essentialamerican728x90
Columns
The Path to Health and Wealth, Giving and Helping Others

By Jackie Cushman

Published on Townhall.com

The economy is struggling. Some people cannot pay their bills. Others can pay their bills, but are concerned about prospects . Many are looking for the government to get involved to bail out those in need.

Traditional political labels associate liberals with helping others, because liberals tend to favor government-transfer payment plans, while conservatives are often portrayed as selfish and mean, similar to the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, because they normally oppose government-transfer payment plans. Who's right?

What is the best way to help those in need? There are several options: ignore the need (not helpful); have the government bail out the needy (using taxpayer money remember the government has no money of its own), encourage private donors/foundations and non-profits to do more.

The purpose of the book "Who Really Cares," (Basic Books, New York, 2006 ) is to "make the point that charity matters," according to Arthur Brooks, the author. Brooks notes "charity is important to our personal prosperity, happiness, health, and the ability to express ourselves humanely." While some might consider government social services part of charity, Brooks does not. "Charity is different than government spending. Let us be clear: Government spending is not charity. It is not a voluntary sacrifice by individuals. No matter how necessary it is for providing public services, it is still the obligatory redistribution of tax revenues."

So what makes personal giving different than government-transfer payments if both result in needs being met? Government payments are the result of anonymous people determining who should receive the benefit, while charitable acts involve interaction with the community and decisions regarding whom to give to. "Charitable acts, such as giving and volunteering, tend to strengthen social networks between people. These networks stimulate economic success," according to Brooks.

In addition, charitable giving moves the focus from our selves to others. It's not just the amount of money that we can give, it's also the ability to care and focus on someone other than ourselves. Brooks cited a study conducted by researchers at Harvard Medical School "in which a group of 132 multiple sclerosis patients was split into two groups; one group was assigned to act charitably towards members of the other. The researchers found that the givers experienced a dramatic change in their lives, in confidence, self awareness, and depression, they enjoyed between three and seven times more improvement than the receivers of help."

So, not only does charity assist those in need, it provides benefits to those who give. I don't know about you, but I have yet to feel more confidence, self-awareness or joy when sending my money to the government."

Studies have found that the more one volunteers, the greater the benefits," according to Brooks. This reflects that charity is not just about money, but also interest, time and connection. My friends who have worked at non-profits tell me they love to receive money, but are equally thrilled to receive time and talent. The latter gifts allow them to save money and thereby serve more of their target population.

As a person with core conservative values, I believe smaller government is better than bigger government, and the more personal involvement in the community the better.I find it hard to believe that if I send my money to Washington that the government will determine the best way to spend on those in my community, city or state who need help. The only part of the equation that I can be sure of is that the government will take and spend my money.

Regarding the question of who gives to charity, Brooks found that "People who favor government income redistribution are significantly less likely to behave charitably than those who do not. For many Americans, political opinions are a substitute for personal checks; but people who value economic freedom, and thus bridle against forced income redistribution are far more charitable." For instance, "people who disagreed that the government should improve living standards believing that people should take care of themselves instead were 25 percent of the population, but donated 31 percent of the blood." They were against government-transfer programs, but donated their blood on a higher level per person than did those who agreed that the government should improve living standards.

Did we forget that WE are the government? The money the government uses is taxpayer money. We vote politicians into office and send them our money.

The good news is that charitable giving appears to pay back, according to Brooks. "Two people who are identical with respect for age, religion, politics, sex, and race. The only difference is one gives money and volunteers his time annually, but the other does neither the charitable person will earn, on average, about $14,000 more per year that the uncharitable person."

Brooks determines health, happiness and income are part of a reinforcing cycle whose opposite side includes giving and helping. Prosperous people are more likely to be charitable, but charity can also help to make people more prosperous.

In a recent article about money and happiness, "Spending Money on Others Promotes Happiness," (Dunn, Aknin and Norton: Science Magazine; March 21, 2008) the authors note "that people appear to overlook the benefits of prosocial spending," and that, in fact, political interventions that encourage "people to invest income in others rather than in themselves may be worthwhile" and might translate into increased national happiness.

So when the tax refund lands in your mailbox spend a little time thinking about giving it to others, and making yourself a little happier, and investing in your future prosperity.

