Archive for the ‘education’ Category

It’s official: My oldest child has graduated from high school. Her commencement address was remarkable (see short clip below). I’ve included a couple photos of her as seen on the Target Center jumbotron talking to 600 of her peers and an audience of 3,000 parents, siblings, grandparents, and friends.

Here’s the introduction and first couple minutes of her remarks (I’m a terrible hand-held camera operator – just FYI).

Here’s the last 1:45 of the speech.

KG JumboTron

The Maple Grove High Graduation Ceremony was broadcast by cable access Channel 12.

KG Jumbotron2

She’s a superstar, what can I say?!

Text of speech:

“Our Crimson Identity,” by Kayla Grothaus

You know, I was looking through the yearbook the other day and suddenly, it felt like I was staring at pages of faces of people I’d never seen before in my life. So I began to think about it and I realized that in my time here at Maple Grove, I have only gotten to know a small group of people. Maybe a couple dozen or so out of the 2 thousand involved in our school community, out of the nearly 600 students who sit here on this floor.

And, I thought, how strange is it, really, that here we are today, celebrating one of the first huge milestones in our lives, together… When some of us haven’t even met yet! I mean, I don’t know who would invite 600 strangers to their grad party!

But as I look out on this room, I realize that we aren’t really strangers. Not at all. Because somehow, it just feels right that today we wear the same clothes – the same cap, the same gown. We bear the same colors: our crimson and gold. It represents a piece of who we’ve been the past few years and who we are right now and who we will be forever. And as much as I would have loved to have gotten to know more of you, the peers I share this wonderful day with, I am content to know that we share one thing in common, one thing that will be unique to us and only us, regardless of where we find ourselves in the coming months and years.

It is our Crimson Identity that unites us. We discovered it three years ago at that homecoming pepfest. And I’m willing to bet that the Class of 2007 might still try to deny it, but we earned that spirit jug. Why? Because in those 45 minutes, we forged the character and began the legacy that is the Class of 2009.

Since then, we have grown and matured and learned and for this short while, our lives have become inextricably intertwined. Every time we went to a football game, or a school play, or any of the dances, and every class we’ve attended, or cafeteria lunch we ate, our experience has been shaped by all of us: the people who go to our school, people we may not know.

Obviously, it is this collective us who make up a class with whom we are all quite familiar. But as a senior reflecting and reminiscing on the high school experience, standing on the precipice that is graduation, preparing to enter the adult world, one thing has become very clear: In life, it is incredibly easy to get lost in the crowd, to forget the role we play and contribution we make to the big picture. I’ve realized that high school was never just about me and my friends. No, it was about each of us in line at lunch, or on our feet screaming the battle cry, or in our classes, writing papers and giving those presentations.

For each of us, we reached a point when we asked “What’s it all gonna add up to, anyway?” When we wondered where or how poetry explication is going to have value in our lives. And I realized that, for our teachers, it has never been just about World History or Geometry. They have dedicated themselves to preparing us for the world we are about to step into. Because of them, we are able to comprehend the fact that we aren’t alone in this universe. That there are seven billion people out there who are just as willing and able to work as hard as you and I. But fear not, because our teachers know what it takes to go above and beyond, what it means to really strive for excellence. And I know just as well as I know about sine, cosine, and tangent, that our teachers did everything they could to supply us with the knowledge and skills it will take for us to really go far in life.

Because our teachers…they have been there. They have done that. They have seen students from the class of ’08 and ’07 (and years before) walk this stage. They have shaken hands and given hugs. And, thanks to their efforts – thanks especially for their patience – they have seen former Crimson graduates succeed in college and careers and in life. They are not strangers…they are our mentors. Our logic and rational voices.

