Mistakes, Successes, the Future

My first book was published about 14 years ago.  It was not great, maybe not even good, but I liked the story.  It was a complete failure.  At the time, I debated about ever writing again.  My goal had been to write a book because of some stupid idea that I could be a success.  That success was going to happen by magic.  I would be found and hailed as the greatest thing since “something or another”.  So having experienced failure, the most sensible thing to do was quit.

I did for a while.  During that time, I also thought about what had gone wrong.  Eventually I convinced myself that my failure was due to me not understanding how to create my own success.  I had to invest time (and money) into becoming a better writer, a better book manager, a better marketer, a better –well you get the idea.  I was the problem.

Five years passed before I released my next book.  I experienced success.  Yes, success!  That was because I was now measuring success in a whole new light.  Compared to my first absolute failure this book was a huge success.  I was elated.  I immediately started the second book (which is really the third, but I don’t count the first one—little history rewrite).

As of today, I have written fourteen books.  Don’t be shocked, but I liked them all.  I hope to publish a few more before I give up, but the fourteen are an accomplishment that I am proud of, even if the success money truck has never arrived.  My books have been read by thousands of people and received great reviews.  In many, many ways I’m a successful author.

And yet.  Yes, and yet I’m still not pleased.  This may have something to do with the first book, the very first book.  I abruptly ended that book as I became discouraged with the amount of time it was taking to finish.  When I was writing that book, I was also involved in very stressful and time-consuming business activities.  Everything started piling on, so I ended the book suddenly.  Here we are going along on this story and bam—THE END. 

Giving thought to going back and redoing the ending in a more thoughtful way.  But why do that?  I know it makes no sense, why not write something new, more interesting, and fresher.  Why dwell on the past mistakes.  It feels like something I did not do well, and that there is value in correcting that little misstep at the beginning of my writing venture.

On the other hand, I’ve got four great books almost ready to be born. 

Doctor Hightower.  This is a few weeks away from being completed.  Some of you have read parts of this book as an Amazon Vella serialized story.  Also, about half of the first part is about ready to release as an audio drama.  Those few weeks are being held up due to a decision I must make.  Is this a one and done book—if so, it will have a certain kind of ending—or is this an on-going series, with an entirely different ending.  I’m leaning towards a one and done.

Mr. & Mrs. Sims.  This is a cozy mystery that I’m having a ton of fun writing.  This story takes place in rural Oklahoma in the 1920’s.  Mr. Sims is a frustrated criminologist working as an ag agent out of Hugo, Oklahoma.  Mrs. Sims is the Home Demonstration Agent in the three counties around Hugo.  As her husband becomes more and more involved in solving crimes and becoming Sherlock Holmes, Mrs. Sims, always supportive of her husband, starts to act like Dr. Watson.  This is also soon to be an audio drama and very soon a book.  Writing this book with my wife, Marilyn.

Tumbleweed Mystery #2.  Marilyn and I are putting together ideas on the second Tumbleweed story.  This story will feature more adventures in Cactus City with kids.  This is a middle grade book and will involve all sorts of intrigue from the 1950s.  The Skytrain movie theatre becomes a central part of an adventure involving the Air Police, the atomic bomb, scary Generals, and kids not sure what they have found.

Chino & Tonto, Vegas Dead End/RV Adventures.  A continuation of the Pacheco and Chino series which will feature Tyee Chino and his new dog Tonto.  Still a gritty PI/murder mystery type book but with Tyee and Tonto traveling around the US helping Apache Tribe members who are accused of various crimes.  These books will begin as an audio series which is fast approaching completion.

The more I’ve thought about it, I’ve decided I should let the past be.  Going back and trying to fix mistakes is a waste of time—move on and make new ones.

Thanks for being a reader!
It’s Important!

Don’t Follow the Haters

Definition of fascism: a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.

A key element of fascism is hatred.  There must be an enemy and the hatred must be total, a willingness to destroy your enemy.  The enemy is often a competing political party or people who are different.  Different races or nationalities.

Everything about fascism is based on hate.

Why would anyone become associated with such a movement?  Because it’s a very human thing to do.  Hate is real and a key emotion that humans deal with throughout their lives.  “I hate you!” That is as common a remark as “I love you!”  Hate is real and all consuming. 

