Don’t Judge People by Their Titles

Back in high school, I was a member of my school’s Christian organization. Every Tuesday at lunch, we met in Gym B to hear a local pastor or church leader give a mini-sermon or devotional. Usually these sessions focused on a topic relevant to high-schoolers, but sometimes we had studies in other areas (such as other religions and apologetics).

I was one of a small handful of guys who volunteered to be “sound guy.” Every other Tuesday, I had the privilege of leaving class ten minutes before lunch to set up the small soundboard, microphones, and dual PA speakers for our little worship band and the speaker du jour. This also meant that I got to meet a lot of the speakers as I was setting up or taking down the equipment.

One Tuesday meeting in my sophomore year drew a larger-than-normal crowd. A prominent religious leader was coming to our humble campus to speak about the Book of Revelation. Everyone was excited. I was excited, not so much because of the gentleman’s prestige, but because I looked forward to hearing what such a studied, esteemed man had to say about one of my favorite books in the Bible to study. And I was running sound that day, so I’d get to meet him—and maybe even discuss Revelation with him a bit!

I remember him being escorted from the front office into the gym by a couple students on the leadership team. He stood around and talked to our group president and some of the other officers as I sound-checked the praise band. Once I finished setting up, I excused myself for a minute so I could introduce myself to our honored guest.

“Hi, my name is Matthew,” I said, extending my hand. “It’s great to meet you!”

He shook my hand and said likewise. I then asked him a question about prophecy being fulfilled in Revelation—something I had heard that linked the popes to the seven kings (cf. Revelation 17), and admittedly I can’t quite remember what the question was.

What I do remember was his answer.

This esteemed leader smirked, scoffed, and used an ad hominem against the man who purported the theory I asked about. “Most of us scholars don’t regard him as reliable because he gets drunk.” And that was that.

I sat through the meeting and listened to his talk on Revelation, elementary as it was, but at that point most of what he said was lost on me. I didn’t feel much respect for him based on the way he’d dismantled my question without even answering it.

I may have asked a dumb question, but he treated it like one. Instead of enlightening my ignorance, he widened the gap between his knowledge and mine. And in doing so, he not only espoused his pride—he lost a potential fan.

Remember, this is a distinguished man in the Baptist denomination. This is a man revered both by Christian academics and by laypeople. And I’m in no way trying to denigrate him wrongly.

But I feel like a got a glimpse into that man’s true soul that day, when I asked him that question. That may be a glimpse that few people have had—I don’t know. But that glimpse told me, despite all his titles and accomplishments, that he was inauthentic.

Imagine my surprise when, last year, evidence emerged stating that this faith leader may have defended sexual abusers in the church. And even this week, more evidence—that he very likely swept sexual abuse claims against a specific pastor under the rug and tried to dumb down the accusations—came to light.

Now, I don’t harbor ill will towards this man for what he said to me that Tuesday in Gym B. Nor do I wish that he be accused of covering up sexual abuse and dragged through the mud as part of the ongoing #MeToo movement. But the sad fact is, judging him by the thirty-second interaction we had, I feel like these accusations fall in line with his character.

This taught me an important life lesson: We should not judge by titles and “reputations,” but by actions and words.

Diplomas and lofty titles look great in an email signature, but what about the soul of the man behind the desk? It’s great that everyone else esteems so-and-so—but does that mean you should, too?

I can give another example, one I can smile and laugh at in retrospect.

I took my first business class in college with a tenured professor—I’ll call her Dr. Brisk. Dr. Brisk not only had her Ph.D, but a long list of managerial jobs at some big-name companies in the Metroplex.

She seemed like a decent lady, fairly approachable after class if I had questions, but something didn’t quite sit right with me about her. I started getting the same feeling of inauthenticity that I got from the faith leader years before.

All went well in Dr. Brisk’s class until the final exam, which she decided would be online since it was the end of the semester, she was busy, we students were busy, et cetera. Admittedly, I did not study as hard for her exam as I did for others, because I had tougher classes to deal with an I already had an A in hers. But study I did, and I sat down at the library computer feeling reasonably confident in my ability to maintain that A.

At the end of the test, I was very surprised to see that I had scored a low B. Being that it was an online test (and perhaps Dr. Brisk did not configure it the way she wanted to), I got to see my answers contrasted against the correct answers. Some I could tell I legitimately missed, but there were others I was sure I answered correctly.

