, intolerance, hatred, polarization….HOW can we re-boot society’s ethical, values-based respect for each other and for human life?  What can we do to rediscover our humanity? It used to mean something to be an American. Now, we’re the worst of the worst.

We’re not having the right conversations, not exploring lasting solutions. We’re focused on using band-aids to fix things. Typical isn’t it? Is it because the social-emotional issues are too overwhelming? Still. ignoring the real issues is not the appropriate course of action. We need to get started. Somewhere, somehow. No other mission is more critical. And it should be simple, really….

Understand true root cause(s) -> Identify feasible interventions > Implement > Make systemic, coordinated improvements

Hold my beer, right?

People in Peril:  Excerpts from Mojo (itals)

It’s depressing but necessary to call attention to our human shortcomings. They are collectively overwhelming–we’re a mess. But we must more fully understand them. The issues have common roots; they’re one giant Gordian knot. So if we wield the right sword with the right concentrated effort we can slice the knot into pieces. Focus and effort…that’s “all” we need.

Our social, moral, ethical fabric is being torn to shreds, society is imploding. We’ve disconnected from our selves, each other, our environment, our basic human values. We’ve lost our humanity. We’re emotionally confused, socially isolated, ethically directionless. There’s apathy and disengagement at one extreme, and over-engagement, stress and burnout at the other. Both lead to physical health issues and emotional and social baggage. We desperately need realignment and emotional healing.

We need a visionary and ethical compass, we need compassion, we need to be part of a community that cares. But we don’t know where we’re going, and no one seems to have the ability to collectively get us back on track. Identity, community, principles and values, purpose and meaning are among the most powerful universal human drivers, right up there with love, compassion, the need to contribute to something meaningful. We’ve lost touch with those things, which has a lot to do with why society is self-destructing.

Our kids are in trouble, they’re killing themselves and each other…. The same transient blip of caring, same outpouring of thoughts and prayers magically appear every time we have yet another mass murder at a school, every time another child hurts badly enough to take their own life. But they go away. Until next time.

Out of control depression, anxiety, stress impacting kids, teens and adults alike. Death by Lifestyle. Killing ourselves and each other, both slowly and traumatically. It’s even visible….On your next trip to the store do a little people-watching. You’ll see good people soured on life, hopelessness and pain in their eyes or worse, nothing. Spirit drained, their demeanor screaming “I’m tired of this life!” Forgotten dreams, no purpose, no meaning, no fulfillment? Still, we keep isolating our Selves further from others and from being human, starting with how we raise and “teach” children into adulthood, and  the nature of work, the meaning of “success”. We’re in a constant struggle with our core human values, we’re denying our humanness. We self-inflict pain and do irreversible harm to others too. We floor it, stretching to hit 130mph in a broken down Yugo. And we wonder why we’re stressed out, miserable, killing our Selves physically and emotionally.

We’re unknowingly coerced into recklessly pursuing more and more “things” at any cost, while we juggle the demands of an endless list of urgent to-do’s. We’ve forgotten what it means to be human, paying a high price. When values and norms die problems crop up—unethical / illegal behavior, a myriad list of significant social issues, rudeness and other variations of treating each other like crap.

How did we get to such a dark, scary place?

Plenty of reasons, just a couple of starter thoughts….To me, a really big culprit is conspicuous consumption driven by capitalism without conscience. We’re brainwashed to buy, buy, buy well beyond our “needs” and beyond our means. We’re driven by Wall Street’s slick, scientifically perfected marketing onslaught.

The long-standing expectation to make sure our kids have it better is also driven by Wall Street. We take on two, maybe three jobs to deliver the goods. If we don’t we’re failures. In doing so, we rob our kids of what they really need: nurturing and love, freedom to be kids without any strings attached. We load them up with activities > shuffle them off to caregivers so we can get out there and earn, earn, earn > buy, buy, buy.

Adults obsess over STEM, driving kids toward what may be their greatest potential for earnings, but with no regard for what their real life’s passion may be. They are destined to become the hollow stares in the store, terminally miserable, another generation fully engrossed with buy, buy, buy. Will the Circle Be Unbroken?

