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Off-Key

By Bob Frederickson

From Missing the Cues to making A cool $1.82 million …

Learning Beyond the Classroom

The Sarasota county school district excels by almost any measure. Indeed, according to school ranking site Niche.com, Sarasota’s Pine View Elementary is the top elementary school in the nation. That’s nation, not just the state of Florida. Overall the district was ranked number two in Florida.

But there is one area where it seems to me Sarasota has missed an opportunity for learning beyond the classroom. It involves smart phone use. While middle and high school students aren’t allowed to use their phones and tablets in classrooms (without a teacher’s permission) they can use them between classes in hallways and the cafeteria.

Now maybe it’s just me, but have you noticed an alarming number of young folks having a hard time processing the visual and social cues that are only recognized and developed through face-to-face communication? I’ve come across some teens and young adults who have to search for an answer when you simply smile and say ‘hello.’

This is an important part of education…learning to talk to people without the filter of a small blue screen. I know it may seem hyperbolic to seemingly suggest we can lay all the problems of today’s culture at the feet of this single issue, but it does seem that after 200,000 years of human development, where along with the words of others we have developed critical skills to help us discern their intent by the look in their eyes, the smile or frown on their face, the gestures of their hands, that we are now in the midst of a giant social experiment where those cues are being bypassed in favor of device based communication, even when the participants are in close proximity. Many youngsters choose texting each other back and forth even when they’re in the lunchroom at the same time. So far, I’m thinking this social experiment isn’t going all that well.

A majority of teens feel isolated and alone. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the teenage suicide rate has reached an historic level. It doesn’t appear to get any better with age either: a new survey by research firm YouGov found that 27 percent of millennials reported they have no close friends. 22 percent said they had no friends at all. Now that is truly disheartening.

The New York Times reported several months back that there is a trend among the titans of silicone valley – executives at firms like Google, Apple and Microsoft – to send their kids to ‘pencil and paper’ private schools where all electronic devices are strictly forbidden.

Do you think they may know something we don’t?

Why Oh Y?

News that the Sarasota Y will be shuttering its two fitness centers in September after years of losses hit the community particularly hard. How could this happen was the almost universal response. Which brings to mind the old saw:

Q: “How did you go broke?”

A: “Slowly, then suddenly.”

In a town with so much affluence, it seemed a shame some board members apparently appeared more concerned with keeping up appearances than being forthcoming about the Y’s perilous financial circumstances as those finances deteriorated over many years.

With only weeks available for members of the community to raise the funds necessary to keep the fitness centers afloat, it appeared unlikely a suitable plan would be in place before the appointed closing hour arrived. But then, just as we were going to press, a miracle: Fundraising by a grass roots group hastily named ‘Save Our Y’ and creative thinking from a newly planned charter school set to open next year…stepping forward with an offer to buy the six acres behind the Y’s north Sarasota campus, providing enough cash to retire much of the Y’s debts, make needed facility repairs and provide enough operating capital to keep the two fitness facilities going…

…For now.

But the legacy of the Y’s current board remains: a membership plunge from 12,000 a dozen years ago to just 6,500 today.

Reports indicate a new board will be put in place to execute the proposed arrangement between the school, the new donors and the Y to assure those numbers stabilize and turn towards the good in the months and years ahead.

That would seem to be a critical first feature of any plan moving forward, what with the realities of trust and fidelity, financial and otherwise that bear on this matter.

As another saying goes, trust, like the heart, is like a wheel.

Once you bend it, you can’t mend it.

A fresh start? Let’s hope.

The Death of Humor…

The satire site The Babylon Bee ran this headline spoofing Ocasio Cortez’s (AOC’s) profligacy:

“AOC reportedly guessed “Free!” on TV show “The Price is Right.”… picking up this item, the AOC crack drew a rebuke from fact checking site Snopes.com, with the geniuses there labeling the headline ‘untrue,’ along with other satirical ones on the Babylon Bee site like…

“CNN Purchases Industrial-Sized Washing Machine To Spin News Before Publication.”

and…

“Democrats demand Brett Kavanaugh submit to DNA test to prove he’s not actually Hitler.”

Facebook purportedly uses Snopes to ‘police’ its content to eliminate instances of ‘Fake News.”

Hello…

            Would anyone seriously believe these headlines are anything other than satirical?

Sounds to me more like a backdoor means of eliminating a point-of-view not in keeping with Facebook’s own, given that The Babylon Bee generally lampoons the left.

More Danger at the Beach…

So what with rip-currents, red-tide, and the terror drummed into our heads every summer with the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, you may have thought you had a handle on the dangers that accompany a trip to the beach. But hold onto your hat (and beach umbrella)…literally. The US consumer product safety commission recently reported that 2800 beach-goers have been injured by flying beach umbrellas over the past decade. The news comes on the heels of a 13-year-old boy being impaled by a beach umbrella lifted and driven by the wind recently at a New England beach. Amazingly, the boy’s injuries were not life threatening.

So all this time you’ve been afraid to get in the water for fear of a shark attack when the REAL danger is on the beach in the form of runaway beach umbrellas.

Who knew?

Auction Gold…

In 1976 a NASA intern named Gary George paid $217 for an auction lot of surplus videotapes from the agency. Turns out the tapes included some of the clearest, best preserved images of man’s first walk on the moon from the Apollo 11 mission. The tapes were recently auctioned again, this time by Sotheby’s, which obviously knows a bit more about the value of things than NASA.

The winning bid this time around? A cool $1.82 million.