Sunday, May 31, 2009

Do You Think You'd Get a Fair Trial from Sotomayor?

Let's assume you're a non-Latina and are in court before Judge Sotomayor. Do you believe you'll get a fair trial?

Remember that in a speech, she said "a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

In Ricci vs. New Haven, she threw out a firefighter promotion test that was carefully constructed to be race-neutral with its items all testing relevant job skills just because 18 whites and no blacks passed the exam. Even Clinton-appointed Hispanic judge, Jose Cabranes was so disturbed by the decision that he sought to have it reconsidered by the full 2nd Circuit because it might involve "an unconstitutional racial quota or set-aside."

Among the most important qualifications for any judge, and certainly for a Supreme Court judge, is that when anyone, no matter their race, gender, etc., comes before that judge, that person can expect a fair trial. If you're being honest with yourself, if you were a white person, do you feel you could count on getting a fair trial from Judge Sotomayor?

And what does it say about President Obama's claiming to be post-racial when his first Supreme Court nominee is Sotomayor, his attorney general, Eric Holder is a huge reverse discrimination supporter and his education undersecretary for civil rights, Russlyn Ali, so often calls people racist when they dare disagree with her reverse-discrimination advocacy.

Will Sotomayor's Diabetes Affect Her Cognitive Functioning?

According to a Time magazine story, which is consistent with the anecdotal reporting of my clients who have had diabetes for a while, the disease significantly and increasingly affects one's memory and ability to think rigorously.

Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor has had Type I diabetes for 47 years. The cognitive effects get more serious with age. In addition, she is overweight, which a study finds exacerbates cognitive decline in people with Type I diabetes.

In concert with all the serious concerns I've, in previous posts, raised about Judge Sotomayor's qualifications, can anyone reasonably claim that she is the most qualified person in America to be a Supreme Court justice, among the most intellectually challenging and critical-to-the-nation jobs of all? And a job with lifetime job security?

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Case Against Sotomayor--Part 3

To an audience of Duke University law students, Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor said, "I'm not supposed to say this but guess what? We legislate from the bench. Oops, I'm being recorded, I shouldn't say that."

That revealed three liabilities, each of which would be sufficient to derail her nomination:
1. Exceeding the authority of judges: Judges are not supp0osed to legislate from the bench.
2. Dishonesty: Admitting that she what she says in front of a camera is different from what she does in real life. Given she's capable of that, can we trust that when she testifies during her confirmation hearing (the most important on-camera appearance of her life) that she'll be honest?)
3. Terrible judgment: Knowing the camera was on, to lie and then admit to lying. Also, the audience was primarily law students. What sort of example does she set when she essentially tels them they should, as judges, do what they are constitutionally prohibited from doing, but on a camera, lie about it.

Combine those liabiilities with her claiming that Latinas make better decisions than white males, and the opinion of many judges and attorneys that have appeared before her, asserting that Sotomayor is an intellectual lightweight, a bully on the bench and too full of herself, and it is clear she is not the most qualified person to join the U.S. Supreme Court. The only rationale I can fathom for why she was nominated is that she's a Latina and Obama knew that Republicans, desperate to attract Latino voters, therefore won't vote against her. (By the way, how sad that we accept, without criticism, the racist behavior of Latinos who only vote for candidates who support other Latino candidates.)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sotomayor's Racist Statement

Should we have a Supreme Court justice who, in a speech at the University of California Berkeley, to law students, law professors, lawyers, and fellow judges, asserted that "a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life." ?

That, unlike the many non-racist statements that liberals accuse conservatives of making, is indeed racist. If a white male Supreme Court nominee said that white men make better decisions than Latina women, he'd never have been nominated. Neither should Judge Sotomayor.

A New Argument in the Case Against College

This beautifully written New York Times article makes an "I wish I would have said that" point, one that is self-evident once you read it. What's that point? That most skilled labor, such as car mechanic, requires at least as much thinking ability as white-collar work and generally is more rewarding because often, more gets accomplished.

And of course, with today's everyone-to-college fad having created a glut of dumbed-down and career-irrelevant bachelor's degree holders in sociology, art, psychology, etc., such folks are far less likely to make a living than are good auto mechanics, robotics technicians, machinists, etc.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Who is Judge Sonia Sotomayor?

It's easy to be seduced by Sotomayor's rags-to-riches story. But the most trenchant (and alas distressing) reporting on her competence comes from The New Republic. To its credit, despite being a liberal publication, it pulls no punches in, for example, reporting her fellow judges' opinion of her--essentially that she's an intellectual lightweight and a "bully" on the bench who is too full of herself.