I realized that some of the questions (about 10%) had wrong answers listed as right ones. I knew that because many of the questions came right out of the study guides in the textbook. I took screenshots of the answers in question (no pun intended), attached them to an email, and sent them off to Dr. Brisk.

Imagine my surprise when Dr. Brisk wrote back and asked how I had been able to see the correct answers at the end of the exam. (“Because you set the test up that way, lady!”) I asked if I could have the points for the questions I missed. She said no, because the questions were programmed correctly.

I then sent an email to the head of the department and explained the situation. He wrote me a polite email explaining that the three of us (me, Dr. Brisk, and himself) would have to sit down together to discuss remediation, if any could be done. By this point, she had given out our final grades (my A downgraded to a B), and it would apparently take more effort to reverse that B to an A once the final grade posted.

I could tell from the email chain that neither Dr. Brisk nor her boss wanted to deal with me, a freshman with a cause. And frankly, I didn’t want to deal with them either. I just wanted credit for the erroneous questions so I could have my A.

In the end, I dropped it. Maybe it could have gone somewhere had I stuck to my guns. But no one else in the class complained (did they review their answers?) and this lady had tenure. It felt like it would be me against the network of good ol’ boys (and girls).

To contrast these experiences, I’ve had many great professors with Ph.Ds who genuinely cared about their students and listened to their concerns. I’ve run into the same situation before, where questions aren’t entered correctly in online tests, and the professor promptly fixed them or awarded credit when I brought it up.

I’ve also had the pleasure of knowing some really great pastors and youth leaders, many of whom I met during my time as “sound guy,” and later as group co-president. These men (yes, they are mostly, if not all, men) genuinely cared about the high-schoolers they came to speak to, and it was evident. They answered questions and prayed with students. They came back multiple times to shepherd the flock or water the seeds.

So I don’t have a jaded view of every big-wig with lots of titles, accomplishments, and work experience. I just have the ability to look past that and into their soul to see who they really are.

Jesus taught that we should not judge by appearances, but by right judgment (John 7:24). There are a lot of people these days who, like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, strut their sophistication and lord it over other people. They act like nothing can touch them.

Many “plebeians” look up to these people as celebrities (or as celebrities in their respective fields) and place them on pedestals. “He’s my hero!” they might say. “I want to be like him!”

But do you really? Do you want your soul to become like theirs? Do you want to have status and success at the cost of truth and authenticity?

That’s why we all need to start judging rightly. If there’s one thing that the #MeToo movement has shown, it’s that people our society lauds are quickly cast down from grace. If people had rightly judged these wicked men and women years and years ago, we wouldn’t be in this ongoing mess.

And it doesn’t just apply to sexual harassment. Look at things in the business world like Enron and Bernie Madoff. Look at things in the realm of politics like the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s or, more recently, Operation Fast and Furious.

Once you start looking past titles and stop putting people on pedestals, your eyes open. And they open very wide. You start seeing into a person’s true self rather than the façade he wears. You start to see whether she really cares.

And you start to think for yourself by taking a solid step away from the powers of mass media and groupthink.

So, my petition to you, my rallying cry to us all, is this: “Let us judge rightly.” Not by prestige, not by empty words, not by virtue-signaling actions. Let us judge by testing integrity, by examining things said or done in private, and by not idolizing anyone.

And may truth and justice prevail.

The Ultimate Guide to Applying for Jobs Online

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A couple years ago, as I wrapped up my undergraduate degree, I started applying for jobs with local companies. I quickly realized that many of the jobs I was interested in required different résumés, some required cover letters, and nearly all had a unique application process. Soon I found myself with a dozen copies of my résumé, a half-dozen cover letters, and a version control nightmare on my hands.

Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be this way for you! Applying for a job can be stressful enough as it is, right? I went through the fire and learned the lessons, so I’ll share the top tips I have for submitting job applications to any company.

First, Get Organized

If you’re applying for a lot of jobs and have a folder with different versions of your résumé and various cover letters, it’s going to be hard to keep track of which is which. That’s why the first thing you need to do is to create a folder hierarchy.

I suggest creating a folder in your Documents folder titled “Job Applications” or something similar. Pick a title that you’ll remember best—one you won’t have to go hunting for.

Within that folder, create a subfolder for each company you’re applying at. For example, you might have a folder titled “Apple” and one titled “Google”. (Shoot for the moon, right?)

