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Media doesn’t control anyone

In Economy, Education, finances, Media, News Media, Opinion, Politics, psychology, Religion, sociology, Technology, Uncategorized on August 4, 2016 at 10:01 am

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGOIf you do a Google search for, “how the media controls what we think,”you’ll find dozens of articles, videos and feature stories on the subject. Each claims that news programs, TV commercials and even movies are so powerful they can actually control your mind.

To say that I find fault in these kinds of reports would be an understatement, but what exactly are they talking about? Let’s briefly examine these as separate concepts. First, there’s the advertiser. How is it that advertisers create commercials that convince people to buy things they didn’t even want in the first place?

Well there are countless components to creating an effective advertisement, but the primary way to get customers to buy is through media saturation. This is where you see and hear an ad for a product or service over and over again, on every medium – radio, TV, online, everywhere. Eventually, the message is so engrained into your mind you can’t help but remember it.

If you’re a commercial radio and television consumer, the best example of this kind of advertising is from auto dealers. Car dealerships flood the media with the same, nauseating advertisements, chock full of shouting announcers or gimmicky slogans.

Actually, when advertisers saturate the airwaves like this, the ads don’t event have to be particularly good, just slightly memorable with the name and product repeated over and over again. It’s the frequency that causes you to remember them.

There is no question that the media gets in our heads. Today we are so connected by the Internet and on every manner of device that some people struggle to be away from the constant flow of information even for a brief period of time. All of this has led to the idea of what is sometimes called “media mind control.”

You're probably far more likely to be "brainwashed" by a company like Apple that convinces you how "cool" something is and play on your own vanity. You're still making the choice.

You’re probably far more likely to be “brainwashed” by a company like Apple that convinces you how “cool” something is and plays on your own vanity. You’re still making the choice.

But, in my opinion, as a working part of the media in question, all of this is nonsense… sort of. If you really believe an ad can “make” you buy something or that the news can force you to vote for a particular candidate for office, then that’s pretty sad. Where is your own free will? Why follow the lemmings?

Media can “influence” the decision making process by presenting information tooled towards a certain message or ideology. But the decision to buy into any of that is all on you. The people writing the mind control articles I mentioned earlier have forgotten one, basic idea – we all have a freedom of choice and will.

Even though it might not seem like it sometimes, people choose what they’re going to believe. Advertisers and politicians are hoping you don’t exercise that free thought component of your brain and just follow blindly where their media leads.

Yes, they will play your heartstrings like a cheap fiddle and go at your sense of need and desire until you feel like you can’t live without … whatever they’re selling. But if you are so brain dead that you actually fall for their nonsense, then that’s your fault, not theirs.

We must stop blaming the media for everything and take some personal responsibility for our own bad judgment. News outlets reporting on a shooting did not cause the next mass murder, the guy on the trigger chose his actions. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton didn’t “manipulate” anyone into following them, the choice was made by each individual. Period. Any other conclusion is a bit delusional and conspiracy-minded.

Again, influence is the key word here. You can be influenced easily enough, but full on “manipulation” by the media, or anything else, is based on a level of control that we, as individuals, have to give up in order to be affected by it. If you choose to hand over your independent thought and free will then the problem rests with you, not the media you consume.

This, no doubt, will be an unpopular statement considering the “my bad behavior is someone else’s fault” society we live in today. But it’s true, nonetheless. Without threat of harm or other level of duress from an outside source, the only person who can make you do anything – is you.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. More at deerinheadlines.com

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Fitting in at Hamvention.

In Education, Local News, Opinion, sociology, Technology, Uncategorized on May 24, 2016 at 8:30 am

Deer In Headlines

By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGOWe all have it; that one single thing about ourselves that makes us either feel different or seem weird to other people. Different and weird are relative terms, of course, depending on the perception of those around us.

For example, someone walking around a cattle ranch in Birkenstocks and shorts might seem incredibly out of place. Is it weird to be wearing this kind of apparel or just so because of the location? It really depends on the observer.

Case in point. This past weekend I attended my very first “Hamvention;” the massive amateur radio convention held in Dayton, Ohio each spring. Hamvention, which is a registered trademark by the way, has for many years been the world’s largest amateur radio event dating back to 1952.