And if there was anything I think they would like to impart with us before we leave it is this ancient Greek tradition: E tan e epi tas. For you see, when the Spartan warriors left their homes to fight Xerxes, their women handed them their shields and said: “E tan e epi tas” It means, “Come back with it or on it.” It was a matter of pride and glory, of honor and perseverance. Come back with it or on it. Today, for us, it means to go out into the world with the skills we’ve learned and do the things we can be proud of, then return home and say, “Yes. I gave it my best.” Even if the outcome isn’t all we hoped for, we will have invested ourselves and used the skills and tools we’ve learned. And in doing so, we will return home with the same honor and glory that the Spartans once had. We will uphold that Crimson Identity, and as classmates, as comrades…not strangers…we will pay tribute to the legacy that is the Class of 2009.


Read Full Post »

My career in medical device technology began a scant three years ago. But since Feb. 2006, I feel I’ve learned more than I did in my first 18 years in the workforce. And the kicker is I’m learning from some of the smartest people on the planet.

When I joined The Company, I often drove home after a day in the office wondering how I buffaloed the hiring committee into offering me the position. In those early days, clearly, I was a full hat-size smaller than even the most recent college grad who served as Project Specialist I. But I had the job and I wasn’t about to let go of a good thing.

Now, 35 months into The Company, I’ve hit a good stride. I know not only the medical acronyms, but also what they stand for – quite impressive. I know certain details about how heart devices function. I can explain why health care costs have soared in the U.S. in a way most any Joe Six Pack might understand. I comprehend the importance of clinical trials as well as the need to meet regulatory challenges that prove the efficacy of an implantable device designed to save lives.

My career requires me to be a mile wide and an inch deep on hundreds of topics, but because I sit down frequently with people like our chief medical and technology officer (a former cardiologist who left Harvard to join this company and impact the lives of millions of people each year, not just a handful), I’m also able to go deep on the topics that interest me most about health care and medicine. And because I get the honor now and then to hear The Company’s founder speak – (and he happens to wear four or five implants that he played a role in innovating during his time here) – I find it easy to embrace his original mission to help those who face chronic diseases live a full life.

A constant learner with an open mind, this very average Iowa boy who graduated in the middle of his class knows a good thing when he sees it. And baby, I’m surrounded by a very good thing.


Read Full Post »

Campus Visits

Today found me cruising west on I-94 to the far reaches of Minnesota – Moorhead to be exact. In Moorhead sits a small liberal arts college, Concordia, that held potential as a college of choice for my high school senior. It’s not the first campus visit. It won’t be the last.

While Concordia sits on a nice campus with nice students and a nice admissions counselor named Joe, the college’s offerings didn’t quite leave my high school senior with warm fuzzies all over. Who knows, maybe it was the 200 mile drive (one way). Or perhaps it was the idea of spending four years of a young life tromping around a campus in Moorhead, where winter temperatures dip well below zero. Whatever the issue, the key is feeling the fit.

It’s like a relationship. You either feel the click and the a-ha when walking through the campus tour or you don’t. And if you don’t, you don’t force it.

More campus visits to come and she will find the one that leaves her wanting to return and learn.


Read Full Post »

The Sarah Palin Experience

Just for those of you curious about Ms. Palin’s education and experience:

  • In 1982, Palin enrolled at Hawaii Pacific College. She left after one semester and transferred in 1983 to North Idaho College.
  • Palin transferred from NIC to the University of Idaho.
  • She also attended Matanuska-Susitna College in Alaska for one term. It was during this time that Palin won the Miss Wasilla beauty pageant and finished as second runner-up in the Miss Alaska pageant where she won a college scholarship and the “Miss Congeniality” award.
  • She returned to the University of Idaho where she completed her bachelor’s degree in communications/journalism in 1987

After graduation, in 1988, she worked as a sports reporter for KTUU-TV in Anchorage. She also served as a sports reporter for the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman.

At age 28 (1992) she won a seat as a council woman on the Wasilla city council and served until 1996.

In 1996, she was elected as Mayor of Wasilla (a city of 6,300 at the conclusion of her second term as mayor). Upon taking office, Palin eliminated the position of museum director and asked for updated resumes and resignation letters from top officials, including the police chief, public works director, finance director and librarian. She also hired a paid city administrator and reduced her own salary from $68,000 to $64,000.

