Yesterday was encouraging…

I was able to catch some of the inauguration yesterday.  I was more emotionally moved by this event than any presidential inauguration I can remember.  Words of encouragement, unity, and the challenge ahead felt right, timely, meaningful, and uplifting. 

But I was also challenged.  

The political pendulum has often swung hard with a presidential election.  But it seems now, more than ever, those swings are overly-dramatic, and as the last four years have shown us, can be costly to the soul of our nation. 

I woke this morning with a conviction: as we begin to move the pendulum leftward, perhaps back towards the center or beyond, I believe it will be so very important for those of us who are encouraged by this directional move to remember – those who vehemently disagree with this direction are our neighbors, our friends, our family, and fellow Americans.

For the vast majority of those who supported the rightward move over the last four years, they had in mind what they thought was best for our country.  They believed with their heart and soul that President Trump was moving us in the right/correct direction.  Regardless of how strongly I may disagree with that sentiment, I must remember that we are all in this together, and “they” are not my opponent, they are my partner in this experiment. 

I believe the one thing that has the potential to move us away from the right vs. left strife in this country is better communication.  And I believe that must start with me, doing my best to remember that those who think differently than I are not to be beaten, conquered, or quieted down. Rather, they must be acknowledged, listened to, actually heard, and engaged. 

I am hopeful that we can communicate well enough going forward to find common ground.  I certainly understand that there are a few, and I hope a very few, that are willing to throw away the future of our country for a shot at “their side” winning. 

We must be ever vigilant to watch for anything that truly threatens our democracy.  But…we MUST be willing to listen, to hear, to consider, and to communicate.  

Dare I say – our very future depends on it.

Is it time for education to change?

Do we really need to know how to factor a quadratic equation?

I mean… do most of us REALLY need to know this?  Today?  In 2020? 

Those are just a few of the questions that were flying through my mind the other night as I was trying to help Megan do her Advanced Algebra II homework. 

Homework.  That word has taken on a whole new meaning these days, hasn’t it?

As a long-time homeschooling family, diving into a topic and trying to learn how to teach that topic just a few days (no – make that minutes ) before one of our daughters comes to the table is nothing new.  But now, in these days of COVID-19, schools being closed, and everyone learning what it’s like to do school at home, we’re all taking a look at what homework really means. 

As I struggled to remember how to break out the equation, I knew I had known this at one point, but it just wasn’t there.  So what to do?

Google of course. 

And in seconds (literally – less than 10 seconds) I had the answer, with a very good explanation of how to get there, on my phone. A bit of explanation to Meg, and she got it easily.  She had learned it the year before – just needed a bit of a kick start.

But I couldn’t help but wonder…do most of us really need to memorize, and understand how to break down the quadratic equation?  I had a hard time justifying the value of this work to Megan. The practice, the discipline to make yourself do hard work, the sheer joy of numbers … she didn’t really buy any of that. 

But – being the over-achieving student that she has turned out to be (must have gotten that trait from her mother) – she took it in stride and finished the work. 

School is changing before our very eyes. Work is changing every day. What it takes to be successful in this world is very different than it was just a few decades ago.  The days of “go to a good college, get a degree, and be almost guaranteed a good job” – those are but fleeting memories. 

How we navigate this changing landscape, how we chart our own course through life, how we try to solve big problems that affect many people –   I believe those questions are much more important than the quadratic equation.  

Unless, perhaps, you plan to chart a heavy STEM-related course through this world.

Or, if you want more than anything else, to be a math teacher.  🙂