It’s organized and sponsored by the Dayton Amateur Radio Association (DARA) and draws thousands each year to attend workshops, learn about new technologies and shop the hundreds of vendors selling everything from antennas to software. I was raised around the CB radio, but never really exposed to the culture surrounding “ham” users. Incidentally, the term “ham” is a derivative of the colloquial name for an amateur radio operator.

Unlike citizen band (CB) radio, amateur radio requires an FCC license and operates on a different set of frequencies and power guidelines. Each operator is assigned an alphanumeric call sign that become a kind of personal nickname in the ham circle.

13244704_10153908418374342_9000172653944694244_nI admit some trepidation about attending, even though the adventure was my idea. My hesitation was mostly due to the shadowy reputation ham operators have for being made up mostly of the off-your-rocker survivalist, who walks around with a bag full of canned beans, a shotgun, and a ham radio and 15 foot antenna sticking out of his backpack. With no first-hand experience, it all seemed a bit bizarre.

Now, before I go much further, I need to point out here that I am no stranger to the bizarre. I’ve spent a good portion of my free time at science fiction conventions. You know, full on “Star Trek” events complete with green people and otherwise normal folks walking around speaking Klingon to each other.

Instead of me thinking the convention goers were odd, I’m the one who actually felt weird and strangely out of place. What I experienced, standing there amidst thousands of people from very different walks of life, was a fascinating collection of people, all of whom had one thing in common – their interest in amateur radio.

13263851_10153908418309342_1241895779973128889_n

Geiger counters and radiation detection of all kinds … at Hamvention 2016 – Photo GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd.

Yes there were some, what I would normally describe as, oddballs, as well as stereotypical survivalist types. In fact, one vendor sold nothing but Geiger counters. I couldn’t have imagined where a table full of Geiger counters would look at home, carefully packed together like someone had spray painted yellow all the pieces of a life-sized Tetris game.

Still, I’m the one who didn’t look like he belonged there. But it was fascinating how people were sharing their knowledge and experiencing the trade and technology of ham radio as if it was a big group of friends who’d never met and only got together on this one occasion.

People tend to congregate with those of common interest. Conventions like this are representative of virtually all aspect of our sociological makeup as human beings. From churchgoers and athletes to writers and amateur radio enthusiasts, an interest or devotion to a culture or activity brings people together in a consistently predictable way that nothing else can.

We should all have that one thing that makes us feel odd or weird, so long as we remember we’re not alone. When we come together with others of similar interests, great things can happen. We learn, grow, and build friendships that might otherwise never have come about.

In the end, I was indoctrinated into this eclectic family. On his birthday, Jim bought himself a couple of hand-held radios but got one for me as well. I guess it’s time for me to go take the test and get my license. I’m just relieved you’re no longer required to learn Morse code. Oh, Happy Birthday, Jim and thanks.

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headline is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. More at gerydeer.com

Living in the family museum

In Health, Opinion, psychology, Senior Lifestyle, Uncategorized on February 7, 2016 at 7:57 pm

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGOAlthough there is a lot of talk about millennials returning home to live with parents, the majority of Americans still move away from their family home. As a teenager, most people long for independence to explore different worlds, expand careers and so on while at the same time freeing themselves from the obligations and responsibility associated with living close to parents and immediate family.

But that wasn’t me. Yes, I had the same desire to see and experience the world, but I seemed to need a grounding to make it work properly for me. I did move away from my hometown for brief periods during college, a few years for work and the like. But for the majority of my life, I’ve remained within just a few miles of my family farm, where my father still lives.

12674271_10153643748619342_101686889_nFor the last two decades, my family music group has called our family farm “home” and that’s where we practice and produce our shows. But it wasn’t until I began helping to care for my mother in 2009 that I ended up having to spend far more time in the home where I grew up than one might think is usual – or psychologically healthy.

My mother passed in 2011 but, a few years later, I had to repeat that effort as my dad’s health made it necessary for us to assist him as well. Fortunately, not to the degree Mom needed help, but once again the situation required me to be at his house several days each week.

My family home is pretty much as it always was with minor changes here and there. But to me it seems simultaneously totally familiar and completely foreign. My job makes it easy for me to work remotely, but there’s a constantly present, underlying distraction.

