Detroit Public Schools (DPS) president, Otis Mathis, admits he can’t write a coherent sentence. He further argues that he is a role model as a leader who can’t write. He’s a math whiz (high school) and can speak cogently…but when it comes to writing, it no worky (see: Otis Mathis Can’t Write)
Now, you may hear a skeptic’s voice in all of this, but my hope is to bolster you as an educator or as a learner. Otis Mathis says he is a role model because he shows that even if you can’t write, you can become a success (a president of a school system, no less).
Clearly there is something wrong with this picture, but what? It is easy enough to say that it would be an even better model if he could learn to write (overcoming the obstacle), however, something is more essential here concerning the future for our children.
Here is the question that needs careful reflection:
Do we pursue our talents or do we bend the world to our flaws?
The move is afoot to bend the world to our flaws. In fact, if you read the articles on Otis Mathis, you’ll find that there are related lawsuits to drop certain competencies for admission in to various academic programs. It isn’t that academia is nuts, but rather that there is a values shift in play. The underlying issue is COMPETENCE v. FAIRNESS. Another version of this dilemma asks if you are SPECIAL or is EVERYONE THE SAME.
The current uproar about healthcare has this issue at the core as well. On some level there is the notion that things should be equal for everyone…and on another level, we all know that only one person can win American Idol.
I remember when our daughter played soccer as a little girl there was no score-keeping by the referees, coaches, or parents (it was seen as wrong and too competitive); except, the girls on the team all kept score!
Here’s the secret: Nature wins out over Culture. The culture says let’s make it fair for everyone. Nature says we are better than others at something. Culture says bring competitiveness down. Nature says you’ll survive with your strengths. Culture says you are a victim who needs help. Nature says your skill will help true victims.
My personal conviction is that Otis Mathis can learn to write (& if he’ll come stay with me for a week I can show him exactly how to connect his speaking to his writing). I have a strength here and I’d love to serve him with it. It was indeed the reason I organized the insights I’ve discovered into The Writing Course.
If you are still helping your children to get educated, please make sure two simple things are in play:
1. They are getting a solid and broad foundation. This hooks their brain together…yes, reading AND writing AND arithmetic.
2. Encourage them to stretch to their strengths. When they pursue their talents they make a contribution…which means they are almost infinitely more employable.
If you are still helping others to get educated at any age…what’s the difference?
You think it takes more, but it really doesn’t. Keep at it…everything is better learned by practice; and, everything that is learned becomes useful. The best examples are those who play to their strengths and serve others with them. Don’t buy the whim of culture…just learn it, or admit it isn’t a strength— no matter what ‘it’ is. Steer clear of trying to bend the world to think you don’t have to be educated to be an educator…it will always smell funny.
Dr. Fred Lybrand
I want to encourage everyone to avoid underestimating the value of feedback in learning anything (especially writing). It is so important that you can simply rest on the fact that without feedback there is no learning. Imagine a golfer NEVER KNOWING where his shot lands, or never hearing a putt go in the hole. Learning the sport becomes impossible. Public speakers almost always improve if they have folks critiquing them (or can watch themselves on video). A singer cannot possibly stay on key (or improve) if she NEVER HEARS her voice or the other instruments. These are all FEEDBACK mechanisms.
Now, since writing is about the scariest thing anyone can do (it is permanent…written…can be passed along), we rarely seek feedback without some significant growing up! Since we are educating our kids, we can just baste (cooking definition) them with it anyway! But, you must do it right (or, at least, right enough).
We have video training for giving feedback in the unique way we’ve designed (for grammar, punctuation, spelling, creativity, etc.), but let me tell you the essentials:
1. Use a RED PEN to mark things your student should improve (correct)
2. Use a GREEN PEN to mark things your student should do more of (encouragement)
3. When making suggestions use these exact words, “Does this sound better?”
4. Don’t overwhelm — Instead, please focus on one or two things at a time until mastered (example: Just work on capitalizing the first word in a sentence if that’s an issue).
P.S. Here’s where to learn more about us: www.advanced-writing-resources.com
Fred Ray & Jody Lybrand
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