A calling ...

"We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims."

"Make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone."

- Buckminster Fuller

Monday, April 25, 2011

Nell Assignment

Nell Response

April 24, 2011

By Daniel Kurland

Psychology 231

Dr. ***

Nell is a movie about a young woman named Nell, who was raised in near total isolation by an elderly hermit, deep in the woods of North Carolina, in a virtual paradise. Nell lives in a cabin by a lake surrounded by miles of open space. She was discovered surviving alone in her mother’s cabin, after her mother was found to have died of natural causes. Given her delayed language and social skills, Nell was presumed by some experts to be incapable of living in society without support. She became the subject of a study, wherein it was determined that Nell’s language delays could be explained in terms of the hybrid theory of language development. According to the hybrid theory of language development, “how language is acquired depends on the circumstances.” (Berger, p. 175)

Nell’s psychological support plan (PSP) is based on the Hybrid Theory of language development. The Hybrid Theory unifies three different theories, each of which can help to explain the special circumstances under which Nell’s language delays developed:

· Theory One: language must be taught.

· Theory Two: language is self-taught, a function of brain maturation.

· Theory Three: the purpose of language is to communicate; in-short, language is a by-product of social interaction.

Both Nell’s language delays, and her striking achievements, can be explained in terms of the Hybrid Theory of language development. First, Nel’s recently deceased mother, Violet Kelty, had suffered paralysis to one side of her face due to a stroke. Consequently, Ms. Kelty had impaired speech; Nell, having never heard normal speech, consistently dropped the very same consonants that her mother had been unable to articulate. Through a painstaking analysis of tape recordings, Dr. Olsen noticed that, although Nell was consistently “dropping consonants,” she was in fact speaking a dialect of English. Second, lacking a model for Standard English, Nell created her own dialect. As a twin, Nell developed private vocabulary, eg., “Chick-a-bee” and other invented words that others mistook for gibberish. By inventing words, Nell demonstrated “self-righting” behavior. (Berger, p. 134) Third, life-long social isolation provided limited affordances to communicate and socially interact with anybody outside of her mother and, as a child, with her since deceased twin sister. Hidden from daylight, lacking a compelling social reason to communicate with anyone but her mother, a recluse, after her sister died, Nell was left to hold conversations with herself, especially after her sister died.

Dr. Lovell and Dr. Olsen, who developed the psychological profile of Nell for the Court, used a number of strategies based on the Hybrid Theory of language development that enabled them to reach Nell within her Zone of Proximal Development. First, Dr. Lovell, like an effective parent-teacher, provided lots of affordances for Nell to help her communicate with him. Dr. Lovell listened and spoke to her frequently, employing lots of gestures and emotion. Plus, he read aloud to her, using tonality, inviting engagement like a good parent-teacher. Similarly, “[t]he frequency of maternal responsiveness at 9 months” has been shown to be a predictor of language acquisition later. (Berger, p. 172) Providing lots of positive reinforcement to a language learner is precisely what learning theory recommends. Second, through language analysis, Dr. Olsen was able to unravel Nell’s vocabulary and grammar. In doing so, she was able to determine that Nell was logical. Nell’s self-taught, not explicitly taught grammar was entirely logical, which supports Chomsky’s idea of a “universal grammar.” Since language development is both experience-expectant and experience dependent, the team realized that Nell’s brain would have lacked sufficient experiences at critical stages to develop grammar sense had she not been exposed to language from infancy – Nell was not as severely stunted as some of the experts originally feared. (Berger, p.132) In short, Nell was teachable. Third, the team used language to communicate with Nell and motivate her to attain a sense of urgency. The team was unsure whether they could motivate her to learn Standard English in time to save her from being institutionalized. After Dr. Olsen began unraveling Nell’s vocabulary, the team began to recognize Nell’s biblical and other references she had learned from her mother. In one instance, realizing that her family Bible was missing, Nell complained to Dr. Lovell, “Word of Lord gone away.” By asking Dr. Lovell to read from a biblical passage, Nell taught him about her culture, about what was most important to her. Similarly, Dr. Lovell wanted to communicate to Nell that she was in grave danger of being exploited by society, but Nell’s understanding of society was extremely limited, beyond what she had learned from her mother and the Bible about “evil-doers.” Thus, he and Dr. Olsen guided Nell in a gradual introduction to modern society by taking her to town. As Hybrid Theory recommends, the team used a variety of tools to teach Nell how to speak English, the most powerful of which was raw human emotion.

