News & Views from 465 California Street

What’s Your Job Worth?

Clint Reilly
Mar
3
2009

I  grew up in a working class enclave in San Leandro. My dad was a milkman. Our next door neighbor was an airplane navigator. In our neighborhood there was a plumber, a carpenter, a mailman, an Oakland fire department captain and two Berkeley Farms Creamery drivers who worked with my father.

Each job held a fascination for us kids, and our dads were very serious about their work. We watched the carpenter build custom furniture for his own home and were proud to be coached by a genuine fire captain in Little League baseball. Of course, we were on the edge of our seats listening to flight stories by the navigator who flew all over the world.

But the value of a day’s labor in America has become dangerously distorted.

The eye-popping paychecks in the financial services industry are dangerously undermining the egalitarian ethic that helped make America the greatest country on earth.

Wall Street’s outrageous pay packages are luring a disproportionate percentage of our most talented young people away from science, engineering, technology, teaching, medicine, architecture and the arts – jobs that are vital to America’s future competitiveness.

In the December issue of The Atlantic magazine, James Fallows interviewed Gao Xiqing – who oversees 10 percent of China’s dollar holdings. He expressed serious skepticism about Wall Street salaries: “I have to say it: you have to do something about pay in the financial system. People in this field have way too much money. And this is not right.

“Individually, everyone needs to be compensated. But collectively, this distorts the talents of the country.”

Xiqing noted how many bright, clever young people he encounters in China who seek to become financial wizards instead of scientists or engineers. When he asks them why, they point out all of the money made by their peers in the financial sector.

The passionate pursuit of an occupation is one of life’s most satisfying experiences. I know an artist who spent a major part of her life teaching so that she could practice her art, which now hangs in museums worldwide.

One great California political operative lives for the day he will elect an American president. A Bay Area doctor is one of the world’s leading specialists in reproductive medicine. There are thousands of journalists who breathe fire about their indispensable role as watchdogs for the public interest.

These workers are vastly under-compensated compared to their Wall Street counterparts.

Our civil servants are also undervalued.

France has an elite civil service training school called the École Nationale d’Administration. Each year, fewer than 100 students are admitted to the Strasbourg-based institution. Since its founding in 1945, 80 percent of the graduates have stayed in government, serving the citizens of France. The lure of socially valuable work – with far less pay than they might command in the private sector – keeps these star talents engaged in public service.

There are countless examples of brilliant individuals who have eschewed riches to perform extraordinary work for society.
Over 20 years as director of public works, Robert Moses built modern New York.

In 1912, Michael O’Shaughnessy accepted a salary less than half of what he earned in private practice to become San Francisco’s chief engineer. He went on to develop the Hetch Hetchy water system, which now provides water to 2.4 million people in San Francisco, Santa Clara, Alameda and San Mateo counties.

Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton – who cleaned up New York City in the same role – has revolutionized urban law enforcement strategy nationwide and rewritten the manual on how to fight crime.

The Golden Gate Bridge is an enduring monument to the commitment of its builders, including chief engineer Joseph Strauss. Strauss conceived the original design, spent years building public support and oversaw the construction of the now world-famous span.

Each of our jobs is an opportunity to contribute to the community as well as a path to personal fulfillment. Making money is certainly important, but work means more than just a paycheck.

What ever happened to the concept of vocation in American society?

Comments (26)

  • I was born and raised in the mostly Irish South Boston
    “projects” in the 50′s, the oldest of seven kids.
    My Dad worked for the government for 40 years.
    Your point of view resonates with me.
    I worry about the America and the world I leave for
    my kids.

    Thanks for your words.

    Robert

    Posted by: Robert | March 3rd, 2009 at 10:59 am

  • Clint, I appreciate your columns generally and was doing fine with this one until I got to O’Shaughnessy.

    Hetch Hetchy is similar to Yosemite valley, a beautiful rarity. Wrecking it was and is an atrocity. Not necessary dam there to provide water and power.

    I’ve seen the propaganda used to promote and sell building that dam. The man should be vilified.