(More From Mojo)

We’ve Lost Our Humanity. Humans are by nature caring, compassionate, social / tribal. Bad behaviors are learned, and our toxic lifestyle and sick society are artificial creations; they are unnatural and incredibly destructive; Kids (big people too!) need to know they matter, that they make a difference in the world. People need purpose, vision, values and a community built on caring and compassion. Purpose, meaning, values, ethics cannot be legislated or otherwise mandated. All we can do is provide opportunities for discovery of Self.

Poor Information, Polarization. Deep ideological differences have polarized us. Misleading and dis-information have us paralyzed. Combine the two = rabid advocacy of issues / ideologies with positions supported by poor information. Who and what do you believe, who and what do you trust? No wonder we’re at each others’ throats.

So, where to start restoring our humanity? With young people? There’s plenty of rework to do with big kids too. Focus on kids in school, or adults in the workplace? The family unit? One community at a time? Society? Short answer….”Yes, all”. We’re in this together, we all need the same attention at the same time…ASAP.

What if?

I’ve been involved in developing a model of workplace prep for our future workforce, extending through working adults. Needed: systemic intervention, all of a community’s stakeholders playing an active role. “Real-world Prep School”…information is here:

(one) Real-world Prep…Vision or Delusion?

(two) Potholes to Repair—Intersection of Education and Workplace

More critical than “systemic intervention” is the need to focus on the right things: People First, then process. If you don’t take care of people issues you will never, ever, achieve maximum “thing” results. It’s been studied, measured, verified, validated: how well people are socially and emotionally adjusted directly impact results. S-E well-being even affects physical wellness, and not just a little.

Last consideration: there’s a difference between an in-charge authority figure demanding compliance to marching orders, and developing full commitment to vision, mission and goals. One works considerably better than the other—academically, in the workplace, personally, socially….guess which?

Here’s a radical sci-fi epiphany: what if the right values, goals and actions were shared community-wide among education, employers and organizations, community members and even (gasp!) politicians? What if an entire community focused its efforts, all stakeholders on the same page? Synergy, reciprocation, constant reinforcement would kick in. The broader the ownership and collaboration, the greater the sustainable impact becomes. With a big enough lever, we can move the world.


An earlier blog has been referenced a bunch here, as the theme has been with me for some time. Go here, read the whole thing and let me know what you think…. Searching For Our Mojo

While you’re at it, all this social-emotional stuff is well represented in something I’ve been deeply involved in for years, engagement theory. Emotional intelligence, mindfulness, social-emotional development in education, and engagement…they’re all pretty much the same thing, the same basic human motivators and values. We ought to be able to leverage the similarities.  See Engagement and Mojo—Peas and Carrots

 

Been Slammed by Slam Poetry

I had the privilege of observing 7th grade students reading original “slam poetry” compositions. It’s not really poetry, more like free verse. I found out later the students had signed up for the elective class. Those who read their pieces hadn’t had the chance to develop the necessary  comfort zone to infuse the emotional punch of “real” slam poetry. But there was plenty of punch just the same.

From the first line into the first reader, for forty five minutes I alternated between teary eyes and goose bumps, mostly same time. I was hoping, desperately hoping, these were not first-person, fact-based accounts. Four girls (reminder, 7th graders!) were nailing THE top issues for their age. Maybe they were assigned their topics?  While the dramatic interpretation wasn’t quite there, they were too graphically and emotionally convincing in the details of what they shared. The four topics:

  • Step-parent sexual abuse, parental substance addiction;
  • A younger sibling bullied because of his impairment;
  • Frustration, hopelessness, cutting;
  • Dealing with the recent death of a best friend.

I’m almost glad there wasn’t more time, I was emotionally tapped out after just the first share. Those issues…even if these young people weren’t dealing with them personally, it was a gut-punch. These things are probably going on far too often for us to even grasp.