Although Nell managed to avoid institutionalization by demonstrating mental competence to the Court, her unique circumstances require a comprehensive plan for continued guidance and support (Nell’s PSP). In addition to the mentoring and family structure provided by Dr. Lovell and Dr. Olsen, here are 5 specific recommendations for Nell’s continuing education under a learning plan.

  1. Speech Therapy: Nell will require intensive speech therapy to develop fine motor skills with her tongue and mouth and thus fix her word pronunciations; part of that therapy will involve placing Nell in fun situations where she is afforded opportunities to listen to and speak with young people her age.

  1. Core Curriculum of Reading, Writing, and Mathematics: Nell will need to learn about both academic and social routines of school. Since reading is a gateway skill, Nell will need to be read to several times per day. She will also need to learn the alphabet. Computer-based reading programs can offer both motivation and structure. To help build phonemic awareness, she might be encouraged to read and listen to Dr. Seuss. Writing is also a gateway skill. She should learn how to properly write letters (Handwriting Without Tears), and should be guided through various stages of learning writing (Lucy Caulkins model). Nell will need to learn about Mathematics, and will need to begin by developing number sense – an Investigations style program will provide the best opportunities to learn algebraic patterns.

  1. Vocabulary Development Routines (background knowledge). Since vocabulary is needed to help raise levels of thought, Word Study Routines based on Fountas and Pinnel plus Words Their Way.

  1. Cultural awareness: Nell needs to be exposed to music, art, and dance. She needs to go on lots of field trips to the theatre, to art galleries, museums, and live performances. She should be afforded opportunities to work with many different types of materials in a variety of venues – this will provide her motivations to engage in social interaction and communicate.

  1. Multiple-Intelligences: Given her age and lack of formal education, Nell is unlikely to fit in within a traditional school setting. She might do best in a program that affords opportunities to move and interact with the environment, such as an Outward Bound style program.


Berger, K. S. (2008). The developing person through the lifespan. New York: Worth.

Foster, J., Missel, R., Place, G. (Producers). Apted, M. (Director). (1994). Nell [Motion picture]. United States: 20th Century Fox.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Jason Werth's Success Formula

Brewers vs. Nationals: Jayson Werth and Washington scrape together rally in 10th to win - The Washington Post:

“I think baseball’s contagious,” Werth said. “You get one guy moving in the right direction and then two and three. . . . We just need to keep playing the games hard, playing the right way and these kids, first couple years in the big leagues, they’ve got a lot of talent and lead by example is probably the best way to put it.” Jason Werth

By Paul Tenorio, Friday, April 15, 11:33 PM)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Automakers promote hydrogen cars; Obama administration remains skeptical - The Washington Post

Automakers promote hydrogen cars; Obama administration remains skeptical - The Washington Post

Hydrogen fuel cell technology, developed originally by NASA, already works. The problem is how to finance the shift from a carbon economy to a hydrogen economy. Without economies of scale, hydrogen fuel cell technology is too expensive. To make it work, gas stations (net carbon emissions) would need to become hydrogen fuel-cell refueling stations (net pure water emissions) -- another reason to support the Capital Homestead Act!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

150 years later, we’re still fighting the Civil War - The Washington Post

150 years later, we’re still fighting the Civil War - The Washington Post

I remember studying the election of 1856, when the question of Union or Disunion was gaining tenor. Americans seem as divided as they were in 1856. On Friday, one group that seeks to bridge the differences will be conducting its rally at the Federal Reserve on April 15th, with a slogan, "Don't End the Fed, Own the Fed." The group hopes to pass the Capital Homestead Act on the 150th Anniversary of Lincoln's Homestead Act.
If you liked that go to


Then, do something about it.