Usually, people join hate groups out of fear.  Fear of government is often the beginning of fascist movements.  They will take over the government and destroy the evil people in charge.  Then, of course, replace them with themselves and will eventually become the evil government in charge.  Usually, if not always, much worse than what they replaced.

While fear of government is often the start, the force that drives these hate movements is based on the general fear of the “other”.  The other can be different races, or nationalities, or religious beliefs, anything that makes a person different than the chosen group.

With just a little observation, we can see that these groups will always become more destructive and target an increasingly wider range of people to hate.  The chosen group becomes narrower and narrower.  This is a self-destructive philosophy which will always consume itself in a hatred of everything.

Okay, so it’s a human thing to hate, but most people would not want to have others die because they are not part of the “chosen” group.  So, how does that happen?  The leaders of the movement create the illusion that the “others” are evil beyond belief—they must die, because they represent the most evil forces that have ever existed.  They are not just different—they are monsters.  They eat babies, they consume human blood, they crawl on their bellies to destroy everything that is good.  How do leaders create that image?  They lie.  They lie some more.  They lie until it becomes the truth.  Once the evil is identified and the group believes it, that group will kill and destroy because they must stop the evil.

It’s easy to identify leaders who have this characteristic to sway people into actions that they would never normally consider taking.  The leaders are liars, always have been and always will be.  They hate the truth.  They have no moral boundaries.  They exist only for themselves.  The concepts of family, community and general well-being do not exist; it is only about them.  This is a self-destructive nature that fights everyday to survive in what is a hostile environment for the leader.  Everyone is out to get that person—that person is constantly in fear of being found out to be a fraud.  The fear is all consuming.  The only way to deal with that fear is to attack.

But in the odd quirk of humanness, these people are appealing.  There is no evident self-doubt.  They have become such great deceivers of themselves that they are playing a role that looks confident and even smart.  It’s the opposite.  Hidden under the shiny exterior is an ugly center of despair.

The followers think those leaders are strong, but they are weak.  That weakness must be hidden by ever increasing aggression.  Eventually the recklessness of the leader will lead to self-destruction, along with horrible consequences for the followers.

There are good reasons to fear other humans.  There are bad people among us.  However, most people are good.  They want the same things everyone wants, a happy life, to be able to support their family, a sense of wellbeing.  These goals may include personal things like a good job, a nice place to live—but most people want a feeling of belonging that is common in all races and nationalities.  A comfort of home.

We all should have the good sense to stop listening to the haters—following the haters is a proven path to self-destruction.

Where there is truth, there is hope!

Price of Live Chickens

No matter what you believe is true, no matter how much evidence you possess to support your belief; someone else can believe it is a lie.  I never thought the world was that way.  I thought there were truths we could all agree on. 

At one time many people thought the earth was flat.  Probably a somewhat reasonable belief if all your evidence seemed to suggest a flat world.  Then came far distance sailing, eventually photos from space; all proving without a doubt the earth was round.  Except there are people today who still believe the earth is flat.  How can that be? 

The answer is, of course, they do not believe the evidence right before their eyes because it interferes with some other beliefs.  No matter how self-evident something is, someone can believe the opposite. 

I’ve been writing the first book in a new series that takes place in rural Oklahoma in the 1920s.  As part of my research, I’ve read many old newspapers from that time and place.  Some of those papers were The Hugo Daily News, The Norman Transcript, The Antlers American, The Oklahoma Farmer, just to name a few.

Now my interest was mostly in the local “crime” news.  The story, which will first be an audio drama and later a series of books, is about a newlywed couple who, through various circumstances, find themselves as an Ag Agent and a Home Demonstration Agent to rural farmers through the US Department of Agriculture.  The Ag Agent person studied to be a criminologist, but there were not that many of those jobs available, so he is the county Ag Agent but really wants to be Sherlock Holmes.

My search through the papers was to find “real” crime stories from the time that I could incorporate into my story—with lots of changes, which is my right, according to my creative license.

What struck me is that there was almost zero news about anything other than local news.  The news stories might be as far afield as the county, with a tad of state news; but almost all was very local.  At that time there did not seem to be any interest in what was going on in the rest of the country and very specifically nothing to do with Washington D.C.

