When We Use the Word FACT(S)

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If you were to ask any of my former students at the University of Connecticut for something they remember me saying, I believe one that would be offered frequently is this one: “The only thing that’s certain is the existence of uncertainty.” Yes, I know the same is true of death and either taxes or jail. But I’d suggest that the most understood / acknowledged certainty is indeed uncertainty.

Which brings me to my response on Facebook to the “Agreed?” question that accompanied the posting of the photo shown above on Facebook. Here is my response, copied directly from Facebook:

Yes, know the differences between ‘FACTS’ and FEELINGS … BUT also know that most ‘FACTS’ are not facts (hence the single quotes on FACTS) … Using the word, facts, means there is certainty in the statement. There are only TWO ways to have certainty: (1) Defining it to be so (e.g., “My name is John because my parents named (defined) me that” or “2+2=4 because of the definitions of 2, +, =, and 4”); and (2) something has been measured often enough that the uncertainty is zero —> there is certainty (e.g., the acceleration due to gravity at a particular point on the earth’s surface). OTHERWISE, everything has uncertainty and thus is NOT CERTAIN!!!

Wasn’t initially thinking about this … But I would suggest that there CAN BE (maybe, honestly, there ALWAYS IS) uncertainty in our FEELINGS as well. What’s your thinking on this suggestion from me?

Bottom line: There is NO ROOM FOR DISAGREEMENT about FACTS. Understood???

We educators must work with our students to understand that most ‘facts’ are indeed not facts. When they they overlook the reality that uncertainty is rarely negligible, they make their significant efforts to reach outcomes possibly worthless. They must understand that changes in procedures used / materials used / outcomes deemed acceptable quite frequently must be Considered. 

I can ‘hear’ some of you reading this now: “He’s an engineer and thus his students were studying engineering … That’s where uncertainty is important.” Balderdash!!! One reality I would hope everyone reading this post would accept is this: Uncertainty is a reality for everyone and everything!

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My Thoughts on a “Power of Positivity” Post

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NOTE: Originally posted on Medium.com:

I want to share my thoughts on a Power of Positivity post from my Facebook subscription. For me, as I started to read it, a fleury of ideas surfaced. The messages from the post should have been obvious and I guess they were / are. But the story and images shared were ‘OMG’ / ‘WOW’ inspiring for me. I know: “What took so long?” More on my reactions to the post later; first, some background … I’m thinking some of you might find this background material familiar.

Remember back in school (for me that’s so long ago, I believe dirt was clear’ as it hadn’t become dirty as yet), we had the standardized tests; our teacher would announce: “Next week on the 24th, we’ll be taking the XYZ Test.” No practice tests, no home prep, no computer administering (had no computers — electricity was reasonably new (again, I’m old…). I certainly don’t remember higher stress levels for anyone involved.

But I digress. On those tests, there always seemed to be a ‘reading comprehension’ section. Probably the tests still do today as well. We were supplied a piece to read, after which we were given questions to assess our comprehension skills. I’ll share another fact about my life. I studied engineering including being awarded a PhD. I was a true geek — > i.e., my comprehension piece was not that different from a simple rewrite of what was supplied; multiple-guess questions, if used, were mostly just that: guesses.

Why? Because I was never required to write pieces that forced me to honestly Consider [Shameless plug for this blog — my thoughts on Considerations / Considering]!!! Other than our final report after a summer NSF Traineeship, the longest paper I believe I was assigned in undergraduate college was three pages. High school most certainly required more. Graduate school changed that of course. I had to learn how to Learn Effectively  — to Consider pieces and their possibly related material in order to be able to use that learning to address meaningful situations. Again more of my thoughts and efforts on these topics posted on this blog.

OK, back to the Power of Positivity post … The image of the holes remaining in the fence really hit home. Yes, we apologize, yes we hopefully learn and refine our words and actions. But the holes remain … My thoughts and plans:

  • I must do my best to eliminate the initial issues as much as I can — fewer nails driven, fewer nails to be removed, fewer holes remaining.
  • Neither I nor anyone else can ever get to a point where no nails are driven and thus no holes to be dealt with. We are all human and perfection is a valuable target but one never reachable.
  • Therefore, whether it’s in the initial period when we’re Effectively Learning through Considering or when our imperfections happen, we will have holes remaining  B— which I believe should be our responsibility, beyond and not in substitution for the absolutely critical seeking and receiving forgiveness.
  • What would / could we do in the case of literal holes in the fence. We could locate / mark the holes. We could fill the holes with compound. We could then sand the compound / fence as needed and paint using matching paint.
  • Depending upon our selections made and skills used, the holes would likely disappear at some distance from the fence, especially with shorter glances. But close-up study would still reveal the locations of the original holes.
  • Likewise, for the figurative driving of nails, the location of the ‘holes’ cannot be completely eliminated, regardless of efforts made. With the impossibility of eliminating the behavior holes completely, hopefully fewer of them will arise — testing the forgiveness offered, especially for those really tough ones that cause the re-identification of the previously mended behavior holes.

Bottom line then: There has to be an upgrade of trust between both parties … The offended must trust the offending to be empathic and diligent to eliminate most of the behavior nail driving. The offending must trust the offended to accept that efforts are being made but that perfection won’t happen. Ideally they can support each other in addressing and understanding the behavior nails driving and holes — keeping them from becoming issues / wedges between each other.

I trust this discussion of my Considerations might be of some value to you. Maybe at the processing level, maybe at the behavior level, maybe both …

WOW! AGAIN, WOW!!!