Va. teacher holds mock slave auction - The Washington Post

Va. teacher holds mock slave auction - The Washington Post

Yikes! Where was the team on this one? Simulations require fine-tuned planning and usually work best when done on a team-wide basis. Everybody needs to be in the loop. The problem, obviously, was that the teacher segregated by race, which wasn't at all necessary to get the point across. She could have simply assigned the students randomly to teams (blue team, red team, etc.), and used action/description cards to guide the simulation, and nobody would have complained.

If the teacher had been provided a "Slave Trade Simulation" kit in a box, I'm sure she would have preferred to use "best practice" procedures that someone else had already figured out. Such a kit might involve step-by-step procedures, leveled discussion questions, photographs, things that children can get their hands on, letters to send home to parents, suggested readings, activity guides, and ideas for reflection. Activities could include music (slave music), art (posters, quilts), math (accounting/algebra), reading (primary sources and textbooks, stories, biographies, reader theater, etc.), writing (journaling, persuasion, brochures, etc.), and technology (webquests). During the reflection stage, literature could be used to generate open-ended questions: why did Henry mail himself North? What are some problems he might have encountered? How must he have felt?

Abolitionists should have been included in the slave trade activity, as well as sea captains and rum runners. I still vaguely remember the "triangle trade" activity done that my older sister and brother did and told me about back in the 70's. I still remember hearing about the "triangle trade" activities in which my older sister and brother participated and shared with me back in the 70's. They loved playing abolitionists, and used a strategy of using fans to blow away paper slave ships. Slaves might be given the chance to escape via the Underground Railroad.

Unfortunately, in disfunctional teams, teachers often find themselves on their own, which is generally when teachers get themselves in trouble. Why would a teacher with six years of experience be reinventing the wheel in a history class? A lack of support?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Teaching the Civil War, 150 years later - The Washington Post

Teaching the Civil War, 150 years later - The Washington Post

More 150th anniversary of the Civil War articles!

Peter Thiel: We’re in a Bubble and It’s Not the Internet. It’s Higher Education.

Peter Thiel: We’re in a Bubble and It’s Not the Internet. It’s Higher Education.

Yikes, just as I'm getting ready to enter a Master's program!

Scientists find way to map brain's complexity | Reuters

Scientists find way to map brain's complexity | Reuters

Mapping synaptic connections sounds like a job for Google! We have Gooogle Earth. How about Google Brain?

Location might correlate to the function of a neuron. I read this weekend in the textbook and on the computerized study guide for Psychology 231 that three distinct sections of the brain, fore, mid, and hind sections begin to emerge from the top portion of the neural tube, followed by the spinal cord at day 22 after conception. Thus begins a period of neurogenesis (brain cell creation).

The three distinct areas of the brain are fully in place by week 8, the beginning of the fetal period. Immature neurons (brain cells) travel from inner to outer sections of the brain, guided to their destinations along a scaffolding of glial cells. After reaching their destinations, neurons differentiate. They sprout two kinds of extensions, short branch-like dendrites for receiving signals, and long trunk-like axons for transmitting signals. Synaptic connections form at junctions between an axon of one neuron and a dendrite of another. Neural impulses transmitted along the axon of one neuron trigger the release of chemical neurotransmitters at the the synapse, which migrate to the dendrite of the other neuron, causing it to fire.

Two major processes begin during weeks 8-26, exuberant synaptogenesis, where new connections are formed, and synaptic pruning, where unused connections are removed and others are strengthened through a competitive process. The brain increases 6 times in size during this period.