But later that day, I was told every one of the slams was true, actually experienced by the girls who shared them. I talked to the girl who had so vividly and poignantly described how she was sexually abused by her step-father and her addict mother did nothing. She was seven years old at the time. This is not the projects, it’s not a big city horror story. This is a quiet community of 15,000 in the heart of Iowa.

She gave me permission to run her story, without her name of course. I put in a few breaks to help the readability, and bolded those passages she really punched in her reading. That’s all I’ve done—no editing, no correcting. I didn’t dare. You can’t hear her emotion, you can’t see the raw feelings pour out of her face and body almost as if she was reliving what she endured. It tore me up.

************

My mommy was sick. Come to think of it she was always sick. She met another man today. He was nice she said. He was funny. He was good. That’s what you would see about him. But under the covers weren’t so warm. They weren’t so cozy like it looked. It was cold and wet like a murky swamp on an early autumn morning.

He had a beer in his hand so often I  thought it was stuck there.  when mommy wasn’t there, He would get closer and closer to me like a predator does when it hunts its prey. She’d be in the other room “sleeping”.  He looked at me like I was a fresh meat. He swooped in so fast it caught me by surprise. I didn’t know what was happening until it hit me. This nice guy wasn’t so nice but mommy needed him.

He touched me and violated my skin. I will never be untouched by the filthy hands of the monster. I will never feel safe in the arms of a man again. I will never get to feel the comfort a little girl should feel. I will never be able to cleanse my mind of the images the feelings I witnessed in my young once innocent eyes. I will never be able to notice the sunshine on a summer day I used to.

He did that to me. My mommy didn’t notice though because she was too passed out to give a crap! To understand that her baby girl is crying herself to sleep at night and the man she thought she loved was sexually abusing her every night and not even caring because she was busy having a good time being so high she couldn’t walk!

Hours she would spend napping on the couch. I would escape to my friends house whenever i could. At night i would cry myself to sleep trying to get rid of my thoughts that clawed at my brain. I would lie in conflict. Who could i talk to about my issue. That’s what it was right, an issue.  One big issue that no one seemed to notice because they were too high or drunk to care. When i was being tortured i would try to think of a better place to take me away from what was haunting me in this hell hole i called home.

But the thing is there was no better place. I would sit there muffling my sobs letting my body be used for the pleasure of a drunken man who had the power to kill me if tempted. No one will ever understand what I felt. No one can understand how i thought this was all my fault. You never will. But that’s ok. What you need to do is be aware of the pain that hides behind my glossy blue eyes. You need to be aware that i am not a normal girl who walks through life like it’s all sunshine and rainbows. Everyday i would dread going home on a saturday because i knew what would happen when i got home. It would be happy hour for him and pills for my mommy. My mommy said she loved me. She said she would die for me. I believed her. But I  realized that if she loved me so much she would be here to protect me. He told me he loved me like a daughter of his own. Why would anyone do such a thing to there daughter! I thought to myself.

Often times i would ask why he did this to me. I asked if all girls had this happen to them.  But my therapist said it was all ok. It stopped. He is gone now. But that was a lie. You’re telling me that he is in jail HE’S NOT!  You’re telling me that i don’t have nightmares anymore I DO! Your telling me that he still doesn’t want every dark corner of my room every crowded area. HE DOES!

You may not feel my pain or know my thoughts but you don’t need to taunt me about it. My mind is a maze of thoughts that swirl around chasing me until i can’t stand it! These thought in my mind are far beyond comprehension. Far beyond normal.   I never had many friends but that’s okay. I have the voices in my head to talk to. I am fine i would say and put on a smile like its ok that i’m being abused. I don’t want to hurt you with my pain so i keep it inside like a volcano that sits and waits and sits and waits and sits… Until i express my feeling that come out like a wildfire a spark turns into crazy flame uncontrollable twisting and turning my thoughts escaping my head, my body i can’t stop.

I think that i’m ok. I keep my thoughts to myself. He broke me. He broke my mind. My sense of safeness.

Real-world Prep…Vision or Delusion?

All-Community Development: Vision, Delusion or Simple Pothole Repairs replaces two related RWPS posts. They were combined for continuity, but now it’s one big, honkin’ Tolstoy post. Hope you can read and respond!

