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(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

My years of supporting my kids’ schools and working on academic accountability committees are long gone, but I’ve seen the effects of some of our educational failings for this generation. Too much standardization and test-taking passes for providing a rigorous education. I worry that our current systems reward passive thinking and even lead to disengagement for those who might want to think more deeply.

For years I’ve been saying that in order to create rigorous educational systems that we have to get the students engaged. The factory model of grading students well if they can parrot what teachers say or if they do well on multiple choice tests does not encourage critical thinking. What it does encourage is shallow learning at the best and group think at the worst.

The question students need to ask is what does this information mean? And then to think about how what that information means may vary for many reasons. What does it mean in these times? In previous times? To me? To others who are not like me? Education isn’t really about giving people answers but about giving them the tools to ask the questions and to do something with what they know and understand.

It’s too easy to dismiss today’s students as pawns or lazy thinkers—and if they have bought into learning only what’s going to be on the test and what a specific teacher wants them to think about what they are learning, then, yes, that is true.

But today’s students also have access to an infinite amount of external information. If they do not feel right about something they have been taught, they can do their own research and reach out to others to try to discover what might seem truer to them.

Is that dangerous? Oh yes. But is that any more dangerous than not even questioning what one particular person or group wants them to believe?

We need students who can break through the spins that are coming from media outlets, politicians, researchers, community and world leaders, business people, the so-called man on the streets, educators, and even parents—really, from anyone who is trying to convince them of something because “they” say so. Our students need to be taught to strip away the bias and read and listen and think for themselves. Peer pressure is not just something that happens in high school—and yet the consequences from peer pressure in the real world are even more devastating for the whole of society.

Go ahead and try to teach patriotism by stripping away access to knowledge of the events that made past citizens fight to get this great country back on track. But don’t be surprised if those who choose to think deeply consider themselves just as patriotic as those who would tell them to believe blindly.

This is not a political party thing. This is not a generational thing. When kids have learned to think for themselves, don’t be surprised at what happens when they put those thinking skills into action. I have been worried that we have taught out the thinking skills—so glad to see thoughtful engagement in practice anyway. These kids—and consequently our country’s future—may just be all right after all.

Reference: Jefferson County (Colorado) students protesting curriculum proposal.

(c) 2013 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2013 Christiana Lambert

Facebook keeps suggesting ads for many of us that are related to our names. What I keep getting is “It’s a Lambert Thing—You Wouldn’t Understand” T-shirt ads. How do they know about the Lamberts? Are they all that way? Supposedly the name means “bright light” and has nothing to do with sheep and rams, and yet I wonder . . .

Over these 25 years after having taken Lambert as my married name, I have gained many insights—but that still doesn’t make me a Lambert. I am most definitely a Lange and a Ritter—as my mom would say, “We don’t do that . . .” but most likely the Lamberts would.

“Do what?” you say.

Well, approach life in a certain way, for one. Mom always used to say, “A rule is a rule.” I’m not sure a Lambert considers a rule a rule until he or she has really pushed all the angles to verify that the rule really must remain a rule. Maybe that’s why those of us who have married in to the family tend to be a bit more focused on the details of life (you know, such as time, space, gravity, and so on) yet are still able to go with the flow. If nothing else, if we didn’t understand why it matters to ask, “Is that rule as much of a rule as the world would have us think?” we would never have a chance at being able to remain Lamberts in name.

Not only do they question rules, but they also approach their goals like (mountain sheep) rams, my father-in-law’s favorite wildlife animal. They do not stop until finished and that means finished doing whatever they’re doing just right.

My son Jackson works in his uncles’ business, where his cousin is also a manager, and where his grandpa spent a lot of time before his most recent health challenges. He often comes home shaking his head and saying, “Lamberts!”

Finally Sherman, his dad, got fed up with that and burst out, “You’re a Lambert, too.”

Of course he is and he knows it, too. So is his sister Christiana. He takes after the “never met a rule I like” side and she takes after the “bee in the bonnet” side.

Where Jackson is more like me and my own than his sister is in communication styles. We’re not ones to bottle up—for long anyway—how we’re feeling or to assume that everyone knows how we’re feeling through using some sort of mental communication. That’s not saying that anyone understands what the heck we’re saying when we’re upset, but we do say a lot of something. Whenever Christiana and Sherman are upset with one another, the room gets deadly silent—well, until it’s not.