I’m not entirely sure it’s psychologically healthy to be in this situation sometimes. I’m surrounded by the past every day, as if my dad’s home is a museum with dusty, disorganized exhibits displayed out of context and unvisited.

Growing up, our family home was always a bit of a sanctuary for me, a place the difficulties of the world didn’t penetrate. Today, it can sometimes seem more like a workplace. There’s something disquieting occasionally about walking the halls in what used to be a nurturing home but that now serves another purpose.

Of my siblings and me I am the only one to have grown up in the house. Still, it can still feel very strange to be there now. Today, Dad occupies only certain rooms, but once upon a time the whole house rang with laughter and music, as the smell of homemade food wafted throughout. Now I walk through the dark, silence wondering where the years went.

Maybe it’s having come so close to losing my brother to a serious illness last summer that has triggered some of these deeply buried thoughts. But, whatever the reason, they’ve come blasting to the surface like a volcanic eruption.

Mostly I’m troubled by the fact that my father is so very alone in the world now, having outlived everyone close to him save his children. Within just a few years of each other he lost the aunt who raised him, his brother-in-law who was like a little brother to him, and, most tragically, my mother.

There’s no one left of his generation except a sister, who lives a few hours away, a half-brother whom he doesn’t know very well, and a couple of school friends he speaks to on the phone. These are problems he has that I can’t fix.

Someday, because of my birth position in the family, I’ll likely be the only one left of my mother, father and siblings. I can’t replace what Dad’s lost, so I spend my time with him trying to give him a good quality of life in the present. But there are days when we both sit melancholy and remember the past in the quiet emptiness and solitude of our family home.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. More at gerydeer.com

Combating fear and terrorism at the holidays

In Crime, history, Local News, Media, National News, News Media, Opinion, Politics, psychology, sociology, Technology, Travel, Uncategorized, World News on November 19, 2015 at 11:05 am

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGOAs the holiday season begins, bad guys around the world are watching and willing to do anything to disrupt safety and security. In the shadow of the Paris attacks in which 129 people died and more than 350 injured, it’s hard not to worry that another strike is just around the corner.

The level of anger and hatred leveled at peace-loving people is almost incomprehensible. But what can we do, as individual Americans, to remain safe and keep the terrorists from spreading fear?

For the most part, remaining diligent about safety should be a common sense concept. But, surprisingly, many Americans are complacent about their place on the global stage. But it’s only a matter of time before ISIS and similar groups manage to hit an American target on a massive scale, just as al Qaeda did in 2001. In other words, we’ve been lucky.

As the White House plans for the reception of thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing terrorism themselves, many conservatives are debating the idea that the inrush of refugees may include planted ISIS terrorists. Although this is certainly a legitimate concern, my guess is, however, they already have people on the ground here in the States, recruiting American young people on our own soil.

It can still happen here ... again.

It can still happen here … again.

Young, mush-brained Americans are being recruited into these terrorist cells in staggering numbers. One report by CNN.com states, “ISIS takes a somewhat secular approach, portraying how much better life purportedly is in the caliphate as compared to the corrupt West.”

The article also offers a reminder that it’s not just American youth who are attracted to the ISIS recruitment process. It also appeals to a wide demographic of people from all ages and socioeconomic ranges.

Additionally, gun control in the U.S. may help reduce domestic terror violence, but taking guns from the hands of law-abiding citizens might actually make ISIS’ job easier by making them bolder. My guess is that one of the few things keeping the bad guys at bay is a “Texas” mentality – the belief that we’re all gun-crazy and packing heats everywhere we go.

While that wouldn’t scare the leaders or group on the whole, those individuals they recruit to actually act would think twice if there was a possibility of not completing their “holy” mission – the deaths of hundreds of free Americans. If the assailant were to be gunned down by a regular citizen before he can detonate his bomb or unload his weapon on innocents, he’d be a failure and dishonor himself.

Americans can’t afford to depend entirely on the federal government to protect them from these threats and should remember the advice of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). On the official DHS website, the agency states, “Citizens should report suspicious activity to their local law enforcement authorities.”

DHS officials urge citizens to be “vigilant for indicators of potential terrorist activity” and watch the National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) Alerts for information about specific threats. While being vigilant, however, it’s important to be clear on who exactly constitutes “the enemy.”