During her second term as mayor, she was successful in increasing taxes to fund a city sports complex, spent $5.5 million for street projects, and $3 million for water improvement projects — and grew the city’s long-term debt from an approximate $1 million to about $25 million. Term limits prevented Palin from running for a third term as mayor in 2002.

In 2002 she ran for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor of Alaska and lost. She was appointed to the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission where she served as chair beginning in 2003. Palin resigned in January 2004, protesting what she called the “lack of ethics” of fellow Republican members on the Commission.

In 2006, Palin ran against and defeated incumbent Governor Frank Murkowski in the Republican gubernatorial primary. Her running mate was State Senator Sean Parnell. She won the Governor’s seat in November, defeating former governor Tony Knowles 48.3% to 40.9%. Palin became Alaska’s first female governor at age 42 — the youngest governor in Alaskan history.

As Governor, Palin:

  • Pushed for and signed into law a bipartisan ethics reform bill, calling it a “first step” in cleaning up Alaska politics
  • Promoted oil and natural gas resource development in Alaska
  • Put forward an Alaska Gasline Inducement Act to encourage building a natural gas pipeline from the state’s North Slope
  • Signed a bill awarding TransCanada Pipelines $500 million in seed money and a license to build and operate a $26 billion pipeline to transport gas from the North Slope to the Lower 48 states
  • Traveled, for the first time outside of North America, to Kuwait where she visited the Khabari Alawazem Crossing at the Kuwait-Iraq border and met with members of the Alaska National Guard
  • Pursued vendettas, fired officials who crossed her and blurred the line between government and personal grievance
  • Signed a $6.6 billion operating budget into law while at the same time, reduced the construction budget by $237 million (representing 300 local projects)
  • Followed through on a campaign promise to sell a jet purchased by the previous administration for $2.7 million in 2005 against the wishes of the legislature. In August 2007, the jet was listed on eBay, but the sale fell through, and the plane was later sold for $2.1 million through a private brokerage firm.
  • Dismissed the Public Safety Commissioner citing performance-related issues, such as not being “a team player on budgeting issues. The PSC said he had resisted pressure from the Governor, her husband, and her staff to fire Palin’s ex-brother-in-law, State Trooper Mike Wooten, who was involved in a bitter child custody battle with Palin’s sister that included an alleged death threat against Palin’s father.
  • First supported and then criticized a proposed bridge connecting Ketchikan to Ketchikan International Airport and Gravina Island (population 50); and Knik Arm Bridge, a proposed bridge crossing Knik Arm to allow development of Anchorage. In 2006, she ran for governor on a “build-the-bridge” platform, attacking “spinmeisters” for insulting local residents by calling them “nowhere” and urging speed “while our congressional delegation is in a strong position to assist.” Eight months after becoming Governor and a month after the bridge received sharp criticism from John McCain, Palin directed Alaskan officials to look for fiscally responsible alternatives rather than expending state resources to build the bridge or using the transportation funds Congress gave Alaska in place of the original bridge earmark. Alaska will not return any of the $442 million to the federal government and is spending a portion of the funding, $25 million, on a Gravina Island road to the place where the bridge would have gone, expressly so that none of the money will have to be returned.

And that is the extent of Ms. Palin’s career to date.


Read Full Post »

Somewhere in a small town in Minnesota, recently, three eight-grade nose pickers decided it’s be fun to piss off their teacher by staying seated during the Pledge of Allegiance. You see, even in junior high schools around the country, kids stand once a week and recite the Pledge. They don’t HAVE to say the words, but they do have to drag their asses out of their desk chairs and stand.

But these no-brained brats in smallville thought it funny to dis their teacher, the school rules, the flag, their country, and the men and women fighting for our freedom by thumbing their noses at the Pledge and staying on their fat bums.

Naturally, the nosepickers’ mommies and daddies are now contemplating how they can make a quick buck and sue the principal who suspended the kids as well as sue the school district the principal works for.  You can read the whole diatribe in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

What’s the solution here? Clearly it’s twofold.

