Ankeny School Board Vote 2017 – Candidate Round Up

The Ankeny Community School District will vote the nominees to three School Board seats on September 12 (the second Tuesday in September per school policy). Since there’s only a couple of days left to do your homework, I thought I would collect some of the disparate resources for Ankenians to make it a little easier to review the nominees, and hopefully get you interested enough to get out to the polls (search for your address on the Secretary of State website since school vote polling locations could be different than where you normally go).

Meet the candidates.

I’ve pulled a short list of links together for you to get to know the candidates. I basically pulled each persons Des Moines Register interview, a link to their Facebook Page (if it exists), and their LinkedIn profile (if it exists). These are essentially the only resources out there for which you to base your opinion on, which seems lacking.

James F. Ford

Susan Gentz

Aaron Johnson

Lori Lovstad

George Tracy

What about endorsements?

A few local and/or state organizations recommend candidates, so here’s a roundup of what I could find on those:

ISEA Recommended Candidates

  • Jim Ford
  • Aaron Johnson
  • Lori Lovstad
  • George Tracy

Ankeny Education Association Recommended Candidates (sourced via FB posts from the candidates)

  • Jim Ford
  • Aaron Johnson
  • Lori Lovstad
  • George Tracy

AFSCME Iowa Council 61

  • Lori Lovstad

Iowa Women for Progressive Change Political Action Committee

  • Lori Lovstad

Hear them in their own words.

The Ankeny Area Chamber of Commerce (thanks Chamber!) held a public forum that allowed candidates to field a common set of questions, both planned and from the audience. The video is of the full session, so if you’re going to watch it’ll take 90 minutes.

When you’re ready to vote…

After digesting all of that info you feel like you’re ready to vote, review the sample ballot to make sure you understand the process (pick no more than three). The polls will be open from 7:00 AM until 8:00 PM and the polling places for this election are listed within this publication or you can visit the Secretary of State page to look up your School Election location.

But wait, there’s more.

This won’t be the last you hear about the Ankeny School board this month. On September 18 the existing board is scheduled to vote on how to handle more than $43,000 outstanding lunch debts, so stay tuned for that.

If you know of other links (endorsements are especially hard to find) that I’ve missed, drop them in below. And thanks for spending some time getting to know these candidates, and giving local elections the attention they deserve!

Why I Believe Global Warming / Climate Change Science

It looks like the Iowa Legislature is heading towards a nice little discussion around science in the classroom, particularly around our two favorite areas; climate change and evolution. Since it’s a discussion we’re going to have, I thought I would take this month to explain not just what I believe, but why I believe it.

Part I – Climate Change, True or False

It is my opinion that climate change is real. My opinion however, is based upon the facts presented by scientists over the last 30 years. Everyone gets to look at the facts and decide if they believe it or not. My position is that the temperature of our planet has increased temperature faster in the last 117 years than it ever had in the last 150,000 years.

The factors I based my decision on vary, but there are simple facts to consider, like:

  • 2016 (and 2015 before that) were the hottest years on record across the majority of our planet. More importantly, 16 of the 17 warmest years on record have occurred since 2001.
  • Total global sea ice has shrunk an average of 13,500 sq miles (basically Maryland) every year since 1979. Hotter planet, less ice. Less ice, hotter planet.
  • Global sea levels have been measured rising faster in the last century than ever before.

And there are more complicated factors, that I don’t fully understand, but I put my trust in the conclusion of scientists. You know, the kind of experts we’ve trusted to create lasers that heal human vision, that have all but eradicated the majority of major diseases from first world countries, that have put a man on the moon, and put a camera the size of  car on a planet four hundred million miles away. Science and our methods are nearly flawless, because they’re rigorous, and built to be tested until we know with near-most certainty that our assumptions are proven.

So, anyway, some of the more complicated factors are:

  • Extreme weather events has increased. Living in Iowa, over the last few years at least it seems like we haven’t experienced much of this since the floods of ’93. But like I said, I trust the scientists that measure this stuff around the world.
  • Another measurable impact is ocean acidity. As CO2 is emitting into the atmosphere, it is absorbed into the ocean. When absorbed, it changes the pH balance of the water. If I remember right, a neutral pH is something like 6. It’s not a big scale. So even small changes impact living organisms ability to survive.

Increased weather events can also refer to an increase in the lack of weather events. A lack of rain. A lack of snow. And it’s not just me that’s concerned. Farmers across our state, and throughout the world have seen the impact and are trying to understand what’s next, and how we cope. You can read about that here, here, and here.

Now, there are some pretty common attempts made to try to debunk climate change, and instead of trying to make you read through them, my friend hank made a video you can watch that you’ll enjoy more than reading.