Calvin Coolidge was president; he had won with 15 million votes.  Now I’m sure, if I was reading the papers from the big cities in the east, they would be filled with the sensational stories about politics of the day; but small towns were apparently, not interested.

For many people in 1924 truth was shared and believed in a very small circle of influence.  Most people spent their lives trying to survive as best they could, with very little concern about the matters of government—until it directly impacted them.

While we are almost 100 years in the future from that time, those attitudes are inbred into the American mind.  Nobody wants to be told what they should or shouldn’t do, and for sure, not what to believe.  Independence of body and mind are quintessential American qualities.

With independence comes the right to believe whatever nonsense you want; and to be proud that you believe such silliness. 

Some of the latest strange stories do seem to be over the top and beyond anything we have experienced before.  But that may not be true.  There has always been a very large portion of the population that held certain beliefs that stretched credibility. (a)  I think the biggest difference between now and then is that most of those unusual beliefs were not newsworthy.  The local crazy quilt society meetings were not covered as news events.  The writings of Looney Larry would not be published on the web for all to see.  Miss Jane’s less than appropriate skirt lifting photo was not available to every student in her fifth-grade class and their parents.

Our sense of privacy has changed.  If you believe nutty things, you must publish them on Facebook.  If you have an inappropriate photo, you must send it to someone.  All those things beg the question, why?

Not sure.  But being private is not in vogue.  Being polite is not a good trait.  Being angry is the new normal.  Maybe we have too much information, and we can’t handle it!

The price of live chickens in Antlers may not be big news, but it is also not very upsetting.

  • (a) The John Birch Society held some controversial beliefs in the 1950s and 1960s but was mostly rejected by the dominate political parties.  JBS was basically very opposed to a democracy and insisted that the US was a republic and state rights should always have priority over federal rights.  Those concepts which are increasingly popular today felt un-American at the time.  State rights were almost always code words for certain groups not participating fully in the governing process, including voting.  The JBS also had a bogey man fear of communists and they saw them everywhere.  The JBS was featured in my book Murder So Final about elections in the 1960s for governor with the JBS being very active in the election process which led to violence.

It’s My Art—It’s My Words

Who is the artist if the work is created by a computer program with only a few words entered by the “artist”? 

Most likely you have heard of the AI assisted software that can create dynamic renderings with only a description to guide the program.  (New York Times article about an artist winning first at the Colorado State Fair with an entry produced by the computer program.)

For much of our history art has been a process of imagination, but also skilled crafts people who could turn the imagination into a finished work of art.  Often those skills were very precise and took years to hone to the point your work was considered “good”.  These were generally realistic artists creating images that all could recognize.  Before photography this was an amazing craft and many of our most famous artists are from this school of art.  Later there were impressionist and modern artists.  These were emotions created in different ways and in different shapes and colors.  While all of that was called art, many saw value in one form, but not the other.

Now we have art being created with a minimum amount of human involvement—but in my mind, still art.

This new AI assisted art can be discovered at Midjourney—although it is not completely user friendly, expect a few hiccups.  What you can see there is amazing “pictures” (art) by thousands of people, being created instantly.  Some of this is wonderfully complicated and bold, some is satisfyingly simple but beautiful.  All of it, in its own way, can be called art.

So, as an artist what do I “really” think?

It feels more like a game than the act of producing art, but there is no question that the result is art.  It takes a different kind of skill set, but it takes the same imagination and eye for what is “right” to you.  And, just like most things, it takes practice.

Now, I don’t have much patience for practice, so I just jumped in and gave it a try.  I entered “southwest landscape, bold colors, tall cactus with flowers, highly detailed, bright sun, puffy clouds, art deco” and got.

(You may say, hey, that’s not so hot—keep in mind I spent literally about a minute “creating” the above work of art.)

I still have lots of questions about some of the steps and the function of the web site.  Without a doubt, at the very least, this sort of stuff is fun.  Does it detract from “artists”—probably.  Why buy anything if I can just add a few words and create my own art?  Of course, that means you like your own stuff created with the help of AI computer program, which may or may not be true.  But this type of art can be very impressive.  If you have not seen the piece created for the state fair entry, you will be impressed.

