A companion blog, The Metacognition Project, has been created to focus specifically on metacognition and related consciousness processes. Newest essay on TMP: Goals and Problems, part two

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

On Property, A Prologue

(Another introduction to these ideas was published recently on the Dissident Voice website

The true dilemma facing all of the various constituencies of humans, the unsafe poor, the safe poor, the just rich, the rich, the very rich, the super rich and all the many other ways that humans have divided themselves into interest groups, is that every one of the necessary changes to the way humanity approaches life on the earth requires a reduction in the use of materials and environmental services.  This is a most terrible dilemma because every present human economic, political and social behavior is based out of both the belief in and practical consequences of using more space, materials and environmental services. 

The different wealth constituencies are not purely random selections of humanity, but can be sufficiently selected from the normal distribution of human traits that these differences must be considered in speculating about their potential behaviors.  In general the poorer groups represent a normal distribution of human qualities while the very and super rich, judged by the degree of difference from the modal wealth of the region or nation, are a select group with a number of qualities in higher proportion than a random selection of people.  

I would speculate that the primary qualities of the extremely wealthy are highly focused motivation for wealth and power, intelligence and psychopathology expressing as narcissism and egoism merging into sociopathic worldviews [1].  A cogent argument can be made that the economic and political systems, adapted through our historical process, have come to select a reasonably reliable sort of non-sane person to manage our affairs.  The biologically based deference that we have for leaders – alpha members of our primate order – has covered over this dangerous reality.  It has even become a ‘common wisdom’ that well-adjusted thoughtful people don’t go into politics because of how much ‘craziness’ is required; and the very wealthy have long been looked at with a suspicion that they are driven by antisocial motives.  But this is not the point of this essay, rather a contributing condition. 

Only the uninformed or the willfully ignorant would argue that humans can keep on increasing in population and consumption of the earth’s productive capacity.  If we take it as fact that using more, faster, than the earth’s systems can replenish and absorb has a limited time frame, then there must be a slowing of such use and an eventual adjustment to a ecologically stable consistent rate of use.  As with a car speeding down the road, it makes more sense to begin the application of the brakes well before an impending stop than to slam them down in a panic, or worse to not slow at all and crash headlong into cross traffic. 

I read and hear about the issues facing the different constituencies of us – the problems recognized, or allowed to be recognized, by political actors and the “media.”  They are real, but are like a patient with heart disease giving primary attention to a sprained wrist; certainly we should attend to crime, immigration, inequity in minority treatment and a host of other issues.  The elephant, however, is that our most common beliefs and comprehensions of reality are wrong for the coming events of our lives and if we are to have any chance at all to mitigate or moderate the crash into the cross traffic, we must begin to change those beliefs and understandings as the first step in slowing down.  All constituencies must begin to adjust to new understandings; those that will not will have to be forced. 

People will not be able to make the necessary changes without new understandings.  There are two most basic belief systems that must, over a relatively short time, be completely or radically changed: Christianity (institutional religions in general) and Capitalism; it is time to begin to put the brakes on both. 

It is simply impossible for people who believe that they have a right to use property that they ‘own’ in any way that they wish to act with ecological responsibility.  It is simply impossible for people who believe that their wealth determines their value to treat other living things with respect.  It is impossible for people who believe that God will take care of them to realize the guiding scientific principles that move reality. 

The kinds of changes that are needed have historically taken many generations – wholesale shifts in underlying belief systems – but there is not the time.  The Desert Religions and Capitalism are the primary forces driving the destructive processes, rapidly accelerating destructive processes, associated with “our way of life.”  There is no way that adjustments of detail (new forms of energy, ‘democratizing’ a few countries or securing the borders) will have any effect on the trajectory of our biospheric deterioration.  Only making major changes in underlying beliefs have a chance. 

Real alternatives to monotheistic religions and Capitalism must be presented boldly and loudly.  Snide rejections and high schoolish slanders will not serve us well.  The terrible difficulties of such choices for most people need to realized, but the pressure to make the choices must be increased dramatically.   To put it as plainly as possible: the Desert Religions and Capitalism, as the religiously based economic design, have to be replaced with a more adaptive design for the survival of the biospheric living space. 