It could not have been difficult to find a nominee better than that. Indeed, even if President Obama wanted to appoint a woman who is a hard liberal, no such accusations could have been leveled at such fine jurists as Judge Diane Wood or Solicitor General Elena Kagan.

The nomination of Sotomoyor is emblematic of the problems that come from trying to create a workplace "that looks like America." It's too easy to let merit take a back seat. Here's the link to the article.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Vacations That Help Your Career

Rather than just barbecuing yourself on a beach, you might consider a vacation that could abet your career. Examples:
  • At the vacation spot of your choice, tackle that big project you've been procrastinating on or distracted from. Just devote a couple hours each morning to it. You'll get more done because other work pressures aren't pulling at you and because you'll know, "Just two hours and I'll have the rest of the day and night to play."
  • Visit locales that have work-related entities. For example, if you're a landscape architect and you'd like to vacation in Tahoe, visit landscape architects there. If your company has a manufacturing plant in China, go there. Distribute a brief report when you return.
  • Need to make career connections? Vacation where you're hanging out with wealthy people for a few days. For example, attend a few-day golf or sailing school, go on a high-end cruise; the cheapest berth will do.
  • If you need to press reset on your ethical compass, consider a volunteer vacation, in which you might, for example, help rural medics in Bolivia, help rebuild the Great Wall, or help deaf children in an East Indian orphanage. A clearinghouse for volunteer vacations is Transitions Abroad.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Missing Ingredient in Most People: Discipline

Discipline has gotten a bad reputation. Since the '60s, it has become associated with rigidity, conformity, militarism, even Nazism.

Yet if I think about all the successful and unsuccessful people I know, the biggest differentiators are intelligence and discipline.

What does discipline mean? A few examples:
  • Rather than indulging the natural desire to dabble, remaining focused on becoming an expert in their chosen field.
  • Willingness to stay focused on a task, taking breaks only when necessary, until the task or a component of it is complete.
  • Willingness to fight past the uncomfortability of not knowing: struggling to master something, willing to expose their ignorance by asking a co-worker a question, and/or hiring a tutor or mentor to accelerate their learning.
  • Working longer hours. The longer you work at your profession or craft, the better you'll get.
  • Willingness to do extra professional development after work, for example, while on the treadmill, doing professional reading rather than watching Desperate Housewives reruns.
One of my most strongly held beliefs is that taking the time to become a true expert at your profession is key to living a meaningful life. You'll both be of greater service to the world and will acquire the legitimate self-esteem that comes from being not a jack of all trades, but a master of one.

Is it Wise to Raise CAFE Standards?

On first blush, requiring car manufacturers to make vehicles get better gas mileage (the so-called CAFE standards) seems a no-brainer: It minimally restricts people's freedom while reducing air pollution and our dependence on Middle East oil.

But on second blush, I'm not so sure:

  • If CAFE standards are raised, people will likely drive more thus emitting more exhaust because it's less expensive to drive: They'll spend less per mile on gas and the smaller high-gas-mileage cars (e.g., Toyota Corolla) cost less than larger cars (e.g., Toyota Camry.)
  • Smaller cars have smaller engines, which have a shorter lifespan, which means more cars will sooner enter the landfills and require the building of more new cars, the creation of which is bad for the environment.
  • Smaller cars are more dangerous--more people will die as a result.
  • The new high-tech gizmos needed to improve gas mileage (for example, variable-interval valves) will cost the average buyer $1500 to $2500 more per car, which makes people less likely to buy a car, which will be yet one more nail in the U.S. automakers' coffin.
  • And if people are still driving their old car, it's more likely to be a polluter, which will hurt air quality.
The lesson in all of this is that every time the government takes an action, there are likely enormous and often unanticipated side effects. In this case, I sense (and I don't think anyone can be sure,) that when the government restricts people's freedom to buy the vehicle they want and says that the government knows better than vehicle manufacturers how to make the right ones, when the smoke clears, we're, net net, worse off.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Websites listing Federal Government Jobs

I promised the listeners to my KGO-AM (ABC-San Francisco) radio show that I'd post the list of websites containing federal job listings that I mentioned on tonight's show. Here they are. (I've added a few.):

To access the federal job openings, start with

Visit your favorite individual federal agency sites. The major ones can be accessed from Agencies may have special positions and recruitment programs listed only on their

site. That means you'll be competing with fewer job seekers. Also, some federal agencies, for example, the FBI, Federal Reserve, Government Accountability Office, and CIA don't have to advertise their jobs on

An even more under-the-radar source of federal jobs is It lists federal jobs, including many overseas ones (Iraq or Afghanistan, anyone?) that are filled via Personal Service Contracts.

