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The 3 Biggest Lies We Tell Ourselves

Some misconceptions are so big, and so damaging, that we need to repeatedly remind ourselves that they're not true. Such as these.
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Each of us has our own version of the three biggest lies we’ve ever heard. But some lies are so pernicious that it almost seems like our civic duty to call bullshit on them. Here are my three.

Everyone can, and should, own their own home

This one has pretty much imploded over the past few years. But I hear similarly delusional thinking when the President talks about how the JOBS legislation is such a triumph of democracy, and how pretty soon almost everyone will be able to buy and own cheap stocks through new and virtually unregulated crowd-funding vehicles.

But can this new class of “investors” afford to invest like this? Will they have the slightest clue as to what they’re investing in or the risks inherent in the investment?

Have we learned nothing from the fake financial statements and phony real estate appraisals that let the banks lend just about anything to anyone? How closely is anyone going to scrutinize the net worth and financial sophistication of the tens of thousands of people with absolutely no financial background who will now become stock speculators?

Every child needs, and is entitled to, a four-year college education

Not only do some folks in Washington, D.C. seem to think that every child is entitled to a four-year college degree, they also think this is true whether or not the child’s family can afford it, whether the kid wants to go to college, whether the kid would be successful in college, and whether, in general, the kid would be better off getting some practical vocational training.  Since I have an obvious dog in this particular fight, I won’t say any  more on the subject.

In education, one size fits all

This is the misconception that’s really killing our kids’ futures.  It ignores the fact that each of us learns differently, and pretends that a single instructor standing in front of a classroom of kids can teach all of them at the same time.

The solution isn’t necessarily cheap and it’s not universally available yet. But we’ve got a straightforward and readily accessible approach all the same. You can call it differential learning or mass customization or a million other things. But the tools and technologies exist to build a knowledge-delivery system that fits and serves the students, rather than trying to force every student to fit into an antiquated system that suits no one.

Imagine a class of students, each working with a device that is wirelessly networked and connected through the cloud to a dashboard that only the teacher can see. The dashboard shows each student’s progress and level of success in real time. Instead of teaching to the lowest common denominator and having the smartest kids bored, the teacher is able to track and adjust the information provided to each student, as needed and on the fly. Some students will be right on time and on track; some will be looping through remedial exercises; others will be reviewing extracurricular materials or taking individualized pop quizzes or exams. The teacher can share screens with individual students and provide hints, suggestions and other coaching, without interrupting anyone else in the class or wasting anyone else’s time.

If we’re going to save our children’s futures, it’s going to be up to us to tell the truth, make the necessary changes, add the crucial technologies -- and hope it’s not too late. 

IMAGE: ke_netan_to/Flickr
Last updated: Apr 10, 2013

HOWARD TULLMAN | Columnist

Howard Tullman is the CEO of 1871 in Chicago where, at the moment, 260 digital startups are building their businesses every day. He is also the general managing partner of G2T3V, LLC and Chicago High Tech Investors – both early-stage venture funds; a member of Mayor Emanuel’s ChicagoNEXT Innovation Council; and Governor Quinn’s Illinois Innovation Council. He is an adviser to many technology businesses and an adjunct professor at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management. @tullman

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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