Exuberant synaptogenesis occurs throughout the 1st year as the child bonds with the mother and its environment. Synaptic pruning is a use-it or lose-it proposition, where synapses that wire together fire together, while unused or weak synapses are subject to death and removal. Brain development is a dynamic process, both responsive to external stimuli, and shaped by genetic factors.

Around week 28, the cerebral cortex, which first emerged from the forebrain, begins to wrinkle and fold, increasing its surface area, vastly increasing the number of synaptic connections. A fully developed normal human brain has about 100 trillion synaptic connections.

Futurists like Ray Kurzweill argue that the reverse-engineering of the human brain will be completed sooner than most people realize.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


Teratogens and Maternal Behaviors/Characteristics

By Daniel Kurland
April 10, 2011
Psych 231
Dr. ***

Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol is probably the most unfortunate thing a mother can do to harm an embryo (weeks 3-8), since the embryonic period is such a “critical period for physical structure and form.” (Berger, 99) Genetic factors affect the embryo’s sensitivity to alcohol, and not all embryos display obvious defects after exposure to alcohol. (Berger, 102) However, the diagnosis of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), where babies suffer from facial deformities, mental retardation, impulsivity, and hyperactivity, is now generally, though not universally, accepted: (Berger, 102)

“Surveys and longitudinal studies have confirmed a correlation between drinking by a pregnant woman and damage to the fetus.” (Berger, 102)

Sadly, mothers who drink excessive amounts of alcohol are more likely to smoke tobacco and use marijuana than others. (Berger, 99) The “interaction effect” of the three used together “intensifies the impact” of each of these teratogens, which are known to cross the placenta and “slow fetal growth.” (Berger, 99 and 114)

            Preventing prenatal alcohol exposure is far more complex than combating other known teratogens such as a diet low in folic acid or the prenatal transmission of the HIV virus. Since 1996, a Federal mandate requiring the folic acid fortification of common foods has led to a sharp drop in the number of neural tube defects. (Berger, 100) Meanwhile, prenatal diagnostic tests routinely lead to antiviral drug therapies. Thus, the prenatal transmission of the HIV virus has been virtually eliminated in the US. (Berger, 105)  Heavy alcohol consumption occurs far less often during planned pregnancies under the auspices of marriage, than it does during unplanned pregnancies. (Berger, 117) Since high risk pregnancies carry such a high social cost, unplanned pregnancies must be prevented.

Berger, K. S. (2008). The developing person through the lifespan. New York: Worth.

Civil War anniversary events go forward despite lack of funds - USATODAY.com

Civil War anniversary events go forward despite lack of funds - USATODAY.com

The mother of one of my former students has the exactly the right approach to hooking her children on history: she and her husband regularly take their children on field trips to places like Ford's Theatre and the Smithsonian, where history can be brought to life for her little ones. At a Little League baseball game last fall, I found myself in a conversation with a father who advocates for more field trips during the year. One of my 4th grade classes went on a field trip to the Tredegar Ironworks in Richmond, and the White House of the Confederacy. Our tour guide was a Vietnam Veteran Sargent Major, descendant of slaves, a convert to Islam, who found the irony of my class's racial composition, considering where we were, to be totally delicious. Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania are packed with some of this nation's most historic sites, each an opportunity to connect children to our nation's history, and hook children more broadly on education.

Meanwhile, a small but globally connected network is planning to honor the 150th anniversary of the passage of Lincoln's Homestead Act by passing The Capital Homestead Act of 2012. With Washington on the verge of shutting down because none of the major parties can agree on the way forward, the Capital Homestead Act of 2012 offers a way forward that should be attractive to both of the major political parties.

Ted Leonsis Highlights Snag Films (Free Documentaries for Education)

Educational Technology « Teds Take

One of my former student's parents introduced me to Google Reader, which I now use to follow certain blogs, including Ted's Take. Today, Ted's Take mentioned Snag Films, a free resource for educators and students. I noticed that Goldman Sachs is sponsoring this free service. Why would Goldman Sachs offer a free service for education?