Finally, within each company folder, create yet another folder for each job you’re applying for at the company. You could have “UX Developer” and “Test Engineer” within the “Google” folder.

Within each job folder is where you’ll store the résumé, cover letter, and any other documents or information you will submit in the application. This hierarchical structure makes it easy to navigate to the exact documents you need when editing or uploading. You don’t want to upload your Apple cover letter to your Google job application—that would not be too good.

Get Your Documents in Order

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Once you have your folder hierarchy created, you can start working on your documents. If you already have a résumé, CV, or cover letter, copy it into the specific job folder and get to work. If not, start working on a new file and make sure to save it in the folder for the specific job you’re applying for.

When you save a file, your computer automatically updates the date information for the file. This makes it easy to sort by date and see when you last edited the file—which is very handy if you have multiple copies of the same file, or different versions.

To make it even easier to identify, I suggest appending the date information to the end of the filename, like this: “Matthew_Baker_Resume_08-19-19.docx”. When you make updates to the file, update the filename too.

Since I mentioned filenames, I’ll give you my tips on how to name your files. First, name your file what you want the recipient to see when he or she downloads it. This is pretty obvious—but make the filenames look as professional as the documents themselves do. To me, and probably to most hiring managers, a filename capitalized like a title looks more professional than all lowercase (“Matthew Baker Resume” vs. “matthew baker resume”).

Second, keep it simple. Don’t use “Matthew Baker Quality Engineer Associate Resume”. That’s overkill. The hiring manager knows which job you’re applying for, and your résumé should reflect that. Plus, you’ve created a folder hierarchy, so you don’t have to be this specific with the filename because the file itself sits inside the job folder.

Third, I recommend using underscores instead of spaces. Some computer systems don’t play well with filenames that have spaces in them. This is becoming less and less common, but since this is a job you’re applying for, I suggest you play it safe. Use “Matthew_Baker_Resume” instead of “Matthew Baker Resume”.

Whether you’re using Microsoft Word, Apple Pages, Google Docs, or another word processor to create your documents, you need to submit final copies in PDF format. I cannot emphasize this enough. A PDF (Portable Document Format) file preserves all your formatting so that what the recipient sees is 99.99% guaranteed to match what you see.

Generating a PDF file is easy. All you need to do is click the File button in your word processor’s menu and look for an option like “Save As…”, “Export”, or “Export to PDF”. Double-check that the file will be in the .pdf format. If you mess up, that’s fine. Just go through the steps again and make sure you’ve selected the right format. If you need help, do a Google search for “How to export a PDF file in [your word processor]”.

If you submit a Word document or other a file in another word processor file format, there’s no guarantee that the recipient will see what you do. I’ve opened Word documents that probably looked great on the creator’s screen but looked hideous on mine: messed-up formatting, missing fonts, and more. Sometimes, the recipient may not even be able to open the file format you send!

Hopefully I’ve driven this point home. Even if the company’s job submittal tool accepts files in formats like .doc and .docx, send a PDF (.pdf). It comes across as more professional (to me, sending a Word document is like sending a draft), and you can rest assured that what the hiring manager sees is what you saw when you created it.

Submitting All the Stuff

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All right, you’ve got your folders in order, and your files ready to go! Now all that’s left is to submit all the documents and turn in that application!

Before starting the online application, make sure you have all the information you need in order to complete it in one sitting. Many companies offer the ability for you to save an application in process, but in my experience this doesn’t always work. If it’s an incredibly long and thorough application, you may have no choice but to save your work and come back later.

Otherwise, if you have all the information on-hand, you can knock the application out in one sitting and save yourself the hassle of stopping to get more information, throw together another document, and come back later to wrap up. I realize not every company lists what they expect you to submit up-front, and that’s why this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule. It just makes life easier if you can do it this way.

If the company has any browser requirements or recommendations for submitting online, follow them! If you use the wrong browser, it might crash mid-application and then you might have to start all over! Just download the right browser and do it the right way—at least then you’ll have reason to complain to the company’s IT department if something goes haywire.

If the company doesn’t list browser recommendations, go with Mozilla Firefox. In my experience, it’s the best all-around browser, and the large majority of sites work well with it.

You may also have to enable pop-ups in your browser when completing the application. If the company doesn’t provide instructions on how to do this, do a Google search for “How to enable pop-ups in [your browser]”. If possible, consult the browser’s official website.