Copyright 2008 by Jackie Cushman

All Rights Reserved

 
Justifying Past Purchases with New Research: Now That's Creative

By Jackie Cushman

3/30/2008

Published on Townhall.com

Finally, a study backs up what we intuit. Seeing brand logos affect people's behavior. Isn't that the whole point of brand advertising? But wait, this study is not about brand advertising driving sales - this study is about brand images driving people's behavior, whether or not they purchase the product, even if they do not realize they have seen the brand.

In the study, Automatic Effects of Brand Exposure on Motivated Behavior: How Apple Makes you˜Think Different, (Grainne M. Fitzsimons, Tanya L. Chartrand, and Gavan J. Fitzsimons); published in the April issue of The Journal of Consumer Research, the authors proved that seeing brand logos affected people's behavior.

The study included four brands: Apple, IBM, Disney Channel and E!. All four brands were positively viewed, but for different attributes.

“Participants exposed to the Apple brand outperformed IBM-primed and control participants on a standard measure of creativity, and participants primed with the Disney Channel reported more honest responses to a social desirability test than those primed with E! logos or control participants. Results showed that this happened only when the participants had the same goal as the brand and they perceived that their goal in that area had not been met.

The study found that brands “initiated goal-directed behavior only when the brands were associated with qualities desired by the individual.”  Brands attributes and personal goals need to match for the brand to impact behavior.

Reading this research reinforced my latest purchases. I recently changed jobs (well, I quit a salaried position and started writing full time - but it sounds better if I say I “changed jobs”). Writing requires creativity. During the transition, I moved from the standard PC world to the Apple world. I am not one for long transitions. I now have an iMac, iPhone, iPod (make that 2) and MacBook Air (on which I am now typing).

My thought process went something like this: big transition - big change - big need to be creative/ independent/ and be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound (or something like that). To me, these thoughts provided sufficient justification for the transition to Apple.

Knowing that I would need copious amounts of training, I signed up for the Apple one-to-one program.  This is a one-year, $99 program that includes up to an hour of personal training per week.

I read the study results after I had already purchased all of my Apple items. While I am only a focus group of one, I decided to determine if viewing the Apple logo had made me more creative.

So far I have: created my own Web site for the America to Anywhere for Arthritis (A2A4A) marathon training (www.a2a4a.com), created a podcast (also on the site), and sent my brother-in-law a happy birthday video of my children singing.

Score: creative 3, not 0

Last week, I went in for my fourth training session. The first three sessions had been focused on work-related items. This time I decided a little fun was in order. I took in our family's video camera and my MacBook Air. After I arrived 10 minutes late (delay due to taking the kids to school), we spent 10 minutes looking for the firewire to connect the video camera to the MacBook Air, (I had forgotten it). Sony of course has a proprietary firewire, so we moved to plan B.

Score: creative 3, not 1

Plan B, learning to work more efficiently in Pages, the word-processing software included in iWorks. The program has incredible templates built into the program. These templates make it easy to add pictures, media and create newsletters, brochures, banners, etc.. I learned how to create a newsletter and add pictures with a mask, creating a picture in various shapes (not hard, but cool). I was being creative.

Score: creative 4, not 1 Unfortunately the iWorks software had not been installed correctly on my MacBook Air, so I used the store's iMac.

Score: creative 4, not 2

I persevere - after all, creativity requires perseverance.

Returning to my office - I attempted to move from the Apple version of Microsoft Outlook (Entourage) to Apple mail. Having read that the Apple logo was making me more creative - I felt compelled to use it to the exclusion of all others. I felt my creativity would be unstoppable. But I was wrong; I give up after an hour and a half.

Score: creative 4, not 3

I either need longer arms, a shorter keyboard, or to quit wearing my watch. The MacBook Air is perfectly proportioned to cut off the circulation in my hands as the edge of the computer hits my watch and bracelet.

I removed my watch and bracelet, and hoped my accuracy would improve as a result.

Score: creative 4, not 4

My difficulties, offered here a bit in jest, show the importance not only of brand but also of thought patterns. See Apple, think creative, be creative. See Disney Channel, think honest, be honest. None of that will happen unless the viewer has a goal that the brand activates. So pay attention to your goals and what thoughts brands bring to mind.

