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“Here Are 5 Things We Should Do To Improve the US Education System” With Penny Bauder & Karen Gross

I think we need to recognize that education is not separate from the workplace and we need vastly better coordination and collaboration among educators and employers. Who better to share what skills are needed in the workplace than employers? Yet, educators often go off on their own, assuming they know what information or content or […]

I think we need to recognize that education is not separate from the workplace and we need vastly better coordination and collaboration among educators and employers. Who better to share what skills are needed in the workplace than employers? Yet, educators often go off on their own, assuming they know what information or content or skills are critical to success in the workplace. Remember too that the workplace and needed skills keep changing at a rapid pace.

As a part of my interview series about the things that should be done to improve the US educational system I had the pleasure to interview Karen Gross. Karen has taught and continues to teach across the educational pipeline. A former college president and Senior Advisor to the U.S. Department of Education, she currently serves as Senior Counsel to Widmeyer Communications, a Finn Partners Company, and as an Affiliate to the Penn Center for MSI’s at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. She blogs/writes for many education outlets including WPo, InsideHigherEd, Chronicle, Aspen Journal of Ideas, DiverseEducation, and MEDIUM. Karen is the author of numerous children’s books, and her mission is to encourage imagination, creativity, and inspiration through humor and fun, all while learning. She is also the author of the adult book, Breakaway Learners: Strategies for Post-Secondary Success with At-Risk Students, which provides a pathway for improving the educational success of low income, first generation, minority students. In addition, she’s the author of the forthcoming book called Educating for Trauma: Educating for Student Success which will be published by Columbia Teachers College Press in 2020.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share the “backstory”behind what brought you to this particular career path?

The backstory is that there actually is no backstory. Nothing that happened in my career pathway — which has had several key turns in direction — — was planned. Opportunities arose and I pursued them. I am reminded of the saying (slightly altered here) attributed to Ray Bradbury, “I leapt and learned to develop and unfold my wings on the way down.” In a sense, by the by, I think many quality educators are entrepreneurial in spirit; they need to take risks. Doing the same old same old isn’t progress.

If you asked me 30 years ago about becoming a college president, I would have said, “not happening.” If you asked me 10 years ago about whether I would be writing about trauma (including my own experiences with trauma) and going to disaster sites to help institutions reopen and deal with the tragedies the students and educators encountered, I would have said, “not happening.” If you asked me whether I would work in the federal government and come to appreciate the difficulties of making change in massive systems, I would have said, “not happening.” All of those “not happenings” happened.

There is a lesson here: be open to opportunities and when they arise — often unexpectedly — consider them door openers.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

There are many interesting stories and what might be the most interesting to one person might not be the most interesting to another. But, if I had to pick a story emblematic of my career, I would say the transition from being educated and then working in a world in which there were relatively few professional women in the fields I entered into a world in which there are an increasing number of women professionals. That movement was at once difficult and powerful. On many occasions decades ago, I was one of the only women “in the room” so to speak. I have seen and I hope encouraged more women to enter the professions and become leaders. But make no mistake about this: discrimination has not disappeared. It has become more subtle, in some cases making it harder to eradicate.

How many times over the past decades have I been in meetings where there are only men and when I speak, no one hears me. Then minutes later, a man in the room would make the same point I just made and folks would remark: Excellent insight.

Invisibility is hard to overcome, although gray hair has aided me substantially. And, that’s interesting too. I earned every gray hair and now that I have it, I think there is an added inclination to listen — perhaps I have lived long enough that experience counts for something tangible and real and important.

Can you share a story about the funniest or most interesting mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

There are many funny stories. Can I share two?

Story One: Many moons ago, I worked at a law firm and in that context, represented an NFL quarterback. We went to a meeting and were late in arriving. When we entered the room (filled with men), my client (the quarterback) said: “I’d like you to meet Karen Gross; she’s my lawyer and she’s a woman.”

I actually wrote a whole article about what those words meant because initially I was insulted. I thought the client just needed to say, “I’d like you to meet my lawyer, Karen Gross.” In truth, what I missed is that the client was proud that he had a woman as his lawyer in an era in which few women represented professional athletes and that was how he expressed that thought. I did not hear what he was saying beneath the surface.

And, the lesson is to listen well and without pre-existing assumptions. And, lesson two: write about your mistakes.