Those jobs are less secure than government jobs but usually pay more.

Some federal agencies, for example, EPA, State, FBI, FDIC, and Treasury often fill unadvertised openings at job fairs. Some are listed at and at

Some private temp agencies staff federal temp positions. Some of those agencies are listed on:

If you're a student, a backdoor route into a permanent government job is a federal internship. lists 200 federal internship programs. Also see

There's a directory of federal jobs set aside for veterans and people with disabilities:

A Debate: Are Diverse Workplaces Better?

On my NPR-San Francisco radio show today, I moderated a debate on the topic: Are diverse workplaces better? The debaters were both excellent and despite the issue's incendiary nature, shed much light and no undue heat. It was much more intelligent, respectful, and honest than most debates on such an incendiary subject.

I believe this debate represents a model for what President Obama, Attorney General Holder, and former President Clinton were hoping for when they called for an honest discussion of race in America.

HERE is the link to the audio of that debate.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Simple Way to Improve College

I appeared today on NPR's The Takeaway with John Hockenberry and Farai Chideya discussing America's most overrated product: higher education. HERE's the clip.

I wish I would have had the opportunity to say more. This is what I would have said:

Colleges really are a most unexamined icon. They should be required to provide a Student's Bill of Rights, a key plank of which would be that every college would be required to post a Report Card reporting key statistics about the college:
  • 4- and 5-year graduation rates for A students, B students, and C students. Nationwide, we admit to so-called four-year colleges 200,000 students from the bottom 40% of their high school class, yet 2/3 of them don't graduate even if given 8 1/2 years.
  • The amount of freshman-to-senior growth in thinking skills, math reasoning, etc. for students with similar high school record.
  • The true cost (cash and loan) that that student will likely have incurred over the four (or more years they're in college, based on their family's income and assets. Today, colleges too often use what I call The Drug Dealer Scam, in which they give freshmen a big discount but once they have the student hooked (attending the college,) they jack up the tuition in years two through four and then after year four, take away all institutional aid.
Tire manufacturers are required to mold into each tire's sidewall its tread life, traction, and temperature rating. Yet colleges, in selling what may be the largest purchase of a person's life and one that can greatly affect their life, are allowed to sell their product with no disclosures, only Madison-Avenue-inspired brochures and websites, and highly sales-trained tour guides and admission "counselors." (Their "counselors" rarely counsel any admissible student to go to any other college.) Requiring colleges to prominently post a Report Card on itself with items like those above will both allow the the prospective college student to make a fully informed choice AND put pressure on colleges to improve the quality of what they provide. Now, all colleges' incentives are to provide cheap-quality education so they can divert student funds to the esoteric, rarely useful research that excites academics but few others.

To date, we have been subjecting college students to a Tuskegee Experiment--a highly risky treatment without disclosing the risks, side-effects, and opportunity costs. We need to let the sunshine in.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Social Networking to Help Your Career: LinkedIn 2.0

LinkedIn and Twitter are helping many people land informational, job interviews, and use the power of crowds to get advice on issues they're facing on the job.

While those tools do offer ways to target people in your field, a new article on mentions a new generation of social networking sites aimed at individual subgroups:
  • Top managers are getting tips from peers at Meet the Boss. That site restricts membership to financial executives, usually at the C level (as in "chief").
  • Epernicus is for scientists.
  • Graduate Junction caters to graduate students; for those already out of school.
  • MyWorkster connects professionals with fellow alumni.
  • Jobvite helps companies tap the power of social networks to find the best referrals for their available jobs.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Working Moms are Better than Stay-at-Home Moms

On this Mother's Day, I want to make the judgmental assertion that, on average, working moms deserve more credit than do stay-at-home moms, far more.

As I've previously written, the research is clear that in most situations, staying at home beyond the first few months, doesn't help the child. (I append a list of references at the end of this article.)

Beyond the research, logic makes clear that in many cases, the child, the mom, the domestic partner, the workplace, and the larger society are better served when moms work full-time on remunerative work.

Benefits to the child

The working mom's child is less likely to be self-absorbed, with a sense of entitlement, because Helicopter Mom is not 24/7, hovering at Junior's beck and call.