    Bruce
    Livermore, CA

    Posted by: Bruce | March 3rd, 2009 at 11:00 am

  • Either you were poorly educated about America or you have swallowed the class envy theology of the masters you so apparently willingly serve.

    America was NEVER about egalitarianism. The concept of egalitarianism is a
    communist concept first used in the French Revolution of 1789 (the first
    modern communist revolution, btw), and constantly bandied about by
    advocates of top down central planning as visualized by Lenin and his group of Christian hating bolscheviks.

    Contrary to your class envy myopism, America is about freedom of the
    individual to try to succeed. It’s called equal opportunity, and does NOT
    guarantee equal outcome. Equal outcome is a communist concept and is as
    conceptually wrong as is everything else spouted by leftists, communists,
    and their useful idiots.

    It’s a simple concept in this Country: if you don’t like what you’re being
    paid, don’t join a union and get paid the same as the worst worker on the
    job; get a better paying job where your talents and skills will be
    recognized and rewarded. Oh, but that’s hardly egalitarian, is it?
    Everybody has to be equally miserable…except, of course, those that are
    more equal because of their political connections, right?

    Oh, and by the way, the real reality of what your job is worth, is that it
    is only worth what your employer is willing to pay for it. Nothing more,
    nothing less. It has NOTHING to do with sex, race, color, nationality, etc.
    If you don’t like your pay, nobody is holding a gun to your head forcing
    you to continue working there. Go ask for a raise. If you can’t because you
    are under a communist system (in a union), or your boss tells you no, you
    are free (at least until you communists finally win) to tell your boss to
    “take this job and shove it!” and seek better paying employment elsewhere.
    THAT’s the AMERICAN way! Whining and snivveling about “discrimination” or
    low pay is a communist load of crap, and only works on slaves. A minimum
    wage JOB is NOT a career choice, such as being a political operative or
    provacateur.

    You can do better than to espouse leftist theology and class envy.

    Sincerely,

    Mike
    Occupied Sonoma

    Posted by: Mike | March 3rd, 2009 at 11:02 am

  • Beautiful read. Well done.

    Posted by: Bob Mackay | March 3rd, 2009 at 11:05 am

  • Simple solution that has worked in the past:

    Increase the marginal tax rate exponentially for higher incomes.

    Remove the incentive to pursue work solely for the lure of mega-millions.

    Society is better off when income out of proportion to labor contributed is redistributed.

    Call me a socialist if you like, I am for a better society.

    Posted by: Amola | March 3rd, 2009 at 11:05 am

  • My job? about 40k/year. i think thats fair. But what system would actually pay people by their actual talents?

    Posted by: Frederick Q | March 3rd, 2009 at 11:06 am

  • Self-employed, in discretionary artsy fartsy work is worth not much.

    I’ll be earning less than a McDonald’s wage for some time to come. It’s partly the present crisis, partly that family problems kept us seriously underperforming for quite a while, and a lot of our trade wandered away entirely understandably.

    We are influenced by the going rates however. We need to keep in mind what comparably skilled workers earn per hour doing similar kinds of tasks, in addition of course to covering all the overhead, vs what our bare minimum living expenses are costing us.

    I’d sure rather be pricing my shop labor in last year’s economy rather than this one.

    Posted by: Greg Siler | March 3rd, 2009 at 11:07 am

  • Great question. Most jobs are worth exactly zero.

    I go to my mailbox and find an average of 5 pieces of junk direct marketing a day. All are thrown out, yet people were actually paid to do all that work. I see ads for “financial advisors” pimping fake value selling fake “investments.” I see a school system with one of the highest percentages of “administrators” to front-line teachers in the world, yet our students are more stupid than ever. I see shiny iPods, apps, and fad programs and websites that are here today and gone tomorrow. I see countless CEOs and senior managers who do nothing but run their companies into the ground and then leave set for life with their 2 year contracts.

    The sad fact is most jobs in today’s world are crap jobs with no impact or benefit. If there’s a silver lining to this economic implosion, maybe it will be to flush out these phony waste-of-time jobs and leaders and focus us all on what’s of real lasting benefit to society.

