Thursday, October 17, 2013

Why I will NEVER own a Cell Phone, or be on Facebook, or....

While lecturing at Penn State University this week I happened to mention to the audience that I do not own a cell phone and that I am not on Facebook or Twitter. 
Given the looks on the student's faces, I might as well have told them that I am an escaped Martian that has been hiding under the Earth living off of tree roots and cigarette butts for the past 3,022 years. 
So be it.
On the day of, and day after my lecture, I took some time to go hiking in the mountains of beautiful Pennsylania.  It was about 55 degrees outside, the leaves were at near peak in color and on both occasions I was the only living soul on the trail. 
My wife (back home in Florida) knew that I was going to be hiking those days but she also knew that if I fell off the side of a mountain or was attacked by an angry groundhog there would be no last "Goodbye, honey, tell the kids I love them....." over the phone or Facebook update showing the groundhog chewing through by leg.  There would be nothing until some other hiker stumbled across my body and then posted his or her findings on Facebook while cell-phoning the authorities about a dead dude in the woods.
So be it.  That is what life insurance is for.  And that is what life is for....
By the latter remark I mean without a cellphone I am able to - wait for it....... - ENJOY MY LIFE.
Unlike the rest of the 99.99999438% of the world I get to explore the woods, drive down the road, go to the store, watch football games, vacation with my family and a million other things without the constant societal pressure to be "connected" to everyone out there who I am "supposed" to update on what type of granola bar I am eating on top of some mountain.   I get to sit on a rock looking out at a beautiful valley of fall colors, talk to God, think about life and relax (remember that word?).
No one gets to know exactly where I am, what I am doing, what I am thinking, or anything.  I get to enjoy that last vestige of sanity-creating PEACE and QUIET any time I want.
For those of you who are cellphone junkies, you can probably not even remember the last time you got to enjoy a meal, or engage in a meaningful conversation with someone, can you?
Consider this...
Last weekend I went out to dinner with my wife and great friends of ours to celebrate my friends' birthday.
At a table nearby was another couple who NEVER put down their cell phones the entire meal.  I did not see them talk eye to eye once.  All they did was peck away on their phones like mindless chickens in a barnyard.
During our meal we were constantly talking, laughing and carrying on.  At one point, I saw the female at the barnyard chicken table shoot us a hateful glance after one particular loud round of laughing.  I guess our enjoyment of one another as human beings was disturbing her Facebook updates about her date with the guy she was not talking to.
I see stuff like this all the time.  At the airport on my way home I saw many parents, face down in their phones, while their kids went along with no interaction whatsoever.
Of course, I could go on and on but you get the idea.
In case you are saying, "Hey hypocrite, you are blogging right now while you could be hanging out with your family!"
It is 7:58am, they are still asleep, and at no point during their waking hours today will they have to compete with a stupid cell phone. 
You should try my life.  You might find that you will end up having a life.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Abolishing student aid could force schools to lower prices - wisdom from a former student

New Voices:

By Holly Jean Soto (economics major, George Mason University) Special to the Orlando Sentinel
Abolish government financial aid for students.
My dear friend, who is a statistics major and a government-aid borrower, is fearful of this statement.
"Don't try to get rid of that," he says. "I need that money for school."
What he fails to realize, as I am sure many other  federal-student aid borrowers do, is that getting rid of aid would improve the lives of American students today.
The first harsh reality that student borrowers fail to see is that any government giving begins with government taking away. Government is the only institution legally allowed to take by force.
Government does not send a letter to each American saying, "Hello, fellow American, would you like to take a fraction of your income to fund another person's education?" No. It is taken, whether I'm willing to contribute or not.
Another harsh reality of students taking government aid is that progress, efficiency and effectiveness don't begin with someone else's money.
If students had to pay for school out of their own pockets, we would see fewer students hanging around campus on their 100th credit hour still trying to decide on their majors, fewer students accepting C's and D's as passing grades, and more students going into successful majors.
Also, we would see a portion of students concluding at a faster rate that they would benefit more in an occupation than in school.
Why is all this true? Because it is the students' own money on the line.
Now some people may have concluded that students' providing the funds for their own education allows them to reach a better long-term result, but it is still difficult for students to pay out of their own pockets because tuition is too high.
However, the final harsh reality is that when we participate in taking away from another to pursue our own dream of a college education, we engage in the same act that raises the cost of education. Colleges see that more students than ever before are attending their institutions because the students are able to pay for it with someone else's money.
The CollegeBoard Advocacy & Policy Center in its "Trends in Student Aid 2012" report, found that during the 2011-12 academic year, $236.7 billion in financial aid was distributed to undergraduate and graduate students in the form of grants from all sources. Also, students borrowed $8.1 billion from private, state and institutional sources to help finance their education.
The report also states that in 2011-12, undergraduate students received 98 percent of federal grant aid, 99 percent of state grant aid and 67 percent of federal loans.
As long as these statistics remain so, colleges will continue to raise their prices. What do students with financial aid care? They are not the ones paying those fees.
If we were to abolish financial aid for students, at first we would see fewer students going to college because of lack of funding.
However, colleges and universities observing a lower student population on their campuses, and observing that students who pay out of their own pockets would attend their school when tuition cost is low, would now compete with other schools to offer the lowest possible price.
Ultimately, even the poorest of families would attend school at their own expense because getting rid of government financial aid gives universities the incentive to compete, and just as with any product or service, when competition breaks out, suppliers lower their prices.
If a 21-year-old student can understand the harsh realities of federal financial assistance, why can't the rest of American students?