Okay, it’s goodbye artists, hello AI computer art done by you (sort of).

I think we’ve been on this path for a while.  Goodbye humans, hello cyborgs (or whatever they would be called).  As a person who observes and comments on the less than stellar activities of humans, maybe this is not a bad trend.  Now, having computers decide what is right and wrong could go very wrong, but, hey; were not doing such a hot job ourselves. 

Hey, mom, I would like you to meet my new friend—ZX2008MOD-5.  He, She, It, They just wrote a book for me! So long authors!

Santa Fe Redemption

By Vincent Malone

I’m one of Clifton’s characters.  He’s asked me to contribute to some of his stuff before, I’ve always said no.  That’s his thing, not mine.  Then he begged, what the hell am I going to do.

Many of you may know my story, some will not.  I was an up-and-coming attorney in Dallas, married to the prom queen, living in a big house, driving a big car, and basically screwing up everything.  The why would take a team of physiatrists and a few witch doctors to figure out but suffice it to say, I had a big ego, was a very large man, and I bullied people.  I know now, many years later, that I didn’t like myself.

I also had a drinking problem.  My friends were my drinking buddies.  One of those not so bright buddies got me involved in a shady investment deal and before you could say, dumb shit, I was disbarred and broke.  My lovely, now ex, wife took the house, the car and most regrettably, the dog.  I headed out of town with my tail between my legs.

I ended up in Denver and became a legal investigator for attorneys.  I discovered I was fine being a low-life and managed to make a decent living.  Made few friends, if any, and no lasting relationships, just drifted along.  Soon, health problems started preventing me from doing my less than savory work and my clients dropped me like a hot potato.  Now what?

Decided I would take off again.  This time my destination was unknown but for no reason I headed south.  I figured in some town I would take a do-nothing job as anything until I could collect social security and then would drink myself to death.  This was not a happy plan.

I stumbled into a job in Santa Fe, New Mexico, as a shuttle driver for a new B&B being opened by two nice, but not experienced, business owners.  Those people ignored all the signs that said you should have nothing to do with this guy and treated me like I was someone.  I had found a home.

Clifton’s Vincent Malone books are about what happens after I arrived in Santa Fe.  It’s about those two people who own the B&B, their friends and how good people sometimes win.  It’s about an old man, tired and broken who finds a new life and new love.  It’s a murder mystery, a romance novel, a thriller and even has some humor.  But mostly it is about redemption.  I found a new me at an old age. 

When I was the hotshot young lawyer in Dallas I would have said once you reached a certain age, much younger than I am now, you were basically done.  Life was over.  That’s what I thought as a crawled out of Denver, but then something wonderful happened.  I was given another chance, by stupid luck and some very nice people.

I took that chance and became a better person.  Does that mean all my past sins are forgiven, no way.  I know I still have a lot of baggage that will pop up just when I don’t expect it, but the care of other people, and my newfound ability to care for others has changed me.  It’s people that make life worth living.  While I was wallowing in my sorrow, I forgot that.

Thanks for being a reader!

Chino & Tonto –Audio Drama —Vegas Dead End

Cochise Chino sometimes called “Big Chief” by the worst gangster in the 1860s wild west, Hoodoo Brown, had stolen Hoodoo’s gold and hidden it in an old Victorian house in Las Vegas, New Mexico.  What happened to Hoodoo, and Big Chief was not good, but the gold remained hidden.

Tyee Chino has inherited that old house and a dog named Tonto from his cousin Jefferson Chino.  Tyee must now deal with a difficult, and possible corrupt sheriff, a Russian who is engaged in something very illegal, long-lost relatives, current ancestors of Hoodoo Brown, the FBI, and other assorted characters, all while trying to solve who killed his cousin Jefferson.  Helping Tyee is his old partner, Ray Pacheco. 

Giddy-up, let the adventure begin.

There are currently 21 episodes available on several podcast sites including Spotify.  These are generally about five minutes long and the total for season one will be 31 episodes. (Did I mention they’re free!)

Another option, if interested, is to contribute to the cause through Patreon. With a membership you will receive stuff and have access to audios not available yet in other places and early access to a variety of happenings. Thanks for thinking about it.