Key elements are the magical thinking of religions and the understanding and use of the idea of property in Capitalism.  The following several essays will look at how religions have influenced the idea of property, the biological and historical basis of property ideas and ecologically sound alternatives to present ways of thinking about property. 

[1] A legitimate question is by what right or credential do I label, even demean, these people.  First, I have been careful to preface this speculation with a statistical basis; I am speaking about comparisons of averages, not categorical definitions.  But, please recognize that the poor, a fully diverse and normally distributed group is routinely described as shiftless, weak-minded, weak-willed and unworthy of respect as living things.  These assumptions are propaganda largely generated by the very and super rich, there is no other reasonable source, as a device to deflect evaluation of their social relations and responsibilities. I suggest that this is clear evidence for their sociopathology, that they would demonize the largest group of humanity (and the ultimate source of wealth) as a means to maintain their excesses.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Education Notes Continued 4

Willy Sutton famously said when asked why he robbed banks, “That’s where the money is!” 

Let’s do a thought experiment (somewhat less elegant than those of Einstein).  How do people get rich in America?  There are basically two ways it seems. One is that some object or service is found and competently manifest that people in general either need or can be convinced to need.  The other is to see were the money is and find a way to become a part of its movement.  

The computer revolution is an example of collecting little bits of money from millions of people as a model for wealth; there are many such examples.   As long as there are small amounts of disposable private wealth in the hands of the population of a country, the creation of new goods and services and the production of them (a complex, commitment requiring activity) will be a road to wealth (and people will do it no matter how much they are taxed so long as rates are clear and not greatly changing). 

The other method is to find ways to manipulate large collections of money and the laws controlling them.  Banks contain lots of money, thus Mr. Sutton’s interest.  Investment houses contain lots of money, governments create large collections of money, government driven high ticket items spawn highly specialized “private” industries like defense where, rather than making a $2 hamburger and selling a billion of them, 2 ships are make that cost a billion each. 

A certain type of acquisitive mind is drawn to this method.  The model is to find a large pile of money.  Look at the way it moves around, at the rules for the inputs and outputs and find a way to get a piece of it when it moves. Thus the Bernie Maddoffs of the world, the John Paulsons and eventually the Willy Suttons.  Included in this group today – though not so much in the past – is the CEO class that takes millions, even billions, from the companies that they head.  

There are three great huge piles of money that these ‘acquisitors’ have had, until recently, only minor luck at breaking into: the National budget in general, Social Security and education expenditures.  Prisons had become a profit center along with defense.  Insurance had worked its way into healthcare and even Medicare and Medicaid could be gamed in the millions.  The savings and loan thefts of the 1980s set the stage for the recent opening up of the treasury to the investment bankers, ultimately leaving only Social Security and education as the largest weakly protected piles of money not drilled and mined.  

NCLP has opened education’s veins for the beginning of a bleeding; testing companies are making millions.  Private charter schools are trying to follow the same model as private prisons: big promises of better outcomes for less money while really delivering greater distance from responsibility and the protection of the National Chamber of Commerce. 

How much money is there in education? 60 to 70 million school children at $10,000 per child per year equals 600 to 700 billion a year plus bond issues and other sources, most of which the “that’s where the money is” boys and girls have not yet figured out how to get a piece of.  But they are no slackers. 

The first step is to demonize the education system, and to weaken it.  It is not like the money will not be spent, but if it is going to be spent differently, then an opportunity is created.  Crack the walls, shake the windows and look for ways in.  Think of Zombie movies; they just keep coming.  Kill off the first ones and still there is an endless supply once they have gotten the scent. 

So as you listen to the arguments about education realize that it is a nearly 1000 billion dollar pile of dollars that has been targeted by the acquisitive class.  A difficult target for sure, but one of the few really big piles of money left that they have not gotten a mine drilled into, at least, one of any size. 

Every bit of damage that they can do or support being done cracks the walls and increases the chances of a way in.  They will not stop unless enough of us see the game that is being played. 

Education is a difficult and demanding business even when everyone is pulling together, but when the ‘kill government’ crowd gets the taste of blood and sees the opportunity to get a piece of a 1000 billion dollars a year of forced expenditures, we might just lose this one given the present tenor of the country. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Education Notes Continued 3

The dilemma that we face in education is multifaceted. There is the history of public education as a commercial tool; the socializing of worker training.  There is need and expectation in a democracy for an educated electorate.  There are the thousands of years of human effort at understanding the vicissitudes of life and the workings of our world; all the things that have been made available to learn about.  There is the need to be part of a community of experience. 