Once you’ve got all your information together and you’ve got the right browser loaded up, go ahead and breeze through the application! Double-check all information you input into forms before you advance to the next page. Make sure you upload your résumé or CV in the correct place. (Don’t upload your résumé as your cover letter, or vice versa!)

If possible, at the end of the application, do a final check that all information you entered and uploaded is correct. Then fire that application off, sit back, and wait for that interview!

Bonus: General Job-Application Tips

Overdelivering (some might say overachieving) is something I pride myself on. If you’re reading this post because you need to apply for a job online, great. But why not stick around a bit longer for some general tips for job applications and interviews?

I’ve picked up a lot of tips along the way, sifted through them, and separated the wheat from the chaff. Here are some of the best ones.

For your résumé or CV:

  • Use bullet points to highlight your talents, responsibilities, etc.
  • For less-experienced applicants, stick to one page
  • For applicants with 10+ years of experience and/or lots of past jobs, two pages is fine
  • Use numbers when possible (e.g., “Supported 50 clients…”)

For your cover letter:

  • Almost always stick to one page
  • Less is more—talk about important stuff, but save some things for your interview
  • Keep sentences short; this makes them easier to understand
  • Keep paragraphs short; this makes them easier to read
  • Address the letter to the hiring manager, if you know his or her name
  • Include the job title and requisition number at the top of the page

For all documents:

  • Use consistent design/formatting across documents (e.g. header, font choice, font size)
  • Use two fonts maximum
  • If using two fonts, opt for a sans-serif font for headers and a serif font for the main text body (e.g., pair Arial with Times New Roman)
  • Use strong, action verbs (e.g., managed, performed, developed)
  • Avoid weaker verbs (e.g., helped, assisted, aided)—be assertive and take credit for your accomplishments!
  • Avoid passive voice (e.g., don’t use “Changes were made…”; use “I made changes…”)
  • Use parallelism in writing (e.g., “I woke up, got out of bed, and dragged a comb across my head.” All the verbs are in the simple past tense. Bonus points if you catch the reference.)

For interviews (these tips came from a presentation I gave to high-school students interviewing for internships):

  • When asked a question, don’t be afraid to ask for a minute to think before answering
    • A good interviewer will realize that behavioral and experiential questions require thoughtSilence can be awkward, but only if you let it beA more thoughtful answer is a better answer!
  • Smile!
    • Whether in person or over the phone, smiling will reflect in your toneSmiling communicates interest and eagerness to the interviewer
  • Speak at a “Goldilocks” speed
    • Not too fast, not too slow, but just rightEnunciate your wordsThis prevents the interviewer from asking you to repeat yourselfIt also showcases your speaking skills!
  • Eliminate filler words
    • Um, uh, well, like, you know, I mean, okay, so, actually, basically
    • This makes you sound smarter and appear more thoughtful!
  • Maintain eye contact with your interviewer
    • Don’t look away the whole time
    • Don’t stare!
    • This establishes rapport
  • In a face-to-face interview, mirror your interviewer’s posture
    • This establishes rapport
  • When the interviewer asks if you have any questions, ask questions!
    • Be prepared with two or three questions ready to ask
    • Ask questions that you think of during the interview
    • Asking questions shows interest in the company and the position

Conclusion

That’s a lot of info, right? Hopefully you find it useful, because applying for a job doesn’t have to be stressful or time-consuming. In fact, if you get your ducks in a row, you can easily knock out a handful of applications in an hour!

As always, thanks for reading. If you have any comments or suggestions, feel free to drop me a note below. And if you have any additional tips you think your fellow readers would benefit from, please feel free to share in the comments!


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What if I told you that you could quickly and easily learn how your computer or smartphone works?

What if I told you that troubleshooting your technology can be easy and painless?

Well, now I’m telling you! My book How Computers Work and What to Do When They Don’t explains, in everyday English, how your computer operates and what you can do when it’s not operating the way you want it to.

It teaches you about the basic components without getting too technical, so you can become more computer-literate.

It walks you through simple steps to fixing common computer problems, so you can get back to using your computer instead of struggling with it.

It explains how to easily solve issues such as sluggish performance and virus infections, so you can keep your computer running smoothly—instead of running out to buy a new one.

And… it includes over 30 full-color pictures, so you can actually see what I’m talking about.