The most important thing I’ll call out from the video is an agreement that scientists are not stupid. Again, the methods they follow don’t allow them to be. They don’t have hidden agendas. If I were a scientist, I would guess that I would much rather spend my time inventing something that might make me rich, rather than spend my time trying to find some shred of evidence that might help more people understand. 97% of actual experts agree, which by all measures and means in a consensus.

But, even if I could convince you global warming was real, the next step is understanding how humans are contributing to it.

Part II – Man Made, True of False? Hint: Yes, it’s us.

I could point you to even more data and analysis, but those aren’t the things that actually really convinced me that it HAD to be us. What really sold me was an understanding of how inconsequential humans were on this planet until recently, both in volume and impact. A really great example is this video from the American History Museum:

You see, humans have gone off the rails in the last hundred years. The last HUNDRED years. Compared to other mammals, and arthropods, and whatever else had existed for the hundreds of millions of years before us. We have bent this planet to our will, but the volume of us and demand of our needs is now tipping the balance of the carbon cycle.

But that won’t make any sense unless you understand the carbon cycle. So here’s Hank again, but doing his thing on Crash Course:

So the Earth has carbon. And lots of it. And it can handle lots of it. But the carbon that all of us humans are pumping into the atmosphere are too much.

One final  thing to supplement the history of humans on the planet video above is this. It’s a fun graphic depicting the movement from -4 degrees Celsius in 20,000 BC to a center line (the 1961-1990 average temperature) in 8,500 BC and up through modern day. The temperature does increase and decrease, but only a couple of degrees Celsius over thousands of years. So you really only have to look at the bottom of the graphic to see that the increase in temperature has done in 116 years something that usually takes tens of thousands of years.

Humans. And a butt-load of us at that. Burning more fossil (carbon based) fuels into the atmosphere than ever before. That the planet isn’t able to “absorb” back into stored carbon quickly enough, so it hangs in the atmosphere.

It’s like putting an extra blanket over the Earth while it’s trying to break a fever.

When Will We Stop Writing?

I keep seeing people debate whether or not kids should learn to write in cursive. I hear it from my wife who’s a teacher. I see it in my social media streams. I see advocates on both sides from both boomer generations and teenagers. My social barometer tells me that the “we don’t need to teach it” camp is a slight majority, which makes sense since the argument is basically over. They don’t teach cursive to kids in most schools anymore.

The most common arguments on each side are pretty simple:

Yes We Need to Teach Cursive Writing

  • It’s important for future generations to be able to read historical documents like the Declaration of Independence, the original Constitution, etc.
  • Writing in cursive is an art form that allows people to share their personality and communicate in a more personal manner
  • I had to learn it, why shouldn’t my kids
  • You have to be able to write in cursive to sign a document

No We Don’t Need to Teach Cursive Writing

  • No one writes that way anymore, its an unnecessary secondary “font”
  • Historical documents have been copied and are available digitally in non-script, I can appreciate the original without having to be able to read it
  • One way of writing a language is enough
  • It wastes unnecessary time to teach cursive, when teachers should be focused on more important things

But were not going to debate whether or not kids should learn cursive. That’s basically been settled, since few school districts require it anymore. I will mention that my wife at least teaches her students how to sign their name, but that’s it.

The reasons on both sides are compelling, but led me to think that some of these exact same points could be used in a future conversation about writing in general. I’m not saying that we will ever get completely away from communicating via written text, but I do wonder about our proclivity towards physical penmanship in the coming years. I mean, I’m writing this in a text editor. And maybe the problem then is how our concept of the word “write” still conjures an image a person, pen in hand, scribbling on a sheet of paper. We still presumably will always need to know how to “write”, but thinking about the traditional definition we realize people just don’t physically write anymore.

Let’s revisit the rationale from cursive only in the context of written words:

We Need to Teach Cursive Writing

  • It’s important for future generations to be able to read documents like the Declaration of Independence, original Constitution, etc.
  • Writing is an art form that allows people to share their personality and communicate in a more personal manner.
  • I had to learn it, why shouldn’t kids?
  • You have to be able to write to sign a document.

We Don’t Need to Teach Cursive Writing

  • No one writes anymore, it’s unnecessary.
  • Documents have been copied and are available digitally in audio/video clips, I can appreciate the content without having to be able to read it
  • Being able to communicate is enough, I don’t need to write to communicate with friends, family, coworkers
  • It wastes unnecessary time to teach hand-writing, when teachers should be focused on more important things

I know that seems pretty absurd. It does to even me, and I wrote them. But, it would seem that writing by hand, by text, keying letters… may not be necessary at all in the future for a lot of people. Even today people are communicating less and less using written characters, because they don’t need to.