There is the possibility and willingness of the society to train its young.  There are the goals of segments of society: train children this way; no, train them that way; no, train only these and not those.  There are the costs, short term and long term.  There are the attitudes within the society: children are our future; every problem is solved by applying competition and the profit motive; social responsibility takes precedent over individual responsibility and vice versa. 

There are the rules for how education is to be done; a sort of Mulligan stew of administrative conclusions and actions based on all of the above considerations along with lots of others: class sizes, teacher competence, content standards, testing, materials made available, class schedules and a dozen more details that students, teachers and onsite administrators deal with every day. 

But… for me it all turns to bullshit the second that I walk into a classroom.  It is suddenly a primal experience: the grown animal in communion with the juvenile animals of his species.  I cannot help but generically love them, even the snarling one in the corner looking desperately for a way out, even the one trying to size me up for just how they are going to get around me in all ways – the same motive really for both. 

I look over the room.  If you have never had this experience, it is really like the movies, but without the sitting on the desks and ‘want-to-be’ gang leader prancing about.  It is just a collection of young humans, deeply insecure, frightened that they will be embarrassed, uncomfortable in their chairs and many wishing that they could be doing something else.  Frankly, that is how I feel when I go to faculty meetings. 

But so much for generalities, let me try to explain the dilemma of education in the detail of the last group of students that I taught.  I was teaching science and math in a small charter high school.  English was a second language for most of the students. 

Since the families had to make a special effort to get their kids into the school, the parents were generally interested, I would say passionate, about their children’s future success – even if they were vague about what it was that would lead to success, they knew it began with education!  The students were less sure.  Lied to by previous education, lied to by media, lied to by peer relations, the students’ average opinion was that school was a pain in the ass, largely useless, coercive and distracting from their social and other interests. 

These were not upper middle class parents with the assumption, even certainty, of their right to make demands of the school or even of their children.  These were hard-working people in a new land with a new language; brave people filled with hope and the energy derived from the desire to escape a poverty that they knew only too too well.  Many worked 2, even 3, jobs.  A third of the students worked full time.  Over half worked 30 hours or more week. 

Before you develop your own image of these kids, I wish to skew that image.  They were bright, elegantly social and thoughtful, culturally complicated, delightful and funny. There were, of course, some who fell into the lower negative standard deviations on these qualities, but by and large I preferred their company to that of all but a few of my business clients and other associations. 

Educationally, these students were deeply ignorant.  Tenth graders were not competent in basic arithmetic; bright eyed, intelligent young people had not been allowed those skills by their previous schooling.  Not one student in the school, regardless of their background (several students had standard school district histories) was ready academically for a real course in algebra.  Many had strong math intuition and understood rapidly when given the opportunity; they must have never been given a real chance. 

In the sciences the most basic concepts were unknown or unappreciated.  And they knew, and were ashamed when it was not their shame at all.  

So there you have it: bright, charming, wonderful children without the skills to take on the “standard” high school curriculum – but not unlike other children I had known and taught in the city’s biggest high school.  In general, they were brighter than average, less well educated than average and had acquired a deep distrust of themselves as learners.  What to do? 

It is obvious that what teachers are told to do, teach the content standards for the named courses, would be a crime against these children – most perform that crime as they are told.  But knowing that what you are doing, told to do, is wrong doesn’t tell you what to do that is right.  Especially if what you sort of think that maybe you should be doing would be rejected, and rejected with some abuse, if you actually did those things. 

I was fortunate.  I didn’t care what I was told to do and didn’t have to be, but this freedom was not a solution.  The students had to be met on a ground that they understood and thought of as valid.  And there were the tests that they would have to pass for the school to meet its NCLB and other goals and for the student to graduate – many tests taking whole weeks out of the school year, interrupting the rhythm and flow of an already choppy schedule. 