P.S. The article’s title still makes me smile: She’s My Lawyer and She’s a Woman; it reminds folks of a Country and Western song!

The second funny incident occurred when I was a college president. I was at graduation, awarding an Honorary Degree to a person I knew well, an individual with remarkable success as a journalist and an equally remarkable life story. Not to be immodest but I was known to speak well and clearly and with passion. When I said the magic words, “I hereby confer upon you the Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters,” something went way way wrong and I said, “I hereby confer upon you the Degree of Doctor of Romaine Lettuce.” Really, that is what I said. Beats me as to how or why that actually happened. Was I thinking about a salad?

There was a hush in the audience and a few laughs and quizzical looks: Did she really say that? I stopped and turned to the degree recipient and said on the spot: “ I did not mean to confer a salad degree; this is too important to get wrong. We are going to start over and get it right.” A mulligan. And with that, I repeated the magical degree granting words and got them right the second time.

I wrote an article about this incident — about making very public mistakes as a leader. We will all make them; it is how we handle them that matters. And, later on the day of graduation, I sent an email across campus thanking faculty, staff and trustees for all their efforts to make graduation meaningful for all. I added to that email: “Lettuce remember that we made memories today.”

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Yes, several projects in fact.

I am finishing a book titled Educating for Trauma: Enabling Student Success that will be published by Columbia Teachers College Press and released in mid-2020. This book encapsulates my work on trauma and its devastating impact on students at all ages and stages. Sadly, many educators are not trauma trained and mistake student behaviors for something that they are not. If we can enhance the understanding of educators about trauma and concrete practical steps they can take to improve the lives of students, then we will have helped literally generations become healthier, happier individuals in their workplaces, their communities and their families. (Note that trauma is likely epigenetically transmitted.) And, this is not an impossible situation to remedy; we have many intractable problems for which we have no solutions. We do have strategies for dealing with trauma and its symptomology; the challenge is getting these strategies in place — today.

I am working on two new children’s books (these books are all trauma responsive). One is part of my series, Lady Lucy’s Quest, about a multi-racial character who wants to become a knight and is told: “No, girls can’t be knights.” Suffice it to say, she passes the three treacherous tests of knighthood and the books that follow are about her quests as a knight. There are already 8 books in the series (some in Spanish); three others are at varying stages of completion. These books all message loudly about the power of the possible, belief in self and the value of creative solutions. The new book is titled Lady Lucy’s Dinosaur Quest and is taken from a real life dinosaur find in England. The new book touches on history, archeology, fear of the unknown and creative problem solving. This book will be released in April 2020.

I have another children’s book on word play, word games and tongue twisters that will be released in late 2019. This book is but one strategy that educators can use to start classes each day to lower the autonomic nervous system of students. When your autonomic nervous system is on high alert, learning and remembering and problem solving cannot happen. So, it is best to start classes with activities that can be used in classrooms and seminar rooms for students of all ages and at all stages.

Can you briefly share with our readers why you are authority in the education field?

I think that my “authority” (a word I do not like if I can be candid; trusted leader is a better term for me) comes from the in-the-trenches experiences I have had across the educational pipeline over 40 plus years. I did my student teaching with 5th graders and high school seniors. I taught part-time in an alternative public high school while I was in law school. I was a teaching assistant under Professor John Rassias in college level Spanish. I taught in a law school for two plus decades. I also taught at the post-secondary level for several semesters when I was a college president and thereafter. I have been an artist in residence at a low performing elementary school for four years and I have read my children’s books to literally thousands of children across the globe including in early childhood settings. I have visited schools and libraries and community centers, listening to teachers and other professionals talk about and share their thoughts on student success. I have been to public and private schools and colleges; I have been to high performing and low performing institutions; I have been on an Indian Reservation and on military bases; I have been at various charter schools and summer programs. In short, I have “lived in” schools and colleges my entire professional life.

These experiences have all enriched what I do. I believe that if you want to improve education, theory alone is insufficient. It would be like commenting on a university budget without ever seeing one before (let alone tried to balance one). One needs to see education in practice — hear, see, feel what happens in and across our educational pipeline. Then and only then can one begin to arrive at workable, implementable solutions that can be taken seriously.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. From your point of view, how would you rate the results of the US education system?