Compared with a working mom, a smaller percentage of a stay-at-home mom's interaction with her child is likely to be quality time. If you've worked outside the home all day, you're more likely to be glad to see your child, really pay attention, patiently teach your child, and simply enjoy him or her, which your child can feel. If you've been with your child 24/7, you may not be as positive or present.

The working mom's child is more likely to become self-efficacious. As I mentioned, stay-at-home moms tend to be helicopter moms, hovering, ostensibly to protect the child but often veering into overprotection. Why would stay-at-home moms be more likely to be overprotective than working moms? Because they don't have a worklife to provide additional meaning to their life, they may be bored and/or want to justify the usually cushier life that stay-at-home moms have--more flexible schedules, time during the day for some pleasure, no long commute to face not-particularly-meaningful and/or difficult work, nor a fire-breathing boss seething, "Where's that report!"

The working mom's child is also more likely to benefit because the child gets to see a role model of a person who can, beyond being a housewife, also earn money and be productive outside domestic tasks--even if it's just, for example, as a bill processor. Even that mundane job is of real value--helping ensure that people pay and receive what is fair.

Finally, the working mom is a more interesting person to her child than the stay-at-home mom because mom has seen more of the world than just the four-walls of her home, the play group, the lunch at the mall with a friend, etc.

Benefits to the working mom

Many stay-at-home moms admit that staying home "turns my brain to mush." Working outside the home helps keep you vibrant.

Stay-at-home moms have no income power, which cedes too much control to her domestic partner. That partner appropriately claims more control of what gets spent. And if the partner leaves, the stay-at-home mom has the Herculean task of trying to convince employers that a resume whose most impressive feature is volunteering for the PTA should be hired over the dozens or hundreds of applicants who have a more substantive work history.

The working mom also benefits because she feels more productive. Because, per the above, it's very likely that your child will be no worse if you go to work, stay-at-home moms, in the privacy of their thoughts (if they'll allow themselves to be honest with themselves) realize they've not only not been productive, not making a contribution to society, they've been parasites--relying on someone else to take care of them, even though they're able-bodied, compus-mentus adults. If there were two clones of me lying on my deathbed--one who was a stay-at-home mom, the other who was a working mom--I know I'd feel better about myself knowing I had been productive beyond being a mother and housekeeper.

Benefits to the domestic partner

The working mom's domestic partner benefits because, especially if there's a child or three, it's ever more difficult to make ends meet on one income. The working mom reduces the terrible stress that sole breadwinners often experience. It's well acknowledged that stress kills and so if a domestic partner truly loves her partner and doesn't just say so, working on a remunerative job may well save his or her life. Also if a mom is working, that gives her partner a greater chance of choosing a career based not so heavily on how much money it will earn but also on whether it's rewarding. So many of the most rewarding careers (for example, those in the arts) pay poorly so the partners of stay-at-home moms are forced to forgo them in favor of more remunerative but often less fulfilling jobs, for example, in sales, advertising, insurance, accounting, plumbing, finance, heavy industry, etc.

Benefits to the workplace

The workplace benefits because better-quality work gets done when employers can hire from a larger pool. Would-be stay-at-home moms can add immeasurably to the workplace.

Benefits to society

Society as a whole benefits when moms work. The products and services we buy are better when employers can hire from the full pool of people, including would-be stay-at-home moms. Also, because moms, on average, feel better about themselves when working outside the home, they're psychologically healthier and thus more likely to treat themselves and others well.

The need for expanded, excellent child care

I want to stress that I believe it is a joint parent/employer/government responsibility to provide excellent child care. That would be a far wiser user of ObamaDollars than propping up GM, Chrysler/Fiat, irresponsible banks, and people who took on more mortgage or credit-card debt than they could afford.

In sum

In sum, on this Mothers Day, I want to salute the millions of working mothers and exhort those stay-at-home moms who think their child and they will be better off if they stay at home to reread this article and consider joining us in the workplace: you, your child, your domestic partner, the workplace, and society as a whole will likely be the better for it.

* * * * *

Here are the research studies I found on the question of whether it's wiser for moms to stay at home or become a working mom.

A study titlted Caring and Counting by Tracey Reynolds, Claire Callender and Rosalind Edwards found that "the mother's work had a positive impact on their family relationships. The mother's employment provided skills and resources that meant they could meet their children's emotional, developmental and material needs better. Their relationship with their partner was enhanced because they shared the financial burden of providing for their family and had more common interests."