In the course of writing this article, I have switched documents three times, ended up typing in the incorrect paragraph 12 times, inadvertently changed programs more than two dozen times, and am sure I will have to convert the document before sending it off to be edited and printed. It makes no difference to me. I am using my iMac and am certain that, without it, this column would never have been completed. It's enough for me to know that, from now on, I will be more creative than I used to be. Now isn't that worth something?

Copyright 2008 by Jackie Cushman All Rights Reserved

 
The Land (and people) that I Love

By Jackie Cushman

Published by Townhall.com

Spring began last week. This week Easter is celebrated by Christians to commemorate the resurrection of Christ. It reminds us of God's ability to bring life where there was only death. In spring, the new buds on the plants remind us of the cyclical nature of the seasons: winter turns to spring, spring to summer and summer to fall. Each season has its particular stage. Without winter, there would be no spring, without spring, no summer and fall is most welcome here in Georgia after a hot summer.

While New Year's is the time for resolutions, dreams and inspiration, spring is the time to put a deadline on those dreams to ensure that they are achieved. As Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich said, "A goal is a dream with a deadline."

Dreams are good they provide a picture of what we would like our future to look like. Goals provide the bridge to take us from the current reality to the realization of our dreams. Dreaming by itself will not make something happen but visualizing the dream and allowing that vision to motivate you to work really hard, that is helpful.

The importance of this transition from dream to reality was reinforced when reading Senator Barack Obama's speech given last week titled A More Perfect Union.

At this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, Not this time. This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children.This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can't learn; that those kids who don't look like us are somebody else's problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st-century economy. Not this time.

"This time we want to talk about is how the next three paragraphs of the speech begin.

Obama focuses this portion of his speech on This time we want to talk about.

Imagine - if instead of talking, we acted.

The goal of working toward shaping a safe, prosperous nation is best achieved by working together taking action. By focusing on our shared bits of humanity the spark of divinity in all of us rather than relying on the standard labeling system African-American, white, Hispanic, Asian, male, female we can refocus the filters which currently obscure our vision.

We should focus on what works rather than what does not work.

This week, I drove from my home in Atlanta to Nashville to testify in front of the Tennessee State House and Senate regarding the Education Pays act, an innovative learning program sponsored by Rep. Brian Kelsey. I am president of the board of directors for The Learning Makes a Difference Foundation, which has been piloting a similar program in Fairburn, Ga.

The Learn and Earn pilot is not complete, but it has already shown signs that it has effected positive change. Last month, when I visited the program, I met a middle schooler who told me I was failing. The key word was was.  He was no longer failing. A parent told the middle-school principal that this program has turned her child around the child now wants to attend classes and wants to learn.

Now that's success one student at a time.

It is spring (and hope does spring eternal) time to move from dreams to deadlines, from talk to action. Real impact happens one person at a time one solution at a time.

David Brooks' recent column in the New York Times, titled Throughly Modern Do-Gooders, noted Bill Gates came to dinner with journalists in Washington last week. He looked utterly bored as the conversation drifted to presidential campaign gossip. But when asked about which programs produce higher reading scores, the guy lit up and became a fountain of facts and findings.

Talk is not the goal and Government is not the solution. It does not make sense to send our money to Washington so that someone there can decide where it should be spent. Instead, we should each look at our own communities and direct our time and money to people we can help one person at a time.

Instead of talking about our differences, let us make progress by working together. Instead of dwelling on post-racial, post-gender or post-partisan politics, maybe we should move towards post-political action.

I admire, commend, extol, honor and applaud our nation and its people, while recognizing each is flawed. Working together, our nation can become more prosperous and a more perfect union. Take your dream, give it a deadline and get to work.

God bless America, the land that I love.

Copyright 2008 by Jackie Cushman

All Rights Reserved.

 
Success in the Classroom; One Teachable moment at a time

By Jackie Cushman

Published on Townhall.com

Last week, I tagged along with a Leadership Atlanta group, and visited the Ron Clark Academy, a school that opened last fall in southeast Atlanta. It's named for the 2000 Disney American Teacher Award Winner and the lead figure in the 2006 TNT movie The Ron Clark Story,  who is also the co-founder.