Google’s Ginormous (Non-technical!) Breakthrough

The Google Epiphany has nothing to do with algorithms or search engine optimization.

Sergey Brin and Larry Page, both brilliant computer scientists, founded (Google) on the conviction that only technologists can understand technology. Google originally set its hiring algorithms to sort for computer science students with top grades from elite science universities. (see end: Wa-Po source)

In 2013, Google decided to test its hiring hypothesis by crunching every bit and byte of hiring, firing, and promotion data accumulated since the company’s incorporation in 1998.  Project Oxygen and Project Aristotle were the result.

“The seven top characteristics of success at Google are soft skills: being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view); having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas.” (Project Oxygen report)

“Project Aristotle, a study released by Google (spring 2017), further supports the importance of soft skills even in high-tech environments. Project Aristotle analyzes data on inventive and productive teams.” Findings: “…the best teams at Google exhibit a range of soft skills: equality, generosity, curiosity toward the ideas of your teammates, empathy, and emotional intelligence. And topping the list: emotional safety. No bullying. To succeed, each and every team member must feel confident speaking up and making mistakes. They must know they are being heard.”

Google people are masters at collecting and analyzing data and translating it into meaningful information. We’re so used to command and control, being shoved in a box, fear of failure…all disengaging and counter-productive…that it’s no surprise the top impact on team effectiveness was  psychological safety: “…a group culture that Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson defines as a ‘‘shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.’’ Psychological safety is ‘‘a sense of confidence that the team will not embarrass, reject or punish someone for speaking up…It describes a team climate characterized by interpersonal trust and mutual respect in which people are comfortable being themselves.” (NYT source)

Project Aristotle has significant intersects with mainstream engagement theory. So all this is nothing new, no big secret. But how do you “do” psychological safety? Another way of saying it: what helps people feel comfortable with fully engaging? These Universal Engagers are a few proven “hows”.

We’ve known it for some time, but are so painfully slow to embrace the obvious. Unless you’re totally on your own or are work-at-home you’d best be good with people and be well adjusted socially and emotionally.  Google stumbled across the keys to organizations, effective teams and people leadership. The keys are standard practice non-secrets. What IS incredible is that a tech giant had this voluntary epiphany that soft stuff is at least as critical as tech skills!

Google is a tech giant, so Project Aristotle’s findings are likely to be relevant to the tech industry overall. Still, Education continues its obsession with filling the STEM hard skills pipeline. There’s still little attention given to social-emotional development, interpersonal skills, stuff for whole-life survival. Education needs to catch up in a hurry, and it wouldn’t hurt to partner with its customers in fully defining needs and meeting them. Our productivity and global competitiveness is at stake, as is quality of life and, even more importantly, our physical and emotional well-being, our love of being happy with our lives.

It’s A Man’s World (NOT!) Silicon Valley has been under fire for a grossly uneven gender playing field and recently, both covert and more subtle gender-based harassment and discrimination (search for “silicon valley good old boy culture” and look around). Remedy: a booster shot of decency in the form of social-emotional development…equal inclusion, understanding, respect, acceptance, dignity for all.

The Google Epiphany alone shouldn’t trigger a mad rush into a significant direction shift in education. But Project Aristotle isn’t the first or the only study to indicate the significance of soft stuff. From the Wa-Po article: Google’s studies concur with others trying to understand the secret of a great future employee. A recent survey of 260 employers …which includes both small firms and behemoths like Chevron and IBM, ranks communication skills in the top three most-sought after qualities by job recruiters. They prize an ability to communicate with one’s workers and an aptitude for conveying the company’s product and mission outside the organization…

STEM skills are vital to the world we live in today, but technology alone, as Steve Jobs famously insisted, is not enough. We desperately need the expertise of those who are educated to the human, cultural, and social as well as the computational.