Free of all of these concerns, I would have had lab every day (life is lab anyway) [1].  We would have discovered the beginnings of things.  And this we did a little bit, though not enough.  Here was one of our adventures: we measured the size of the moon, not me, we.  I just set up the situations and asked the questions. No shit, they actually did it with the same simple tools, measuring sticks, used by the Egyptians and Greeks, did it in stages; first we measured a basketball from across the room and then the moon [2]

This took weeks.  We had to wait for the moon to go through its stages and while waiting worked out the math required, just what we needed not the whole thing.  So what if a student didn’t know the times table, no sin; just start to learn it so that it was easier to figure out the next step to the moon (do you see the cross-content possibilities?). 

We created trigonometry the same way by measuring and tabling many right triangles and then using our own tables to solve problems.  But this took a very long time! 

I never thought of such activities as ‘hands on;’ that is a trap.  A thought experiment is just as good; paper and pencil work is vital.  Following a question out to the end whether it involves building a giant device to measure angles, reading a book or learning the way a proportional relationship works is what matters. 

But the constant demand to follow content standards, fill in the forms and follow the rules took its toll. I was concerned about the tests that the students would have to pass.  And then there is that our schools have been taken over by the education zombies.  

I saw one group through to graduation.  That was of course another lie, they had not really been educated even to our pitiful standards, but they had come a long way.  Many went on to community college, as high a goal as they and their parents could realistically conceive at this point. 

I left for my own sanity.  My children tell me that, “You look so much more relaxed.” But I still don’t have enough time in a day to get it all done. 

[1] This would not be true for all students everywhere – I have to say this since someone in education might read this – just for these students and only for a time.  These kids had never taken anything apart to see how it worked, they just used things and then threw them away.  They needed the experience of discovery and not just once, but enough. 

[2] All the measures combined gave us a diameter of 2400 miles.  If you don’t know the present best value, look it up.  That is what I would tell the kids to do; or go out and measure it for yourself.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Science and Religion

When the conditions in which people live are both more complex than they can understand and important for them to understand in order that they make reality-based decisions, three options tend to present themselves (the world is always more complex than we can understand, our confusions finally triggering the need for accurate action is what is different).  First is the refusal to accept as real anything that is not understood in immediately available terms. Second is the putting off of all the complexity and the unknown onto a mythical ‘Understander’, as well as giving this made-up repository of all knowing (omniscience) the control of all actions (omnipotence) thereby absolving human agency of responsibility or possibility (impotence).  Third is the taking on of the questions presented by the need for understanding, finding within the human capacity the means and methods for directly discovering bits of reality and the processes for adapting our systems to these bits and pieces even as we add them up into increasingly comprehensive images of that reality. 

The first requires no grand scheme; it is only the rejection of designs beyond one’s experience, willingness to think or capacity.  ‘Humans can’t swim,’ because the correspondent has never seen or heard of a human swimming.  When told that they can, the thought is rejected as the ravings of a foolish person.  ‘Evolution is untrue,’ because the correspondent can’t imagine how something so complex as an eye could be the result of thousands of tiny changes from ordinary tissue.  That additional learning and effort at understanding might be required is not part of such mindsets. 

The second is the structural principle of religions and feeds upon the first.  Once a body of refusals or inabilities to understand becomes oppressively large, it can be put off onto a mythical place or entity whose implied capacities both comprehend and control the complexities outside of the sight of and responsibilities of mere humans. 

This is an incredibly dangerous way to proceed for an animal with the powers of the human species, basically because it is utterly false in its conception.  It began reasonably enough with the time scales of social and material human adaptations well matched by the inhibiting designs of the environmentally based mythical structures, but proceeded on a pattern that has led to the situation today: mythical systems seated in 5000 year old writings seeking relevance in a world that has produced 50 million scientific papers in the last 350 years on everything from the molting of birds, the movement of electrons in the membranes of bacteria to the primal energies of the universe. 

Rather than religion maintaining its laudable role as governor of human change and adaptation in the environment, it has come to trying to find its relevance in the rejection of the adaptations and the processes of adaptation that long ago outstripped and overpowered it.  Religions have devolved into the worst form of madness even as aspects of them still hold the keys to many of humanity's most important comprehensions; thus the power of religions to compel and to offend, to disorder and to fructify.

