Educators not interested in improving education

Imagine this: a student seemingly destined to spend his life in a wheelchair leaves 10th grade in it but enters 11th grade three months later as an athletic star as good as any—and better than most—high school athletes.

Predictable result: fellow students would hunger to learn how he did it. Mesmerized gym teachers and coaches would beg for an explanation. Journalists and scientists from around the world would beseech the erstwhile invalid for his secrets so they could broadcast them to the world to help others.

Then why hasn't any educator ever inquired how I quickly transformed myself from dunce to doctor? I left 10th grade (after passing it when I should have flunked it) but entered 11th grade easily able to keep up with the smartest kids in school.

After acing the rest of high school, winning the Science Department Key and accolades from the principal for my writing in an advanced writing class and for penning a complaint letter (about a gym teacher) he said took him two weeks to decipher, I aced college and medical school, graduating in the top 1% of my class. Month after month for years, a company that internally brags it hires only the smartest Ivy League grads paid me for my ideas and inventions.

I am not mentioning this to brag. After being poisoned by mercury (by a teacher, BTW), I developed many of the classic manifestations of its neurotoxicity, including pathological shyness and loss of self-confidence so extreme I would have loved to spend my life living under a rock.

So why am I mentioning this? Because I have a burning desire to make the world a better place. One way to do this is to help average or even struggling students academically shine as I did.

Educators cannot do this. They help people become more knowledgeable, but ones who enter average or slow stay that way.

I did not. The director of my residency program said I was the smartest resident she ever had, and a former boss rhapsodized that I was the smartest doctor he ever met.

From dunce to doctor to dead silence

My point is simple: educators could learn more from me than from people who were born on third base, yet act as if they just hit a triple. Being dealt four aces doesn't necessarily make one a great poker player.

People look to smart people for advice on brainpower, but virtually everyone on third base in the brain game has no idea how they got there. In most cases, they slid down the right birth canal, were coddled by parents with a stimulating environment and good nutrition, given the luxury of time to learn and grow (instead of working dozens of manual labor jobs as I did to escape poverty), and spared from cognitive hazards such as neurotoxic lead I was repeatedly exposed to, along with a number of other challenges.

Schools are supposedly more focused on education than athletics, so why would a metamorphosis in athletic ability foreseeably prompt insatiable curiosity yet an analogous cognitive transformation elicit utter apathy?

I don't know. Perhaps:

How many 10th grade dunces:

Those happened to me, but not other high school dunces.

In 10th grade, my big dream was to drop out and work on an auto assembly line. I was a Motown kid with Motown dreams. My other sole aspirations in life were to keep pumping weights, compete in wristwrestling championships, and think of better ways to pop pimples: I had so many I'd usually spend an hour per day doing that.

Overtaxed parents pay dearly for their children to be educated, yet most students graduate so poorly equipped for the world most live paycheck to paycheck, are in debt and believe they always will be, enslaved to their mortgages, insurance, car payments, utility and other bills. Though their lives revolve around work, nearly “half of Americans can't come up with $400 in an emergency.”

Can we afford my intellectual makeover?

Yes. Its cost to society: zero.

Its cost to me: so affordable I did it mowing yards and performing dozens of odd jobs, with 99% of income from them spent on ordinary education and living expenses, not my secret sauce. In today's world, thanks to the Internet, that cost could be close to zero, hence not an impediment. Thus we can easily afford to do it, and cannot afford not to do it.

As a doctor, I've read some depressing things, but nothing topped a superb Washington Post article: Why America's middle class is lost: The middle class took America to the moon. Then something went horribly wrong. That post-mortem examination rings so true that you may need more than Prozac to cheer you up. For a better understanding of what went wrong on the way to the future, and what can we do about it, read my article Flying cars & jetpacks: why the future never arrived.

Years after writing it, I have even more evidence to confirm my suspicion of what's wrong. The ultimate root isn't me, you, or even educators who turn a blind eye to innovation but instead a more pervasive refusal to embrace or even consider innovation that solves big problems and significantly improves everyday lives—as opposed to Silicon Valley's idea of innovation, which generally involves giving people millions of ways (via apps, websites, and digital gizmos) to fritter their lives away, their attention spans and minds shrinking as their bodies expand more than ever in the history of mankind: notable because of evidence linking obesity to cognitive impairment (see references below).

