How do you Measure a Unicorn?

“What is the purpose of public education?” my college kid asked me this past summer after his first year away at college. 

“Well, at its core I think it exposes kids to a variety of topics.”

“But is that the purpose?”

This conversion between him and I went on throughout the summer and added hours of conversation with discussion points, banter and debate between us. 

Recently, we learned that his former high school was cutting the Latin program which happened to be the language he took in high school. To say we were devastated would be an understatement (sons comment to the BOE.) 

“What is the purpose of public education” came roaring back, but now with a more critical eye. 

After seeing the school districts’ defense, it wasn’t that I didn’t understand on their data why they would make this decision but I still came back to “what is the purpose of public education?”

This is when I realized what I WANT public education to be is a vastly different world than what public education wants itself to be. 

I don’t want public education to pressure my 10 year old into doing career surveys. I don’t want public education to push my kids onto beliefs that the highest income paths are the best paths for them. I want there to be varied options among all the subjects and topics. I want there to be fair and balanced views. I want them to be inspired by educators who are inspired. 

But my unicorn granola nirvana landscape of what I would want public education to be is…not the reality of public education as I know it today. 

Today, our public education system continues to align with the capitalistic society values and every year the system marches all hail towards Corporate Management of Education (CME.)

CME is laser focused on results, output and value, but only if that value is found on a measurable data chart.   

Running education on the CME platform lends itself to highlighting and parading Big Money in tech, finance and STEM related fields. Arguably, those fields are the highest measurable data points out there and what better way to have a school system succeed than to push those fields and reflect upon its monetary offerings to society. 

Everyone has heard the stat “65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist.”

So the fact that public education systems use current data to shape education now to predict future education needs seems awfully arbitrary. And yet, I also understand the need to grow, change, and at least attempt to meet the needs of current students to build the skills that MIGHT be useful/profitable in the future. 

But you know what I also think is useful? Taking a class for just the heck of it and not some promise of future financial gain. Also, thinking. Thinking in abstracts and making connections over many topics and subjects. It was after all, the cross sections between journalism and social science that led my son to help pass a bill in Illinois that is now a mandated media literacy law. There is value in being absurd in thought and direction and somehow ending up with something….different than a formulated and scripted education driving straight to the next New Tech Valley.  And you know what? Many of those big tech companies would agree. 

This situation has brought me some clarity. NOW if you were to ask me what the purpose of public education is, I would have an answer that aligns more with what public education is. 

Public education is a system that funnels lives and minds into the public college system that feeds the corporate and capitalistic community in hopes of the American Dream of Wealth and Power.

But is that what younger generations even want to be prepared for?

There are 100’s of articles on why Gen Z is not here for corporate life let alone what generations after them might want in their lives. 

One step public education has taken to try and humanize CME is by introducing SEL into curriculums. On paper, this sounds and looks like a good idea but what does the CME + SEL balance sheet look like?

When a class or topic or subject doesn’t meet the CME data points needed for relevance or value, do the SEL data points take their place? Does rating education value on SEL ever take preference over the CME data? Can it? 

I question if it’s possible to manage public education goals in conjunction with social emotional based needs under the CME style. I also know that managing things by “gut feelings and emotions,” intangibles and the unmeasurable doesn’t always make for the best financial decisions.

My hope is that once in a while (and this my unicorn granola showing) SEL driven education has a chance to win on that data chart, and if it does, it will make for better people to add to our global society. And ultimately, isn’t that what the purpose of public education should really be. 

Just a little trolling

I have ADHD, I haven’t hidden this in life. It has its struggles, but also has its benefits. I embrace all of it. I mention this because, for me, it’s specifically related to trolling people on the internet. 

Having ADHD, in my case, means I have a wicked quick wit. Couple that with a decent amount of brains and sarcasm, and, well, I can do asshole pretty well. Like, scary well. 

What does that have to do with trolling though? Accountability. 

When I first “got online” I was somewhat anonymous. Both my blog and social media “branding” was a play on Martha Stewart, albeit, the more lazy one. At some point when your kids teacher says “Hey, thenextmartha” you know that gig is up.  

A while back, I had something happen that was somewhat remarkable on the internet. I had an anonymous account coming after me a decent amount who ended up emailing me their extensive reasoning. Something they said struck me. It was that I was unaware of my “following influence.”  I have to admit, I had to sit on that one a few days because as my friend Melisa W. knows, I never even installed detailed analytics on my blog. We exchanged a few emails in a non attacking manner and then went our separate ways. No, in the end we didn’t agree with each other, but we did come to the conclusion that we are actual people who live in our community. 