Manners for Today

My mother had me when it was considered late in life for childbirth, especially for the time.  Her first child was a boy, seven years earlier, and I’m sure, although I never heard her say this, that she wanted a girl when I was born.   Let’s ignore the psychological junk that comes to mind with that statement, just focus on what no doubt was her desire to bring up a girl.  My mother was a very feminine person and I’m sure she thought she would enjoy the experience of rearing a young lady.  This has nothing to do with my older brother, who was all boy.  And had nothing to do with me, the unborn child she did not know.

Emily Post first published her book “Etiquette” in 1922.  Although I’m guessing, I’m pretty sure that book had a huge influence on my mother.  The basic core of good manners according to Post were:

  • Respect
  • Consideration
  • Honesty

My mother, like most humans, had some hypocrisy issues we will not discuss here but believe me she advocated those core principles to her children, especially her youngest.  “You will show respect to everyone.”  “You will be considerate to everyone.” “You will not lie to anyone.”

I always suspected that my mother had tried to influence my brother with her ultra-polite philosophy but by the time I was born, she had probably given up on that task.  So here we have a brand-new specimen to tinker with, my little darling.

And yes, the most often heard description of me as a child was “he sure is a polite child.”  My mother took that as a victory, I always hated it.  The ultimate humiliation was when my mother forced me to take dancing lessons because she said the class also included etiquette lessons.  I was the only boy.

I’m sure this explains some portion of my personality which I do not wish to explore, but this is to lay the groundwork for me saying I know a lot of shit stuff about manners.

An updated (2020 vs. 1922) Rules of Basic Etiquette available on the Internet.

  1. Say “Thank You.”
  2. Give genuine Compliments.
  3. Don’t be Boastful, Arrogant or Loud.
  4. Listen Before Speaking.
  5. Speak with Kindness and Caution.
  6. Do Not Criticize or Complain.
  7. Be Punctual.
  8. Do Not Embarrass Others.
  9. Act and Look Your Best.

An interesting test might be if you could name anyone you know, or know of, who does even half of those things.  Probably not.  How about just one item on the list—maybe a preacher, or a teacher, or a saint?

What has happened to make us abandon “good manners?”  The obvious culprits would be TV, movies, the Internet, an amazingly long list of leaders who viewed being polite as being weak.  Even our fictional heroes are mostly rude bullies.  What happened to the polite tough guy, “sorry, ma’am, let me help you get in that buggy”: gone.  Maybe women caused the problem, they no longer want to be treated politely, they want to be treated equally, as in bad.  Whatever caused it, politeness, or good manners have all fallen out of favor.

How about #3 Don’t be Boastful, Arrogant or Loud.  Wow, you would be described as a milk toast, weak failure.  We want people to be strong, powerful, full of vile bullshit—those are our leaders, and we like it.  Fight, don’t compromise, criticize everything and everybody, complain about anything that does not benefit you, show up when you are good and ready—it’s your constitutional right, make fun and embarrass anyone who is different, don’t listen to anyone who doesn’t believe exactly what you believe.

My mother would not have approved of much that goes on in society today, but of course, she didn’t approve of much that went on before.  Losing our sense of politeness and using good manners should never have reflected weakness, it’s the greatest strength.  Being kind does not make you less.  It makes you more human, more important, more everything, that most of us want to be.   

Thank you, Mom, even for those dance lessons.  You really did know best.

“Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.”

– Mark Twain

Business Books?

Had a question recently, “what’s with the business books?”  The answer is “because, I like writing them!” 

I’ve always felt like two people when it came to my working life.  I had a business degree, was a CPA, functioned as a Controller, CFO and was a business owner.  All that life is connected.  Much of it is due to my experiences in the 1960s and 1970s as a young, poorly financed business owner.  I had some luck but increasingly became aware of my weakness, an understanding of the financial side (numbers, ugh!) of business.  Going to school was supposed to teach me to be a better business owner. 

Working for yourself is incredibly rewarding but can also be an unforgiving drain on time and money.  Many of the people I knew then were beginning careers with thriving companies, I became envious.  I was working long hours, plus going to school, and it seemed like I was falling behind the people who just chose to work for someone else.  They had a job, that they often left completely behind at work, I had a job that never left me alone.