The private, not for profit, middle school is located in an area of town that is better known for illegal after-hours activity. Currently there are 60 students enrolled in 5th and 6th grades. The school is an old renovated brick building. The interior walls and floors are covered with bright colors. The lobby includes the landing pad of a spiral slide that provides a quick way down from the second floor for students, teachers and visitors (yes, I slid down).

The students are well behaved; they look me in the eye, shake my hand and introduce themselves. They respond to my questions with Yes ma'am and No ma'am.  The school"s high level of discipline is the result of what Clark terms the Essential 55, guidelines for living and interacting with others that appear in the lobby of the school. Kim Bearden, our tour guide and co-founder of the academy, explains to us that the discipline provides the framework for the creative and fun environment in the academy.

Touring the first floor, we can hear and feel a loud beat coming from above our heads, it makes me wonder what is going on in the class. First floor includes a Delta classroom (as in Delta Airlines), complete with ticket counter, and The Gauntlet, a room where students take tests, many of which are hands-on activities.

At one end of the second-story hall is a library, with a fireplace on one side, a couch on the other and a bookcase along the back. In a building that is otherwise filled with color and light, the dark colors and old-fashioned style appear to be remnants of a different period.

When Kim presses a button, the bookcase slides apart and we enter Clark's classroom. Its reminiscent of one of Clark's favorite childhood memories in the cartoon Scooby Doo.

The students and Clark are singing and stomping to a math song, with Clark and many of the students standing on top of their desks. This explains the noise from earlier. Once the song is done, the students sit down and the class continues.

A math problem is introduced, determine the cost of visiting Coney Island: riding the Ferris wheel, buying drinks and hotdogs (with and without cheese). Discounts to the food only. The problem is laid out on the board, and each student begins working independently to solve the problem.

Clark walks on, yes that's ON, the students' desks, checking work, praising those who solve the problem and encouraging those who have the wrong answer to try again.

After a few minutes, students take turns at the front of the class, working through the problem together. Clark encourages those who did not get the correct answer to share where they made their mistake. There is a clear expectation from Clark that the students pay attention and learn, and the students are clearly engaged.

At one point, a student at the board accidentally utters an unacceptable phrase. Clark's quick and low, Don't say that is all the reproof required. The student checks himself and then continues but appears upset. Correctly finishing his portion of the problem, he sits down, then walks out of the classroom to collect himself returning a few minutes later.

The class moves onto a different problem. With the students shouting out the answer to each step, Clark completes part of the problem. Clark then calls for the same student to approach the board again to work the problem. Clark erases part of the problem and writes an incorrect answer, then sits down. The student stands up, he notes that the number is wrong. Clark acknowledges his mistake and tells the student to correct it.

My guess is that Clark's mistake is an intentional one, part of the learning experience. It shows the student there is no shame in making a mistake, correcting it, and moving on and exhibits why he is regarded as such a great teacher.

It's not the dancing on the desks, it's not the chants and stomps  it's Clark's ability to connect with his students that makes him a master teacher. The singing and stomping is a tool to engage them. He cares about his students, has high expectations for them, and teaches using real-life examples. Based on my 30 minutes in his classroom, it works he's making a difference.

We are not the only visitors. Teachers, administrators and other educators travel from across the country to watch the classes, and listen to the teachers talk about their approach to teaching students.

While not all teachers will feel comfortable standing on desks, it's not the tactics that are as important as the results. It is about engaging students, getting them interested in learning and improving themselves.

The teacher who made the biggest difference to me was my college economics professor, Dr. Fred Chapman, who believed that I had more in me than I thought I did. His encouragement and expectation helped me excel.

My daughter's teacher Leigh Jackson engages her students in a different way, sharing funny stories about her cats Moca and Espresso, and stories about cooking. I share with them what's in my heart, she told me.

Maybe that's all that's needed.

Perhaps we should forget the talk about education systems and school systems it's not the system that teaches, it's people like Clark, Chapman and Jackson. The question is how to get everyone else out of the way and support the teachers so they are able to grab the teachable moments when they come their way.

Copyright 2008 by Jackie Cushman.

All Rights Reserved.

 
Truth and Consequences trumps "Love and Consequences"

By Jackie Cushman

Published on Townhall.com

The real story is almost as good as the fictional one but not quite.