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Are you familiar with Quora – the website and app? It was recommended in a recent discussion that I check it out. Which I did. It’s a site where anyone can submit, read, answer, and rate (upvote, downvote) questions and answers on topics that interest you. I registered, completed my profile, and chose topics that interest me. For example, I checked the civil war among others because of my strong interest in anything dealing with this part of USA history.

So, now I can go to the Quora website / app and find questions associated with my topics of choice – as well as those aligned with my profile. For example, I see questions associated with Lehigh University, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Connecticut because of my profile. And I get questions (I presume because of my faculty career) dealing with major college period choices and their impact on life and career beyond college.

These questions have really astounded me – to say the least. A few examples: How do I get over lost years (2 years) in college? Why is everything in life a competition? How do I find my real purpose in life? Should I prioritize earning money or getting a education in my early 20s? How do I deal with failure as I have failed in every field of life? Get the drift? To be sure, some of these are likely from individuals seeking to ask that question from hell, the one that didn’t come to mind until they decided “I need a really good question.” But I’m sure that some of them represent true personal concerns. Hence this post’s title – WOW!!!

Some of these honest questions, maybe most, are from people at troubled points in their life. Regardless of whether they should be “there” at this point in their life or not, they are AND they need to get help – including but certainly not exclusively from the Quora answers and comments!

Here’s my real concern: Where were the family, teachers, clergy, and community that should have facilitated the development of skills / responsibilities these people need to at least recognize these questions and concerns? And, if the answer is something similar to “We did our part to help them develop those skills” – my response is “No you didn’t; you need to revisit those efforts and revise how you can really make a difference!!!” Your lack of success and all of our lack of understanding that we need to be more vigilant are the reasons, to me at least, there are so many instances of devaluing one’s value and ability to contribute, leading too often (once is too often) to the suicides or law-breaking behaviors we read and hear about so often. Please note I’m not pointing fingers; I include myself when I say WE can and must do better. Contributing to Quora postings might be a good effort to add.

As an educator, I am a absolute believer that the number one goal of formal education must be the facilitating of all students’ development of at least four skills: Effective Learning, problem identifying / solving, communicating, and working in groups. Absolute, number one… Troubling situations / concerns in anyone’s life is, indeed, a problem to be solved! With these skills, our students and all of us can recognize the existence of the problem at least. And our students and all of us can get any assistance we need to deal with this problem.

As always, thanks for Considering this post. If you have thoughts, feedback is always sought If you believe it has value, I’d appreciate your sharing it with others.

LEARNING -RANDOM / NON-LINEAR

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My belief: Learning (and any situation faced) will yield a better result more quickly IF approached as a ‘problem to be solved.’ That procedure used will be random and non-linear to achieve the optimum learning.

My personal problem solving procedure has the acronym, OSCAR. THE ‘S’ is for Speed Bumps, the random brainstorming of topics that might have importance to the situation at hand. The point is to not miss topics, should this step not be taken. Imagine looking to learn deeply about any topic, leaving out input because of the rush to learn.

The bigger problem results from the list of steps typical for the procedure. Suppose our ‘problem to be solved’ is learning how to write a blog post. The procedure might be something like: choose a subject, develop a title, write an introduction, discuss major points, and finish with an important takeaway – a list. Do you think anyone could draft a valuable post ‘addressing step one, addressing step two, … ???’ Of course not; as you periodically self-assess efforts, new ideas will arise, parts will be thought out of order if not inappropriate – you will ‘loop’ back to previous steps (NON-LINEARLY). That’s why we call them ‘drafts’ / why we edit our efforts!

We must help our students learn that this is routine in learning. I would add that it’s important to honestly accept that it is a problem to be solved, invoking a sometimes random, always non-linear procedure.

What We Do/What We Get to Do

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One of the blogs I hate miss, learn from, and quite often post comments to is “Leadership Freak” written very capably by Dan Rockwell. Today’s post was particularly interesting to me. I clearly agreed with the topic of the post, gratitude, and its importance to effective leadership.

But my attention was drawn to another sequence of short statements transitioning from what we do to what we get to do next – the opportunities we are offered. As I considered it further, I understood the attraction to this portion of the post and posted the following comments:

“No question that gratitude EXPRESSED is so important to trusting relationships. But there’s another part of this post that grabbed my attention and Consideration:

“You become what you repeat.

Repetition is consistency.

Consistency is predictability.

Predictability is reliability.

Reliability creates opportunity.”

Thoughts and concerns (these ALL fit together):

1. Your REPUTATION is from what you repeat. To me, at least, there is only ONE repetition that leads to that produces the consistency that at least I would find worthy of predictably: considering new and previous options when dealing with situations.

2. Consistency is predictability. Really?? Not always. Favorite Einstein quotes: ‘We can’t solve the problems of today with the same knowledge and skills with which they were created.’ And ‘Insanity: Doing the same things over and over, expecting different results.’

3. Predictability creates CONFIDENCE (most times). That impacts reliability but reliability should require more – e.g., considering new and previous options when dealing with situations.

So how about a rewrite on the part of your post copied above:

You reputation comes from what you repeat.

Reputation for repeated sound problem solving is valuable consistency.

This consistency is useful predictability.

This predictability is worthy reliability.

Reliability creates opportunity to address meaningful situations.

My key point (and the reason I repeated  these thoughts here) is the process we use to deal with situations faced: Everyone must expect new approaches will be necessarily considered. And only then should what is done previously lead to additional opportunities.