Clearly, Americans are behind our French allies, in solidarity against a common enemy with no borders, no face, no diplomatic recognition, no motive (except murder) – the enemy could be anyone. But we must keep in mind that “alert” doesn’t mean “paranoid.”

The words “Islam” and “Muslim” are being thrown around in the reports about the most recent terror attacks. We must remember that Muslims are not the enemy – ISIS is the threat. Muslims, like most Christians, are peaceful, law-abiding citizens who are deeply harmed by what these radicals are doing.

History is full of religious extremism, from virtually every major sect on the planet. We’ll never be completely rid of it, but we can do our best to keep it from damaging our society and protect citizens of the free world as effectively as possible.

As a people and a country, America survived 9/11 and we’ll survive whatever ISIS throws at us. But anything we can do to prevent this most recent threat from any level of success is worth the effort and diligence.

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications. More at gerydeer.com.

 

 

 

Struggling to care for seniors at home

In Children and Family, Health, National News, Opinion, Senior Lifestyle, Uncategorized on September 14, 2015 at 9:33 am

Deer In Headlines

By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGOA recent article in The Atlantic discussed the question of the difficulty of finding adequate care for America’s senior citizens as more of them are choosing to remain in their own homes as they age. In the article, published April 27, 2015 by Alana Samuels, the author relates the story of her grandmother’s plight to find adequate, affordable home care near the college town of Amherst, Massachusetts.

A shortage of qualified Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) coupled with outrageous hourly fees made the task of caring for her Parkinson’s ridden spouse that much more difficult. The author’s grandmother eventually gave up on agencies and a friend helped out until her husband’s death a couple of years later. It’s a story becoming all too common today.

By the year 2030, more than one quarter of all Americans will be over the age of 65. More than ever, those people are choosing to remain in their homes as long as possible, relying on home health care and the assistance of family for everything from grocery shopping to bathing.

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 9.31.25 AMOver the last few years, a host of “non-medical” in-home care agencies have sprung up all around the country, spread by franchise. Most offer no skilled health care services and little more than baby-sitting. They can help with things like shopping, cleaning and some companionship for homebound seniors.

But, these home care workers are not permitted to help in medical matters, not even to distribute medications, as would a CNA or other state-registered, skilled health care worker. One published estimate by Genworth puts the cost of non-medical home at a range of $10 to $36 per hour. The extreme discrepancy is attributed to variations in region and the type of care required.

One question families should be asking is exactly what could an unskilled worker possibly do that’s worth $36 per hour? Still, most have few options available; it’s either a nursing facility or home care.

Plus, the home itself can be more hazardous than the disabilities suffered by the senior. It may be necessary to modify the home to accommodate “aging in place,” with zero-clearance shower stalls, raised toilets, grab bars, and much more. This also carries added expense and attention to which families might be unaware.

The fact is that it’s much better, psychologically, and far cheaper for seniors to remain in their own home. But most people caring for an elderly family member cannot be with them all hours – people have to work and care for their own homes and families – and still need outside support.

The first place to start is with the local agencies on aging. Most counties or regions have a non-profit organization such as this to help put families and seniors in touch with needed services such as meals on wheels, in-home healthcare, and more.

Be aware, however, that most services referred by these agencies are self-pay and are not covered by Medicare or insurance. The advantage, however, is that they can generally offer a discounted rate on certain services based on the income of the senior. Contact the local agency for details.

For support on in-home modifications, consult the local builders association for referrals to certified aging in place specialists. Most can provide design and construction information for everything from a simple grab bar installation to more complex additions such as elevators.

Additionally, financial and insurance companies out there might be missing the boat on a potentially golden profit center – “in-home care insurance.” Separate from long-term care or other types of health insurance, this could be a specific product that addresses the far less-expensive options of keeping a senior at home rather than in a skilled care facility. Give it a slightly lower premium and the ability to purchase later in life, and it would likely be less difficult to sell.

Before hiring anyone, caregivers should do their homework. Get at least three references from previous clients and do a thorough Google search on the agency you choose.

Whatever the overall solutions to the home health care problem, it’s clear something has to be done in a hurry. With incidents of elder abuse on the rise in nursing facilities, it’s imperative that families have alternate care options.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications. More at gerydeer.com.

Can there be gratitude without God?