Friday, April 8, 2011

President Obama comments on ESOPs

President Obama Q and A Part 01 -- wtvr
From 1985 until 2001, I worked for Allied Plywood Corporation, one of the world's first 100% employee-owned companies, where I did everything from work in the warehouse, in a lumber mill, in purchasing, sales, credit, as an operations manager, and served as an at-large member of the Board of Directors. In 1986, I sat a dinner table with Dr. Lawrence Kohlberg at an annual conference for the Center for Economic and Social Justice. He invited me to attend a conference on School Climate and Governance at Harvard University, because he was interested in learning more about Allied Plywood's "ownership culture." I left Allied, in great part, because of flaws in its ownership culture, but mostly because I had always known that I was in the wrong business for me.

At the conference, I got to interact with inner-city educators, and some students from the cocaine regions in Columbia. Kohlberg had developed a theory of moral stages that was being tested in some of the toughest schools in the nation, where students were being locked inside schools to prevent gun violence. Schools were using moral dilemmas and student centered adjudication to teach ethics as an essential part of school discipline plans.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Need to Know Financial Literacy Information (Credit) PDF Free Download

Benjamin N. Cardozo HS - Economics
National Council on Economic Education, "Spending and Credit are Serious Business," Theme 4, PDF download.

Today, I was subbing in a high school business class where students were assigned to complete a package on the upsides, downsides, and evaluation of consumer credit. Only a few of the students, took the assignment seriously, despite my statement that the information was as useful as anything a student could learn in high school. Tonight, I did some searching, and I found a link where the financial literacy package could be obtained gratis.

Click on the link to "credit", and you can download Theme 4. Any parent with a student in high school should make these materials available to their children. A few smart ones took advantage of my experience in finance, most of which I learned in the early 1990's working with Larry Richards in the credit department for Allied Plywood Corporation.

As an adult, I understand the importance of maintaining a strong credit score in getting a car loan, buying a house, and obtaining credit in general. High school students, who will be going to college in a few years, renting apartments, and purchasing cars, need to know this information. How many young people ruin their credit just when they are getting started in life?

Even if most of the students didn't use the information, I used it to research educational loans. Plus, I discovered that I could obtain a free credit report from any one of the 3 major credit reporting services and pulled my credit report. In the process, I started my FAFSA (Financial Aid Report). After doing the research, I'm feeling much better about financing my 1-year Master of Education program, where I'll be a full-time student. Maybe I won't have to cash in my retirement after all.

Monday, April 4, 2011

3 Personality Traits Analyzed In Terms of Heredity

Three Personality Traits Analyzed in Terms of Heredity

April 3, 2011
By Daniel Kurland
Psychology 231
Dr. ***

Nature and nurture seem too deeply intertwined in my personality to fully separate these influences into separate strands. However, combining what I know about my personality, childhood experiences, family and cultural influences, plus what I have read in the textbook, The Developing Person, I will do my best to untangle some connections between my genotype (“genetic potential”), my environment, and three personality traits (“the actual expression of that genetic inheritance.” (Berger, 73) First, I will briefly list and elaborate about three of my personality traits, hyper-focus, risk-taking, and personal charm. Next, using these personality traits as a window, I will reflect upon some childhood experiences, and certain family and cultural influences that have contributed to shaping these personality traits. Finally, I will connect the formation of my personality with “generalities that virtually all developmentalists accept.” (Berger, 73) My personality continues to show both durability and change, reflecting a lifetime of interplay between nature, nurture, and my own personal decisions.