I’ve spent a great majority of my life solving computer problems (and I’m only in my twenties!), and I studied IT in college partly for this reason. I’ve helped kids, seniors, and everyone in between… and now I want to help you.

This book contains all the “secrets” I use to solve computer problems… secrets that everyone can use, including you.

Imagine feeling confident that you can solve your own tech problems without calling your tech-savvy friend, child, or grandchild. Imagine quickly feeling at home with software or apps you’ve never used before.

With How Computers Work and What to Do When They Don’t, you will!

How Computers Work and What to Do When They Don’t is available on Amazon in all regions for Kindle and in paperback. Why not pick up a copy today and start becoming comfortable with computers?

P.S. If you opt for the paperback version, you can also get the Kindle version for only $0.99 more and read wherever you go on your smartphone, tablet, or Kindle e-reader. Also, be sure to sign up for my email list to receive free bonus content to supplement the book.

My Education: American Public, Private, and Homeschooling Compared

I consider myself fortunate to be one of the few people in America, and perhaps in the world, to have attended the three major kinds of schools: public school, private school, and homeschool.

It all started around at age four, when my parents enrolled me in preschool at our church. I remember looking at all the books on the classroom bookshelf. They fascinated me. Some of them had words, which I couldn’t read!

Mom picked me up from preschool one day, and I remember making this statement to her: “Mom, I want to learn how to read.”

So, Mom started teaching me how to read when I was four years old. Evidently I made great progress, even though I don’t remember all the details. Instead of enrolling me in kindergarten, she started teaching me first-grade material at home. That meant I started “real school” one year before my friends did. And so my educational journey began.

In this article, I’m chronicling my educational experiences in American schools. This is subjective, and by no means comprehensive. I know others have had far different experiences from my own. Yet I try to be objective in my analysis of the pros and cons for each.

I didn’t include any pictures today, because a) I didn’t have any relevant ones on-hand to use, and b) I couldn’t find any good, fair-use ones instead. Also, I think they would distract from the gist of the article, which is to, well, educate. It’s not that pictures aren’t important, but they’re just not always relevant. I’m not going to add photos just for the sake of adding photos.

Now, let me educate you a bit about American education.

Homeschooling

I really enjoyed being homeschooled. Even as a young boy, it taught me how to think for myself and depend on only myself for getting work done.

A typical homeschooling day involved Mom going over the previous day’s assignments with me, then teaching me a bit, and then giving me new assignments for the current day. I would then hit the books, solve math problems, write essays, or do whatever I needed to do that day.

Often, I would learn what I needed to learn and get my schoolwork done by noon. I had all afternoon free to do other things: read other books, build LEGOs, or play video games (moderated by Mom, of course). And yet I learned at the same rate as my peers who spent all day in public elementary school. Many times, I learned faster.

In other words, homeschooling allowed Mom to tailor the curriculum and teaching/learning styles to best fit me.

Homeschooling allowed me to learn about things and do projects that my peers in public school didn’t. For example, equipped with a World Book Encyclopedia CD-ROM (this was before Wikipedia was in vogue), I would research ancient Greece and Rome. I would take care of a bonsai tree as part of a report on Japanese culture. And I would start learning Spanish thanks to Rosetta Stone (also on CD-ROM). As part of religious education, I read the Bible cover-to-cover and studied the tenets of other belief systems. I did all these things and more before I was twelve years old.

Another beauty of homeschooling was the flexibility. When my grandfather passed away in May 2008, my mom, brother, and I spent most of the summer living with my grandmother. We had to help her get acclimated to living alone. Homeschooling got put on hold for a bit, but I could continue learning over the summer. (There’s not much else to do in Wichita Falls, TX, when it’s over 100º F outside.) I read Around the World in Eighty Days for the first time, and my first book on how computers worked. (And now I’ve written my own book on computers to help the average Joe and Jane!)

One downside of homeschooling can be the lack of socialization. Some groups of homeschoolers come together every week so their kids can play and learn together, so that helps. Still, homeschooled children get much less socialization than their public-school peers do.

Depending on how you look at it, this could be either good or bad. In my case, because I wasn’t around other kids as much, I learned to think for myself, and I became pretty resistant to peer pressure. Yet that also meant that I was, and probably still am, a social anomaly because I was raised and educated outside of the “normal” social sphere. But hey, I’ll take being unique and authentic over conforming to social norms any day.

