What’s Kickin’ Blog


Any National Honor Society members in Congress?

This week I was “honored” (sorry, couldn’t resist) to be involved in one of the many National Honor Society Induction Ceremonies that occur across America. Officially established in 1921 by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), the NHS ranks as one of the oldest and most prestigious national organizations recognizing outstanding high school students.

Four main purposes guide the National Honor Society: “To create enthusiasm for scholarship, to stimulate a desire to render service, to promote leadership, and to develop character.” NHS selection criteria is based on these same four purposes. Which given the current chaos in Washington, DC got me wondering, “How many members of Congress were inducted into the NHS way back when?” After all, what they learned then might serve them well now

SCHOLARSHIP “Learning furnishes the lamp by which we read the past, and the light which illuminates the future.” (Learn from past mistakes and try not to repeat them.)

SERVICE “…work without monetary compensation or without personal recognition for the benefit of those in need…” (Serve for others, not for yourself.)

LEADERSHIP “…the willingness to yield one’s personal interests for the interest of others.” (“Others” meaning the nation as a whole, not just lobbyists or a small minority of your rabidly-vocal local constituents.)

CHARACTER “…is the product of constant action, daily striving to make the right choice.” (Action over words or sound bytes and making the right choice not just the self-serving choices that get you re-elected.)

When inducted, NHS members take a pledge “to prove by example that we value character. An untarnished character. To endeavor intelligently and courageously to be a leader.” Because “no matter what power and resources may exist in a country, they are ineffectual without the guidance of a wise leader.” Don’t we as a country deserve members of Congress who are “wise leaders?” Striving in every way by word and deed? “Leadership is always needed and is thus a charge to each of our National Honor Society members.”

Perhaps members of Congress would be well-served to find their old NHS pins from high school, remove the tarnish, and remember what they pledged then still applies now. Because you’re in Congress and the NHS motto “Noblesse Oblige” requires you to: “Act in a fashion that conforms with one’s position. An obligation to behave honorably, generously, and responsibly to others.”

National Honor Society noblesse oblige

PHOTO: Wikipedia

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A leadership lesson from the Pope: Less Bling

The newly-elected pontiff demonstrated an understated, humbler papal presence, which might serve as an interesting leadership lesson from the Pope perhaps resonating even beyond the religious world. Pope Francis will wear an iron crucifix rather than a gold one. The crucifix contains the image of Jesus as the “good shepherd” carrying a sheep over his shoulders and the flock following behind him. He also insisted on wearing a silver Ring of the Fisherman, rather than the traditional solid-gold ring made of 35 grams of pure gold. The release read as follows:

VATICAN CITY – “Pope Francis has eschewed tradition and chosen a silver Fisherman’s Ring rather than a gold one – and one designed decades ago rather than created specifically for him, the Vatican said.”

The Vatican also unveiled both the coat of arms and the motto Pope Francis will use, which remain the same as the ones he used serving as archbishop of Buenos Aires. The Latin motto beneath the crest reads “miserando atque eligendo” – which refers to a Biblical passage illustrating Jesus Christ’s “mercy” in choosing Matthew (who was a tax collector) as one of his disciples.

Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.

— St. Francis of Assisi, 1182–1226
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I Don’t Want to Play Pretend Government Either

University of Maryland, Baltimore County Student Government Association President, Kaylesh Ramu, shared some insightful words at the “Shaping Our Future” launch event in Washington DC on September 4th, 2012. Too bad she wasn’t asked to speak at the recent political infomercials conventions. Her message about “co-creating our communities” is refreshing compared to the bipolar extreme partisan back-and-forth rhetoric that currently permeates what passes for leadership in our country.

Our student government went from a couple of elected officers to an organization that reaches out and has this philosophy that all 10,000 undergraduates at UMBC are our student government.

Kaylesh Ramu, SGA President, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Kaylesh might be just one example of the kind of Millennial Generation post-partisan political leadership we need to improve the political dialogue and decision-making capability of our citizens, our communities, and our country. “We the people” (not just the people in Washington, not just the people in the state capital, on the county commission, in city hall, on the local school board or in student council) we are our government.

FYI, “Shaping Our Future” is a year-long national dialogue on the future of higher education. Through this initiative, students, faculty, administrators, employers, and members of the general public will engage and reflect on how colleges and universities might help our country tackle some of its most vexing problems. Engaging people in serious deliberation about higher education – and ultimately all of education – demands community-based conversations vs. just campus-based conversations. If you’d like to open up the dialogue in your community, check out how you can hold a forum on this issue in your community free of charge thanks to the Kettering Foundation, National Issues Forums and the American Commonwealth Partnership.

