Friday, April 22, 2022

 Louisiana Rediscovers the Career Diploma

(Includes an excerpt from my new book, Parenting According to Nature) 


This is an article in the national publication, Real Clear Policy, touting Louisiana’s major push recently to provide Louisiana high school graduates with a variety of vocational/career certifications. The article is proclaiming this shift in the Louisiana graduation emphasis by State Superintendent Cade Brumley as a bold new initiative! Superintendent Brumley certainly deserves credit for finally beginning to provide thousands of Louisiana high school graduates with valuable career training, but this change in emphasis was mandated by a law passed in the Louisiana legislature almost over 13 years ago. 

The article in Real Clear Policy calls this a "bold move" to overhaul career and technical education in Louisiana high schools. According to the story "the program will develop economically relevant graduation pathways for high school students." When I read the article, it reminded me that I had discussed this issue in my new book on parenting. Here is an excerpt from my book, Parenting According to Nature on the subject of career education:


“In 2009 I took these ideas to local school superintendents across the state, and with their support drafted legislation (SB 249) which was called The Career Diploma Law, and got it passed through the Louisiana legislature that year. The bill had almost unanimous support of both Representatives and Senators and was signed by the Governor. The Career Diploma law provided a vocational pathway for graduation to students who wanted to pursue a career that did not require preparation for four-year colleges.”

Here is a direct quote from the career diploma law passed 13 years ago in Louisiana:

 “(b) Students pursuing a career major shall be afforded the opportunity to dually enroll in a community or technical college or participate in a business internship or work-study program,”  

“The only problem for this legislation was that the state superintendent of education in Louisiana at that time, who had no credentials in education, had opposed the legislation providing for the career diploma, and basically refused to implement the law. That’s because he and members of the State Board of Education had been convinced to adopt a new education reform strategy that was the national rage at the time, particularly among non-educators, that aimed to prepare all students for college. 

Philanthropist Bill Gates had been convinced to support and promote a new curriculum for all public-school students in the U.S. called the Common Core State Standards. The Common Core State Standards also came to be strongly supported by the Obama administration. The Louisiana State Board of Education adopted this new curriculum, even before it was written, at the urging of the Gates Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education. The actual set of standards was then hurriedly designed by a small group of mostly testing company executives and their experts. The goal of the project was to have all states “voluntarily” adopt the new Common Core State Standards. The leader of the effort was David Coleman, the president of the College Board, which produces the SAT tests and tests for advanced placement (AP) courses in high schools. Coleman had never spent one day as a classroom teacher in the K–12 education system. In fact, most of the writers of this new curriculum had little experience as classroom teachers and sought almost no input from professional educators in writing the standards. This was part of a new trend where non-educators apparently decided to take education reform into their own hands with little or no consultation from professional teachers. This new college prep curriculum flew in the face of recommendations from educators who saw a greater need for vocational and career education for most students who would not attend college.”

The article in Real Clear Policy gives Bill Gates credit for announcing 20 years ago that U.S. high schools were not doing a good job of preparing students for lifetime skills. Here is a quote from a Gates speech at that time: “America’s high schools are obsolete. By obsolete, I mean that our high schools – even when they’re working exactly as designed – cannot teach our kids what they need to know today.”  


Ironically Gates, who had dropped out of college to develop a software company that made him one of the richest persons on earth, now spent over a billion dollars of his foundation’s money to force all American children to be taught a lot of stuff they would never use in real life. The Louisiana Career Diploma law however, had been passed specifically to allow our high schools to teach “kids what they need to know today”. The adoption of the Gates supported Common Core standards basically paralyzed all efforts to make our high schools more relevant to the 70% of our students who were not going to attend 4-year colleges.  

So now, after an entire generation of Louisiana children have attended schools under the Common Core standards, our Board of Regents has projected that only 18% of today’s ninth graders can be expected to achieve any type of college degree. So, the program had made our college attendance rate even lower than before in Louisiana. Now, all these years after passage of the Career Diploma law in Louisiana, our Department of Education and even the business community have rediscovered this law and decided to implement it as a “bold move to overhaul high school career and technical education”. It sure would have been great if our education reformers had done this 13 years ago.



Thursday, April 21, 2022

 Parenting According to Nature: Excerpt #1

Why  cultural learning is now a critical part of rearing children

This excerpt from my new book describes examples of why teaching our children is so important to producing competent and successful young adults. This is the link to the Amazon ad for my book.


"Scientists have found that cultural adaptation and learning are different for different cultures and are usually precisely matched to the environment. Even today, people of different cultures find it very difficult to move to a different geographic area such as from high rainfall plains to the desert, or the tropics. They must be specifically trained for each environment.