Three of My Personality Traits Briefly Listed and Slightly Elaborated Upon:

  1. Hyper-focus:
· Lifelong habit of reducing what I have observed to simple formulas, habits, or routines
· Have been driven by a desire for certainty (observe, practice, make continuous improvements in pursuit of clear and highly specific goals)
· Tend to obsess over preparation to avoid surprises and increase odds for success
· Ruminate over experiences to refine thinking, identify patterns, and achieve goals
· Driven by expectation of success
· Defeat is visceral
· Steadfastness (persist in spite of failure, highly resilient)

  1. Risk-taking:
· Opportunistic
· Decisive (have tended to plunge into uncertain situations with little hesitation)
· Sensitive to environmental changes (keenly attuned to changes in mood, appearance, and other cues)
· Confident in situations requiring physical coordination (giftedness in sports, music, and art)
· Tendency to become increasingly calm during confusing or dangerous situations (subconscious takes over)
· Thrill seeking (high speeds, roller coasters)
· Enjoy taking culinary risks
· Malleability (changes in social groups, roles, job changes)

  1. Personal Charm:
· Ability to attract, mix easily, and quickly bond with a wide variety of people and animals
· Desire and ability to please (enjoy making others feel good)
· Ability to match and mirror body language, tonality, and rhythms
· Ability to make other people laugh (observe differences, comedic timing)

Childhood Experiences

In 1971, at age 8, I wrote a short piece entitled, “The Story of Nature,” for my second grade anthology at Taylor Elementary School, in Arlington, Virginia. Beneath innocent factual errors, in 2nd grade my writing already displayed a desire for certainty that has persisted over my entire lifetime. One of my earliest memories was being forced to learn how to read at age 3, screaming. Similarly, when my son was 3 and my mother was providing our daycare, my mom would chase my son around the house and he would squeal, “No Hop on Pop! No Hop on Pop!” As a child, I was immersed us in books and cultural experiences. She took us to libraries and museums. For as long as I can remember, I have loved Greek mythology, origin myths, and books about science and history.

At age 8, I joined the swimming team, the diving team, and began playing soccer. I was always chasing after my older brother, who was three and a half years my elder, and his friends and their siblings, which led me into the woods, into houses under construction, adventures in sewer tunnels, and climbs into tree forts.

           Since my brother and sister played the violin, in 3rd grade, I too began taking violin lessons, and I soon began taking weekly lessons with Ellis Chasens, the Concert Master for the Arlington Symphony. I became the Concert Master at Taylor Elementary. Around that time, my soccer team, The Arlington Cubs went on an undefeated streak that lasted for over three years. I rode my bike to practice, I rode everywhere. In 6th grade, I was the soloist for the school play, The Wizard of Oz. I was athletic, musically gifted, a solid student, popular at school, at the pool, and in the neighborhood. I was also hyper-competitive. I remember twisting Elizabeth Rudy’s arm after she defeated me in checkers while in 3rd grade. On rare occasions, I would say and do things that might hurt other children’s feelings because I did not always consider the feelings of others. At some point, I defeated the local chess master, Carolyn Mano, who called my mother to inform her that I was the first person in the neighborhood who had ever defeated her. At the time, it did not occur to me that I had done anything special, because I had expected to win. Many years later, Carolyn shared with me how my mother had gloated about my victory, and how insulted she had been.

Williamsburg Junior High School was a total disaster. In 7th grade, since my elementary school had sent students to two junior high schools, I became separated from some of my closest friends. My house soccer team had disbanded and I was playing full-time with my travel team. That was the first time I noticed my short height, and when playing the violin no longer seemed cool anymore. Thrill-seeking behavior and a habit of showing off led to unfortunate decisions. Having quit the violin, having lost my status as a star player on an undefeated team, and having descended into juvenile delinquency, in 9th grade, I learned about a unique opportunity to attend Georgetown University at no tuition cost. When my mother told me that she had been working at Georgetown University to give me, my brother, and sister the opportunity to go to college at no tuition cost, thanks to a program she had read about in the Washington Post, I decided to become hyper-focused.