    Posted by: P.T. | March 3rd, 2009 at 11:09 am

  • My job? probably less than they are paying me, although compared to most teachers I am paid very well. That in and of itself tells you that our unwillingness to put money into supporting the good teachers is an indication that we don’t truly value public education as some people say we do. I am waiting to see if that will change under the new administration, given the financial stresses on all sectors of the economy in the midst of this crisis. We may not be able to make a determination about that for a couple of years, if/when economy begins to turn around – we have NOT YET hit the bottom.

    Posted by: Tania B. | March 3rd, 2009 at 11:10 am

  • My job is worth about what I’m paid. It has been a long time since the last time I found out what I was worth by how much my replacement got paid.

    Posted by: Rachelle O'Leary | March 3rd, 2009 at 11:14 am

  • I grapple with this as I watch my now 11-year-old make his way. It seems that everything that used to be mainstream is now mediocre. Everywhere in the media, people are just one song or casting or lottery ticket or cookie recipe away from fame and fortune. The thought of having to work hard to be merely comfortable is absolutely alien to young people who are used to having easy and instant wealth thrust at them so constantly. He’s a great kid with a decent head on his shoulders, but even so – thinking about helping him examine future vocations is daunting.

    Posted by: CJB | March 3rd, 2009 at 11:15 am

  • Well, you’re clearly not a New Yorker if you think Robert Moses, who destroyed New York City’s character, and Bratton, who did the same again decades later, are public service heroes. They are proof that for some jerks, the lure of power is as great as money, maybe because they can do more damage that way. It is said that a man graduates through three progressions in life – the love of sex, then of money, then of power. Civil service ambition is driven by the love of power, not anything else. Maybe in high school, as these assholes are starting out, they think they’ll help humanity, but by the time they assume the top posts, power and glory is all they see.

    On a larger point, none of our labor has any value. The world is awash in unnecessary goods and services. Even the farmers, who actually produce necessities, work not to feed the hungry, but to overflow the shelves of the rich. The world is capable of meeting everybody’s basic needs ten times over, but instead the productive capacity is structured in such a way as to produce luxuries for some, while starving others. Artificial scarcity and the fear of destitution are the only motivators that are trusted to make the people work.

    Given this situation, there is very little any of us can do to be productive, short of becoming a revolutionary against the present order. For me personally, work is nothing but a scam. Maybe that’s why I make much more money than most doing what everybody considers and I agree to be useless if not outright harmful (law) and I actually have an interview today (as others are being laid off) to get into an even more lucrative business of buying up distressed properties on the cheap from people hurt by the economic downturn. In a world where labor means nothing, only money talks.

    Posted by: Marcio | March 3rd, 2009 at 11:17 am

  • Clint: Your column is on the mark–many of us believe that not only Wall Street financiers, but athletes, hedge fund managers, many CEO’s, etc. are vastly overpaid–of course high marginal tax rates would help give these people a haircut.
    I agree with the previous comment regarding O’Shaughnessy–the building of the Hetch Hetchy dam broke John Muir’s heart–he died a year after it’s final authorization by Congress–on the other hand at least as of today—the Bay Area is far too dependent on the reservoir to justify its immediate removal–but perhaps the future will allow a return of Hetch Hetchy to the valley it once was— according to Muir, second only in beauty and magnificence to Yosemite itself.
    Tony
    San Francisco, CA

    Posted by: Tony Gantner | March 3rd, 2009 at 11:26 am

  • The lure of fast money has certainly affected the sciences.

    I’m a hydrogeologist. When I was an undergraduate geology major in the late 1970s, I wasn’t sure what I would do. I knew I didn’t want to work in the petroleum industry (didn’t want to live in the South where so many of the jobs then were at). I ended up taking a couple of hydrogeology classes my senior year and it just clicked for me: the perfect blend of physics, chemistry, and geology.

    So I went into a hydrogeology Master’s program at a time when there actually were very few jobs (and very few Master’s programs, for that matter). It took me over a year starting in 1982 to find a job in my field with a Master’s degree.

