Archive for May, 2007

Call to Greatness

Posted in Methods, People on May 31, 2007 by barbararuth

Before I heard the term “call to greatness” in coaching and new age circles, I had the good fortune to have an eighth grade teacher who was a master practitioner of the call to greatness. Part of his personal myth (probably true) was that his father had worked with Albert Einstein and that his childhood conversations with “the smartest man who ever lived” had served as part of his inspiration to become a math teacher.

He introduced to his honors algebra class an exercise he called the Test-a-Day-Experiment, “TADE” for short. Every class begun with a short test. Sometimes it was a mundane pop quiz on material covered the previous week. Other times, he would pick a topic in mathematics that would not be covered until several months later. We were pushed to deduce our way to answers as a foundation for deep understanding when the material was presented in the future. Then there were the days when Mr. Paige got creative, and the test would consist of a single question such as, “Which is warmer, love or a blanket?”

Every day that we entered that cozy room, which was washed in sunlight and smelled of the old wooden cabinets, we left “school” and joined timeless community of intellectual playmates whose members included the legendary Einstein.

With teachers like that, is it any wonder that I never developed a particular focus on grades?!


Rachel Carson

Posted in Uncategorized on May 25, 2007 by barbararuth

In this centenary year, Rachel Carson’s admirers and detractors are at the keyboards. The New Yorker piece lauded her work and legacy. Most interesting to me was the statement that, as a child,┬áCarson “fell in love with the sea without ever having seen it.”

Dr. Edgar Shein on Social Coercion

Posted in Methods, People on May 12, 2007 by barbararuth

I found a fascinating autobiographical essay on Edgar Shein’s site at MIT. If you aren’t familiar with Shein, he is the author of a concept he has labeled career anchors. He says that in each of us, one of eight motivators predominates in our career choices.

For example, the autonomy anchor drives the field sales person who rejects a lucrative move into managing the team. The lifestyle anchor moves executives (these days, male and female ones) onto what has been called “the mommy track.” The technical compentence anchor may have been the one that led Microsoft Chief Executive Bill Gates to change his role to that of Chief Technical Officer.

In “The Academic as Artist: Personal and Professional Roots,” which can be downloaded in .pdf at his official site at MIT, Dr. Shein shares the academic and professional journey that has included studying brainwashing in POW camps and the indoctrination of corporate managers. He attributes his interest in this territory to his personal history as a refugee and immigrant.

What interests me in this essay is an underlying premise that I share with Dr. Shein — that there is an inherent tension between dependence and autonomy, between every individual’s desire to be free and any organization’s need (even legitimate need) to impose structure.

I have come to terms with the idea that it is growthful, and probably necessary to my life’s work, to have some involvement with institutions. (As I said, I’ve let go of the idea of living off the grid, literally or figuratively!) However, I still feel viscerally threatened by organizations. It is not yet the sort of dance Shein seems to have found as a professor.

Silly Post About Gilligan’s Island

Posted in People, Random Thoughts, Uncategorized on May 9, 2007 by barbararuth

As someone who grew up watching a lot of TV, I am always intrigued to discover the perspectives of early TV stars who grew up without it. I love their sense of wonder about something that is for me so mundane. It is corny and sweet, but I am touched by it. From the personal site of Russell Johnson:

“I have received mail throughout the years from young viewers from all over the
world, year after year, who were so influenced by the Professor’s smarts that they
became science buffs and are now Real Professors, Doctors and Scientists.
It makes me proud . . .

Believe it or not the cast of Gilligan babysat some of you, many a time in your
lives. The little boys and girls that we, the cast, baby sat are now serving our
country, putting their lives on the line for us everyday of their young lives.
Makes me proud of you . . .

Now, many of you with children watch Gilligan along with them. You laugh together.
All of it fills my wife Constance and me with major affection for you.
I am delighted to be a part of all your lives.”

I think it must be pretty nice to look back over your 80 years and feel that you were part of something new in the world and that made a lot of people happy, even a little happy.

The Small House Movement

Posted in Tools on May 2, 2007 by barbararuth

My post about Dancing Rabbit triggered a lively conversation with a friend about ways of approaching the problem of creating sustainable lifestyles. I recently learned about the small house movement. Proponents of tiny houses recommend them as a way to accomplish density without excessively tall buildings and as one potential solution to the affordable housing shortages that exist for first-time buyers in some communities. Many communities impose a minimum size on dwellings, I guess because big houses mean big property values.