Let me start by saying that we have many dedicated and quality educators and educational institutions across our nation. But, sadly, we are failing many of our students at all levels. We still have remarkable gaps in quality; we have stunning and unacceptable inequities. We have sharp divides between the haves and have-nots. We remain wed to traditions and approaches that are not effective, and we fail to take needed risks to improve education. We are enamored of the elite and fail to see the strengths in other institutions. Our problems in education are not just a matter of funding, although that is surely an issue. We are remarkably slow to make changes in education, for reasons that escape me still. And, we often reflect on students as if they were identical to us, and we do not see students and parents/caregivers for who they really are in today’s world.

Failing to understand, respect and respond to our students at every educational level dooms us. And, a failed educational system for ALL our students has profound effects on our communities, our workplaces, our families, our physical well-being and our Democracy with a capital D.

Can you identify 5 areas of the US education system that are going really great?

1. There is now a recognition that we need to assess empirically what we implement within the educational system. This has led to an increased awareness of the import of data informed decision-making and as a result, we are now more likely to collect and analyze data as part and parcel of decision-making in education.

2. There has been movement toward recognizing the importance of creating trauma-responsive schools because of the abundance of trauma that has occurred including trauma caused by natural disasters, school shootings and high ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experience Scores). This will also be an area of needed improvement, as we have not moved sufficiently from recognition to action.

3. We have many educators who are deeply committed to improving the lives of students across the educational spectrum. This is not new but there are remarkable individuals deeply committed to students. We are fortunate when we or those we know have them as our teachers and professors.

4. We have philanthropists who see the importance of education and are committed to donating dollars and resources to have an impact. Indeed, there has been a growing number of “impact investors,” those who give more than money; they give time.

5. We are recognizing that students do not all learn in the same way and we need pedagogies that are diverse to enable students with all learning styles to be afforded learning opportunities that meet their needs.

Can you identify the 5 key areas of the US education system that should be prioritized for improvement? Can you explain why those are so critical?

To be fair, there are many more than 5 areas of priority but here is my list:

1. We need universal early childhood education. The data are clear: early childhood education is needed to begin to close the equity gap. We can help all students increase their likelihood of success as they progress to adulthood if they develop early learning skills: capacity to play, development of word use and other modes of expression, teamwork, listening skills, engagement and connections with peers and adults, self-esteem, love of learning and respect for others.

2. We need to move from trauma awareness or being trauma informed to becoming trauma responsiveness within all of our educational institutions from early childhood through adult education, including in the workplace. This requires a dramatic change in how we respond to students and how we see our responsibility as educators. Trauma is not disappearing and we will have students who are deeply damaged by trauma and carry that harm with them as they age; we have the tools and strategies to tame trauma’s impact but we need to deploy them as a universal “mandate.” Otherwise, students will fail when they can thrive.

3. We need to breakdown the silos among educational institutions and within the disciplines. Educators at one level do not engage with educators at other levels and those with expertise in one area do not engage with others in different disciplines. As a result, we fail to leverage our talents to improve the lives of the students who move through the educational system. Educators should work together, identifying ways that learning progresses and enabling all educators to see how learning can be improved.

4. We need to focus on the social determinants of health, which include education and address the ways of insuring that all students (not just some students) receive an education that enables them to be healthy, well-adjusted adults whose mental and physical well-being is optimized. This requires a commitment to improving the lives of all of our children, to use Robert Putnam’s nomenclature.

5. We need to move away from testing and then more testing as if the existing tests are a quality measure of learning and achievement. We have made educators so focused on test results that we have lost the appreciation for non-tested educational needs: problem solving; analytic abilities; teamwork and collaboration; psycho-social skills; the value of the arts. Testing at all levels is lowering, not raising, the proverbial bar.

How is the US doing with regard to engaging young people in STEM? Can you suggest three ways we can increase this engagement?

We are not doing as well as we should be in the STEM fields, particularly among girls and women and minorities. There are many reasons that account for our failures in STEM, compared to other nations too. Consider these three ways to improve STEM engagement:

1. In the early grades, we need educators who embrace STEM and can communicate its importance not through memorization but through engagement activities. Also, too many classrooms have underutilized technologies because the educators are not comfortable with these advances. In addition, we cannot make it seem as if STEM is separate from other learning; problem solving that involves the integration of disciplines is key.