    I’ve seen the field mushroom over the decades, spurred by regulatory initiatives and economic expansion. When money was easy in the early to mid-1990s, I saw a lot of people call themselves “hydrogeologists” who didn’t really understand groundwater flow or contaminant transport. But they could make money because the work was so plentiful.

    Things have cooled down now. It’s not so easy to make money in the field unless you’re truly qualified. Also, the number of graduating hydrogeologists has dropped precipitously – below what we as a society need.

    And the quality of the graduating hydrogeologists has changed: not as many quantitative people (at least through partial differential equations) are coming out of school these days as hydrogeologists. Master’s degree candidates who have a thorough schooling in the field are more rare each year.

    As a result, we’ve had to hire people with Bachelor’s degrees – in my office one last year and two so far this year; an indication, I suppose, that this field is better than some in economic downturns. I wish we could be more selective and get highly-qualified M.S.-degreed hydrogeologists, but the candidates simply aren’t out there in sufficient numbers.

    A few months ago I was talking over beers with another long-time hydrogeologist bemoaning the apparent lack of good graduating hydrogeologists these days. His hypothesis was that the really sharp students — the ones who had the smarts to successfully get through the math, physics, chemistry, hydraulics, and geology — had been lured to supposedly more lucrative careers in business and computers. “Why work so hard in school just to be a geologist?” he asked.

    Maybe he was right – I don’t know. But there are good career prospects in hydrogeology even today – starting salaries in the $50K range with pay up through the low $100s after 10 years or so of experience. Really entrepreneurial ones who go out on their own after sufficient experience can become very wealthy. I’ve seen several do it. I’m sure it’s harder these days, but there still is a lot of work to do in the U.S. and elsewhere dealing with the environmental legacy of the industrial revolution, the various world wars, and the Cold War.

    Maybe current economic conditions will help more people look beyond what once were highly-compensated jobs in business and finance and think a little more broadly about other careers that may lack the panache but still offer solid, reasonably well-compensated careers.

    Posted by: Ernest | March 3rd, 2009 at 12:28 pm

  • Yes, but there have to be jobs in those fields. Engineering has had a serious employment problem in this country for quite some time. For every other type of field I see at a job fair there are at least 5 unemployed engineers looking for work there. If young people don’t see a future in a position they won’t go into it. That’s why the high unemployment among PhD science/math types during the 90s (at one point in the mid-90s Math PhDs had a 13.4% unemployment rate according to a US News I read at the time), thus our students avoided these fields, because the prospect for future employment was grim, which it still is. For any job that will soundly pay more than $50,000 (which most of these will if it weren’t for long term employment issues in every industry but medicine) you’ll have no problem getting people to go into the fields if the jobs are there, which they haven’t been for some time.

    Posted by: Mr. G | March 3rd, 2009 at 12:29 pm

  • I’d like to think all jobs are worth something because there is a person behind the job. Families depend on jobs. Jobs are simply an activity to keep us all busy and generate some value-to-life added green.

    That said, I’ve always throughout my entire life and confident well into the rest of it have had a profound appreciation for ice-cream makers and candy makers. Dreyer’s Rocky Road and those Kasugai Fruit Gummies. Whoever makes those has got my appreciation because every time those things are devoured they yield me a return that is priceless!

    IMHO, Bernie Madoff’s “vocation” (and the likes of that type of employment,, i.e. Stanford, and the gentry of golden executive paratroopers) in hindsight was worth 0.

    It’s too scary to say negative and how much…so i won’t.

    :)

    Posted by: Don Nguyen | March 3rd, 2009 at 2:42 pm

  • I really enjoyed your column this week. It reminded me of the neighborhood in which I grew up.

    Posted by: Fledman | March 4th, 2009 at 10:26 am

  • Just a note to tell you that I read your column in the San Mateo Times and think it is great. Keep it up.

    Posted by: Fr. K. | March 4th, 2009 at 10:26 am

  • I have been reading your columns for so long that I finally decided to tell you, and say thank you for your thoughts and efforts.

    Best Regards,

    Melanie

    Posted by: Melanie | March 4th, 2009 at 10:28 am

  • Your column entitled “What’s Your Job Worth” expressed many
    of the same thoughts and feelings I’ve had for many years. I hope
    President Obama will be able to turn our country around and help to
    reset our priorities. We are a good nation at heart, but money tends
    to bring out the worst in us.