Once I got the degree and the CPA, I applied for those jobs where you made a lot of money and never worried about having to make payroll.  That lasted for some years (and off and on have gone back to employment, usually to lick my wounds from self-employment woes) until I saw how unfulfilling those jobs were.  Also, while a corporate employee I couldn’t keep my mouth shut.  I think you should do this……whatever this was, usually was not what the leaders were doing and my suggestion on how to be better was not welcomed.

Some of that frustration led to new investments in business ideas and a rather long career in what amounted to consulting.  Many of those years the focus was on helping small businesses find the resources they needed to grow.  Also, some chunk of time in M&A activities. 

Never lost my fascination with what makes a business successful.

The books are a way for me to pass along some advice, opinions, observations, and suggestions about business and what it “really” means to own a business.  Both good and bad.

The biggest contradiction in my life was between this love and fascination with business and the other passion to create things —such as art and books.  It doesn’t seem to fit, but for me it was just natural. 

Each passion was a critical part of who I was, they may seem like different people to some, but for me it was always “normal” to be fascinated with numbers AND bold colors.  (In case you’re wondering I never painted by numbers—maybe should have?)

Thanks for being a reader!

Forgotten, But Not Gone

By Tommy Jacks (character in the Muckraker Series)

Clifton’s focus on Pacheco & Chino and now Chino and Tonto leaves some of us grasping for attention.  My series, The Muckraker Mysteries, have all but been forgotten.  So, who cares about poor old me—well of course I do, and Ted’s co-author Stan Nelson probably does?  I mention Stan even though I have never talked to him, Clifton has forbidden any of the characters in their co-written books to approach Stan—something about he has more important things to deal with and can’t stand whinny characters.

You may, or may not, have read any of the Murder books (that’s what we call them), but if not, you should.  These are terrific stories.  I think some of Clifton’s best—maybe because of Nelson, although I’m not completely sure there is a Nelson.  It is possible Clifton just made that up (he makes up stuff all the time—including me) so he could blame him if anything went wrong.

Let’s begin with Murder So Wrong.  I’m just starting out in my career and have been hired by a start-up newspaper in competition with a behemoth owned by the richest man in the state.  Bunch of history here about the race for governor and how the looser, who had some money, decided to open a competing newspaper because of the unethical tactics used by the existing paper to make sure their guy won.  Yes, there is murder but a lot more stuff going on, including my first love, ending in a great tragedy. 

This was loosely (very loosely) based on a real newspaper war in Oklahoma City during the 1960s when both Stan and Ted lived there.  They knew some of the people involved in the start-up paper and heard all kinds of stories about the underhanded dealings that were going on.  One of the people Ted knew was a political columnist who took no prisoners when it came to his “over-the-top” reporting (or more accurately gossip mongering).  He and Ted even worked together for a while, but he was less pleasant close-up—some of our most famous people really are assholes—best to keep your distance.

The series continues into Murder So Strange.  This book looks at police corruption and the drug problem that existed in Oklahoma City during a time when most people thought there wasn’t a drug problem.  Inter-twined with political intrigue from Oklahoma to Washington DC.  Lots of twists and turns in this one.

The last in the series is Murder So Final.  This book returns to a statewide political race and involves some unforgettable characters.  The oil field thug, who now owns the largest oil and gas company in the state, who is running for US Senate.  His opponents consist of a preacher and a professor.  This three-person race becomes nasty and deadly.  Also includes a major, almost city destroying, oil field fire in Tulsa.

As a reporter/columnist I was there for all those events.  While I’m the main character, the charm of these books is the supporting cast of characters.  My dad, who was running the state Democratic party before he was put in jail by the owner of the powerful newspaper, a lawyer who doesn’t seem to have any scruples and possesses a very colorful vocabulary, my first love, my second love (now my wife), newspaper people who are so close to real that it seems like they are made up,  my mentor who fell into a pile of crap and never recovered and more and more.  Lots of interesting people doing interesting things. 

Authors Note.  Some of the people in these books were based on real people (no names please), while others were just created because they were needed in the story.  Not sure I can tell which is which anymore.

