Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Fast food chain McDonald's will now be able to award high school diplomas for courses it conducts in-house, and companies like budget airlines will be able to provide the equivalent of university degrees to their workers.
By some measures, as many as four in five jobs in Britain are in the service sector, so it is perhaps not that much of a surprise that the Government would look to McDonald's and the planes packed with budget holiday-makers as the training colleges of the future.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown says a skills deficit, particularly amongst low-income workers, is the biggest barrier to full employment in Britain now and in the future.
McDonald's already has a basic shift manager course. A staff member learns all there is to learn about running an outlet, including marketing, customer service and stock control. With government approval, that course will now have the same status as school A-levels, the equivalent of the HSC (Higher School Certificate) in Australia.
The chairman of budget airline Flybe, Jim French, says his company will go a step further, offering a course equivalent under British law to a bachelor's degree. "So many people think of cabin crew, 'Oh, they're just trolley dollies'," he said. "Think of the people who were evacuated from that aircraft last week at Heathrow. They weren't evacuated in seconds by accident. "They were evacuated after the result of years of training, of management expertise and management development."
And it gets even better with Network Rail, the company that owns the nation's railway tracks and signal boxes. The training it gives some of its track engineers will give them a qualification equal to a PhD. Mr French says that industry and universities need to do more together.
"We recently interviewed 150 engineers. Only 30 per cent were appropriate, ie. they had the right skills for the job," he said. "Rather than people spending seven years and come out and be unemployable, they actually spend four years coming out with an engineering qualification, a foundation degree and skill that you can go straight into a job."
Academic critics say the qualifications will raise false hopes among those who receive them because other companies will not value them. They also say it will cheapen traditional academic and vocational qualifications.
Monday, January 28, 2008
Thursday, January 24, 2008
His problem is with Christianity, at least how it's often practiced.
"It's a dangerous term so I try to avoid it," said Miller, who considered giving up his career as a Christian writer and leaving the church in 2003 because he couldn't attend services without getting angry.
For him, the word conjured up conservative politics, suburban consumerism and an "insensitivity to people who aren't like us."
To quell his rage, he sat in his boxer shorts and banged out a memoir of his experiences with God, stripped of the trappings of religion.
"Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality" sold just enough to pay a few months rent. Then five years later, spurred by a grass-roots movement of 20-something Christians longing to connect to God without ties to the religious right, the book became a sudden hit.
Fans were buying caseloads and passing out copies to friends. It peaked at No. 18 on The New York Times list of best-sellers among paperback nonfiction in November. He was mobbed by fans after a recent Young Life conference in Orlando where he addressed a crowd of roughly 4,000.
Christians tired of the "life is perfect" mantra of some churches, revel in his ability to talk unashamedly about smoking pot, living in a hippie commune and the notion that God isn't a Republican.
Supporters say Miller's authentic, graceful approach to God has finally given a voice to their brand of Christianity. The book also debuted at a time when the emerging church movement -- which emphasizes the individual's faith experience and varied worship styles -- is flourishing, signaling a fertile audience for such religious musings among more socially liberal evangelicals.
Watching TBN one night on TV, Miller, 36, realized the conservative religious network was many people's baseline for Christianity. He wanted to change that.
"These people are absurd. I've been a Christian all my life and I don't even know Christians this weird," said the Portland, Oregon-based writer, who is single.
In his book, Miller describes his disdain for the us vs. them mentality between Christians and non-Christians.
"I felt, once again, that there was this underlying hostility for homosexuals and Democrats and, well, hippie types. I cannot tell you how much I did not want liberal or gay people to be my enemies. I liked them," he wrote. "The real issue in the Christian community was that (love) was conditional ... You were loved in word, but there was, without question, a social commodity that was being withheld from you until you shaped up."
Dave Morton was also growing cold on the church when he picked up Miller's book.