    I recently discovered your column and after reading two of them, I’m
    sold on your views. Count me in as a regular reader. Patricia

    Posted by: Patricia | March 4th, 2009 at 10:29 am

  • I read your column CCC Times a few times? Looks like an ad? Dint unnerstand? Then you added the disclaimer, you sued cuz they prejudiced whatever. Tx for explain. You get free printing, cool.

    I like most of your columns, sometimes I don’t read, doesn’t affect me, boring!!! But I skim them!! I like your writing!!

    Today you added a reply feature? Not sure I read that before!!! Anyway!!

    I am commenting!!

    I am Karen. Work Kaiser AACC, RN at the Kaiser Call Center in vallejo. Grew up in Sleepy Hollow. Originally at 234 La Espiral, Orinda? Dang!!! My birth house been on the market for like three years now!!! I was born there in 1948…

    Dad helped build that house, along with Mr. Roberts, the guy from Colfax? For 20 years!! Every New Years? Mr Roberts sent us pheasant for New Years cuz he built my birth house in Orinda in 1948. One time I bit the pellet in that bird??? and almost broke a tooth.

    Great Pheasant tho!! Mom was a farm girl from North Dakota? Moved out here to be with her religious relatives, Minot North Dakota dint offer much. Ten years ago I learned that Walter Philipanko, Moms Brother? Was one of the first Navy Seals, top secret till they released that info in 1990-ish?? Auntie Vi finally told us? Walt was a SEAL!!! Walt said? He usta get dropped off? Swim to a ship to plant a limpet mine? Plant it? Then swim like hell to catch a huge rubber band to tow ya back to the NAVY ship. That was my Uncle. Proud of him. He was America!!

    My dad? Wallace A Granberg? Check out his obits!!! Died last year. He has an obit with CC times, the Banjo Club from Walnut Creek, and from East Bay Boat Club. Also in the Sonora News.

    Dad has the worlds record for A class Hydro, I have his certificate from France. Dad tinker in the back yard at La Espiral then 52 Tarry Lane, Sleepy Hollow, Orinda. He won the worlds record without any help from expensive mechanics. I remember being a little girl? WE HAD to go out and rev up that little evinrude. We had a four foot tall oil can???? Weird!!! We filled it with water? Put the egg beater evinrude in that? And let it rip!!!

    Mom thought you MUST run the engine? Wasn’t till dad quit hydro racing? Mom realized? He just liked the sound of the engine when it wasn’t race season!!

    Usta race a lot Emeryville Aquatic Park??

    He won the worlds record at Devils Lake Oregon, 1956. Have researched dad? Dint know this before? But apparently? Dad won the worlds record? And said?? “Well that’s it, I will never race again”.

    Oh Wow!!! Sold the hydros!! Started water skiing!! Mom never told anyone!!! Her sisters didn’t know my dad had the worlds record until I told them ten years ago??? WHY? Why such a secret? You tell me???

    Anyway? Your column today talked about CEO and the best of America is turning to money jobs? Talked about the guy that did Hetch Hetchy?

    WOWOWOWOW!!!

    Dang!!! That was one good column!!! You amaze me with the thoughts you voice!!!

    I never heard that before!!! I know I read in THE WEEK, great news mag about Yale et al being the recruiting station for some one back east, guess Wall Street???

    Glad you got a voice? Wish you could scream it to the world!!!

    I am kinda pissed that I am only a Kaiser RN? Only $150,000 a year if I work my axx off? I have Miramonte HS plus twelve years of college and an RN. Woo Hoo!! And I can spell and speak English!!!
    Why don’t I get a golden parachute? I am more educated and smarter than them!!! I have more years of education, know science ,Biology, thoroughly know what they mean when they talk about the difference between DNA and RNA. Hee Hee!!! Did the first electron microscope!!! It was so big!!!

    Alas!!