As to Mr. Jacks concerns about the “Murder” books, I am sympathetic.  I also feel those books were some of the most interesting.  The fact that Pacheco and Chino sold better was not a statement about the stories themselves, more about timing and having a dog featured in P&C.   It was by agreement with Mr. Nelson that there would only be three of those books—so maybe Mr. Jacks is feeling like he has more to say and nowhere to say it.  It’s a tough non-life being a fictional character.

Education is Life

I cannot teach anybody anything; I can only make them think.

– Socrates

My wife and I have had more discussions about public education over the years than probably anything else, except maybe our children and grandchildren.  Often, we have been united in our belief that education is being ruined by demanding parents who don’t have a clue.  Parents want to protect their children from harm, physically and mentally.  This goal gets in the way of logical thinking, especially around education.

We’ve reached a point where public education may not survive.  Now for all those people who experienced absolute hell in Middle School or High School that would seem like a good thing, but is it?  Education, public or not, is always hard to evaluate.  We don’t have controlled groups of kids who went thought public education or other options, to compare how they turned out.  Most people in hindsight give public schools a thumbs up, but also have a lot of reservations about some of the methods employed to achieve certain results. 

A solution many parents are approaching today is a more controlled environment that agrees with their beliefs, such as a religious school.  It is in our nature to want to congregate within our identified groups, but does that make us a better society?  Religion often has a whole set of beliefs that run counter to the overall educational goal of achieving a level of critical thinking.  And of course, there are a lot of different religions. 

The consensus seems to be that public education is broken, and there is no way to fix it.  I think the reality is that society is broken, and each camp wants its own way to “educate” the children.  This may be a result of parents feeling they have lost control of their children, not just at school but also at home.  The massive, invasive nature of communication has created an independent world for even young children to explore without much control.  Parents feel threatened.

Yelling at the internet is probably not very satisfying but yelling at a school board or a principal can make you feel you have regained control. 

This issue is really what do you do to fix this unhappiness.  The answer is usually worse than the current problem.  Parents are mostly bad at educating their own children, even if they think they are good at it.  Education is not limiting what you know, it is expanding it.  Parents too often just want to limit what they see as destructive information.

Another problem with public education is bad teachers.  Everyone has a story about some horrible teacher.  We, probably, know how to fix that problem.  However, often the “bad” teacher is one that is not popular for one reason or another; and the good teacher is a pushover who everyone thinks is “cool”.  Those qualities are not based on being a good or bad teacher. 

As I said at the beginning, many problems with schools start with parents who want to put their thumbs on the scale.  The parents who resent any criticism of their children and will use all the influence they may have to make sure their kids have the “right” teacher and that the teacher understands the parents have huge influence.  Those same parents want to demonize school boards for not being in the right political column.  Politics and education are opposing forces that will not comfortably co-exist.

My solution?  Yeah, I don’t know what’s right either.

How about?

  • Public Education exists as is up to the fifth grade.  This will provide an educational basis for the basics, reading, writing and arithmetic.  The three R’s?  So, government sponsored education to give each citizen the skills to be a minimal participating citizen.
  • Beyond that basic there is financial support at some level for private schools—all optional.  The government does not force anyone to attend any formal educational process after the 5th grade.  I know that sounds backwards, but there are amazing resources to educate yourself, if you so choose.  Maybe ignorance is a constitutional right?
  • Establish apprenticeship programs for almost every job opportunity.  Structured educational programs that are focused more on job skills.
  • Rethink public service jobs so that every teenager is given the opportunity to participate in their community with decent paying jobs.
  • Establish educational systems that use existing facilities to promote continued education from the 6th grade until the 10th.
  • Overall goal is to stop making education, after a minimal level, mandatory.

Book Updates

Started work on the next Tumbleweed mystery book.  This one will feature a girl, from the same town as Johnny, who is going to West Side Elementary.  During one of the Saturday double features at the Sky Train Theatre, she discovers something that totally changes her world.  Not going to tell you anymore right now, but I think you will enjoy this story from the 1950s that will feature a silent film star, the A-bomb, several odd friends and, of course, Tumbleweed and Ratty—and a surprise appearance from the Air Police.

Still anticipate that book versions of Chino & Tonto, Dr. Hightower, and Mr. and Mrs. Sims will be published later this year, or early next.

Audio Updates

Recording every day.  Would expect to get onto a regular schedule soon with new episodes of one of the three audio series posted almost every day.