The third is the basis of science and epistemology.  Humans are forced to science and the philosophy of knowing; it comes among us unbidden.  From the first moment that rocks and sticks became tools, when fire became a device rather than a fear, a process of information accumulation and evaluation set to motion.  We are now at the mercy of our knowing, and there is no mercy there.  We dare not proceed except to greater and greater unity of action with biophysical Reality.  To do otherwise, at this time in our ‘progress’, will crush us like a bug.  We have outgrown our human childhood: “When I was a child,  I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.”   The religious tradition that created this poetic truth is part of our childhood! 

Of course, we could be crushed like a bug.  It has happened before to other species and ecosystems, even whole biospheres.  What would make this occasion different from the times before is the almost complete responsibility – the cause – being that of one species and its marvelous tricks run amuck.  But contained in those marvelous tricks is the capacity, seen so easily in individuals, to understand and plan, to recognize Reality when it presses with sufficient force. 

Think about it carefully.  There are only these three ways to entertain and confront the Realities of the world.  Somehow the pathological structure of present religion must strike the foundational knowledge basis of science and philosophy and, like a flint on iron, create the spark for our future.  Neither the flint or iron can go on alone and the spark is more than the simple sum of both.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Education Notes Continued 2

Starting at the beginning: children are born with a biology that suits them to grow up in human society.  They have biological expectations for certain levels of nutrition and for certain kinds of treatment, withholding either results in weakness, illness, even death; we even have laws about neglect and abuse.  But children also, as they grow past the most immediate vulnerabilities, absolutely require that the society inform them in some systematic manner about the rules and the skills needed for life with their fellows; children are also ready for this biologically with inquisitive brains and fidgety hands.  It is axiomatic: our young become what we train them to be.  They do not become what we wish we could train them to be; they can only become what we actually make possible for them to be. 

Therefore, children are completely dependent on the quality and depth of the adults that raise and teach them about what life is and how it is to be lived.  If the adults are screwing things up, then there is little chance that they will be able to avoid passing along those same habits to the next generation. 

But human communities are complex and almost all of them range from assholes to saints, even as one or the other group may have preeminence for a time.  And happily the tendency, though especially weak in large materialistic societies, has been for the saintly to use the special powers of the assholes for the benefit of the community.  It is easy to think of examples where this is not or has not been the case, but in general those who genuinely get along with others well can wield more influence than a deceptive slime-ball. Though, given the realities of societies, a slime-ball on your side is periodically valuable. 

It is possible to select, if not the parents of children, then those who will teach them the more specialized rules and skills of a society.  And if the children are turning out badly, we had best look to what the society as a whole is teaching them.  Schools are only part of the educational experience. 

The force of the society as a whole cannot be overcome by an educational system that must, to do its job, defeat ubiquitous destructive influences.  This, I believe, is the situation that we face today.  However, the difficulty doesn’t relieve the obligation to make the effort. 

With a schizophrenic twist, individual parents care about their kids, but the society does not.  People want a safe world, but the money is in weapons and war, criminality and prisons.  Knowledge and learning are recognized as essential for life as we know it to function, but we distrust those people who have and use that learning rather than acquire and use it ourselves. 

So now let’s do school!  What is immediately clear when trying to get a comprehensive image of public education is that it doesn’t have an overall focus.  Curriculum planning and national standards actually make this even worse since schools fall back on “teaching” rather than attempting to see their function in the grand scheme.  The present solution is a teacher with minimal understanding of their subject (one hopes) given a set of specific topics chosen from the subject area, broken down into what is, basically, a fact set and told that their students should pass a test on the material at the end of the term.  The teacher is then required to submit, usually every week, a lesson plan for how he or she will deliver the appropriate content for the standard being taught.  After all of this, if the kids don’t get it, then there must be something wrong with them – there has to be something wrong with somebody! 

And of course, they are not ‘getting it.’  Basic science and math, grade level reading skills, history, political science (civics), you name it and far too many children are uninformed; unprepared to take on the responsibilities of taking care of themselves or others in the present world. 

While I have a number of thoughts about what might be done, I want to focus on one issue right now: getting good teachers into public schools.  The wealthy have no confusion on this issue.  An established private school of good reputation will have a core of superior intellects that can teach.  These teachers will be well paid, they will be respected and given the autonomy to create excitement for both their students and themselves, and they will face the expectation, as they should, that their students will leave their tutelage with a superior understanding of the subject and of themselves in relation to it. 