In Opinion, Politics, psychology, Religion, sociology, Uncategorized on September 7, 2015 at 11:59 am

Deer In Headlines

By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGOFor those who live without a God to thank, some kinds of gratitude might seem an awkward concept. So, whom do atheists thank for the world around them? Where is gratitude concentrated when benevolent events occur from what non-believers would accredit to random chance? Well, here are two ways people without a god express their thanks.

First, intransitive gratitude, as it’s become known, is a broad, indirect, sense of thankfulness. The beneficiary is thankful in general for life, health, flowers, bugs, whatever, but the gratitude is directed toward nothing specific.

From a practical standpoint, the concept of intransitive gratitude falls apart upon deeper analysis because it leaves people to a perception that random chance has some kind of purpose behind it, which might as well be called “supernatural” in nature. Suddenly, it becomes something akin to religion.

Perhaps then, a more tangible and less unbalanced concept of gratitude is preferable for those who would rather have it more focused. Most “non believers” direct their gratitude at those individuals they consider responsible for the positive events.

Say, for example, atheist Bob has a great meal at a friend’s house one evening. Obviously, he wouldn’t pray over it, but instead thanks his friend who worked for the money that paid for the food that she then cooked. From Bob’s point of view, there was no deity or other supernatural involvement.

yarpBob could trace that gratitude all the way back to the friend’s parents, who decided to have a child, and on and on. It’s more of a cause and effect concept but with some level of human direction.

For someone like Bob, directing the gratitude at some invisible, supernatural force seems illogical and improper. Instead, he prefers to honor the people directly responsible for the events or their subsequent results. It might not be accurate, however, to call this type of gratitude a “belief” because it has tangible beneficiaries – Bob’s friend, her employer, her parents, and so on.

The devout likely see this practice as sacrilegious, to say the least. For them the only “one” responsible for all the good in the world is the god they worship. He or She or It is responsible for everything, and nothing is random.

But is someone like Bob wrong or is his gratitude misplaced? Is he evil? Is he a heathen? Therein hangs the question, and one that can only be answered by the individual affected. Any prejudice or personal judgment, however, should be left out of the equation.

Indeed, it would be hard to argue against the idea, in the case of Bob’s meal, that the people who grow, package, ship, prepare and serve food, share a fair portion of the responsibility in his enjoyment of it, godly intervention not withstanding. So being grateful to those people would be highly appropriate.

On the other hand, to the logical eye, and without context, someone clench-eyed, bowing over the dinner plate with clasped hands and appearing to be talking to his or herself would seem quite silly. As with so many concepts, it’s all a matter of personal perception.

Gratitude must be measured and delivered by the grateful in his or her own way. If someone is religious, they’ll likely pray in thanks. For the less rigidly devout, it may be something more informal. Atheists or agnostics may thank the people directly, as Bob did in the example.

Religious or not, it’s important to keep in mind that nothing happens without some human intervention, somewhere down the line, even if not readily apparent. Every decision made by each person has some kind of an effect on the lives of countless others. So directly thanking people for their participation in some good fortune is always a kindness.

Regardless of where gratitude is directed – God, the grocer, a famer, an employer – being generally appreciative of the goodness in life will never be misplaced, even if it’s just within one’s own thoughts.

Remember that good things happen, not to those who wait, but who act. Recognizing good fortune and taking action is just as important as thanks given to those believed responsible.

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications. More at gerydeer.com

Hackers: The gangsters of the digital age.

In Business, Crime, Economy, News Media, Opinion, Uncategorized on August 24, 2015 at 10:49 am

Deer In Headlines

By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGORecently, after watching a news story on the subject, my father, who recently turned 82 years old, asked me about what “hacking” was and why someone would do it. I struggled for a minute to explain it in terms he would understand while still giving him a rudimentary understanding of the technology.

It reminded me of a similar conversation I had with my great aunt in 1999, shortly before the Y2K turnover. At 91, she lived a fairly isolated existence in the Ohio Appalachian foothills and certainly not computer literate. But she was deeply concerned about the Y2K computer bug causing her to lose electricity, water and her savings.

I reassured her that there was nothing to be concerned about, and did my best to explain what was really going on, beyond the media hype, the volume of which was considerable when you take into account she had but one TV channel. However, satisfied with my explanation, she seemed never to give it another thought and the millennium switch came and went without incident.