FIrst, many parents have forgotten how to teach the basics about respect. Respect for property, people (including authority figures like teachers and police officers), animals, and the freedom that, believe it or not, isn’t so free but comes at the utmost highest of prices everyday in far away countries. Teaching respect is a chore and I personally know parents who gave up on putting forth effort to teach their kids what they need to know to excel in life.

Secondly, we have to get it out of our heads that kids under the age of 18 have any real rights at all. Just like respect, rights are earned they aren’t automatic. When an immature child makes a bad decision, causes someone or something harm and then shouts, “It’s my right!” they should be duly laughed at and punished appropriately.

Respect for right conduct is felt by every body.”  -Jane Austen

Society is moving towards this mentality of Rodney Dangerfield. We have to stop the “no respect” mentality before it’s completely out of control.


Read Full Post »

In my busy life of work, parenting and doing other things that I enjoy equally when not working or parenting, I make time to connect with friends from my past. Two or three times a year I have lunch with one of my high school friends. Craig and I were friends from the time we attended kindergarten at Lincoln Elementary School all the way through high school. We have continued to stay in touch for the past 24 years of our lives – through marriages, children, jobs, and other events.

Today at one of our occasional lunches, we got on the topic of the relevance of good teaching and how several teachers from our high school years impacted our lives in positive ways. For example, our high school band teacher seriously helped to form our young minds and teach us about the importance of showing up in life, doing our best and taking pride in everything we touched. To do this day, that teacher continues to take great pride in hearing and seeing the successes of the students he taught.

Unfortunately, a vast majority of teachers sitting in front of classrooms today are unfamiliar with this concept. It’s a disservice to the kids who they teach and, what’s more, it’s their own poor attitude that helps to propagate the negative behaviors found in classrooms and schools throughout the country.

There are likely hundreds of reasons excuses for the attitudes and philosophies teachers have adopted or evolved to since the early ’80s when I was a high school student. There are, no doubt, endless piles of theories on what makes a good teacher today. But I’ll share with you one parent’s view on what makes a poor teacher.

What makes a poor teacher is when sheer laziness becomes the standard operating procedure. When simple basics, like having due dates for homework assignments, aren’t adhered to and when penalties for late or missing work aren’t levied. Teachers have forgotten what life in the real world is like when all they do is coddle their students and tell them, “Just hand in those missing assignments before the semester ends and you’ll receive credit.”
What happened to rules, authority and setting examples? What happened to expectations and ramifications of poorly done or incomplete work? What happened to teaching kids not just an algebra equation, chemical formula, or how to interpret Shakespeare’s sonnets but the importance of showing up (on time), giving a damn and being responsible?

Sure, as a parent I teach and mentor my kids on morality, ethics and the concept of how hard work pays off. And, in time, these lessons will rub off on my two teens. But when I was a kid in school these lessons were taught and reinforced by the teachers who gave a damn – the ones I spent six-plus hours a day listening to in the classroom. When I arrived home after school, I was often given more attention from two parents who – say it with me – gave a damn about the work I did (or didn’t) do at school.

It’s a soapbox that’s ready to crumble thanks to how our society has “evolved.” Unfortunately, this evolution to learning that we’ve adopted will be the formula to which our future becomes unhinged.

Satisfaction with mediocrity: What do we have to be proud of any more? What do we have to look forward to as the next generation enters their career path with a “who cares” attitude?


Read Full Post »

Spencer High School gave me an education that took me places. Places even my high school guidance counselor didn’t think I’d go. In fact, upon reviewing my ACT score, my guidance counselor sat me down and, I shit you not, he said, “You should probably think about a vo-tech school for when you graduate.”

So I didn’t have the best of ACT results. That didn’t stop me.

Upon graduating high school, right in the middle of a class consisting of 176 seniors, I went with my best high school friends to the University of Iowa. Once there, I proceeded to have one of the blurriest years of my life. Twelve months later I was sitting out the fall semester at home contemplating my future. I did go back to Iowa…for a semester, which was much better educationally for me.