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4-H Clubs KICKin’ IT IN Postwar Iraq

About twice a month, thousands of Iraqi teenagers and preteens are gathering across their country in 4-H Clubs and pledge to use their “heads, hearts, hands, and health for the greater good of their community, their country, and the world.” That’s right, 4-H in Iraq! While often associated with rural American and agrarian life, 4-H was actually one of the first organizations in America that taught young people leadership skills and how to positively impact their communities. 4-H’s mission is to “empowering youth to reach their full potential, working and learning in partnership with caring adults.”

At their core 4-H nurtures positive youth development, learning leadership, citizenship, and life skills. And that is much of the focus for the chapters in Iraq according to a recent article in Education Week. “Anything that can reach kids and, through kids, reach parents is potentially a very powerful tool to help and enable to help not only the current generation but the next generation” states Hiram Larew, the director of the Center for International Programs at the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, in Washington, DC.

SOURCE: Education Week: 4-H Clubs Thrive in Postwar Iraq

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Overreliance On Accountability Undermines Confidence

New research presents startling evidence critical for education as well as a number of other fields including philanthropy, government, business, and health care. While the report authors admit the results are suggestive, not definitive, the implications are undeniably massive. They found there’s a big difference between what the general public believes “being accountable” means vs. what leaders believe it means. This is significant, especially in education, given the current ongoing drive to assess every child (and every teacher), using multiple measures of assessment in order to broaden beyond summative assessments and high-stakes accountability.

Perhaps no other field has produced more performance data and so little confidence over the last two decades. Education needs to seriously re-think what accountability really means to parents, communities and children.

—”Don’t Count Us Out” A Report from Public Agenda and the Kettering Foundation

This research report summarizes in-depth qualitative research and details how the general public needs more than just “the numbers.” The report states that “while many leaders hope and expect that the accountability systems they are developing and institutionalizing will address Americans’ frustrations and lack of confidence. Based on the research summarized here, that is not likely to be the case.”

“Many are dubious about whether test scores are the best measures of teacher effectiveness (or student learning for that matter). Most say the chief problem in America high schools is poor student behavior and lack of motivation, a problem that teachers can’t solve alone and that has not received much attention in current accountability discussions.”

‘We the people’ ultimately need genuine two-way communication and relationships that build trust. Not just between the schools and the parents of today’s students, but between schools and everyday citizens. “Now, more than ever, leaders need to reach for the strategy of engaging members of the public in genuine dialogue. In a dialogue, the goal is not to convince the public of pre-selected ‘solutions.’ Rather it is to share the concerns of both public and leaders, recognizing that each has knowledge and expertise that can be brought to bear on the problem. In a dialogue, the goal is to spend as much time listening as talking.”

The report, “Don’t Count Us Out: How an Overreliance on Accountability Could Undermine the Public’s Confidence in Schools, Business, Government and More” is available from Public Agenda.

Don’t Count Us Out: How an Overreliance on Accountability Could Undermine the Public’s Confidence in Schools, Business, Government and More

While this report “describes a potentially corrosive gap between the way leaders in government, business, education, health care, and other sectors define accountability and the way typical Americans think about it,” what do you think about it? Share your thoughts, comments and ideas.

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Steve Jobs’ Leadership Example

Frederick Allen, at Forbes shares how a very smart friend of his once said that “the whole difference between Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, and thus between Microsoft and PCs and Apple, was simply that Bill Gates thought everyone wanted to be a programmer, at least a little bit, and Steve Jobs said, oh, no, they don’t.” An article worth reading as it resonates very deeply with us as we re-launch our web site. Ahhhh, technology is wonderful when it works more for you, than you have to work for it.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

—Steve Jobs, Apple Inc.
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Teaching leadership via a MMORPG?

Massively multi-player online role-playing games (MMORPG) are online computer role-playing games in which a potentially huge number of players interact with one another all within a virtual world. What do these “games” have to do with teaching leadership you ask?

Well IBM is actually teaching leadership (mostly to GenXers now, soon to be more and more Millennials) via these online games. You can see why by reading one of their recent reports “Leadership in a Distributed World: Lessons from Online Gaming.” Obviously “Big Blue” and many others have done the “demographic math” to realize we’re really not doing a very good job developing future leaders. A recent IBM Global Human Capital Study titled: Looming Leadership Crisis, Organizations Placing Their Companies’ Growth Strategies at Risk shares the reality that’s driving more virtual reality learning.

Ian Bogost and his thought-provoking, issue-understanding, Persuasive Games and Water Cooler Games designs, builds, and distributes electronic games for persuasion, instruction, and activism. His work has been featured in The New York Times Online edition and might lend itself to teaching leadership via simulation gaming. One you will want to check out is Fatworld, which is a game about the politics of nutrition—exploring the relationships between obesity, nutrition, and socioeconomics in the U.S.

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A collection of ideas, research, and thoughts about kids today.

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