In fact, the only writing most people do is in the form of emails and text messages. And even those are being disrupted by features in messaging software like audio messages. It’s now just as simple to send a snapchat video message to someone as it is to type something out. When it inevitably becomes as frictionless to send an audio/video message as it does to send a text, is that when we stop writing?

Think about writing historically; it’s primarily a form of communication that 1) preserves information, and 2) allows for communication across geographies, where speaking in person isn’t possible. And in both of those cases, we can preserve video and audio just as effectively as written text, and messaging is just as efficient than anything written these days.

So I see two big questions coming from this trajectory.

  • Do we stop teaching hand writing? How long will we need to learn how to physically pen letters and words into paper? Will kids skip writing on paper and begin going straight to typing on computers and tablets? If I can recognize the symbol for the letter a on a screen when I’m learning letters, and again on a keyboard when I want to use it in a word, is there really any need for me to learn how to use my hand to craft the symbol on paper?
  • Do we end up minimizing teaching writing entirely? How long will we need to learn to use letters and words in general to communicate, as spoken audio and video communications become more adopted and accessible? In a world where learning comes from books and audiobooks instead of readable pages.

OK, so where does writing fit then?

So if we go down the path of basically all communications and learning being driven from audio and video, where does writing actually fit into our culture? Our ability to write allows us to put thought into what we are communicating. But how often are people communicating something complex or detailed enough that they actually need to plan and edit?

Thus, the biggest case I see for writing is when you’re compiling something thoughtful. Something long form. Something you need to think about, edit, add, rearrange. Just like this article (which I’ve edited quite and rearranged quite a bit). If I just sat down and talked into a camera and microphone it would be a mess, and editing audio and video is exceptionally time intensive.

It’s a crazy thought. And I like words, typed words and hand written words alike. It’s just a crazy thought that feels like it could be closer to reality than maybe we realize. What do you think?

2014 Personal Balanced Scorecard

Mind
– books – read 1 per month ::
– blogs – write 2x monthly ::
– meditate – for 15 min daily ::

Body
– weight – 5/1:280, 7/1:270, 9/1:260
– fitness – 30 min active p/ day
– fitness – 10k steps p/ day
– therapy – stretch/exercise back 20 min p/ day

Spirit
– prayer – morning and night
– meditation – 15 min daily ::
– fun – video games or movie once a week

Relationships
– wife – dedicate 15 min to talking every night
– son – play on the floor for 15 min every night
– son – email weekly update
– daughter – read with/to for 20 min every night
– daughter – email weekly update

Financial
1 – pay off cc debt
2 – pay off rav4
3 – emergency fund reach $15k

Professional
– blog – write 2x monthly ::
– network – 4 irl events
– read – marketing gold blog roll daily
– read – 1 book per month ::

My Advice for Graduating College Students

Last week I received a request from Central College (sent out to all Alumni) seeking advice for the incoming freshman class and graduating seniors from former students. I sat thinking deeply for a minute, and then started writing down the “tips” that were jumping into my head. One after another, I jotted an idea with some notes behind it, until I had a decent list. I spent a few more days working through my thoughts, doing a little bit of research, and editing the best that I could.

My advice for graduating Central students is below. I started with a separate post for incoming students. I’d love to hear your thoughts on my tips. What did I forget? What did I miss the mark on?

Advice for graduating Central students:

1) Build your network.
Don’t be scared to reach out to anyone for help. The worst that will happen is that they’ll ignore you. You’ve heard “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” by now, and while it’s not the complete truth, there’s a large percentage of jobs that don’t make it on to the “boards” and end up being filled through referrals. The only way to be part of the referral ecosystem, is to have a robust network.

2) Don’t take a job just for the money.
If you’re passionate about something, take the job offer that’s most closely related to that passion. It’s easy to convince yourself to take the entry level job that pays a few thousand dollars more, and tell yourself you’ll be able to transfer into the functional area you are passionate about later. Don’t be so sure. Your work experience from day one out of college immediately influences what opportunities are available to you later. Someone else is going to take that lower paying job, and in a year or two could be your competition for other jobs. Taking the job that pays less allows you to learn and gain relevant experience that will pay off much bigger rewards down the road.

3) Create a financial plan for yourself.
This doesn’t take much explanation. Live small. Pay off debt. Get in a good place before you buy that house and car.

4) Find a mentor. Or two.
Similar to your advisor in college, you might want help navigating the waters of a new career. Finding someone who can give you genuine answers to difficult questions about technical and organizational behavior challenges will help you keep your sanity. A mentor can also help you build your network, because they likely have spent years building their own network and are often willing to leverage it to help you out.