2. At the higher education levels, we often focus on the foundational elements of STEM and leave the most interesting issues and topics for upper level students in high school and colleges. But, as former Princeton president Shirley Tilghman pointed out, we need to make the interesting STEM issues something with which learners can engage early on in their studies. If you can engage learners in the problems that STEM can address and resolves, they will be more willing to pursue STEM studies. Otherwise, we have a pyramid affect where few get to deal with the interesting, complex issues.

3. We need to change assumptions that are embedded in STEM: it is the field for white, middle and upper class men. We need to change the assumptions that STEM is only accessible by geniuses. We need to change the assumptions that STEM is only for some students whose brains work in a particular way that enables them to understand STEM disciplines. This means we need role models of all sorts — showing that STEM is not the white man’s province. We need to show that STEM can involve a myriad of pedagogies such that many students can participate successfully in STEM programs. We need to give students concrete examples of the value of STEM including through internships and hands on problem-solving.

Can you articulate to our readers why it’s so important to engage girls and women in STEM subjects?

We cannot afford to have any discipline limited by gender. We cannot have the humanities dominated by girls and women and the STEM disciplines for boys and men. Given that women/girls within the educational pipeline equal men in numbers, STEM as a set of disciplines will be hurt by fewer engaged learners. We need people to study STEM to improve our world. Also, girls and women may be deeply interested in solving different kinds of STEM problems and they may have unique problem solving and analytic approaches, all of which will inform the STEM disciplines. Look at medical research and the failure to do sufficient studies on women. If there were more women in STEM, the invisibility of women in studies would be decreased as a critical byproduct.

One added note: Discrimination takes many forms; the absence of women and girls in the STEM disciplines suggests that there are barriers to entry; if we can identify these barriers, we can open the field to more girls/women. But, we need to welcome girls/women so they feel they can take risks, which is critical to learning in all disciplines, especially the STEM disciplines.

How is the US doing with regard to engaging girls and women in STEM subjects? Can you suggest three ways we can increase this engagement?

We know that girls and women are lagging behind their male peers in the STEM subjects. Here are three approaches to helping to resolve this problem but we need to be clear: some of the reasons for the absence of girls/women has to do with deeply embedded prejudice over decades and that cannot be eradicated with the waving of a wand.

1. We need every person to see the movie Hidden Figures, about the three previously unrecognized women whose mathematical skills enabled NASA to succeed. I say this partly in jest but the truth is that getting more women/girls into STEM involves boys/men too. If girls/women are not welcomed and encouraged, they will not all be so willing to break barriers.

2. We need to infuse different pedagogies within STEM, enabling girls and women to engage more fully in these disciplines. There is no one way to teach science and math and technology. Fear is a barrier. So is risk-taking. But if we have different quality pedagogy, we can make inroads. Consider problem sets on topics that engage and interest women and girls.

3. We need to listen to the girls and women who have succeeded in STEM and we need to hear how they navigated the system. If we learn from those who succeeded (we usually study those who failed), we can learn what improvements we can institute based on real life experiences. We also need these women to become role models if they are so willing. And we need to publicize their successes not just to other girls/women but to men/boys as well.

As an education professional, where do you stand in the debate whether there should be a focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) or on STEAM (STEM plus the arts like humanities, language arts, dance, drama, music, visual arts, design and new media)? Can you explain why you feel the way you do?

I have very publicly suggested that STEM is not the optimal term. We cannot silo disciplines. Indeed, real life problems are not siloed so we are doing a disservice to everyone if we leave out the A. The “A” disciplines can enrich and enhance the study of STEM. Do we want scientists and technologists who cannot communicate orally or in writing? Do we want doctors and physicists who do not understand human nature and cultural implications? Do we want mathematicians who do not understand the real world in which we work and live? And, many of the A disciplines can be enhanced by STEM — think just about music and how tech savvy one needs to be to mix sounds. Think about those studying human nature who fail to understand the environment and the effects of pollution.

Bottom line: we need students who understand the interdisciplinarity of our world.

If you had the power to influence or change the entire US educational infrastructure what five things would you implement to improve and reform our education system? Can you please share a story or example for each?

1. I would implement trauma responsiveness across the entire educational system, from early childhood education through adult education. We are surrounded by trauma and it is not disappearing. But, we have the tools and strategies, as noted earlier, to address the myriad of traumas students (and educators) encounter. We need to take trauma and its consequences seriously. And, we need to do more than recognize its presence; we need to act.