In the last year or 2, there have been many, many anonymous online accounts created. I’m not against people who chose to present themselves online in an anonymous manner, it’s just not for me. But in a twist of fate, what has been for me is a fairly consistent direction of anger, spite, and mix ups from, seemingly, people from within my own community. My own community has trolled me more than being on the internet for the past 13 years. Worse than mommy bloggers and even GOMI, you guys. 

It doesn’t bother me, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care. 

Because I do. 

Leaning towards the analytical side of life, I have a hard time understanding how these anonymous accounts call me irrelevant at the same time as “coming at me” online. 

I don’t understand how having people who follow me causes division, but their hate spewed towards me does not.

I don’t understand how they can troll people like they do and then be ok with their life choices. 

I am absolutely accountable for my online presence, and even more so after it affected someone and they called me out for that. I’m aware that I have multiple platforms people “follow” me on for various reasons; gardening, halloween, gifted education, advocacy, smart ass, sarcasm and yeah, sometimes for being an asshole. But I don’t do any of it anonymously. 

The difference is, I own my asshole moments and failures. 

Sometimes I’m out of line. 

Sometimes I’m even wrong. 

But you? The “anonymous” trolls who come after me with your hot takes and insults*? You lack integrity, and that’s something you need to own as your contribution to our community. 

*thanks for the tag lines tho.


I was grilling food and Braden walked outside. It was still over 70 degrees out so it struck me as curious. We chatted some and then he asked if we could visit the zoo before he goes to college. “Before he goes to college” felt so far a month ago and now here we are with less than a week away. 

Yes, of course we can go to the zoo. He pulls up his phones to check the weather for the lowest temp this week and it’s set. He goes inside and I barely hold it together remembering how we used to go to the zoo so much when he was younger that he had every exhibit fact board memorized. 

Today was zoo day and we picked up Jimmy Johns lunch to eat there.  As we pull out of the lot,  Braden sees a sign advertising cinnamon buns at Colonial Cafe. He laughs. I ask what was funny. He says the sign described the cinnamon buns as “Huge and Gooey.”

Me: ugh. Those are poor choice words for food. I don’t want anything huge and gooey. 

Him: Right? They could have at least used “respectable and dignified.”

I burst out laughing so hard that I started crying. As the tears of laughter appear, a few tears of sadness mix in. Together they look identical and only I know that today, they fall differently. 

Somehow cartoons come up on our way and I mention that Sesame Street might be the single most important piece of TV ever to come out of the US. He agreed. He then says he remembers first seeing Indonesian hand puppets in a cartoon and thought they were just the coolest things. Of course he remembers this, I think. I wondered who will remind me of these precious memories next week. 

As we drive he streams his music, like he typically does. Somehow he always chooses the perfect music. Many times it’s his go-to list of: Andy Gibb, George Michael, Stevie Wonder. Sometimes it’s Yeezy, or Jeezy? I can’t remember the difference. Today he plays disco and it feels just…right. I enjoy the music and wonder who will play the music next week. 

We take the highway to the zoo and pass a semi truck. He mentions a statistical fact about US shipping and cargo ships. Driving with Braden is never boring. Sometimes he mentions elements of urban design he sees or other seemingly random data that must pop into his head all day long. And while I am a captive audience at the time, I wonder who will keep me on my toes and learning next week. 

We show up to the zoo and the animals act like they were waiting for us. They were more active than maybe I’ve ever seen in my life. Braden was in his element with all the showmanship. “Well, sea lions might have moved up on my list of favorite animals.” he says as they leap around the pool waiting for snacks. We stop at a gift shop and he gets a super cool drinking glass with an octopus on it. It’s glass, because he is grown enough now to have the real thing. When did that happen? 

“You’re lucky he’s going to be close” is something I’ve heard over and over. Yes, I am absolutely lucky in that aspect, I am fully aware of how fortunate I am. But it doesn’t change how removing one person from my daily life changes how I see, hear and learn every day he is not here. So yes, I will get used to this, but it is absolutely something I will miss about him. 

We come home and have dinner. I remind him to take out the garbage for the last time and he says “Oh! I can turn off my garbage reminder alarm now. Or maybe I’ll just leave it for fun.” For that small time I didn’t have to wonder what he will be doing next week on Wednesday at 7pm because I know that alarm will sound and for just that moment, he will still be connected to our home thinking of us too.