The book, Ask The Children, is based on in-depth interviews with 600 parents and more than 1,000 children in the third through twelfth grades from diverse backgrounds. It found that "having a working mother is not predictive of how children assess their mothers' parenting skills, based on a number of attributes strongly linked to children's healthy development and school success. These include 'being someone I can go to when I am upset' and 'knowing what is really going on in my life.'" This study's results were reported to the public in a cover story in Working Mother magazine called "Hey Moms, Drop the Guilt!" Its core assertion: millions of children with working moms do just fine. What counts most is quality time: reasonably consistent, loving, limit-setting but not punitive parenting, even if it begins after the workday.

Here are links to additional research indicating that, if anything, kids and moms benefit when mom works outside the home:

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Green Shoots or The Greatest Depression?

This is excerpted from a report by the Trends Research Institute.
The financial fields replete with sprouting "green shoots" should be viewed with suspicion, if not alarm, warns Gerald Celente, The Trends Research Institute Director. "They are not a mirage, but they are ephemeral."
Field Marshall Ben Bernanke and his Green Shoot Brigade have fertilized the economic landscape with trillions of sweat equity dollars extorted from today's public and the public of generations to come. Regardless of how depleted the land, heavy doses of dollars spread so thickly over the financial and government territories, will force "green shoots" to grow. But the fundamentals of the economy remain unsound. They will not be corrected by forced fertilizing barren acreage....

"Green shoots' may sprout," said Celente, "but they will not flower. Green shoots can only be brought to harvest through real productivity. Pumping gigantic sums of money into too-big-to-fail financial institutions to jump-start the lending/borrowing cycle is to perpetuate a failed economic model. (See "The Greatest Depression," Trends Journal, Winter 2009.)"...

The lesson to be learned from the financial crisis that began in the summer of 2007, is that nothing succeeds like failure. The greater their failure, the bolder they become. The more they lose, the more they take. The greater the chaos, the more control they exact. The bigger they fail, the harder we fall....

No act is too unthinkable or measure too draconian for the Washington-Wall Street Mob to concoct in order to maintain power, make money and cover their losses...

The green shoots will wither and conditions will deteriorate. Those who are prepared for the worst will not have been taken by surprise.

Reverse Discrimination is Alive and Well

Lest anyone think that reverse discrimination has faded, consider that the City of New Haven threw out the results of a fire department promotion exam because no blacks scored high enough to be promoted.

A group of the top-scoring white and Hispanic candidates sued and lost in a local court and then in the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals--even though the exam was, as dissenting Clinton appointee judge Jose Cabanes noted, "carefully constructed to ensure no racial bias."

The white and Hispanic firefighters are taking their suit to the Supreme Court.

Whatever benefits accrue from reverse discrimination are well outweighed by the liabilities. It saddens me that current orthodoxy believes the opposite.

For details on this, see the ABC News report, Chris Matthews, Lou Dobbs, and syndicated columnist Linda Chavez coverage of this case.

55% of Americans Believe They've Been Protected by a Guardian Angel

Next time you think about making a rational argument, consider that a 2008 national poll, reported in Time, finds that 55% of Americans believe they have personally been protected by a guardian angel.

Randall Balmer, chairman of the religion department at New York's Barnard College, said the finding is one in a periodic series of indications that "Americans live in an enchanted world."

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

We Must Come to Accept a Measure of Uncertainty

Now that the probability of the swine flu becoming a major worldwide killer appears to be declining, it would be easy to criticize public health officials and the media for overreacting. And you might think that I, as libertarian-leaning and a frequent critic of the media, would do so.

However, in this case, I believe both public health officials and the media performed admirably.

No one could have, apriori, decided with reasonable confidence that this new virus would not become a megakiller. So the wisest approach was to alert the public to take the measured precautions (wash hands, avoid nonessential travel to Mexico), carefully monitor all suspected cases of swine flu, immediately conduct research to see if the new virus's molecular structure suggests high virulence, and wait as long as possible before deciding whether it's worth diverting vaccine manufacturing from seasonal flu vaccine to swine flu vaccine. The world's public health apparatus did all of the above.

They did not take the more extreme steps such as closing borders and prohibiting air and subway travel. Officials wisely recognized that we cannot reduce risk to zero. It rejected the absurd Precautionary Principle, which is many environmentalists' guiding principle. The Precautionary Principle argues that we should not undertake something new if it entails any risk. That black-and-white rule would have stifled immense amounts of scientific research that have benefited mankind--for example, human or even animal testing of any drug that now routinely saves lives.