Thus the apathy of educators is just one symptom in the disease that warps minds to the point they cannot conceive of anyone solving any big problem, so it is especially laughable to admit that nobodies from nowhere like me have good ideas.

“In the 1950s, people welcomed big plans and asked whether they would work. Today a grand plan coming from [someone not already a well-known expert] would be dismissed as crankery, and a long-range vision coming from anyone more powerful would be derided as hubris.”
— Peter Thiel in Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future

One example: “Memory foam was developed in 1966 under a contract by NASA's Ames Research Center.” Over a half-century later, it is still state of the art in mattresses—until I came along and created something better, with none of its many drawbacks and performance it cannot begin to equal.

I have thousands of other inventions: most smaller but several even bigger with more potential to help more people in more ways, from the minute you get up in the morning until the minute you go to sleep, and throughout the night, in ways transcending more comfortable sleep.

I am certainly not the only inventor with valuable ideas collecting dust, but my ideas alone could transform lives in many ways to boost health and happiness while giving more pleasure than you ever thought possible, saving energy and water plus lots of time and money—as if you were teleported into the next century and could do things that now seem like impossible pipe dreams.

But corporations are largely staffed by innovation screeners (if they have any) mired in pessimism who, when they hear an outsider claim “I can do X, Y, or Z,” deem it impossible without asking for proof, such as an operational prototype or video showing the invention in use.

It just doesn't seem possible for something without an engine or motor to remove leaves from lawns faster than anything now available, including leaf blowers, lawn sweepers, and lawn vacuums, even ones pulled by tractors—but I did it after years of perfecting that technology.

If I listed thousands of my other inventions, you would realize how that pessimism is screwing you, cheating you out of a better life you could have and enjoy for longer.

I keep innovating and will eventually connect with investors or corporations to fund commercialization of my ideas. Not everyone can have their boot on the neck of progress.

In addition to inventions, I try to connect the dots in other ways, such as to understand the roots of (for example) children misbehaving, shooting up schools, and growing up into adults with various problems involving the mind (mood and cognition) and body.

Sometimes I hit pay dirt in surprising ways. For example, when I invented the leaf removal device, I went online to research the health effects of leaf blowers and lawn vacuums, figuring I could wrap that up in 15 minutes or less.

Hardly. Months and over 500 scientific references later, with no end in sight, I realized that what I learned about dirt in medical school (virtually nothing) made me dangerously ignorant, using a leaf blower for decades without realizing that blasting lawns with a 200 mile per hour airstream is a really stupid idea because it essentially aerosolizes countless hazards on lawns and in dirt.

If leaf blowers came with adequate warnings, some of them would say:

WARNING! Using this device may:

  • Prolong your reaction time, reducing your athletic ability and heightening your risk of being in a car accident.
  • Reduce your intelligence.
  • Decrease your ability to concentrate.
  • Make you more aggressive and inclined to break rules.
  • Make you more emotionally reactive and less stable with a greater risk of suicide.
  • Make you more likely to feel out of control or overwhelmed.
  • Increase your risk of anxiety, depression, neuroticism, other emotional problems, schizophrenia, and epilepsy.
  • Increase risk of insomnia.
  • Shorten your life, such as via cardiovascular disease and stroke.

And on and on and on.

The views expressed on this page may or may not reflect my current opinions, nor do they necessarily represent my past ones. After reading a slice of what I wrote in my various websites and books, you may conclude that I am a liberal Democrat or a conservative Republican. Wrong; there is a better alternative. Just as the primary benefit from debate classes results when students present and defend opinions contrary to their own, I use a similar strategy as a creative writing tool to expand my brainpower—and yours. Mystified? Stay tuned for an explanation. PS: The wheels in your head are already turning a bit faster, aren't they?

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald

Reference: Imagining dialogue can boost critical thinking: Excerpt: “Examining an issue as a debate or dialogue between two sides helps people apply deeper, more sophisticated reasoning …”

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