The fact that she was worried at all was troubling and shows just how influential the media can be in exacerbating a problem. Today, we’re faced with a similar situation, demonstrated by my dad’s concern over hacking. So, just exactly who and what should you be worried about and why?

Hacking costs companies more than $445 billion each year.

Hacking costs companies more than $445 billion each year.

For those who don’t know, “hacking” refers to the act of using specialized programming that identifies and exploits weakness in the security of a computer system in an effort to either steal or expose confidential information, or just to prove it can be done. It is a crime and often the hackers are in another country.

These digital gangsters break in for a variety of reasons, mostly to steal and sell sensitive information, political records or financial information. Without getting into more deep technical and political motives, keep in mind that hackers aren’t interested in getting into your private computer.

Not to rain on anyone’s self-confidence, but you’re just not that important – unless you’re some celebrity or politician – for hackers to waste the effort. There has to be some gain in the end, although it might simply be the act itself, the accomplishment of breaking in.

Some hacked information is sold to other criminals who will use it for their own nefarious purposes. When performed against something like the marital cheating website, Ashley Madison, the hope is that there will be some big name to expose and embarrass. That leaves the potential for some celebrity or politician to pay handsomely to keep his or her name off of the publicized list, essentially using the information for extortion.

Most of the time, the average computer user is not directly at risk, but that said, you could still be vulnerable if a store or bank you frequent happens to be a target. The best advice is to read all correspondence from retailers and financial institutions.

If their systems are compromised, they will contact customers first – very quietly – before going public with the information, so as to limit panic among their patrons. You will be instructed what to do in the event of a hack and how to best communicate with the vendor for further information.

Another way to protect your own information with online accounts, and I can’t stress this enough, is to use strong, complex passwords. Often the data stored for online accounts does not include a visible password, even the website owners can’t help you if you lose it. So the more complex it is, and the more often you change it, the less likely a hacker will be able to gain access to your information even if they get in.

Hacking, as a criminal activity, has created a billion-dollar industry around the world, on both sides of cyber security. More than ever, specialists are being trained to combat cyber attacks and electronic infiltration on every level.

As cyber security becomes more sophisticated, so will the criminals who seek to break it. They are the nameless, faceless equivalents of the modern day Jesse James and John Dillinger. Each generation has its nemeses and cyber criminals are the current lot, intent on wreaking havoc with our digital world.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications. More at gerydeer.com.

How secure is your child’s information at school?

In Children and Family, Education, Opinion, Technology, Uncategorized on August 10, 2015 at 12:48 pm

Deer In Headlines

By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGOA high quality digital learning experience for students is something every school strives to accomplish. But as a parent, have you ever wondered just how your child’s educational and personal records are protected? It is possible that schools are unintentionally putting student privacy at risk.

Some student information, such as that disclosed when using digital learning material, may be managed, not internally at the district level, but by what are known as educational technology, or “edtech,” companies. That information can also end up in the hands of marketing companies and other third-party data collectors.

Joni Lupovitz is the vice president of policy at Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization that rates the safety of media and technology for students and families. In a recent article on DistrictAdministration.com, Lupovitz says, “Everything is going digital, whether it’s taking attendance, seeing what kids buy for lunch, collecting and storing records, or integrating laptops and tablets into the classroom lessons.”

To ensure every child’s privacy, parents should ask questions such as the following. Does your school outsource edtech services and systems? If so, what are the company’s privacy policies and how do they compare to those of the school district? You have every right to know exactly where your child’s data is being used, who has it and how they manage that information.

schoolroomHow is the wireless computer network in the school system secured? Does the school system provide in-house information technology support or is it outsourced? Who has access to security information? What guarantees are in place regarding the security of any cloud system being used?

Unlike medical record management, legislation governing the management of students’ electronic personal information continues to lag. Even the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), designed to help restrict access to student records, does not adequately address these issues since it only speaks to the improper disclosure of personal information.

If a school utilizes an outside edtech vendor for record keeping or other digital data management, they may be unaware of holes in the company’s privacy agreement allowing them that provider to sell collected information under certain circumstances. School administrators should then be held responsible to maintain control of that information and have a complete understanding of how the data might be used by the vendor.