My decisions to go to Georgetown University helped stabilize my personality. At Yorktown High School, I was hyper-focused, taking advanced placement courses in English, Math, and Social Studies. A major source of stability in my personality was a research paper I wrote in 10th grade on the Internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Afterwards, I became increasingly identity conscious, and decided to learn everything I could about my family history, on both sides.

My university days were exciting times. I was exposed to rigorous academic thinking, celebrated championship Hoya basketball teams, and my favorite football team, The Washington.Redskins, was winning Super Bowls. At Georgetown University, I thought zero about the future, having decided to squeeze every bit of juice out of my academic experiences. I worked on the assumption that, for financial reasons, this was my one opportunity to wrestle with big ideas. Driven by hyper-focus, I read in Lauinger Library until I could no longer see, then would walk across campus, and drive home to my parent’s home in Arlington. My grades were far from spectacular, but my ability to read, write, and think took a quantum leap forward. During my senior year, I studied the poetry of Dylan Thomas and Gerard Manley Hopkins in the Office of the President, Fr. Timothy Healy, S.J., who recognized my talent for original thinking.

After graduating from Georgetown University in 1985, at 22, I seized an opportunity to work for Allied Plywood Corporation, a 100% employee-owned company, where I ended up working for 15-1/2 years, never taking a sick day until after my son was born in 1998. In the late 1970’s Allied Plywood Corporation had become the first client of my father’s new company. It had been featured in an article by Tom Peters in Inc. for its innovative compensation system. The founders, who had sold the company to the employees through an ESOP, had made the decision to sell direct to builders and contractors, which was something that wholesale companies traditionally had not done. I joined the company at a time when the DC housing market was booming. We were supplying builders with profitable plywood packages, cutting out the middleman. We also had a growing base of industrial and institutional accounts. As an employee-owner, I participated in a profit-sharing plan that was adding several hundred dollars per month to my paychecks, earning huge annual bonuses, and earning stock through an Employee Stock Ownership plan. Working long hours was part of the company culture, especially around bonus time. With my first bonus, I purchased the company President’s 5.0 1985 Mustang. The company had a blue collar culture, and I became a champion of that culture. In 1986, I was invited by Lawrence Kohlberg to attend a seminar on School Climate and Governance at Harvard University, where I shared how great it was to be an employee-owner. Over the years, I took on numerous roles throughout the company, adjusting my personality to every new role.

After experiencing personality conflicts at Allied Plywood, in the late 1980’s, I was encouraged to take a Dale Carnegie class called “Public Speaking and Human Relations.” After one of the teachers, Barbara Giallotta, handed me a tape, I became hooked on listening to motivational speakers including Tony Robbins, Dennis Waitely, Les Brown, Napolean Hill, Brian Tracy, and others. One of the lessons I learned was how to use matching and mirroring skills to become more persuasive. One day, while sitting in front of my parent’s house, I noticed a white dove on the electric line above and began using matching and mirroring techniques to see if I could persuade the dove to perch upon my palm. After about 10-15 minutes of matching and mirroring, adjusting my breathing and body posture to the bird, the dove decided to perch upon my palm. My mom witnessed the strange event from her window. On a whale watching trip around that time, I attracted a whale to my boat by whistling. For as long as I could remember, I had the gift of making people laugh. I was becoming increasingly aware of a gift I have of attracting people and animals. Meanwhile, I was becoming increasingly convinced that my personal values were no longer aligned with my company’s values anymore. The more I thought about getting married and having children, the more I thought about moving on. After 9-11, having built up a hoard of cash, having established a substantial line of credit, I left the company. Within a year, after testing the waters, I had decided to become a teacher. “Niche picking” led me to teaching, a career more suitable to my personality. (Berger, 73)

Family and Cultural History:

            My trait of hyper-focus is evident in both my parents and in what I know about several of my ancestors. After becoming involved in the Civil Rights Movement during the Kennedy Administration, my father learned about the teachings of Louis Kelso, and has been a tireless advocate of Kelso’s ideas since the1960’s. My mother taught herself how to read during while in Internment Camps during World War II. One of the first books she read was Origin of the Species, by Charles Darwin. Driven by a goal of returning to the United States, after World War II, my mother managed to obtain a full scholarship to the University of Nebraska, despite having fewer than three years of formal education. My son displays the personality trait of hyper-focus when he plays video games. Just as my mother prepares for events obsessively, I do too.

