Bunker Labs

On Friday I got to go on a TechTrip with the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana and one of the stops was Chicago’s incubator 1871. 1871 offers space and programs for start ups. One of its members is an organization called Bunker Labs that serves veterans who want to become entrepreneurs.

What a great organization!

Education Bubble

I do think tuition rates are ridiculously high. Even though I went to a state school and paid for my second graduate degree as I went and thus have zero debt, I still think I paid too much because it’ll be a long time till I make up for that investment.

I think it’s high time people rethink all the money spent on college in America. All the extra services, many of which most students don’t use, and administrators seem unfair. If you can’t write at the college level, why should the students who can pay for your writing center sessions? Do we need all these extracurricular activities and facilities? Why wouldn’t those who need or use these things pay for them?

The idea that cost of education has quadrupled, as Peter Thiel states in these videos, yet many still graduate but are unable to write a paragraph, should be examined.

Accepting the idea that you can take out a loan and everything’s okey-dokey is unwise. Most people, parents and children alike don’t realize how long it’ll take to pay off that loan.

I also think it may be wiser for people to send their children to community college for two years and then transfer to the pricier university. Ten or twenty thousand dollars extra for a particular social experience, (e.g. dorm life, parties, status) seems like a bad choice. If you’re in a certain income bracket, all the other parents are sending their kids to schools with status. You don’t want to “deprive” your kids. That’s understandable.

Now it seems like it’d be better to put that money aside and give it to a child when he or she needs to buy a car, furnishing for an apartment or a condo. Of course, this is a personal choice for each family.

I’d like to see more colleges offering low-cost options. Think a Southwest Airlines version of higher education and more parents considering different paths to attaining education.

Jordan B Peterson

I recently discovered Jordan Peterson’s videos through Scott Adams of Dilbert fame. I first saw Peterson’s interview with the British broadcaster where he eludes her attempt to make him seem like an offensive, non-PC, heartless villain. I’m enjoying learning more from this gentleman and scholar. (Yeah, I’ve noticed the dearth of gentlemen and scholars, too.)

What he says is straightforward, commonsense, and I think most people I know follow his advice already because they had parents who provided such wisdom. Yet I do know that we all have blindspots and that blame is a tempting easy-out. The video is a healthy reminder and we all need those from time to time.

Below is a sample of the videos Peterson has made himself. These videos are getting a lot of attention and call for more responsible, mature behavior from all of us. No more Peter Pan Complex.

Speed through your Homework & Learn

In this video, Thomas Frank shares a lot of the ideas found in the Coursera course Learning How to Learn. I can vouch for their effectiveness. It’s not just about cheap shortcuts, but how to learn more effectively.

Share this with any students, young or old, that you know.

Steer Clear of Eton House International School

While Eton House International School in Jinan may be a good first job for someone who’s desperate to work in China, I advise teachers to avoid it. I’m writing a short ebook with more details but for now I’ll share the undesirable aspects of the school, which brings in between $800,000 to $1,000,000 revenue a year. The school staff consists of very nice people, but the school’s policies and poor communication make it a poor workplace. For 2017-18 three teachers have backed out of the position open to teach kindergarten. I’m not surprised.

Points to Consider

  1. The principal lacks experience and has only worked at Eton House International School in Jinan. She’s an example of the Peter Principle, where everyone rises to their level of incompetence. She’s a nice, young woman, but can’t prioritize and is behind in her work. For a couple years the school’s been publicizing that they’re going to be an International Baccalaureate school. The principle hasn’t begun the application. She’s getting the tutoring she needs to fill it out.
  2. Eton House Jinan does not have you sign a contract in Chinese, which is required by Chinese law and in fact is the only contract that’s actually good in China. If they change this, you should have a person who’s neutral, translate the contract for you. Often the English and Chinese wording are quite different.
  3. After you sign the contract, you’re in for numerous surprises. For example, the contract says nothing about the teacher having to pay 4 months’ rent and taxes for the apartment. It simply says you’ll be reimbursed every month for your apartment. Later you’ll be told to bring $2,000 to $3,000 for your apartment costs. Most jobs provide housing so there’s no need for you to take one that requires you to take from your savings back home and then be in arrears for months. You can negotiate for the school to pay the 4 months rent, but when you do, expect to have to remind them and do a bit more persuading so they follow through. Get any negotiated benefits in writing.
  4. Communication is horrible. The Principal’s Assistant is an intermediate English speaker with little understanding of business, education and adult activities such as finding housing. She’s your main contact. The Principal is often busy or off campus. She’s the only staff member who can make decisions. Good luck.
  5. If you have a Masters degree, you’ll be the only one at the school with an advanced degree. I can’t imagine how a school that charges $20,000 a year for pre-school lacks trained professionals of the highest caliber. Thus the conversation and thinking in curriculum and teaching is at a subpar level. Teachers just don’t discuss issues the way professionals do, though some think they do. You’ll see signs in the school for the “writting (sic) table.” You’ll hear teachers talk about the Inquiry Unit on Self-Expression about the Gingerbread Man story, a story where the lead character does not express himself in any meaningful way and where the students don’t do work where they express or think much about their opinion of the story.You’re better off getting experience in your home country and then moving to a real international school, one that already is International Baccalaureate.
  6. All the good jobs, and even the bad ones, I’ve had overseas provided teachers with free housing. With Eton House, you’ll be on your own. You get a housing stipend, but unless you want to live in a hovel, it’s probably not enough. If you teach for Eton House in a major city like Beijing or Shanghai, it will be about a third of what you need. Then on top of the rent, they’ll tell you after a couple days of apartment hunting, that there’s a 50% tax and a management fee. So all the time you’ve been looking at filthy apartments, you don’t realize that you can’t afford them.
  7. The teachers in Eton House Jinan must use the same restrooms as the children. Yes, that’s against the law in most countries — including China. Space is tight in the school.
  8. Space is tight in the school and they’ll eventually move to a new building, but for now there’s no teachers’ room. Teachers have a few tables with computers in the corridor. This lack of space and delayed move to a building that’s of appropriate size appears to be another sign of the principal’s lack of leadership skill.
  9. The school is most concerned with saving money. If you miss your flight to Jinan from a larger city, the first thing you’ll be told is that you need to foot the bill for the next flight. Concern for you as weary, perhaps lost traveler is nil. In fact, money will be a big topic at Eton House. The administration’s main concern is money.
  10. A lot of the problems at Eton House Chengdu (see this review: http://www.gochengdoo.com/en/listings/item/eto_32240/etonhouse_international_school) are evident in Jinan. That review was eye-opening. The principal in Chengdu has advised Jinan on curriculum design. Imagine!
  11. While cheerful and imaginative, except for the blatant Eton House posters which continue to sell the school, the classrooms lack a good selection of books in English or Chinese. There are a few, but no where near enough for 15 children. Like in Chengdu, there are few copyright compliant teachers manuals. The only one’s I saw were infringed copies of manuals for phonics.

For-profit schools have their problems and many are on display at Eton House. It’s a decent job because the salary is okay for someone who is new to the field or just seeking a job in China. The sort of professional nomad. If you have a degree in education, I’m sure you can do much better.

More of Sunset Ridge

As I toured the school I was blown away. The school has star of the art everything and is so bright and cheerful.

 

 

 

 

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Part of me thinks this is a bit much, they could have saved some money. I wonder if they were shown anything that they actually said “no” to.