Beyond the administrative holes in security and privacy, education of the student (and parents) on safe and proper use of technology is sorely lacking. Most people still have no idea of the security risks when using public wireless access.

Parents should also ask about the security of any websites being hosted by the administration where school information is readily available. Is private data, such as performance or attendance records, easily accessed? Is the data encrypted and to what extent? Be sure to read any privacy paperwork provided and make sure it’s well understood. If not, ask!

Parents must take the time to visit any and all websites managed by the school and familiarize themselves with the layout and information offered there. Sadly, better security usually means more expense, so there is every possibility that substance (good security) gave way to style (a prettier website).

If your child has a smart phone, laptop or other portable technology and utilizes the school’s Wi-Fi system, you may want to reconsider. Public Wi-Fi, even in a school, is insecure and should never be used to access personal or private information like banking, private email, or any other sensitive data.

Whenever a user logs into a website or online account through a public wireless system, there is a risk of breech. Without getting into the techno-babble of how it works, suffice to say that hackers “tag” certain Wi-Fi access points to collect data as people log in. This can happen at schools just as easily as anywhere else.

The take-away from all of this is that parents should be diligent in their understanding of how technology is used at school, whether it’s data management by the administration or Internet access by their child. Schools have an obligation to transparency, especially with regard to student records.

Further Resources:

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/kids-action/issues/privacy-and-safety

http://www.districtadministration.com/article/asking-edtech-vendors-tough-questions

http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/students.html

http://www.education.com/reference/article/what-educational-technology/

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications. More at gerydeer.com

 

 

Preventing student debt will take work

In Economy, finances, history, National News, Opinion, Uncategorized on August 5, 2015 at 11:10 am

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGOIn recent months, democrats seem more upset than ever about the level of student debt, with President Obama leading the charge to loan forgiveness. But as tuition continues to rise for state students in a still struggling economy, why has nothing been done to limit massive salaries paid to state college administrators, many near the million-dollar mark, while students struggle to pay skyrocketing fees?

Constantly up in arms over the greed of wealthy conservatives, liberals seem to maintain a blissful ignorance toward millionaires who help to push their own political agenda, such as college administrators. But limiting the salaries of these academic fat cats could help to ease the financial burden on the schools and the students.

According to the salary database of the Ohio State University, for example, former President E. Gordon Gee “earned” a whopping, $859,566 in 2013. And that’s only the cash salary; this figure doesn’t include any sort of benefits or bonuses. You could easily surmise that his nearest underlings earn somewhere close to that, at least in the middle six figures.

What could a state employed “figurehead” possibly do to be worth that kind of money? After all, it’s OSU, not Harvard. That’s simply ridiculous, no matter how many letters are stacked up after his name.

IMG_3970Universities aren’t alone in this outrageous salary model, however. According to a December 2015 report by the Dayton Business Journal, Sinclair Community College President Steven Johnson now earns a base salary – without benefits – of $371,454.

Why are the taxpayers shelling out nearly a half-million dollars for a community college president? Keep in mind that these people are not teachers and most high-level administrators continue to receive raises and bonuses even when the schools are making budget cuts everywhere else.

Still, while it could help lower tuition slightly, even if the salaries are cut back in top-heavy administrations, it wouldn’t do much to help people actually pay for school. College students need to take on some of the responsibility to limit their own debt, in ways that no one wants to talk about because they’re politically incorrect.

First, here’s a thought just way out of left field – get a job. Most of the people I went to college with were not from wealthy families and many of the loans we’re talking about today didn’t exist three decades ago. So, they did what I did, applied for every grant and scholarship available and worked as many as three, part-time jobs to help cover the costs. Some did take out small loans, a semester or two at a time, and paid them back as they went.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when “work” became such a bad word? A student who works while in school gains a better sense of responsibility, learns how to handle money more efficiently and is more self-sufficient. That also makes them less likely to return home after they graduate because they aren’t afraid to take jobs to make ends meet while looking for their career spot.

Another major sticking point of the American university mentality is that you have to finish your degree in no more than four years. Those who don’t hit the mark may end up at the bottom of the placement pile, labeled as disengaged or unmotivated, and that’s just ridiculous.

Common sense suggests that if it takes longer and the student works during their higher education years, future employers will benefit from applicants with more real-world experience and the worker is more likely to excel faster and make more money.