    Last flu season? Partly for the overtime? But mostly cuz Kaiser needed me? I worked twelve hr days 8 am to 8.30 pm Monday thru Firday. Then worked Sat 8 am to 2 pm. Went home to sleep. Doubled back 10pm to 1 or 3 am Saturday noc? Then back SUnday at 8am for another 5-6 hrs. I had to work all those hrs to survive. Where is my Golden Parachute????

    WOw!!! I am not doing that this year, not such demand? And Kaiser lost customers cuz everyone is getting laid off!! I worked my axx off and no one gave me a golden parachute? Prob will work till I am 75? Cant afford to retire with the nose dive my 401s did…

    Posted by: Karen | March 4th, 2009 at 10:33 am

  • Note that the Dow hit 14,000 with the Republican Congress,
    while it tanked (to date) at 6763.29 with the Democratic Congress.

    Harry Reid has been the Senate Majority Leader since January 2007;
    Nancy Pelosi has been Speaker Of the House since January 2007; and
    Barney Frank has been Chairman of the House Financial Services
    Committee since January 2007.

    …and who’s been in control of the California legislature for most
    of recent history?

    It should be intuitively obvious where the problem lies – and that’s
    with the politicians (primarily Democratic). Of course, that can be
    blamed on their constituents – who continue to believe the
    poiticians’ lies.

    Let’s focus on the facts – not the liberal drivel that is continually
    spouted by those who are dependent on government handouts and
    lawsuits.

    …and I don’t consider that a political consultant produces anything
    useful – other than a larger bureaucracy which guarantees his
    employment.

    Government efficiency? Hah!

    Posted by: Fred | March 4th, 2009 at 12:59 pm

  • Sir, I’ve read your columns in the Marin IJ for awhile, but this is the first that has prompted me to write back with some thoughts of my own.

    I too remember growing up in the 50′s in a Los Angeles area suburb that was populated with the post WWII newly created families that spanned the gamut from bakery truck driver to physician to grocery clerk to salesman to professional musician, and so on.

    It made for a very leveled neighborhood of the 50′s, where the mother stayed home, raising kids, while the dad went off to work each day in search of the American dream. It’s just my observation that it was the very early 60′s when economic earnings began to depopulate the neighborhood as some workers began earning more and gave them the upward mobility to ‘get out and move up’ to ‘nicer’ neighborhoods and bigger homes.

    As for what any of us are ‘worth’ in the marketplace, for better or worse, we’ve evolved into a ‘what’s best for me’ environment, where compensation worth means nothing in relationship to the work involved. The aspirational quest for celebrity and the higher potential earnings in various fields has skewed the field so that ‘valued’ occupations such as teachers and caregivers find themselves devalued in salary, while entertainers and financial ‘wizards’ who have mastered the art of moving figures around on balance sheets are overcompensated by most standards.

    There are no real solutions. Who amongst us really wants to take a pay cut for society’s benefit? And, who would care if we do? Current economic conditions have spawned a whole new culture of monetary refugees wandering around, shell shocked, muttering to themselves and anyone else listening ‘Do you know who/what I used to be?’.

    Perhaps it’s the great equalizer, but I take little joy in the comeuppance.

    Thanks for your writings.
    David S.
    Marin

    Posted by: David S. | March 4th, 2009 at 5:55 pm

  • Dear Mr. Reilly.

    Keep up the good work. It is a pleasure reading the words of someone who thinks their way through issues.

    You last sentence, a question about what ever happened to the concept of vocation in American Society is a good one. It relates to what ever happened to Vocational Training in America? And this relates to what ever happened to Education in America? And that is one sorry subject.

    I submit for your consideration that the Public Education System, as it now exist in this country, is so screwed up that the only cure is to take out a clean sheet of paper and start from scratch.

    Why is this? We used to know how to provide a proper education? Around 1833 came out a series of readers called the “McGuffy Reader.” These readers were the standard in public schools up to around the 1930 era. One can examine, say, a third-grade reader and rapidly discover that most college students would be challenged by the content. Yet this reader was targeted to and used by third grade students.

    Another eye opener is to look at actual exams given in the various grades of the public schools of that time period. Again, these exams would challenge many college folks of today.