Yet for example, the environmentalists that oppose "genetically modified foods" are trying to force farmers not to grow, for example, special high-protein, disease-resistant corn despite reasonable although not absolutely dispositive evidence that the resulting food causes no health risk.

Just as Israelis choose to live in that dangerous state despite the clearly non-zero risk of living next to people who elected a political party, Hamas, sworn to the Israelis' destruction. we must accept that there is greater likelihood of a worse life if we insist on reducing risk to near zero.

I believe that we should, for example, be willing to accept greater risk in hopes of much greater rewards in deciding policy regarding genetic engineering and, yes, whether it's worth expending unprecedentedly massive resources--2% of world GDP for decades is widely proposed--to attempt to cool the globe.

The Case Against One-Size-Fits-All Education

At the 2009 National Conference of the Education Writers Association, I debated Kati Haycock, president of EdTrust on the question, "Should all students be required to take a college-prep curriculum?" I argued against one-size-fits-all education.

I was shocked that she opened the debate by deeming me (and anyone who opposes college-prep for all) racist. After the presentation, audience members told me I shouldn't be surprised--that's the tactic she and her predecessor at EdTrust, Russlyn Ali, use to quell dissent. I also learned that many experts believe that EdTrust-created data is suspect. For example, respected U.S.C education professor, Stephen Krashen wrote an article, "Don't Trust Ed Trust." Gerald Bracey, who for decades in the respected Phi Delta Kappan authored reports on the state of education, wrote an article in the Huffington Post called "The Education Trust's Disinformation Campaign." A Democratic member of the California Board of Education, Jim Aschwinden said "Everyone knows Ed Trust is a sham. Go talk to Carol Liu, a Democratic senator who wanted to investigate Ed Trust and was stonewalled but eventually found out that the statistics EdTrust reports about its poster-boy program--San Jose Unified School District--are bogus."

In addition to Haycock unfairly playing the race card and presenting dubious statistics, she heavily relied on vague feel-good, politician-like slogans such as "Don't we want to give all kids a chance?"

I tried to limit my remarks to the substantive. Here were my major points:

We send almost twice as many students to college today as we did in 1970--now admitting, every year, 200,000 students to so-called (see below) four-year colleges who graduated in the bottom 40% of their high school class. As a result, professors dumb down their classes. That devastates the quality of education for those ready for college-level instruction. Pew Trust-funded research and the president's Spelling Commission document the minuscule freshman-to-senior growth in reading, writing, thinking, etc. For example, according to the Pew research, 50% of college seniors scored below 'proficient" on a test requiring such basic tasks as understanding the arguments of newspaper editorials or comparing credit-card offers. Almost 20 percent of seniors had only basic quantitative skills--they couldn't estimate if their car had enough gas to get to the gas station!

Despite the dumbing down of college instruction, the U.S. Dept. of Education reports that, of the aforementioned college students who graduated in the bottom 40% of their high school class, 2/3 won't have completed their degree, even if given 8 1/2 years! Meanwhile, they will have accumulated a mountain of debt, a devastated self-esteem, very little learning (even less than the Pew averages described above) And ironically, they are less(!) employable than if, after high school, they had pursued a path other than a four-year-college education: apprenticeship, learning entrepreneurship at the elbow of a successful, ethical businessperson, a career-prep program at a community college, or the military. Why? Because even those students from that 200,000 that graduate, disproportionately have low-levels of skills, poor GPAs in minimally marketable majors (e.g., sociology) from no-name colleges at the same time as employers have more college graduates to choose from and demand high-level skills especially in science, math, and technology.

The statistic that the universities like to trumpet to justify their $200,000 four-year sticker price is that "You earn a million dollars more over a lifetime with a college degree." That is a grossly misleading statistic:

-- For starters, even the College Board, whose customer is the colleges, admits it's only $600,000.

-- Far more important, that million-dollar-more statistic hides the fact that the pool of college-bound students is brighter, more motivated, and has better family connections than the pool of non-college-bound students. So you could lock them in a closet for four years and they'd earn much more than the non-college bound.

-- Perhaps most important of all, that statistic is retrospective--reporting what past generations of college students earned. That bears little relation to what today's college graduates will earn over their lifetime. Why? As I mentioned, we have far more college graduates than in the past, graduates with far weaker skills at the same time as employers, with so many more bachelor's degree holders to choose from, are demanding ever higher-level and science/math-intensive expertise, and are offshoring, part-timing, temping, and automating ever more jobs. Those 200,000 students who get admitted to four-year colleges each year from the bottom half of their high school class are likely to earn much less over their lifetime than if, for example, they had become a surveyer, chef, machinist, or medical equipment technician. The supply-demand imbalance is perhaps simplistically made clear when one compares the average hourly pay of sociology majors with a modest GPA from a no-name college even if they did graduate, with a plumber's average hourly rate.