The simple fact remains that the American economy is still wounded, and all of the handouts in the world won’t change that. Students today would be far better off to work while going to school. If that means they don’t get done in four years, so be it. In adult life, you don’t always have it easy and you need to take responsibility for yourself.

Loan forgiveness is treating the symptom, not the disease. With the foregone conclusion that they’ll never have to pay back a student loan, there is simply no incentive for people to try to stay out of that debt in the first place.

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications. More at gerydeer.com

Fragile life, one to a customer.

In Health, Local News, Opinion, Science, Senior Lifestyle, Technology on July 18, 2015 at 12:59 pm

Deer In Headlines

By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGORecently, I was reminded again of just how fragile life really is for us. The human body is an amazing bit of engineering. Each of us is comprised of a mass of carefully balanced electromechanical systems that may seem at times indestructible but at others so delicate that the slightest damage could be catastrophic.

The adult body is supported by 206 bones, around 6 quarts of blood, a pair of lungs, two kidneys, about 20 feet of intestines, one heart and stomach, and 31 pairs of nerves. But for all of this, and more, the most important component is the brain, the body’s control center.

The human brain is incredibly resilient, resisting failure through high fevers, concussions, and countless other kinds of injuries. But, like an electronic circuit board, the brain’s delicate electrical system can “short out,” causing failure in other areas of the body, sometimes without warning.

Last week my brother, Gary Jr., was complaining of numbness in his right arm. He was having trouble gripping things or using simple tools. He worked through it, but over the next several days the symptoms advanced to become Parkinson’s – like tremors, causing his arm and hand to shake and flail.

IMG_3857

Gary Deer Jr. with brother Gery (left) and father Gary Sr. just prior to surgery.

At the emergency room, doctors first thought he’d had some kind of stroke and he was admitted for further tests which revealed some type of mass on the lower left part of his brain. At this point, they’re still not certain whether the spot is a tumor or some kind of infection, but any type of stroke has been ruled out.

During the first day at the hospital, he experienced several seizures similar to those caused by Epilepsy, each more invasive than the last; violent shaking of one side of the body, garbled speech and periods of unconsciousness. Medication settled the seizures but doctors are still waiting to figure out how to treat the lesion on the brain. Hopefully there will be something positive to report later on, but for now we wait.

Until his arm went numb and the tremors started it seemed like there was no warning to all of this, high insight revealed that the clues were everywhere. Most of his early symptoms were easily dismissed as fatigue or previous injury.
He had been more tired than usual in recent weeks, even falling asleep during conversations. He was having trouble with the right arm before as well, but attributed those issues with a car accident he’d been involved in a few months earlier.

So the point here is, if something seems out of the ordinary don’t wait until it turns into something more to get it checked out. At this point, there is no way to know if earlier detection would have made much difference for my brother, but, assuming a full recovery – and that’s the only outcome I can imagine right now – it might have helped decrease the yet to be known long-term effects.

For a guy in his early 60s, my brother is in relatively good health, having only ever gone to the doctor for severe cases, such as pneumonia or to be checked out after that car accident. Even though he eats like a teenager on a diet of hot dogs, popsicles and soda pop, he is usually energetic and on the move. Still, this thing snuck up and bit him when he wasn’t looking, as many serious illnesses tend to do.

Sometimes it’s hard to accept your own mortality or imagine that something the size of the end of a ball point pen could cripple you or end your life. We are incredibly fragile creatures. Gary Jr. and I joke often that we each should have died several times over from events we’ve experienced in life – a truck crash, lightning electrocution, something – but I never imagined either of us being taken out by something so small.

I survived serious health issues from birth, so I don’t play games with life – extreme sports, drinking, smoking, etc. – and this is one example of why. So if you’re experiencing odd symptoms, or don’t feel like yourself for whatever reason, don’t wait. Go get checked out. People need you more than you might realize.

Update: July 18, 2015 – My brother’s case has changed since this column was first submitted. Surgery on July 15th revealed no tumors or cancer but instead a serious bacterial infection which created a tumor-like abscess in the brain. The infectious mass was removed but the overall infection will have to be treated with intravenous antibiotics for several weeks followed by many months of continued antibiotic therapy. At this time, he is still in the hospital but recovering and is expected to be released soon to home care.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications. More at gerydeer.com.