5) Continue educating yourself.
Learning doesn’t stop when you graduate. You don’t have to jump into formalized graduate level coursework, but find something you enjoy and explore it. When you get bored with a topic, find something else and dive into it. Tackle a new subject every week, or every month. Tie what you are learning into your work to enhance your skills, but also spend time in unrelated topics. Remember that studying outside your comfort zone helps develop lateral thinking skills that help you with innovation and problem solving.

6) Don’t doubt your capabilities compared to other graduates from bigger schools.
One of my big fears graduating Central was that I would enter the workforce and find that colleagues from bigger state schools would be able to run circles around. I feared that because they had a less liberal education, they would have a deeper knowledge of certain topics and more advanced technical skills. This is rarely the case. From my experience, the education at Central (and likely most other Iowa Conference and private schools) is more broad, yet just as deep as state counterparts. It really comes down to the person, but in most cases, I felt more prepare and capable than colleagues with state school educations.

My Advice for New College Students

Last week I received a request from Central College (sent out to all Alumni) seeking advice for the incoming freshman class and graduating seniors from former students. I sat thinking deeply for a minute, and then started writing down the “tips” that were jumping into my head. One after another, I jotted an idea with some notes behind it, until I had a decent list. I spent a few more days working through my thoughts, doing a little bit of research, and editing the best that I could.

My advice for incoming Central students is below. I’ll be creating a separate post on my tips for graduating students. I’d love to hear your thoughts on my tips. What did I forget? What did I miss the mark on?

Advice for incoming Central students:

1) Study Abroad.
I didn’t, and it’s the single biggest regret of my time at Central. I had a load of reasons [excuses] not to go, but just a few years out of school I realized that most my excuses not to go were actually the reasons that I should have. Living and studying abroad is a tremendous opportunity, and the hype around it is legitimate. Don’t miss out.

2) College is a tool. Learning is up to you.
Central will provide you with every resource you need to learn, but finding passion for learning is up to you. Having the resources available and applying routine to make sure you study enough can seem like you’re doing it “right”, but without a passion to really understand what you learn, you’re not getting what you’re paying for. Four years seems like a long time, but it will go fast. Use the time you have, and the resources provided to explore and learn.

3) Liberal Arts is a good thing.
You will undoubtedly question the rationale of taking a seemingly random assortment of courses that make up a Liberal Arts education, but stick with it and eventually you’ll realize the importance. Steve Jobs said that all innovation hinges on Liberal Arts, because it allows you to connect the dots between unrelated ideas. Your education at Central will develop your horizontal & lateral thinking skills, which allow you to solve problems more creatively than others. In any job you’ll have in the future, creative problem solving is critical.

4) Build good habits.
It’s easy to just show up at Central and feel like your only obligations are class related, but almost everyone will be involved in something extracurricular at some point. With all the “chaos” in your world, it’s easy to slack on the little things like getting exercise, maintaining a balanced diet, getting adequate sleep, and having relaxing social time. Build those habits early so they stick with you.

5) Connect with professors.
Not through social media (though that’s OK too). Connect with them intellectually and emotionally. Spend time after class or in their office asking questions. Most of the educational content covered in your classes is available somewhere online for free. Think about your tuition as access to Central’s facilities and the minds of it instructors, not just as access to a textbook curriculum. Make your professors teach you during, after, and outside of class.

6) Write down every question you have and get an answer to it.
During orientation, class, and even casual conversation, you’ll have questions. When you do, write them down. It’s easy to shrug them off and wait for them to pop back up when they’re relevant, but at that point it’s usually too late. Writing down your questions allows you to keep up with the “conversation”, and find answers when the time is right. Documenting your questions and answers can also establish you as a resource to other students (think: “make friends”) who undoubtedly have the same questions, but are too scared or lazy to act.

7) Adopt a productivity system.
Find a productivity system (like Getting Things Done + Inbox Zero) that you can utilize to keep yourself productive. Figure out how to effectively use your calendar & reminders, and how to manage projects and independent tasks. Adopting a productivity system will establish a habitual process for managing everything you need to accomplish, so you spend time completing tasks instead of organizing yourself. Trying to defragment assignments, projects, extracurricular work and research through multiple sources and mediums will drive you insane. Start this up as early as possible, and mold it to fit your needs as you go.

8) Read Seth Godin’s “Stop Stealing Dreams”.
Seth Godin write a short manifesto on education that has some big ideas. It might change your view on education and what your role as a student should be. The availability of information at your fingertips no longer necessitates an education based on the rote memorization of facts. Education today should teach you on how to research and synthesize that wealth of information to identify solutions. Central President Mark Putnam has a great blog that talks about his vision for education, and its purpose in our society. And it’s clear that the vision of President Putnam is creating an environment at Central that few other students outside of Central are experiencing. Combining 1) an understanding of your role as a student, with 2) the environment that President Putnam is orchestrating, is a tremendous opportunity for you to become something special.