Four-year colleges are unethical when they admit students whom they know, from past experience, would more wisely be served elsewhere--Is it wise to expect most of the 200,000 who did poorly in high school to do better in college where the work is harder? Better than if, for example, they had entered an apprenticeship program to become an electrician who could, for example, be one of the hordes needed to build President Obama's Smart Electrical Grid? In the countless professions where there is a shortage--e.g., robotics technicians, welders, respiratory therapists, etc? Is it worth depriving the vast majority of those 200,000 of a wiser life path merely so a handful of unpredictably late-bloomers who would might better off at at "four-year" college can attend? I believe universities admit such students less because they believe it's in the students' interests and more to fill seats and impress their funders, especially legislatures, of their willingness to serve everyone.

If a physician recommended a treatment that cost a fortune and took years to complete without disclosing its poor chances of success, he'd be sued for malpractice and lose in any court in the land. Yet not only are colleges not sued, they're rewarded with our tax dollars: the government continually increases the amount of financial aid to students. That merely enables colleges to raise their prices even more, which is, of course, what they've been doing.

Four-year colleges should not admit students with a low probability of graduation. At minimum, they should provide prospective students with full disclosure, at least equal to that that we require of tire manufacturers. Every tire sold in America must, molded into their sidewall, include its rating on treadlife, temperature, and traction. Similarly, colleges should be required to prominently present their four- and five-year graduation rates for students with varying high school records and its students' average amount of growth in reading, writing, thinking, mathematical reasoning, and, yes, employability.

That would be core to what I advocate: A Student's Bill of Rights, not another Tuskegee Experiment, in which we subject people, without full disclosure, to a highly risky treatment.

For more, see my article, America's Most Overrated Product: The Bachelor's Degree: and a 3500-word article that is an expanded version of this blog post: The Case Against One-Size-Fits-All Education.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Marty Nemko on The Glenn Beck Program

Update: I just received this from the producer of the Glenn Beck Show a few hours before my scheduled appearance.


I need to let you know that we are no longer doing this segment this week. My profound apologies. You are FANTASTIC and I can’t wait to get you on the program and am so grateful to you for putting up with us and constantly shifting your schedule for us.

All the best and I hope to contact you soon.


I will be appearing this Thursday, May 7 at 5 PM Eastern time on the Glenn Beck Program on Fox News. Its producer asked me to submit talking points.

Note: In a previous version of this post, I included the talking points here. But they are now incorporated in my most recent blog post: "The Case-Against One-Size-Fits-All Education." I deleted them here because I didn't want you to feel I expected you to read them twice.

How Good a Person Are You?

Every period in a person's life could be graded from A: Makes the world much better TO F: Makes the world much worse.

I believe that the higher a person's lifetime average grade, the more well-led one's life has been.

I use The Report Card (at this point, unconsciously) when I’m unsure how to spend a given hour(s). For example, if a friend invites me to go shopping, instead of reflexively deciding, I might think, "Do I want to do something that would score higher on The Report Card?" I also use The Report Card in evaluating the most recent period of my life or my entire life so far.

Objection: I don’t want to be Mother Teresa.

Response: You set your standards. If for some or even all your hours, you’re satisfied with a grade of C (no negative nor positive impact on the world—for example, tending your flower garden)--so be it. Keeping The Report Card in the back of your mind merely keeps you conscious of your life’s choices. It's a free tool that may help you live the life you want to live.

Objection: I have too little potential for impact to bother with The Report Card.

Response: Even the most mundane of us make a difference--for example, how we treat the Trader Joe’s clerk.

Objection: I don’t want the guilt that keeping track would invoke.

Response: If what you’re doing deserves guilt, mightn’t your being more conscious about your life choices help you to live a life you don’t feel guilty about?

So if you feel The Report Card might have some validity, what would you guess your life’s average daily grade is? Do you want to change it? If so, what do you want to do differently?

Or do you have a better approach to assessing the value of an hour or of your life? Feel free to comment.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Government Waste, Yet Again

Will we never learn? Because government is so unaccountable for its use of money, so incapable of policing whether our taxpayer dollars are spent properly, our tax dollars nearly always buy far less than what we could get if we rather than the government decided how to spend it.