Another downside to homeschooling is that parents who homeschool may not have the technical expertise required to teach high-school subjects. For example, my mom could teach me pre-algebra and basic science just fine, but there was no way she would be able to teach me pre-calculus or physics.

Some homeschool groups mitigate this by having a parent, who is an expert in a specific area, teach multiple kids in a class. An example might be a homeschool father, who is an engineer by trade, teaching a calculus class for homeschool kids.

I took homeschool math classes at my local community college. (As an eighth-grader, I felt really sophisticated when I told my friends I took geometry in college!) That helped me tremendously because I had hit a wall trying to learn algebra on my own, and Mom couldn’t help me over the hurdles. It also got me around some more homeschoolers and into a classroom setting, better preparing me to transition into…

Public School

Mom homeschooled me and my brother until we finished our eighth- and sixth-grade years, respectively. At that point, our parents decided that we needed more socialization with our peers and teachers more equipped to teach us advanced concepts.

So, we wrapped up schooling at home, each got a diploma for graduating into this next phase of life, and prepared ourselves for the transition.

I remember meeting with the high-school counselor as I prepared to integrate into public high school. He helped me enroll in the classes I needed to take; he also signed me up for a math competency test so I could take advanced geometry instead of algebra (since I’d already taken algebra in my homeschool years).

I also, at Mom’s urging, tried out for the jazz band. I played guitar, had played for a little over a year, and didn’t think I was anywhere near good enough to play in a jazz band. Yet I got the sheet music and started learning etudes so I could try out.

On the last day of school, the summer before my freshman year, Mom drove me up to the school to try out. I walked into the empty band hall with my guitar case in one hand and my cheap Marshall amplifier in the other. I plugged in, got out my music, and played it for the jazz band director.

To my surprise, I passed the audition! Turns out, they didn’t have a guitar player at all, so I made the first (highest) band. And I played in jazz band all four years of high school.

So, I began high school by taking advanced classes, playing in the jazz band, and navigating a school of over 3,000 people. (Everything’s bigger in Texas!) Thankfully, I had a few friends at the school, and I made new friends, so I socialized quickly and found my place.

Public high school gave me opportunities that I would not have had anywhere else. For instance, my friends and I built a website for the 2013 National History Day competition and got to compete nationally in Washington, D.C.! I was also co-president of the school’s Christian organization for a year and a member of the National Honor Society service group.

I also got to explore other interests, such as computer science and German. I found that I was a decent programmer, while learning German awakened an interest in the language—and all languages—that I would never have had if I stuck with Rosetta Stone Spanish at home! I doubt I would ever have learned to program on my own, and I likely never would have thought to learn German on my own, either. (I had the choice of Spanish, French, German, or Latin. I opted for German because I am 1/8th German—my great-great-grandparents immigrated to the U.S. from Wittenberg.)

I took mostly advanced classes (called Advanced Placement, or AP) in high school, which helped prepare me for the rigors of college. They also allowed me greater freedom of study than the “regular” classes would have. In that respect, public school wasn’t too different from home school—just a different environment.

Of course, there were several things I didn’t like about public school. For one, when I did have to take a “regular” class, I was usually bored. The teachers had to teach well below my learning capacity. This was because the material had to be easy enough for the other students to learn and pass the class.

This is part of the fallacious idea in many American public schools that kids just need to pass tests and move up to the next grade and out of the school system. The blame often rests on the teacher’s shoulders if the student isn’t being successful in her class. It’s a shame that it is that way, but it’s true.

Another thing I didn’t like about the public school system was standardized testing. Every spring, we had to take a test mandated by the state of Texas so someone in the Texas Education Agency could plot us out as data points on a chart.

The tests were easy, sure, but annoying. And, unfortunately, teachers had to teach their students not what was important to learn, but what their students needed to know in order to pass the test and make them, the teachers, look good. I didn’t have to deal with this so much in AP classes, but I did experience it a bit. That’s just another way the public school system is messed up.

And finally, I hated the lack of respect that students showed teachers, and the disdain for learning in general. Most kids came to school, did the bare minimum, and left. They had so much more potential, but they were in an environment where all they had to do was get a C to pass and then move on.

Not all kids were like this, and not all were disrespectful, but many were. Again, this wasn’t the case in AP classes very often, but it definitely was in the “regular” classes. And that was one reason I tried to stay in all the AP classes, because I didn’t want to be drug down with that crowd.