Public education is not even supposed to question the quality of its teachers.  Teachers have a process by which they are said to gain greater skills.  They are reviewed and advanced in a generally pro forma way.  Many become the official designation “Highly Qualified.”   The unqualified, intellectually weak, the emotionally infirm are supposed to be selected out. 

If it worked, this would be well and good, but it would still miss the essential point of attracting the best and the brightest, making teaching have the qualities that would compete successful with other intellectually stimulating professions. 

Our essential question is what would be required to invite the good teacher to teach in our schools and to stay for a time.  We need to answer this question; what are the qualities of a job that would attract a talented, inspired, committed person?  That is our question because it only makes sense that the teaching profession should be competing with other important professions for the best people.  It is not reasonable to expect that more than a small percentage of positions can be filled with high quality people based primarily on their good will and understanding of the need, yet that hope has been behind much teacher recruiting and hiring with surprising success.  I have known a number of fine teachers who were in schools because they appreciated the importance of educating the young of our species. 

Good teachers are not made by special programs, but are maintained by a supportive management and work environment.  Good teachers start out good. Research has shown that teachers improve by various measures of classroom performance for the first 3 or so years, but after that tend to strike a level at which they stay.  If this level is high performing, then good, if not there should be a systemic response.  The goal should be to invite the best people into teaching and then to make their stay as productive as possible. 

Many new teachers leave in the first 3 to 5 years.  We could assume that it is the unsuccessful teacher who leaves, that they are selected out, leaving primarily the best teachers to continue on.  This would be a mistake.  The consensus is that it is often the best teachers and that they leave due to poor working conditions, low pay, lack of respectful relations with management and a condition I will try to write more cogently about in the future that I will call, for the moment, school pissyness – it is an infestation sort of like bedbugs. 

What do mature, responsible self-starting people want in their work place? While an above average level of compensation is important other qualities are more important. Sufficient autonomy to express creativity and special interests, high quality colleagues, competent and approachable management, open and honest environment, adequate support for the required work, high expectations that are possible to meet. 

As I said, public schools often don’t offer this sort of work environment.  Much of the problem stems from teacher habits and school culture and can only be improved by inviting more aggressive and competent teachers into the work place. To that end I have a special proposal: 

The selection of teachers is too important to be left up to principals or others as a part-time job.  A team of people who have a clear idea of the qualities of good teachers, a group that cannot be snowed, charmed or conned would hire all the teachers for a district.  Small districts could borrow the team from larger districts and very large districts could have more than one team if needed.  The team could have other secondary duties involving teacher reviews and evaluation, but their primary responsibility would be to hone their selection skills.  Academic area specialists would be brought in as needed as would the administrators, teachers and parents from the schools involved, but would have only advisory roles. 

Phase in: present teachers would stay in place on present salary schedules. They would have 2 years to apply for the job they are in through the new hiring system.  New teachers would apply through the new system for jobs with higher salaries; a teaching degree would not be an automatic ticket to the front of a classroom.  To the extent possible working conditions would be improved to attract and keep better applicants, this would vary with districts.  It would be expected that the new hires would demand better conditions since they would be able to leave for other jobs but would rather remake their present one.  In the existing situation the aggressive self-starter just leaves even though they may find working with our human young a delightful experience, the other negatives dominate.  Increasing the quality of teachers with the new hires and with better starting salaries there would be added incentive to stay and work on the problems. 

The districts would be encouraged to take a small percentage of new hires from unconventional sources like the business community and those with other professional histories.  Opportunity might be made for people from the crafts, farming, trades, etc.  Since a competent core hiring team would be making the selections, people with atypical backgrounds could be considered as potential teachers with some certainty that they would possess the qualities of a good teacher without always the necessity of the training that is used to substitute for a real test of that criterion. 

The goal would be to increase the competence, purposeful aggressiveness, commitment, range of experience and good teacher qualities of the teaching staff; and increase the respect that teachers would deservedly receive for being part of a more rigorously selected group.  As the teachers became stronger they would demand better management.  Such a combination would not be lost on the students who couldn’t help but feel more valued.  Good teachers would demand, as a matter of course, that the students produce more in line with their potential. 

I will not enumerate the obstacles in the way of this or other proposals, they are generally obvious and powerful, but this could be done in some administrative units, perhaps whole states.  If done well, a difference might be made.