This latest example is reported in the current (May 4) issue of Time magazine.

"In an April 21 report to Congress, the special inspector general overseeing the government's $700 billion financial bailout offered some grim news and a stern warning. Neil Barofsky said he had begun 'almost 20 preliminary and full criminal investigations' into allegations of fraudulent use of bailout funds. He urged the government to revamp the bailout rules so it can better track spending. According to Barofsky, the bailout's Public-Private Investment Partnership program, in particular, is 'inherently vulnerable to fraud, waste and abuse.'"

Helping Your Child or Grandchild Choose a Career

The parent's nightmare: having spent a fortune to send a kid to college only to find her or him, after graduation or dropping out (half do,) back on the sofa career-clueless.

What to do?

To preempt the problem, start encouraging career exploration early--age 5 isn't too young. The schools should do this but alas, they're ever more obsessed with just preparing students for more school. Start by taking your child on field trips to see people doing the sorts of work you could envision your child doing. For example, if your child is a people person, you might visit a corporate salesperson and a nonprofit manager. If your child is a hands-on type, you might visit a biomedical equipment technician and a surgeon. Too busy to take such field trips, find on-target career videos using GoogleVideo.

Encourage your child, whether in elementary school or college, to ask the teacher's permission to do term papers and projects that would help them explore a career. For example, if teacher assigns a term paper on the use of the doppelganger in literature, your child might ask if he might instead do one contrasting the way architects are treated by various authors.

During the summers, I recommend against sending a high schooler to a prestigious college's summer program for high school students. The last thing teenagers need is more school and it will have little or no impact on their college admissibility. I would also discourage classic teen summer jobs such as scooping ice cream in favor of asking yourself, "What friend or relative might give my child a paid or volunteer opportunity that would allow him to explore a possible career?"

I suggest that your child select a tentative major before deciding which colleges to apply to--it can help determine what college to attend. A great master list of majors and the colleges offering them are HERE.

Also remind your child that college is a bad place to try to figure out what you should be when you grow up. Remember, professors are people who deliberately opted out of the real world so they can pursue arcane research projects of interest to only the handful of other similar researchers. Instead of relying on courses and professors to guide your child's career choice, encourage your child to play around in the campus career center and/or have them identify candidate careers by perusing the annotated lists of careers in the Occupational Outlook Handbook, (bias alert here), my Best Careers lists on, and the 500+ careers in my book, Cool Careers for Dummies. Each of those offers a profile of lots of careers followed by a suggested website or book for additional information.

But what if it's too late for all that? Your kid is back on your sofa, career-clueless, still trying to "find himself," perhaps even proposing that cliche of cliches: a trip overseas to "find myself." Beware: Having been career coach to many such people, seeking beyond the summer after graduation usually increases inertia and confusion. A second warning : Do not encourage that inaction by supporting your child through his "period of discovery." It usually engenders the same torpor than renders trust-fund babies and welfare recipients inert.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Three Lessons I Learned From My Father

Here's a three-minute clip from my KGO radio show in which I describe three career lessons I learned from my dad.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Change Can Sometimes Occur Quickly

I watched my client and now friend Jeffrie Givens sing at a student recital. Her voice was lovely but throughout the performance, she stood still, arms at her sides.

I suggested that at the next recital, "You sing Queen Latifah's supersexy song from Chicago, When You're Good to Mama, Mama'll Be Good to You. And your job is to be a performer, not just a singer. To learn the difference, watch YouTube videos of singers who really perform--for example, Bette Midler, Gladys Knight, Queen Latifah. Your job is to perform as big as they do."

The next time I saw her sing, she had made a total transformation: she was as animated and entertaining as Gladys Knight is.

Next, I said, "Now, you're going to try out for a role in a musical at the Woodminster Amphitheatre." It's a 1500-seat venue that hosts semi-professional musical plays. She sang that song at her audition, and lo and behold, although she's never taken an acting course in her life, never auditioned for anything in her life, she was cast in Brigadoon.

Next week, she auditions for a major part in Rent.

The embedded lessons about change:
1. Change is often best facilitated by demonstrating models of the desired change.
2. It can more effective to try for an instant total transformation than incremental change.
3. Change is more likely when someone is pushing you, believing in you.
4. Create high-stakes motivation to change. In this case, her first motivation was to do much better in front of the recital audience. The next motivator was to get to be in a high-quality production of a play in a huge venue.