    We obviously had a good working public education system in place in this country, and lost it. What went wrong? How did we improve a good working system into utter mediocrity and incompetence?

    The answer to that question would be wonderful material for a college graduate thesis and perhaps even a good book “The Rise and Fall of Pubic Education in America.”

    As to Vocation Education: It disappeared during the Flower-Power generation of the 1960 era and was buried in the 1970 era. It was replaced by industrial training (think auto mechanic’s, training by Ford, Chrysler and General Motors, etc.) and by apprentice programs in all the crafts.

    It is most curious that a yardstick to evaluate effective education has been buried deep and kept out of public view. That yardstick is called learning. Learning is key to education. Without learning there can be no education. Maximize learning and you maximize education.

    Some side comments: There exist today perfectly good examples of working educational systems available for inspection. Consider industrial training: When an employer is paying salary and per-diem plus the class fees for a person to attend a training class, they damn well want to know if they are getting their money’s worth. The students get a pre-test and after the class they get a post-test. Set the two side by side and one can see what the improvements are (hopefully). The system works. Can it be adapted to public education? Sure, but the three principle to maximize learning still apply.

    Did these three principles apply to the one-room school house? You bet! The students were highly motivated. School was a heck of lot better than the dawn to dusk farm work that was the alternative. Expectations were very high. If the attendee was allowed to absent from chores for the day, he or she damn well better be able to demonstrate some learning or the privilege of attending school would end! The teacher walked on water and was to be accorded respect or there were very physical consequences. Motivation was high. Did this system work and was it successful. You bet it was. The documentation of its success is extensive and accessible to anyone wanting to look.

    Another side issue, I believe, is the failure to document what it takes to be a successful student. There is some good opportunity here for a graduate student. I think a survey of the habits of successful students grouped by achievements and grades would be very revealing. i.e. How much time do students spend on a subject to get an “A,” a “B,” a “C,” or a “D”? I believe a strong correlation will be found between the time devoted to a subject and the grade achieved…..adjusted for the genius factor. Therefore, when a student complains about a poor grade in some subject the time/grade sheet can be consulted and perhaps one of the causes of the poor grade will be self evident.

    Thank you for reading this short paper on one of my favorite subjects. I hope you may have found some ideas herein worth of your consideration.

    Very truly yours,

    Donald

    Posted by: Donald | March 5th, 2009 at 5:37 pm

  • Hello,
    I’m sending a brief message is support of your column of March 3, 2009. I’m a frequent reader of your columns and am usually in good general agreement with your views. Too many of us and we’ll be boring!
    In contrast with your experiences with fathers in various occupations, mine was an engineer at Lockheed for many years and because his job entailed top secret government contract work, I never knew much at all about what he actually did. So much for parental role models in many of my generation.
    I’m a recently retired psychologist having worked nearly thirty years for the State of California. I treated some very challenging, and violent, patients over the years and managed to find some gratification in my practice. At the same time I always felt “devalued” as one colleague put it when payday came or when dealing with some often difficult administrative types. It didn’t help matters when contracts were being negotiated and we became aware of what others were paid, whether we were considering comparable systems and responsibilities or the obscene packages many executives and their associates received. Ultimately, I retired earlier than planned for several reasons, prominent among them was being fed up with feeling devalued.
    I recall having a discussion with a patient’s mother who expressed surprise at my plans for retirement and when I briefly explained my reasons she responded by saying I was doing “God’s work”! Though I appreciated her sentiments, I couldn’t help but call “bull…” on what she was offering as compensation. It just doesn’t work in the real world. It’s not my nature to spend too much time on the “pity pot” though I can’t help but note that nearly all of my former colleagues have long ago left the facility where we worked as it’s been marked for closure and they’ve found more lucrative employment elsewhere.
    Looking forward to your next column.
    Best regards,
    Nakano, Ph.D.

    Posted by: Nakano | March 9th, 2009 at 4:14 pm

  • Fun to read your comments!!!
    So much secrecy in the past, still in the presnt!!! Why did Palin quit??????????

    Posted by: Karen J Granberg,RN | July 5th, 2009 at 10:24 pm

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