We cannot dump STEM entirely because we need 21st century technical skills to compete. But we can do better at balancing hard and soft. When should young people as potential employees be trained on specific, necessary hard skills? Each company / situation / position has unique needs and skills, and Education cannot possibly hit so many targets. Why not focus on prepping students to succeed in life in general, to cope with what they will face emotionally and on the job, to be able to adapt and quickly pick up on the specific skills they will need to be a high contributor…but only after the skill gaps are more clearly understood. Hire for the intangibles: potential, the right attitude, soft stuff mastery.

What’s at Stake, Really? From Social Science Fiction

Too many young people suffer irreversible long-term harm, even commit suicide because of pressures they can’t handle. Key triggers: education demands, bullying, growing up in a vacuum. Too many adults are in pain too, suffering from isolation, lack of purpose, workplace pressures, big kid bullying a.k.a harassment.

     Stress, anxiety, formally diagnosed mental / emotional illnesses, self-harm, suicide are all increasing across all ages. Hypothesis: we’ve turned our backs on the importance of treating each other like human beings, and we’re far too often killing ourselves and each other. We’ve devalued our humanity.

Envision a company using its considerable influence to help provide a stabilizing force in the local community. Consider the impact on social issues if employees feel a sense of community, a purpose larger than “me”, an island of safety and sanity in the midst of the turbulence of their lives.

That community happens to be the company’s current and future talent pool. A forward-thinking company that champions the social-emotional well being of its host community would realize huge bottom line improvements. Not a hunch, it’s been validated over and over. Now, what if shared values were embraced throughout the community? All-community stakeholder alignment would exponentially boost isolated company impact. Conclusion: a broad collaboration to impact the greater good would boost our well-being, the social condition, and our economic prosperity.

Epiphany: capitalism’s Job One isn’t economic prosperity, competitive advantage or global market superiority—all outcomes—but to impact the human condition. People-first is a high-return endeavor that assures sustainable social-economic success and personal well-being.

Barriers

What S-E material should be used, and who will lead the charge? Good questions! There’s already an overabundance of material, but spotty half-hearted efforts. I’m concerned with what I’ve seen of social-emotional learning in education, and I’m also concerned with how a revitalized initiative would be handled. This is not a condemnation of education, just observations of the current state:

  •  Academia is not capable of real-time responsiveness to market needs for S-E or any other subject matter;
  •  No polite way to say it: educators can be a closed and protective group. As a result academia tends to suffer from inbred thinking, country clubbing, not-invented-here;
  •  Lack of funding is a huge constraint: no staff, no resources to give the necessary level of attention to soft stuff. Academic demands are stifling—educators’ hands are tied;
  •  S-E is more than a dinner garnish, it must be recognized as a main course;
  • Real-world practitioners are best suited to design and co-deliver real-world subjects. Even though the help should be warmly welcomed, Education would likely not embrace outsider meddling and would likely push back.

Education isn’t market or needs-driven, is slow to respond demanding validation, research, papered educator / expert design, academic rigor. How to sneak the Trojan Horse past the guards at the gate?

Resolution? We’ve missed the real-world skills target. Kids need much more in the social-emotional development a.k.a soft skills department. Employers have a vested interest, and we’d be improving the chances of kids having a much more fulfilling life. Proposed: don’t call it social-emotional development. Work around the associated baggage and NVA connotations by providing real-world prep skills. As such, it only makes sense for the future employers to step up to the plate and pull their weight.

Too Much of a Good Thing. Our STEM obsession is counter-productive and is potentially detrimental to young people who are herded into STEM education and careers regardless of their talents, passions and interests. We can do so much better for them, for ourselves, for the world.

No student should be prevented from majoring in an area they love based on a false idea of what they need to succeed. Broad learning skills are the key to long-term, satisfying, productive careers. What helps you thrive in a changing world isn’t rocket science. It may just well be social science, and, yes, even the humanities and the arts that contribute to making you not just workforce ready but world ready.” (from the Wa-Po article)

SOURCES

The surprising thing Google learned about its employees — and what it means for today’s students   Washington Post December 2017, by Valerie Strauss

What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team  by Charles Duhigg Feb. 25, 2016

In Search of Lost Mojo: The Series   (lots of embedded links)