Finally, in Dec. 1988, I graduated from a small liberal arts college, Buena Vista University. I, proudly, finished in the top third of my class with a grade point north of 3.5. I had made the freakin’ Dean’s list on several occasions. So eat that, my high school guidance counselor.

Why the trip down Educational Lane?

Yesterday in The New York Times, an article entitled: Dumb and Dumber: Are Americans Hostile To Knowledge, suggested that here in the U.S. there’s an anti-intellectual movement. The writer’s theory was that cases like the Miss Teen U.S.A. fiasco last year and American Idol blonde bimbo Kellie Pickler (who had never heard of the city Budapest when questioned on the show, “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader”) serve as proof that kids today view education as a pox. The Times article states:

Ms. Jacoby…doesn’t zero in on a particular technology or emotion, but rather on what she feels is a generalized hostility to knowledge. She is well aware that some may tag her a crank. “I expect to get bashed,” said Ms. Jacoby, 62, either as an older person who upbraids the young for plummeting standards and values, or as a secularist whose defense of scientific rationalism is a way to disparage religion.

A hostility to knowledge?

I’m not buying it. I think throughout time some kids take issue with books and education while others soak it up like a sponge. That doesn’t mean kids and young adults today are anti-intellectual. Are they different than the kids I went to school with in the ’80s? Why yes. Yes they are. Just as I was different than my Dad or Mom as a young adult. And they were different than my grandparents. And so on. And so on. And so on.

Plus, let’s face it, while the vast majority of us should be able to find Hungary on a world map, how imperative is it to our daily living that we know its capitol city? For trivia questions, maybe, it’s significant. But with all the pages of history that have been added to the history books since the ’70s, do we expect next generations to know every detail of every worldly event that’s happened since the dawn of time?

Please!!! A little bit of reality with that reality show!.


Read Full Post »

Yet another first day of school is in the books. Both kids started back on September 4: One in 7th grade (first year of junior high), and one now a junior in high school. They scrambled to tell me how their first days went and I listened, congratulated them and patted them on the backs for taking on another school year with such enthusiasm. In the back of my mind I kept telling myself, “They want something. Here it comes. It’s coming. They’re going to ask…”


They never asked.

It was just me and my two kids talking. Well, they talked and I listened. And today they’re back in class. So as a parent, I must be doing something right. Right?

I vividly remember both my start in junior high and my junior year of high school.

Junior high is such a huge transition year. You quickly become a big kid. It’s awkward for boys because we’re sweating and smelling and growing hair in places previously untouched by hair. We start noticing girls in a serious way and have to deal with our mature immaturity. One minute we’re all grown up, the next minute we’re sucking the air out of an empty Mountain Dew bottle and vacuuming it to our cheek, unknowingly leaving a large red hicky on the side of our faces. Just try to explain that to an older kid who’s pointing, laughing and calling you hicky face.

High school juniors, on the other hand are all grown up. They’re practically the top dog and they’re faced with their most challenging year of education they’ve ever had. Eleventh grade teachers are brutal. They pile on the homework in an effort to separate the wheat from the chaff. They want you to know by the end of your junior year if you’re going to a university, a junior-college or straight into the workforce. Of course there’s always the threat of joining one of the armed service branches for those who refuse to turn in assignments on time.

My junior year was filled with dating, music and drinking…and a few nights of studying when I had to. And even with a lowly ACT score, I still got accepted at a major university, proving that if I can handle it, any average kid can. But what is average? It’s the best of the worst, right? So why not strive for excellence? That’s a tough lesson to teach any 17-year-old.  

You lead by example, set expectations and hope they’ll see the rays of light you shine on their path. Then you remain realistic, knowing they’ll stumble along the way and that you’ll be there to pick them up and dust them off.

In the end you can pat yourself on the back if, during the year, you’ve congratulated them more than admonished them and, when spring time rolls around in six months, they’re still just as enthused as they were on that first day back to school.


Read Full Post »