            Risk-taking is another trait that I inherited from both parents. My grandfather on my mother’s side, Yunosuke Tsuchitani, who became an orphan at age 9, joined the Japanese Merchant Marines, and swam to America across the shark-infested waters of San Francisco Bay. Generations of Tsuchitani’s had gone to sea, fishermen from the island of Iwaishima. On my father’s side, my great-grandfather, Louis Kurlansky, was a blacksmith conscripted into the Czar’s army. He escaped with his family to America during the Japanese-Russo War. My father’s father, Ruben Kurlansky, married my grandmother Lena Cohen on a whim after attending a dance with a group of friends, and their had car broken down - on the long walk home, everyone in the group vowed to marry their date. As a young lawyer for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, my father, Norman Kurland, went to small towns in Mississippi and freed a number of Civil Rights leaders from jail during the 1960’s. A central story in my Jewish Heritage is the Exodus from Egypt to Israel. My brother rides motorcycles. I have a history of taking career risks.

Personal Charm is a trait I notice in my 97 year old grandmother, Masako Tsuchitani. Masako often used personal charm during postwar Japan to win gifts of food, which she brought home to her starving family. She continues to use that gift of to get people to help her remain in her apartment. My mother used to nurse sick birds back to health while in Internment Camps. After the war, in Japan, my grandfather became close with a chicken, which would roost on his bald head, while my mom became close with a pet goat. Both the chicken and the goat eventually had to be eaten. My father’s grandmother Fanny was a fixture in her Bridgeport, Connecticut neighborhood. She raised my father after he ran away from home at age 13. In sales and customer service positions, my ability to make customers feel important has been an asset. Today, I use my personal charm to develop rapport with students..

Connecting My Personality To Textbook Generalities:

According to the textbook, “personality patterns and cognitive skills are affected by thousands of genetic combinations.” (Berger, 73) While I can see how responses of others to my genetic makeup may have shaped their responses to me over the years, (Berger, 73) I have always felt that I was the master of my fate, the captain of my soul. With over half of my roughly 25,000 genes affecting my brain, however, it makes sense that my personality has been affected by genes, and that my genes have affected my choice of environments. (Berger, 73)

Berger, K. S. (2008). The developing person through the lifespan. New York: Worth.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Amazing video of Japanese Student Swing Band - スウィングガールズ 8 Music in Film シング シング シング

YouTube - スウィングガールズ 8 Music in Film シング シング シング
I've been seeking ways to help motivate my son Joe to become more interested in playing his sax, so I called him downstairs to sit down to listen to this video of Japanese swing kids. While it played, his body posture indicated that he was listening intently, but I'm not sure how his nearly 13 year old brain was responding.I worry that Joe's nearly 13 year old brain interpreted my exposing him to a virtuoso performance as pressure. His prefrontal cortex has about another 13 years until it will be fully developed, so I take advantage of every opportunity I can to seed his hopes and dreams, but Joe stubbornly resists anything he interprets as criticism. Max Weissman had it right when he told me that being a parent is the most difficult job a person can do. 13 was a tough age for my father, a tough age for me, and becoming 13 has been a tough transition for Joe. Over the weekend, in between Joe's baseball game and birthday celebrations, I will be evaluating the interrelationship between genes (genotype and phenotype), the environment, and personality (phenotype), so I will be reflecting on family history and what I have personally experienced. Hopefully, these reflections will help me become a better parent and a teacher.