Consider this example. Suppose a student is misbehaving in class; he is angry and throwing things. He cannot concentrate. If we just assume he is a bad kid, we might suggest he get some pharmacological solution to quiet him down. Or we send him to the principal as punishment and suspend him from school. What if instead we asked and thought about WHY he is behaving this way? Is he exposed to trauma at home? Is he displaying trauma symptomology?

Punishing someone or diagnosing him/her with an illness he/she does not have doesn’t solve the problem. We need to understand what happened to our students, not assume they are misbehaving and acting out or isolating themselves because they are simply disinterested in learning and are badly behaved.

2. I would literally and figuratively pour money into early childhood education. We need to recognize that if we fail to provide quality, universal early childhood education, we are actually harming not just these individuals but society as a whole. We need an educated populace. Our Democracy and our society require it for survival. We need individuals who contribute in the workplace, are able to have families that are functional and we need individuals who contribute to their communities. This means we need people who can stay in quality educational programs. And we know from research that the educational divide starts early. Really early.

Consider the number of words a young child knows. And, by the by, it is not the sophistication of the words that matters; it is knowing and hearing words. The differential is stunning. By age three, the difference in words known among the wealthiest and poorest children is 30 million. That is not a typo. https://www.naeyc.org/resources/pubs/tyc/feb2014/the-word-gap. If you are that far behind that young, how does a child catch up? The simple answer is that absence intervention, he/she doesn’t.

3. I would change the entire approach to testing, starting with children and going through graduate education and other post-secondary learning. We test but I am convinced that the ways in which we test and the frequency with which we test are suboptimal. I get that testing is a big business but we know that SATs are deficient as true predictors of college success. We know that tests that measure content only fail to measure other critical learning skills. We know that tests for some children are not quality measures and cause anxiety and test-phobia. We know that judging people based on limited tests leads to “tracking” and often erosion in belief in self. So, why are we so stuck on testing as the primary, if not only, form of assessment? To be sure, it is easier than other forms of assessment; it is traditional too. But, testing can be and often is overused and debilitating, not learning enhancing.

Look at the data. The average student takes 112 tests between pre-K and 12th grade. Really. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2015/10/24/confirmed-standardized-testing-has-taken-over-our-schools-but-whos-to-blame/.

In higher education, ask yourselves whether educators are trained to design tests of the materials they teach? Does the professor who teaches history know how to construct a quality test of the material covered? Does a law professor know how to construct a quality test of the materials taught in a course on Secured Transactions?

By way of example, many teachers in the elementary grades are complaining vehemently that testing happens with such frequency, they feel inhibited in terms of becoming more creative. They cannot assign materials they want to assign or that they believe will benefit their students if it is outside the “required” information to be conveyed. If they do not stick to the test covered materials, their students and they themselves will be judged to have failed. This leads many educators to feel stymied and to lose their enthusiasm for teaching. Some leave the field altogether. What a sad consequence if the most creative teachers are leaving education.

One other bad side affect of testing: we forget humor and the value of what I term “laugh2learn.” We get so stuck on multiple choice tests that we fail to enjoy learning and the power of laughter.

4. I think we need to recognize that education is not separate from the workplace and we need vastly better coordination and collaboration among educators and employers. Who better to share what skills are needed in the workplace than employers? Yet, educators often go off on their own, assuming they know what information or content or skills are critical to success in the workplace. Remember too that the workplace and needed skills keep changing at a rapid pace.

In a sense, this divide reminds me of what would happen if doctors did not listen to their patients even for a minute. Could they provide the right remedy for the patient if they did not hear the symptoms? Tests and exams only go so far; listening to a patient is critical (and sadly overlooked on many occasions).

Bottom line: we need to listen to employers within the field of education and we need to be partners in educating the next generation. That means that both educators and employers need to have respect for each other and focus together on creating an amazing, creative, innovative, thoughtful, ethical workforce.

Consider this example. What if we graduated nurses or radiological technologists (with 4 year degrees) but they had never done anything with or involving a real person? What hospital would hire them? They might know the theories within their field. They might know anatomy and physics and pharmacology. But, what if they had never injected a real person or been in an ICU and monitored an actual person in distress or provided x-rays to a human who had a broken bone. Simulation is valuable but it only gets you so far. What if they had never had to communicate in person with a living patient and his/her family?