That reminds me of a time when I was watching Sherman’s dad and brother work “together” to move something in the warehouse of a previous business. Neither one of them shared his plans, but each had one. The tension built as it become more and more apparent that maybe those plans weren’t at all as similar as each had assumed. I wasn’t certain whether I wanted to stay to watch the outcome or get out of the space before the explosions began. Don’t worry—no bombs were deployed, just a lot of explosive words that, nonetheless, led to a completed task.

The Lamberts really are quite the team, even when each person approaches tasks in a very individual way. Those question-the-rules attitudes lead to a whole lot of innovation and creativity and improvements, even if the air can get more than a little hot before all the dust is settled. But no matter the individual paths, each team member does want to achieve the very similar goal of doing the best thing possible for the customer, the company, the family, the end product, etc. These people may be all in their heads but they are in it together for the long run.

It really is a Lambert thing. Despite my giggles at and frustrations over the Lamberts through the years, I am still glad I married one and am proud I gave birth to two of them.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

I am not my mother—in so many ways. One major difference is that I do question all forms of authority—in this aspect I am the classic Baby Boomer. But when you come of age watching all sorts of experts and leaders fall, you know that everyone can’t know everything nor do everything right. Besides, we live in an era with access to so much more information that we can and should take responsibility for verifying that what we are told makes sense.

Mom loved to read and learn, but she had this maddening habit of reading one article, expert, or whatever and quoting that viewpoint for the rest of her days.

I’m no lawyer and didn’t study journalism, so I don’t always ask things three different ways or check out three different sources, but I do know you can’t just trust the first reference you find. Plus, sometimes new information becomes available or other information exists that isn’t widely known. I drive my husband crazy because I have this natural habit of continuing to ask questions—not to be ornery but because to get the true picture of a story, you sometimes have to know the back story and other associated facts.

For example, these days it’s easy to find checklists to try to discover whether or not someone has a certain health condition. But surely a diagnosis isn’t based solely on such general listings—if not we all end up thinking we have most conditions. Often a definitive diagnosis arrives from looking at the subtle information found between the lines of those listings.

And when medical personnel study in school, they must learn a staggering amount of information about a staggering amount of conditions. They can’t be experts in everything.

What we as patients are is experts in our bodies, our family traits, and our experiences. We start to see patterns and often become experts—most likely not in the biology and chemistry of the conditions we experience—but in the subtle indicators that are more personal to us. I am seldom wrong about strep in myself or the people in my home and I’m pretty good with pink eye, too—because this is our experience. And I think families such as ours who are afflicted with celiac disease often tend to know more about the subtleties of the condition than doctors who are not well-acquainted with the condition and whose medical school training happened before current protocol changes.

Medical personnel are frustrated that so many of us think we can know what’s going on based on our layman’s access to a variety of information coming from sources ranging from valid to those so invalid as to be dangerous. But that doesn’t mean our insights and questions aren’t worth considering in combination with the expert’s own knowledge.

I’m not so much of a rebel as to push back hard when I disagree with a practitioner, but I always bring up my questions and concerns in a respectful manner. In retrospect, sometimes I wonder how I could have pushed harder in certain situations. Just last month I received confirmation from a doctor my daughter was seeing for something I couldn’t get my mother’s doctor to recognize four years ago—would have liked to help Mom with that problem but no one would listen.

As patients we have to fill out copious pages listing familial connections—so often it feels as if no one reads them even though I believe most medical people believe they do matter. Maybe they don’t feel they have the time—was so glad when my daughter’s new specialist asked us about every connection listed.

When there don’t seem to be good, easy answers—the kind that would come easily if all our conditions fell into line with those checklists—then that’s when I think the professionals really ought to listen to family stories and the oddball personal information provided to them or even check into the quirky medical possibilities suggested to them.

Mom was the epitome of the hard-to-diagnose patient with her commingled conditions. Since many of my family members seem to specialize in being those people whose conditions fall into the gray areas of those checklists, we need medical authority figures who can tolerate a little questioning. Some of us don’t rebel against authority to cause trouble but to discover truth that may be hidden. Good leaders hear what team members say in order to arrive at the best possible outcome.

After all, I don’t think doctors like uncertainty any more than patients and their families do.

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