Cindi Seltzer Hoffman must have been shocked when she read "A refugee from Gangland," a February 28, 2008 profile in the New York Times™ Home and Garden Section about her sister, Margaret Seltzer. It described Margaret B. Jones, the author of the new memoir "Love and Consequences," as "a single mother who spent her youth as a foster child and gang member…..dealing drugs on the streets of South Central LA."

Margaret B. Jones is really Margaret Seltzer, Cindi's sister.
Cindi knew that "Love and Consequences" was fiction masquerading as truth. She called Riverhead Books, the unit of Penguin Group USA that published the book, and told the real truth about the book, which had just launched to great fanfare and good reviews. I can only imagine the repercussions inside the publishing house -- disbelief, surprise, anger then rapid recovery and damage control.

In short order, Riverhead Books recalled all copies of "Love and Consequences," and canceled Selzer's book tour.

As Motoko Rich noted in her March New York Times article, "Gang Memoir, Turning Page, Is Pure Fiction," there was only one problem with "Love and Consequences," "The problem is that none of it is true," she wrote.

Rich quotes Seltzer's defense, "For whatever reason, I was really torn and I thought it was my opportunity to put a voice to people who people don't listen to. I was in a position where at one point people said you should speak for us because nobody else is going to let us in to talk. Maybe it's an ego thing — I don't know. I just felt that there was good that I could do and there was no other way that someone would listen to it."

While we often hear that truth is stranger than fiction and it often is, it's different when fiction is represented as truth.

I remember the furor that surrounded the 2006 admission by James Frey, the author of "A Million Little Pieces," that not all the details of his memoir were true. He had to endure Oprah's wrath in front of her millions of viewers.

Today, "A Million Little Pieces" is being sold with an author's note that includes the statement, "memoir allows the writer to work from memory instead of from a strict journalistic or historical standard. It is about impression and feeling, about individual recollection. This memoir is a combination of facts about my life and certain embellishments." Frey also writes that "jail time I served, which in the book is three months, in reality was only several hours." Embellishments are one thing, changing facts another.

An older book, which was published in English in 1997, was also recently uncovered as fiction rather than fact. "Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust years" by Misha Defonseca was a bestseller, translated into 18 languages and made into a feature film in France. Defonseca's memoir discussed the seizure by Nazis of her parents when she was 4 years old, leading to her wandering in forests for four years and being raised by a pack of wolves that protected her. This is quite an unusual, captivating story.

Defonseca is quoted in "Author: My bestselling Holocaust book is a hoax," a Feburary 29 Associated Press story, stating "This story is mine. It is not actually reality, but my reality, my way of surviving."

Her memoir was published at the urging of publisher Jane Daniel, after Daniel heard Defonseca tell her story in a synagague. Daniel was ordered by a Boston court in 2005 to pay Defonseca and her ghost writer $2.5 million from the profits on the book. Evidently in this case, crime paid.

In their shared quest to be heard, Margaret Seltzer, James Frey and Misha Defonseca made up the truth – and tried to turn fiction into fact in the cause of a greater truth.

We have all been faced with the opportunity to spin a good yarn at some point in our lives. Small children often make up stories, either to get out of trouble, or to get attention. We often tell "white lies" in order to avoid hurting our friends, or to avoid dealing with disappointment.

The use of the parables in the Bible allows for the revelation of larger truths. The truth is not of the details of the story itself but the underlying truth that the story reveals.While an anecdote can be an important and effective way to communicate truth is not something that we believe in – it must also be true. To label fiction as fact is deceptive and manipulative.

It's unlikely that Cindi Seltzer's gang memoir will be the last attempt by a writer to pass fiction off as truth, but the recent publication and rapid withdrawal of "Love and Consequences" reminds us to be skeptical, that a compelling story might not always be a true story.

Beware of stories that sound too good to be true, they might not be.

Copyright 2008 by Jackie Cushman

All Rights Reserved.

 
<< Start < Prev 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 Next > End >>

Page 87 of 95

NEWSLETTER SIGNUP





SYNDICATION


twitter

linkedin

facebook

RSS feed

podcast

Login

Log in

Archives

LeftRight Collaborative