5. This last suggestion may seem odd at some level as it is not a suggestion that is offered by many, at least not consistently and as a critical part of education reform. I think we need to help all students of all ages to ask good questions. Learning to ask good questions is a critical skill, and it can be learned. Often the ability to ask good questions shows that someone is listening, probing the contours of an issue or problem and then trying to better their understanding. And, good questions force listeners to whom one is asking the questions to pay attention, to reflect on issues they may not have thought about before. Questions get people thinking — both the questioner and the person answering.

This suggestion is inspired by two sources: (a) James Ryan, now president of the University of Virginia and formerly dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, wrote a truly remarkable book titled Wait What?. In the book (initially written as a commencement address), Ryan delineates five important questions we all should ask all the time. There is a sixth bonus question for the record! These questions could be asked by educators and then educators could help students to ask good questions. Imagine a homework assignment (don’t get me started on how poorly we do homework now) where students had to come up with five questions about a certain reading to which they were assigned or a certain set of materials in a STEM subject; and (b) As a law professor for 20 plus years, I asked students plenty of questions in a modified Socratic dialogue. There are many goals accompanying this pedagogy but one goal is to help students looking at information in legal decisions and then ask really good questions. Law students who learn to ask good questions will be able to be better client advocates and better construct quality legal arguments. It is not easy to ask good questions; you need to think about the material. You need to assess where the gaps are in the information. You need to probe the innards of a subject. You need to be curious.

I am reminded two things that happened when I was a law professor. The families of students often did not understand why their child/spouse had suddenly become so inquisitive. What did you do today? Where were you around noon? What enabled you to do that? This type of questioning was new. So, I invited the students and their families to what I called Mock Law School. Students could volunteer family members to be called on (cold calling — asking someone a question when they did not expect it). The class size swelled to over 250 people and I served food to ease tension. Everyone supposedly read the assigned case and I launched into typical questions, calling on family members. What happened (and I must have done this 10 times) was that family members started to understand the question technique, the difficulty of being asked questions and the difficulty of forming quality questions.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My Life Lesson Quote: “Education happens in many places and spaces of which the classroom is but one.”

If I have said this once, I have said it a thousand times. Education is not limited to the classroom and we learn not only from those who are our official teachers and professors. We learn from our peers. We learn from staff. We learn from experience. We learn in hallways and dining halls/cafeterias/ residential halls. We learn through coaches. We learn from administrators. We learn from guest speakers and we learn from musicians and other artists.

Learning is an active verb and it should happen all the time. That means we need to pay attention to how education happens, not just in the classroom but also in every nook and cranny of a school or college. And everyone who works with students needs to see themselves as educators and the physical space messages too so we need to pay attention to the halls and walls and stairwells. In short, education is happening everywhere all the time. We need to see it and amplify it.

For added support, see: http://laschoolreport.com/after-school-students-are-playing-the-whole-game-in-activities-from-drama-to-sports-to-debate-backers-of-project-based-learning-ask-why-cant-all-of-education-look-like-th/

The runner up Life Lesson Quote: Believe in the Power of the Possible.

We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

There are many people whom I would like to meet and with whom I’d welcome a conversation and an opportunity to ask questions (see above). I could pick one from each of the areas you describe and for different reasons.

But, if I had to pick one person to meet and with whom to break bread, it would be Colin Kaepernick, the former NFL player who knelt at the singing of the National Anthem. He had been, effectively, banned from professional football. First, I am a serious sports fan. Second, I think a lot about role models and role modeling as well as social trends and social protest movements. Third, I am curious as to how Colin Kaepernick feels and thinks about a variety of issues: his views on kneeling and its effect and effectiveness; his ability to handle dissent and dissention; his vision of the future; his reaction to the deal between the NFL and Jay-Z. I think he had a lot to say that affects young people and I worry that we are so scared of speaking up and out as a generalizable matter that we disassociate from those who use their voice for the collective good. Fourth, he took a real risks and risk taking is hard. Ask any entrepreneur. But, without risks, we don’t make forward progress; at best we tread water. We need to speak up and out. Educational leaders have a bully pulpit that they often leave vacant. When one has the power to speak, we need to use that power for good. Yes, it is risky but it is a necessary risk in the name of progress.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I write regularly on LINKEDIN and other sites including BBNTimes. I have two websites: www.kidbooksbykaren.com and www.breakawaylearners.com. Both websites have contact forms. KarenGrossEdu is my twitter handle.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

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