"The perspective that was refreshing to me was that your Christian faith doesn't have to look exactly like everybody's else's," said Morton, a 28-year-old ski instructor from Bend, Oregon. "It kind of inspired me to pursue God again with a fresh perspective."
Brad Jones, a 30-year-old youth pastor at a conservative Southern Baptist Church in South Florida, said he felt alone in his desire for more authentic dialogue about God.
"My thoughts on faith aren't really going along with everyone else and then I read this and said, 'That's what I've been thinking the whole time,"' he said.
Miller's book embraces cultural relevance, not cultural dominance, he said.
"The typical judgmental, hate-filled, bigoted, more people knew what we were against than what we were for," mentality has little to do with the real God, Jones said.
Some experts say Miller and authors like him are in sync with a generation of young adults who very much believes in God, Jesus and the basics of Christianity, but are struggling to balance their conservative Christian upbringings with a culture that embraces a go-along-to get-along philosophy.
"People like Donald Miller are speaking almost like a prophet of a new age and describing the landscape in a way people who feel comfortable in that landscape really couldn't articulate before," said David Kinnaman, a researcher for The Barna Group and author of "Unchristian."
Critics call Miller's works casual and glib and that he strays from biblical truths when he downplays homosexuality and other sins.
One such critic, Shane Walker, says Miller presents Jesus as a "nice fellow who meets one at the campfire and swaps stories." He forgets to remind readers that Jesus is also a judge and avenger who "wants to save you from his just wrath," according to his review for "Blue Like Jazz", an organization designed to help local churches re-establish their biblical bearings.
Miller, who is almost disappointingly normal looking in jeans and a blue button-down shirt, says "toeing the party line for the church is not my job; telling the truth is my job. I don't fear saying that certain Republican policies are painful for God to endure."
Miller has sold more than a million books, including "Searching for God Knows What," and republished his first book, "Through Painted Deserts," which sold dismally before his "Blue Like Jazz" fame. He also travels much of the year for speaking engagements.
"When I wrote this book I felt like I was stuffing a message in a bottle," Miller said.
Like the old Police song, Miller's beach is now flooded with responses.
"There's this connection of 'Hey, we're not alone in this boat."'
Sunday, January 20, 2008
My name is Alice Smith and earlier this week I had an interesting experience.
I was sitting in the waiting room for my first appointment with a new dentist. I noticed his DDS diploma, which bore his full name.
Suddenly, I remembered a tall, handsome, dark-haired boy with the same name who had been in my high school class some 30-odd years ago. Could this possibly be the same guy I had a secret crush on, way back then?
Upon seeing him, however, I quickly discarded any such thought. This balding, gray-haired man with the deeply lined face was WAAAYY too old to have been my classmate.
After he examined my teeth, I asked him if he had attended Morgan Park High School.
"Yes. Yes, I did. I'm a Mustang," He gleamed with pride.
"When did you graduate?" I asked.
He answered, "in 1967. Why do you ask?"
"You were in my class!" I exclaimed.
He looked at me closely.
Then that ugly, old, bald, wrinkled, fat-ass, gray-haired, decrepit so-and-so asked...
"Really? What did you teach?"
Friday, January 11, 2008
After finding alcohol in her son's car, she decided to sell the car and share her 19-year-old's misdeed with everyone — by placing an ad in the local newspaper.
The ad reads: "OLDS 1999 Intrigue. Totally uncool parents who obviously don't love teenage son, selling his car. Only driven for three weeks before snoopy mom who needs to get a life found booze under front seat. $3,700/offer. Call meanest mom on the planet."
Hambleton has heard from people besides interested buyers since recently placing the ad in The Des Moines Register.
The 48-year-old from Fort Dodge says she has fielded more than 70 telephone calls from emergency room technicians, nurses, school counselors and even a Georgia man who wanted to congratulate her.
"The ad cost a fortune, but you know what? I'm telling people what happened here," Hambleton says. "I'm not just gonna put the car for resale when there's nothing wrong with it, except the driver made a dumb decision.
"It's overwhelming the number of calls I've gotten from people saying 'Thank you, it's nice to see a responsible parent.' So far there are no calls from anyone saying, 'You're really strict. You're real overboard, lady.'"
The only critic is her son, who Hambleton says is "very, very unhappy" with the ad and claims the alcohol was left by a passenger.
Hambleton said she believes her son but has decided mercy isn't the best policy in this case. She says she set two rules when she bought the car at Thanksgiving: No booze, and always keep it locked.
The car has been sold, but Hambleton says she will continue the ad for another week — just for the feedback.
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Half of all the Hispanic and African-American kids born in 2000 and one-third of Caucasian kids will have diabetes in their lifetime, many before they graduate college, Cooper says, citing U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics. "It's all because of what we are feeding them," she says. "It's all preventable."
Cooper, self-proclaimed renegade lunch lady and chef, is actively working against what she describes as entrenched interests -- fast-food companies and junk-food producers -- that she says profit from selling unhealthy foods to schools. They're "basically making money off our children's health and their future," she says. "I'm just so pissed off."
She wasn't always this way. Cooper used to be a big-shot celebrity chef who worked at tony resorts, on cruise ships, for hotel chains and prestigious film festivals. She's won numerous awards and is on boards for executive chefs, women chefs and the Alumni Committee of the Culinary Institute of America.
Despite the accolades, Cooper felt something was missing. She recognized that as a celebrity chef, she was reaching only the top 10 percent of the wealthiest people in the country. So she sought ways to make a difference.
She and her fellow culinary icons "would spend a lot of time trying to give back," she says. "We cooked for Second Harvest, we cooked for donations, we cooked whatever."
But there was also impermanence to food. Whether people ate her food or threw it away, Cooper lamented that it all ended up as sewage or waste.
After writing her first book, "A Woman's Place Is In the Kitchen," on the role of women in food, she started to feel like there was a way to leave something behind. Writing the book led to associations with high-profile women who were trying to make a difference -- Alice Waters from Berkeley, California, and Nora Pouillon of Washington, D.C., who were into organics and sustainability.
Those relationships changed the way she thought about food -- so much so that a few years later came her second book, "Bitter Harvest," about where our food supply comes from and how political concerns often trump healthy diets.
Now Cooper knew she was getting somewhere. When the Ross School in East Hampton, New York, called offering her a position as executive chef of wellness and nutrition, she didn't exactly jump at the chance. But after giving it some thought, she realized it was a way to reach future generations and really leave a lasting impact. "All of a sudden, it felt like, wow, this is something I could really do, and I could really make a difference."
Today, Cooper is director of nutrition services in Berkeley, where she has transformed the school lunch program from 90 percent frozen reheated foods to 90 percent fresh. Berkeley schools used to serve fruit once a week; now it's on the menu every day, and so is the salad bar.
More than that, the healthy food curriculum is carried into the classroom. With a staff of 90 to help, Cooper runs cooking classes, gardening classes and serves food in 17 locations. She has created a "meal wheel" to help kids all over the country understand what should be on their plates daily. With her Web page, Lunch Lessons, Cooper is hoping to make her program a model. "There's only one of me. I can't cover the whole country," she says.
If she had one wish, Cooper says, it would be that "Oprah would take on this issue as a social justice issue and that we would get our presidential candidates to really start to talk about this issue, because I just can't imagine what's more important ... than the next generation. We're just really not taking care of them."
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
Our very special guest will be Mr. Robert Egger, founder and President of D.C. Central Kitchen.
Class 48 of the Second Helpings Culinary Job Training Program will prepare a special breakfast in honor of the occasion, and we invite you to join us to meet this dynamic leader and advocate in the war on hunger.
Second Helpings is located in the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Center at 1121 Southeastern Avenue, Indianapolis, IN 46202
Seating is very limited so please RSVP if you plan to attend to (317) 632-2664 ext. 10, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org