It takes a tremendous amount of highly sophisticated training to create a successful human, well adapted to his environment. Here is just one example: Anthropologists studying a very primitive tribe in Tierra del Fuego, South America, were amazed at the complex process used by the hunters of the tribe to create weapons. Sitting with highly skilled elder hunters, the researchers found that there are 17 different precise steps in the production of an arrow. The elders explained how to straighten the shaft, which is preferably made from branches of a certain tree that are not originally very straight. Just adding the feather fletching requires several steps using particular wing feathers of a particular kind of hawk, with the left-wing feathers used in a different way than the right-wing feathers. Young boys spend many hours and days learning the construction of and perfecting their weapons, not to mention how much practice it takes to hunt rabbits and birds with these weapons. Let’s just say that it takes probably a lot more sophistication for primitive del Fuegians to learn the skills needed to construct effective arrows than it takes today’s teenagers to learn algebra. Another key point I will address later is that the primitive young hunters are much better motivated to learn their arrow-making skills because their skills are much more relevant to their everyday survival than algebra is to teenagers.


Cultural evolution has become the most rapid form of human evolution

Genetic evolution is still occurring within the human species, but that process is too slow to provide the adaptations humans need in our rapidly changing environment. Cultural evolution is a better and faster alternative. Now, our large brains with their huge capacity for learning allow us to pass on innovations to our young, resulting in an accelerated rate of human progress to create more and more complex societies. This modern form of evolution is suitable for transmission to offspring by making use of the long training and enculturation period for which human children are genetically designed. 

 Humans did not genetically inherit the knowledge or skills needed for making fire, bows, arrows, boats, pottery, or computers. They had to learn these skills from their parents or other, wise elders in the tribe or, in our case, sometimes from modern scientists. Compare these learned skills to the inherited skills used by bees to give directions to other worker bees to a newly discovered pasture filled with nectar rich flowers. Bees are not taught this direction giving system, which consists of a sort of “dance” that tells other bees the direction and distance of the flowers. That system of direction-giving which is encoded in their genes probably developed over millions of years and cannot easily be changed to adapt to new conditions. In humans, giving directions to other humans to a beehive loaded with honey can be much more precise and more versatile because it is learned behavior conveyed by using language. 

The development of language in humans was a form of cultural adaptation based on the need to communicate information about the construction of complex tools, hunting and fishing techniques, plant identification, seasonal changes, and transmission of knowledge to succeeding generations. It is believed that spoken languages in human ancestors were gradually developed probably starting over a million years ago. The development of language caused a type of genetic co-evolution in humans that selected for improved adaptations of the mouth, throat, and larynx making speaking easier and allowing language to be more complex. Language has continued to evolve, giving us the ability to transmit ideas more effectively, which Henrich (see note below) believes raises the average IQ (intelligence quotient) of the species. Researchers have found that the IQ of children is very closely related to the number of words they know and their resultant ability to communicate and even to think more effectively. This is an important discovery that should be utilized in teaching our children to be better adapted to the modern environment using a greater mastery of vocabulary and language."


Note: Joseph Henrich, a leading evolutionary scientist, has developed successful new theories explaining the importance of cultural learning in humans. His work shows why it is so critical that we carefully train our children for success in life.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Parenting According to Nature Now Available on Amazon

I am very happy to announce that my book on parenting is now available here on Amazon! The eBook version is only $6.99. The paperback is $15.99

I wrote this book because I believe the most important job we parents have in life is that of properly rearing our children. In researching and writing this book I wanted to provide young parents with a practical how-to guide for preparing their children for a successful and happy life. 

This new book is a unique approach based on two years of research on the latest discoveries of evolutionary biologists and anthropologists about successful child rearing. My book attempts to describe the most effective ways parents can prepare their children for survival and for living a happy life in the complex environment of today. There are some very good time-tested methods used by parents throughout human experience for raising happy, successful children that can be very effective today if properly adapted to our modern world. 


Here is the thing: Children are born ready and quite willing to learn what they need to succeed in life from their parents and other teachers. Kids are born hungry to learn from us. All we need to do is feed them lots of useful information, great life skills, and a heathy culture if we want them to be successful. 


Unfortunately, there are many pitfalls and dangers to our children in our modern environment today. Everything from the food they eat, the games they play, and the peers they associate with are very critical to their success in life. It is up to us as parents to keep them on the right path to success and happiness. It takes about 20 years to properly train a young human to be a successful adult. That’s quite a challenge for parents. A lot of things could go wrong. But we also know that raising children can be a very joyful and rewarding experience. We know that the happiest people on earth are those that have a great family life where our legacy as social beings can be fulfilled.


Take a good look at Parenting According to Nature. You may just find some great ideas for successfully rearing children in the crazy, exciting world of today.  Here's an image of the new cover art for the book: