Category Archives: Education

Don’t let schooling interfere with your education.

Attributed to Mark Twain in 1907. The spirit of which was created by Grant Allen in 1894.  The essence has evolved over time.  To me, the quote resonates with my firmly held conviction that one should not let an ideal, institution, or building prevent one from achieving an education.  This is the Information Age.  If you can read this, you have the basic tools to help you learn anything within reason.

There was a recent conversation on Twitter about how popular media, especially television shows, give the impression that the only desired university options are Harvard, Yale, or Brown and how these narratives can lead to feelings of inadequacy for those who didn’t attend an Ivy League institution.

In the same media, the representation (if one exists at all) of an informal education, one outside the walls of academia (brick or virtual), is painted with all shades of contempt.

To the crowds of the college educated (symbolic and in real life):

Without a Bachelors:  Ha! Really? You’re joking?  You’re not? (whispers) What a loser. They must be, like, stupid or something.

Lacking a Masters: You couldn’t hack it, could you?

Gave up on the dissertation: Perfectly normal.1

Only have an Associates:  Well, you shouldn’t have given up on the Bachelors or stopped while you were ahead on your debt after graduating High School.

Went to Ivy Tech Community College: Did you even graduate?

Only have a High School Diploma (like myself): Well, you…you…should consider going back to school.  But start easy and attend Ivy Tech first so you don’t waste big dollars at Purdue.

I attended Purdue University for one year.  The institution, in a formal capacity, wasn’t for me.   I finished strong after a year.  No regrets.  The waves of nostalgia subsided after a couple years.

Since dropping out, I have taken on a more aggressive role of educating myself by utilizing the resources around me.  Never shy to engage with local academics, the intelligentsia or community experts, I am afforded a multitude of opportunities to sharpen myself on a vast array of topics and skills.  Outside of a school, you have the fluidity to move at any speed you desire.

As Ray Bradbarry is fond of saying, “I graduated from the public library.”  Basic literacy skills required.  Local taxes have already paid your tuition in full.

Adding the other educational assets in your community such as museums, art galleries, parks, coffee shops, pubs, co-ops, community centers, public meetings, streets, and the Internet, you quickly learn the freedom you possess to engage in informal education.

1Unless you are around other PhDs, and then you are not even considered. Except when you have a good lead on some Federal grant money that is in their field of study. “That’s a big grant. What are you doing this weekend? Let’s grab some coffee at MatchBOX and talk about a business plan.

How Uploading Audio to YouTube Can Make a Difference

I have recently started converting audio files to YouTube videos to make them easier to reference, share, and discover on the Internet.

A few months back I learned that the New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corporation would start to post the audio of their meetings as an experiment.  I quickly wrote an e-mail to the Board members, applauding their decision and encouraging them to keep up the work.  Subsequently, I wrote a Letter-to-the-Editor to the The Courier and Journal to this effect as well.

Following up on NAFCS, I discovered that the they would only host their audio files for 60-days after their initial posting:

Please click the applicable play button below to listen to the entire school board meeting.  These audio recordings are available on this site for 60 days from original date of posting.

After the internal struggle with their board, I wanted to keep them online in perpetuity.

It was surprisingly easy to convert an image and an audio file to a YouTube video once I found the right ffmpeg arguments.  I am going to slowly start putting more and more government meetings online in this way.

An interesting byproduct of this endeavor was that once I posted the videos online and tweeted @NAFCSuccess a link to a video, the 60-day limit text was removed from their web site.

Never under estimate the power of yourself. Every politically-aware person is fond of quoting Margaret Mead in these instances.  I will do no different:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

Hell.  You may be a group of one in some cases.


Letter-to-the-Editor

I want to thank and celebrate the recent move toward greater transparency by the New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corporation Board of Trustees.

By proactively posting the audio of their meetings online the public has an opportunity to listen, with historical accuracy, to what exactly transpired at the meeting instead of relaying on the distilled minutes. The beauty of government is in the details, not in the summary.

Board Member George Gauntt asked if there would be any public interest in the audio. The public may be interested in a topic presented at the previous meeting or wish to research how a specific issue evolved over time. The return on investment is magnitudes beyond the initial required effort; trim the ends of the file, amplify, compress, and upload. Nothing to redact, since it took place in a public meeting.

I would also like to encourage every individual (including students, members of the public without students, etc) to attend the next school board meeting and push for the adoption of the second transparency resolution that was tabled. Once passed, even greater transparency will be achieved by posting supplemental materials prior to scheduled NAFCCSC Board meetings. An informed community is an empowered one.

Remember, do not limit your political life to the ballot box. There are plenty of opportunities to engage your community now, regardless of your age, without waiting for the next election.

ZACHARY BAIEL

Ask the Mayor – John Dennis – 2015-03-05 – Citizen Watchdogs

Another week and another Ask the Mayor is in the can.  So happy that this show exists.  This past week was the 7th installment of Mayor John Dennis of West Lafayette.

You can listen to the entire episode here  on WBAA’s web site or download the MP3.

This week, I wrote in with the following question:

In the latest issue of the City’s newsletter, West Lafayette Connection, there was a small blurb about updating our 2010 Strategic Plan.  In looking at our previous Strategic Plans, there used to be a committee, The West Lafayette Forum who met regularly, appointed by the Mayor and the Council, whose charge was to oversee the execution of the City’s Strategic Plan and report back success and failures to the City.

What Public, Citizen-based group currently oversees the achievement of the stated goals in our many Strategic Plans and how can we reconstitute the West Lafayette Forum?

I am honored to have had my question read during the show.  Even more to my delight was to hear the subsequent conversations about transparency, my involvement in the local political scene in Greater Lafayette, and Citizen input in the political process.

Mayor Dennis stated:

Well, the Strategic Plan is based on Citizen input.  Ummm.  You know, we don’t sit in a room with the doors closed and the lights on low, trying to craft our, I love the term Master Plan, our Master Plan for the future of the City.  It’s a Citizens driven plan.

[…]

I understand where he is coming from.  It is, you know, Zach is very passionate about having the Citizen Watchdog approach to how we provide services here in West Lafayette.  And we feel that we’re very transparent.  We feel that we do as much as we possibly can to make sure what we do is in the best interest of our Citizens and in our Community.  And like I said before, I think we are doing a pretty good job with that.

I, too, am extremely happy with the transparency level I and others enjoy with the City of West Lafayette (some other areas of Tippecanoe County a little less so, but that is another post).  Mayor Dennis has done a pretty good job in making information open and accessible to those who seek it.  Clerk-Treasurer Judy Rhodes does an amazing job at keeping the City Council Agenda up-to-date with the latest supplemental material, frequently updating throughout the cycle of pre-Council to Monday night’s official meeting and beyond.

Some other boards or committees are less proactive and open without being asked officially in the form of a Public Records Request.  I understand and am happy to oblige.

Stan Jastrzebski continued:

Let me ask at the risk of honking Zach off a little bit, let me ask the other side of it, which is, Citizens generally are not people who are given to any sort of special training that would allow them to be City Planners or to know how to use City resources.  Don’t you have to be somewhat careful how much input you take from people who have their own axe to grind, for lack of a better way to put it.

This particular question did honk me a little bit (nice work Stan!  I heard you chuckle Mr. Mayor ;-).

I quickly asked my computer (which was playing the show), “What about City Councilors?  Most, if not all,  lack special training regarding the issues they are voting on.”  Afterwards, I calmed down.

Or if you look at our Mayors in Lafayette and West Lafayette, both are former police officers.  I am sure people do not discredit their contributions of input regarding issues under the purview of the various departments in the City that they lack special training in.  They may have to be brought up to speed on the particular nuances of problem, decision, or plan, but their input is still valued.

The Mayor continued later:

A lot of folks ask, you know, “Why can’t you do this?” or “How come this doesn’t happen?” or “What’s wrong with this process or product?”  It gives us an opportunity to explain to them specifically how the process works and why some of those things really aren’t that practical for local government to try and accomplish.

Following this train of thought, since education, special training, or whatever you would like to call it, seems to be the missing component from constructive input from Citizenry, how can we most effectively bridge that gap?

My current contribution to this effort is The Exploratory Committee.  A civic minded Citizens group whose goal is to:

Bring a diverse group of people together to present a variety of engagement opportunities: both at the ballot box and beyond.

Education is a key component of our engagement process.  We’ll see what the future brings.

For now, I will continue doing what I have done for most of my life; building my own bridges and educating myself.  Not in isolation, but with the Community.  I am ever so thankful for our library systems in Tippecanoe County (TCPL, WLPL, & Purdue University).   See you in the stacks, online, or in the streets.

You can listen to the clip of the question and subsequent conversation: