What is meaningful work?

The most important “I Must” statement on my list is to be “meaningfully employed.”  But what is meaningful employment?

Sometimes it is easier to state what something is not before defining something.  Let’s discuss what meaning is not.

Meaning is not value.  Meaning cannot be sold or traded.  Meaning cannot be gifted.

Way out in West Texas, a Prada store replica sits disconnected from the consumerist culture it’s normally associated with.  It’s a conspicuous reminder that Prada has monetary value, but Prada itself does not mean anything outside of its’ normal context.

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When applied to work, the question becomes, ‘If the meaning of your work lies in the ability to subsequently acquire goods for oneself or others, is the work itself meaningful?.’  To answer this question, I apply the West Texas highway test.  If dropped off on a lonely, deserted highway in West Texas without any ability to trade your work, would the work still feel worthwhile?  If the answer is no, then the work you do is likely valuable but does not contain much personal meaning.

Meaning is also not happiness.

Happiness is comfort.  Happiness is pleasure and passivity.

Meaning is discomfort.  Meaning is an exhausting construction process.  Meaning hurts like the aching pains of a teenager’s knees.

We make meaning.  We feel happy.

Raising kids, or so people say, is the most convincing argument for a split between happiness and meaning.  Parents consistently report feeling less happy after having kids, but report significantly more meaning in their life.  Once again, meaning is an uncomfortable growth process.  Happiness is a passive, blissful state.

Ok, so what is meaningful work?  After reading carefully (see links at the end of the article), I am aware of a consensus.  Meaningful work is both personal and connected to a far-reaching purpose.  It is both intrinsically motivating and in service of the greater good.  I would argue that, strictly when defining meaningful work, it is less important whether what you are doing actually has a net positive impact.  What matters is whether we believe that our work is both personally meaningful and benefits others.  We’ll never know the net positive or negative impact of our actions.  The best we can do is pursue work that we believe to have a positive impact.

Raskolnikov, the complex central character in Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, has the abstract notion that murdering a pawnbroker who, in his judgment, harms many people would be a crime ultimately benefitting humanity.  Raskolnikov supports his idea analytically but, upon enacting his plan, descends into psychosis.  His ideas become increasingly nihilistic as he dissociates from society.  This is an extreme example, but the point is that abstract calculations of your net impact (payment of taxes contributing towards infrastructure, groundbreaking research advancing a far-off cure, etc.) is not enough for work, or life itself, to hold meaning.  Supporting others financially does usually hold meaning, but the “others” are people you know or interact with.  At the novel’s conclusion, Raskolnikov, through realization of his love for another, knows he is ready to re-enter society.  Dostoyevsky aptly concludes that for Raskolnikov, “Life had stepped into the place of theory and something quite different would work itself out in his mind.”  Raskolnikov finally believed in something and belief, not abstract notions of “the greater good”, is the foundation of meaning.

Ultimately, determination of whether work is meaningful or not is personal.  You must be convinced it satisfies two stringent criteria:  

  1. The work must engage you personally (West Texas highway test)
  2. You must believe in the power of your work to positively impact others

 

LINKS:  If you want to read more about meaningful work.

  1. NY Times Opinion- Millennial Searchers
  2. http://www.workingself.com/work/what-is-meaningful-work
  3. Lab for the Study of Meaning

 

What It Takes to Leave

“No man can wander without a base.” – Bruce Chatwin

This year I quit my job, changed careers, and moved thousands of miles, seemingly dependent on little more than unfounded idealism and the structural integrity of my Honda Accord.  At first glance, this journey required an adventuresome spirit.  Upon closer examination, this may be less than true.

As a child in San Antonio, there was a creek running behind our house.  We spent hours chasing frogs, birds, and our dog Lucy.  I loved that place.  I remember bringing balloons home from the zoo and setting them free, watching them slowly float into the clear, blue sky for what seemed an eternity.

This was the first time I began to claw at the vast world.  Up to that point, my world consisted of our mountainous driveway, the healthy creek, and our looping cul-de-sac.

A few years later, we moved to Kingwood, where I spent most of my childhood.  I remember miserable weeding sessions amidst the sweltering Gulf Coast heat.  I remember sharing a room with my older brother and listening to Green Day and Bush into the wee hours of the night.  I remember late night walks with the dog, the humidity rising off the pavement as we stared at darkened house after darkened house.  We lamented that our town had nothing.  We had something, but didn’t realize it.  We had a loving, stable home.

Home is where all memories must travel.  It’s the place you journey back to with no worry of airfare or miles on the odometer.  The town may change, you may change, but that place’s magnetic hold on your imagination stands firm.  Indeed, if you hold still long enough, you can see the shadow of that mountainous drive that was really just a steady incline and you can hear the roar of the rushing river that was really just a dried-up creek bed.

“It didn’t matter where I traveled, what I saw, how desperate and lonely I might become out there passing through strange places, strange lands, because I could always return to the safety and sanctuary of home.” Kurt Caswell, In the Sun’s House

Thanks to supportive parents and a stable base, I have traveled freely.  Psychologists refer to this as secure attachment.

The first secure attachment an infant makes is to his or her mother.  Numerous studies have shown that the more secure a child’s attachment to its mother is, the more willing the child is to venture out and take risks.  A famous psychological experiment conducted by Alan Sroufe and Byron Egeland in Minnesota, found that infants “who received the extra dose of early care were, later on, more curious, more self-reliant, calmer, and better able to deal with obstacles.” (Tough,37) In other words, the more secure an environment you grow up in, the more equipped you are to leave it.

Not only does a secure home base make you more likely to venture out, it also gives you a continuing source of relief when times get tough.

At 9 pm on a cold March night, I was awoken by a phone call.  My little brother played “Green, green rocky road” for me, a song he had recently learned on the guitar.  For several months, I had been listening to the same soundtrack and suffering through the disillusionment of winter some 1,000 miles north.  That call, that song saved me.

Growing up, I never imagined feeling this way.  There was my older brother and I trading turns hurling each other against the iron support that held up our basketball hoop.  There was my little brother and I getting into a torrid fist fight.

But something incredible happens when you leave your family.  You realize how much you need and appreciate them, despite any maddening idiosyncrasies you identified along the way.  Within this realization, my brash, naive assumption that I could travel anywhere and build a fortress of self-reliance came crumbling down.  Reliance on family is what gave me the strength to make this journey.

Nowadays, it’s common to hear glorified tales of young adults giving up career and possessions to travel on the cheap.  The costs, in some cases, are low enough for nearly anyone to partake.  Why then does this movement seem overwhelmingly upper middle class?

“Any form of new organization or integration within the mind has to be preceded by some degree of disorganization.  No one can tell, until he has experienced it, whether or not this necessary disruption of former patterns will be succeeded by something better.” – Anthony Storr, Solitude, A Return to Self

This is not to say that all those that lie outside the upper middle class had difficult childhoods or that all upper middle class children had idyllic childhoods.  However, those belonging to lower socioeconomic brackets are more likely to have suffered through childhood adversity.  For these individuals, the answer may lay in childhood and crucial early attachments.  Perhaps those that have been scarred and bruised by turbulent childhoods have to make a larger leap of faith in order to trust a new culture.

The obvious counter argument is that these people have nothing to lose.  They haven’t found prosperity in their current situation, so why not make a change?  As discussed earlier, human instinct does not work this way.

Infants that are able to attach themselves to stuffed animals or other “transitional objects” are said to benefit from secure attachment to their mother.  They are comfortable connecting with other objects due to the confidence they have that their mother will not neglect them.  In the same way, those that lead blissful, peripatetic lives often do so as a result of secure attachments.  They are confident that their support system will be intact and waiting for them upon their triumphant return.

Less fortunate people have little reason to believe that their loved ones and their community will even be recognizable upon their return.

So next time you’re congratulating yourself for being an adventurous, atavistic wanderer just know that this ability likely exists due to the confidence gained from secure attachment to your family.

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With this in mind, instead of touting the perks of traveling and cultural immersion to poverty-stricken youth, perhaps we should first take time to assist them in the building of solid community bases.  Only then will they be free to wander and graze the meadows of varied cultural experience.

¹Tough, Paul. How Children Succeed.  Paul Tough, 2012. Print.

Big Bend Day 3- Just Don’t Collapse

After 24 draining miles, we still had 8 miles and 1,800 meters to climb.  Blue Creek Path, a winding trail through a dry creek bed, would be our path out.

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After two miles and multiple thoughts of collapsing, my little brother spotted massive caves adorning the rock walls above.  His initial request to scale the wall was not effective.  A combination of thirst and lack of oxygen flow to the brain resulted in an emphatic “hell no”.  After some hankering and a slow restoration of our senses, we agreed to fight the underbrush and make our way up the canyon.  While my older brother prudently hung back, Max and I climbed slippery sediment to a large, dark cave.

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Potential Bear Hibernaculum

We were uneasy as we imagined the animals inhabiting the dark shelter.  In a dim-witted last effort, we pressed on.

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Dark cave, why not?

We found a sprawling empty cave.  The enormity and dark shadows of the ancient room mesmerized us.  We basked in the shade and echoes of the immense caves and then headed back towards the trail.  Max taught me how to slide down slippery rock using my left foot as a rudder and we scooted right down the mountain.

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Hey Max

The next five miles nearly brought all of us to our breaking point.  In a moment of weakness and spite towards the unending upward terrain, I shouted something to the effect of, “make it stop!” and kicked a powerless shrub.  Heat, rocks, and elevation will change a man.

Still, the great expanse of this place captured our imaginations.  The scale and distance of Big Bend alters the way you think about limitations.  Land, rocks unending.  Sky floats forever.  Time stands still at the altar of infinite space.

As we reached the downhill portion of our journey, we reflected on an amazing test of our resolve and the unmatched beauty we witnessed.  We even appreciated the ten-mile section of the hike through the barren desert flats.  We will always grasp the effect of pervasive dirt, wind, and sun on life.  We now fathom the great oppression and beauty of miles of nothing.

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Big Bend Day 2- Sand, sand, cactus, cactus

“It has been said, and truly, that everything in the desert either stings, stabs, stinks, or sticks.  You will find the flora here as venomous, hooked, barbed, thorny, prickly, needled, saw-toothed, hairy, stickered, mean, bitter, sharp, wiry, and fierce as the animals.  Something about the desert inclines all living things to harshness and acerbity.” Edward Abbey, The Great American Desert 1977

Fast-moving low clouds filled the canyon.  Any fog from our angst-ridden sleep dissipated as we soaked in the mystical display.

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Low clouds over the valley

Around mid morning we reached the basin and entered ten miles of sand and desert that would erode our willpower step by step, grain by grain.

The sun beat down on us for hours and the weight of our water and food began to take its toll on our shoulders and feet.  Eventually, I focused in on my brother’s paws, watching them trample rock after rock.  I hardly looked up and when I did I was dejected by the slow-moving vista.  Miles of harsh flora stood between us and Homer-Wilson Ranch, our resting place for the night.

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I’ll always be a Texan

The only signs of life were an occasional deer track, some baked horse turds, and a large tarantula.  We felt frivolous for worrying about monsters of the forest when we saw so few critters.

By late afternoon, the drudgery of the desert had us disenchanted, openly questioning the use of this thirty-two mile trek.  In travel, and often life, you must pass the point of initial frustration to gather new experience.  We pushed onward for a few miles until we reached Homer-Wilson Ranch.

A spectacular red and orange sunset glistened off the towering canyon walls.  Behind us we saw the distant peaks of the Chisos Mountains stretching far into Mexican territory.  We headed up a hill and watched daylight slowly pale.  We scanned upward and saw the black silhouette of a man with a Cowboy hat striking a contemplative pose atop the cliff.  A perfect caricature of the American West made the long walk worth it, even if the man turned out to be somebody’s humdrum grandpa and not John Wayne.

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Here’s the payoff

Big Bend Part 2- A Dark, Starry Night

We arrived around 3 pm.  My older brother walked to the Park Ranger office to secure a park permit.

Shortly thereafter, I wandered in and stared at an ominous life-sized mountain lion replica.  I read the facts: 139 sightings this year.  I moved over to the book section where my paranoia feasted on a book entitled “Death in Big Bend.”  I read an unfortunate excerpt of a man who caught a mountain lion stalking his campsite.  The man threw rocks in the cat’s direction and shouted profanities.  Why they felt the need to inform us of the man’s profane language was beyond me.  As if rugged pumas have tender sensibilities easily offended by coarse language.

Long story short, the man survived only to strand himself on a lonely icy peak with no way down the following year.  Yes, Big Bend is perilous.  Thirst, mountain lions, and bears are just a sample of the fates that may befall a man.

We drove a few water jugs and some food to a stash point that we aimed to reach the following night.  The stash point was just a bear box atop a canyon gazing over an ocean of desert terrain.

We hit the trail at four pm, well aware that daylight was fast evaporating.  Our joking references to savage puma attacks did not seem as funny when a glance at the map revealed that we would be searching for a safe plot of land in complete darkness, guided only by headlamps and whatever crude judgment we had acquired over a handful of other wilderness hikes.

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Darkness fast approaching

Around six pm we were enshrouded by black and more stars than I cared to count.  Darkness is a different entity here.  The closest full-sized town is at least one hundred miles and Ft. Stockton barely qualifies as a human inhabitation.

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And….curtains

We lurched forward through a canyon bestriding a dry creek bed.  The moon lit the canyon just enough for us to realize that our surroundings looked nearly identical to the big cat exhibits at the zoo.  Giant rocks, light shrubbery, and taller trees dotted the bowl-like enclosure we stubbornly trekked.

Another check of the map revealed that we would need to settle for the first flat spot we found or risk several miles through a shoddily marked desert trail starting at the basin below.  We flailed around the brush until we found an even piece of ground.  We pitched our tent and tied our food to trees some 400 meters away so as to avoid collateral damage from opportunistic creatures.

I hardly slept.  Each rustle, each broken twig, awakened me.  All throughout, my little brother slumbered away.  After what seemed like days, morning light arrived.  We survived and, just as importantly, our food and water stood intact.

Big Bend- The Drive

Despite an ambitious plan to leave at five am, we stumbled out of my Aunt’s house in Boerne around eight am.  The drive to Big Bend is a seven hour drive west into the desolate confines of the Chihuahua Desert.  The park runs across the U.S.-Mexican border for over one hundred miles.  Soaring peaks abruptly jut from a lonesome bed of dirt, cactus, and scrubby grass.

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Stunning

Driving through this vast expanse of nothingness made the world seem so big.  One stoplight towns, abandoned taquerias, and the rubble of once elegant Spanish style brick homes reminded me that some, just hundreds of miles away, endure in a very different reality.

Little things on a road trip stand out.  I pressed scan on the radio dial and the numbers kept moving until they stopped on the only station in range, an abhorrent frequency wave of battered country troubadours who nearly drove us all to insanity.  We settled for my little brother’s iPhone spitting out Bob Dylan tracks in soft whispers because my Mom’s 200,000 mile warrior of a Sequoia did not have the right inputs.

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Road trip!

I saw nothing but open road, desert, and a couple of sleeping brothers.  This was the solitude I needed after surviving the cacophony of a middle school science room for months.  We all tried on my Mom’s sunglasses and we looked equally asinine.  A road trip with just the brothers is as close to childhood as I can get.

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Look at those clouds

Montreal Day 1- Today I Was Violated

11-9-13 Montreal, Quebec

I woke up at 5:45 and packed rather lightly, cramming my goods into a small, olive green Jansport.

I made an unsuccessful foray into a National Park, only to realize that it was just the site of a few Revolutionary War battles.  Battlegrounds bore me.  Places set aside in order to make sure that nothing significant occurs there again.  If the event was truly significant, should we really be worried about modern developments overshadowing it?

Did I just make an ignorant blanket argument against all forms of historical preservation?  Yes, yes I did and I am not ashamed to admit that it stems from fatigue and malnourishment.  An intermittent night of sleep, Dunkin Donuts, coffee, gummy bears, a banana, and another cup of coffee are all that bolsters my shallow argument.

Let’s talk about the US-Canadian border for a bit.  Being a Texan, you would think I had seen the full spectrum of power-drunk assholes but the Canadian border was remarkable.

Maybe it was the unkempt beard, the Texas license plates, and my short-term employment in Connecticut, but I was interrogated and searched like some sort of devious miscreant.

The short, squatty French bureaucrats questioned me as if I was trying to enter with WMDs.  “Turn your ignition off.  Step out of the car.  Pop the trunk and unlock all doors.”  All doors, as if I had some magical fifth door on my Accord and if they asked sternly enough I would open it for them, uncovering a wealth of contraband and clandestine documents.

“What is your occupation?”  “Where do you teach?”  Did you leave today?  What time did you leave?  Do you have hotel reservations?”  With each additional question, I became convinced of my duplicity.  All of this coming from a country where the mayor of the largest city readily admits to smoking crack cocaine!

“What are you going to do here?  Can I see your reservations?”  I showed him a confirmation email on my grotesquely cracked i-phone screen.  He took the liberty of scrolling through my phone as if I had some “detonate Canada” quick app.

It is funny and pathetic that I became so worked up over this triviality.  My friend and former teammate Darsh Singh, a Sikh, routinely received this treatment just traveling domestically.  All because he looked different.  Can you imagine going through this every time you traveled?

It was offensive to have someone search your car and belongings, thinking they would find something.  That’s the difference between a check and a search.  So, in short, I am a spoiled white male who infrequently feels violated but today I was unexpectedly violated by a couple of Canadians.

Sunset in Maine

Writers Note:  This is the third part of a multi-part series detailing a 3 day trip to Mt. Washington, Acadia National Park, and Portland, Maine. Here’s Part 1 and Part 2 in case you missed it.

A sunset is more than a picture.  It’s the closing remark of a day rich with thoughts and experiences.  Not yet fully aware of this, I snapped a few pictures of the sunset converging on the lake near my campsite.  I felt far way from home in Texas.  Far away from my closest friends and family.  Yet, this sunset inspired a feeling of exhaustion and accomplishment that made it all worth it.

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In conclusion….

I quickly sent a few picture messages of what I perceived to be awe-inspiring.  Mixed reviews.  Why?  Because you can’t transport a feeling and you sure as hell can’t share a moment with someone through a picture message.  Traveling alone is liberating but it is truly impossible to fully share the experience with others through pictures, phone calls, even writing.  Sometimes you just have to be there.

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You can’t transport a feeling

From Swingersville to the Gulfton Ghetto, A Brief History

An introduction to Gulfton

Nestled between the Galleria, Bellaire and Sharpstown, lies the immigrant community of Gulfton.  Gulfton is a living, breathing experiment of one of Houston’s true eccentricities–its lack of zoning laws.  How else could a place known as “Swingersville” in the 1970s transform into the “Gulfton Ghetto” in a matter of a decade?

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Taco trucks on every corner

Let the Good Times Roll- The Swinging 70s

At the height of the Houston oil boom, Gulfton was a mecca for opportunistic energy industry workers.  Immigrants from foreign countries and transplants from the Rust Belt of the United States came in pursuit of high-paying energy jobs.  To accommodate the onslaught of young professionals, giddy real estate developers hastily constructed sprawling “luxury” apartment complexes with haughty names like Napoloeon Square, Villa Royale, and Chateaux Carmel.  These mega-complexes had all the amenities of a fraternity boy’s dream.  Pools, lots of pools (one complex famously had 17 private swimming pools, 17 laundry rooms, and 17 hot tubs1)  A few complexes even had on-site disco clubs.  Astoundingly corny advertisements aired all over town with the promise of everything outside of dancing mermaids.  Seriously, check out this old tv plug from the infamous real estate mogul Michael Pollack (not to spoil it but he spends time “pressing” on a Nautilus machine and a bikini clad bombshell emerges with the promise of a free VCR).    With all the hubbub, “Swingersville” had no time or use for constructing proper infrastructure such as sidewalks, parks, and libraries.

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The infamous Michael Pollack

 Reality Sets In

The mundane forces of supply and demand would slowly have their way on the Houston economy.  The oil industry cratered in the 1980s and the dreamy singles with the Kennedy cuts went back to their homes along the Rust Belt.  Blocks and blocks of apartment complexes rapidly hollowed out.  Landlords collectively crapped their pants and resorted to dramatic slashes in rental rates and the elimination of those silly background checks.  A new migration of lower-income immigrants from primarily Central America moved their large families in droves to now affordably priced apartments.  The population in Gulfton nearly doubled between 1980 and 2000 without construction of a single additional apartment complex.1  As a result, Gulfton currently has a population density nearly 8 times the average of Harris Country and 3 times the average of Houston’s inner loop.2

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The community’s park isn’t exactly pristine

Current Social Issues

This period of rapid economic growth followed by tremendous decline left a tightly packed cluster of aging apartment complexes with limited public resources.  The social consequences of this “build and bail” development philosophy were dramatic.  An unemployment rate that hovered around the 1999 rate of 12% and the earlier mentioned dearth of public resources (exactly zero YMCAs or public libraries) resulted in high crime and limited social mobility.  As feared gangs like MS-13 and the Southwest Cholos entrenched themselves within the community, Houston residents began to derisively refer to the area as the “Gulfton Ghetto”.  Additional community issues ran the gamut from a lack of public healthcare facilities to school overcrowding.

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A neighborhood gang, the Southwest Cholos

http://redcountyrp.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=271&t=33350

There’s Still Hope

Now here comes the positive part…there’s hope.  Lots of it.   The Baker-Ripley Neighborhood Center was constructed in 2010 and represents the brand of sustainable development this community has sorely needed for decades.  The center boasts a community garden, a gymnasium, a tax center along with a credit union, and an on-site elementary school.  Neighborhood Centers Inc. CEO Angela Blanchard’s guiding principles are refreshing and inspirational:

“One:  The people are not the problem- they are the source of potential solutions.  And two:  Leaders are already there in neighborhoods, to be tapped.” 3

Staying true to this philosophy, the organization conducted a grass-roots interview effort to identify the community’s strengths and aspirations for the future.  The members of the community are correctly treated as majority shareholders in the vision and direction of the center.  Baker-Ripley now provides financial literacy classes, citizenship application services, tax preparation, and have even engaged in a bit of banking through partnerships with local credit unions.  These services mirror Blanchard’s second guiding principle of providing the skills to empower local residents to lead their own communities.

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Baker-Ripley Community Center

In addition to this impressive community development center, the area has undergone a number of educational improvements.  YES Prep and KIPP, two successful charter school programs, have firmly established themselves within the community.  Area children apply and are randomly selected for admission through a lottery process.  If you’ve ever watched the education documentary Waiting for Superman, you are well aware of the heartbreaking scenes of families not hearing their name called.  Whether you agree with the system or not, the tremendous weight families place on admission into these schools speaks volumes to the positive influence they have on students.

 Even Lee High School, the public school serving the area, has become the focus of national reformation efforts.  Efforts spurred by startling demographic trends.  School enrollment peaked in the early 1990s at around 2,500 and has since plummeted to 1,416 as of late 2012.4  Additionally, in the early 1990s only 1 in 4 students were considered low-income compared to approximately 80% in 2012.4  

A cold, hard look at the challenging demographics combined with students’ sub-standard performance on state aptitude exams prompted Houston ISD to implement its Apollo program, a partnership with Harvard University’s Education Innovation Laboratory, in 2010.    Apollo schools implement similar practices and strategies employed at successful public and charter schools across the nation.  The program focuses on re-evaluating struggling school’s principles and teachers (i e out with the old, in with the new), increasing instruction time and effectively using data to facilitate instruction.

This almost entirely immigrant community’s audacity to creatively attack seemingly insurmountable infrastructural, social, and educational challenges is truly inspiring.

1. Rogers, Susan. “Superneighborhood 27: A Brief History of Change.” Places: Vol. 17: No. 2. Posted on the California Digital Library. 2005. 37. Retrieved on June 6, 2013.

2.  Neighborhood Centers, Inc. “Houston’s Untapped Potential.” http://www.neighborhood-centers.org/en-us/content/Gulfton+Marketplace.aspx.  Retrieved on June 6, 2013.

3.  Houston Chronicle “How to build strong neighborhoods” http://www.chron.com/default/article/How-to-build-strong-neighborhoods-3979168.php.  Retrieved on June 6, 2013.

4.  Radcliffe, Jennifer.  “Education Secretary stops at Lee High en-route to All-Star game activities.”  Posted on the Houston Chronicle.  February 15, 2013.  Retrieved on June 6, 2013.

Let’s Explore Houston

” The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste, they have absolutely no taste.  I don’t mean that in a small way. I mean that in a big way, in the sense that they don’t think of original ideas and they don’t bring much culture into their product.”  – Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs took a well-documented spiritual journey to India.  Through these travels, he stumbled upon a philosophy that would dictate Apple’s strategy for decades.  Steve Jobs was determined to bring culture into his products, the best of culture.  In his mind (and apparently the mind of the consumer), technology did not exist in a vacuum.  Instead, Jobs saw his seemingly technical line of work as interconnected with all aspects of humanity.  This holistic vision set his products apart from the rest of the market.

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This story of exploration and, ultimately, product application has inspired me to begin a small journey of my own.  No, I won’t be going to India.  I will be starting the journey in my hometown, Houston, TX.  The idea is to pick a few long-standing communities in the area and devote one to two weeks to becoming familiar with the area through light research and a few “field trips”.  Ultimately, the goal will be to document my experiences enough to provoke thought, meaningful discourse and a greater appreciation for Houston’s greatest resource, its nearly unparalleled diversity.