That’s not to mention the fights, threats, graffiti, bullying, drug use, and more that went on every day. Thankfully, I stayed away from most of that, but it was in the environment. No wonder people have noticed correlations between how high schools and prisons are constructed.

(My parents and other Baby Boomers will tell you that it was not always that way. If you misbehaved in class or bombed a math test, you either had to deal with the wrath of the principal, the wrath of your father, or both. Rarely was it the teacher’s fault—it was your fault. And, when disciplining misbehavior, both typically had paddles.)

If I sat and thought long enough, I could come up with a dozen more things I liked and disliked about public school, and American public education in general. But these are the main things that come to mind, and they’re enough for the purposes of this article.

And that leads into the typical alternative to public school, which is…

Private School

I’ll admit, I don’t have nearly as much experience in private school as I do in public school or in being homeschooled. However, I’ll discuss what I experienced during my limited time there, things I liked, and things I disliked (mostly disliked). Some details come from friends who spent their entire youths in private schools.

Mom enrolled me in some private school classes from second grade through fourth grade, and again in eighth grade. She intended these classes to supplement my homeschool education. I took extracurricular subjects like music, physical education (PE), art, and writing. I also took science and history classes there for a couple years.

What did I like about private school? Well, classes were small, because the school had fewer students than a public school does. That allowed teachers more time to work with students one-on-one—never a bad thing, in my opinion.

I enjoyed my art and music classes. I got exposed early to some of the great artists and composers throughout history, and developed an appreciation for art in general. (How many second-graders learn that Tchaikovsky wrote The Nutcracker or that Van Gogh painted The Starry Night?) I also improved my art skills, though sadly I’ve let them go to the wayside since then!

What did I not like about private school? Mainly the strictness and uniformity. Uniforms, haircut regulations, and so on. Being that it was a Christian prep school, it was very legalistic. Some kids may not mind that, but I did. I liked to wear my hair longer and thicker, and got reprimanded for it a couple times—but I didn’t care. Then again, I don’t care much for legalism, period.

The legalism didn’t prevent bad behavior, either. The boys, who were supposed to be “model young men,” were just as bad as—or worse than—boys in public school. Because it was a smaller school, I was more privy to their antics than I was in high school, where I could choose to associate with a more even-keeled group of guys. One memorable instance involved someone writing nasty words on the bathroom wall, day after day, with their filth… and that’s all I’ll say about that.

Lastly, because the private school was so small, it offered limited extracurricular opportunities or advanced classes. It had no band or orchestra. I could not have studied German in private school, and I don’t think I could have studied computer science, either. Demand was not high enough, and no teachers on staff could teach these subjects.

In Retrospect

Looking back on my life, I’m blessed and thankful that I received the education I did. I’m grateful to live in the United States, specifically in the great state of Texas, where parents still have the freedom to decide how their children receive education.

None of these three types of schooling are inherently better than the others. They’re just different. Where one is lacking, another compensates. There is no perfect, or even best, option.

I would not change anything about my education journey. I’m thankful I started out in homeschooling because I learned to be self-reliant, to prioritize, and to work dutifully. I was responsible for my own success, Not the state, not the school, not my friends—just me. Put simply, I learned how to be autodidactic. I learned how to teach myself.

I’m also grateful I got to attend public high school. It afforded me many great opportunities I would not have had if I kept being homeschooled. And, it helped me better prepare for college by taking college-level classes in a high-school environment. I also learned how to help others learn, and effective ways to teach material by tutoring friends.

Private school was all right, and I can see its benefits since it can provide a more focused, higher-caliber, classical-oriented education. I wouldn’t want to go back, though. I can (and have, and did) provide myself a classical education on my own.

How will I educate my future kids? I’m not sure yet. Who knows what the future landscape of education will look like?

What I do know is, I will ensure my kids understand that it’s their responsibility to learn, not the teacher’s responsibility to make them learn. If they attend public school, I will be very involved in school events, as well as ensure that they learn outside the classroom. If they are homeschooled, I will ensure they are learning the things they need to know to prepare them for life in the “real world,” and also spend enough time with other kids so they become well-rounded and sociable.

I almost certainly will not send them to a private school, however. Those are overrated!

Feel free to leave any questions or comments below. I’d like to hear your thoughts, and different perspectives are always good. Thanks for reading!


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What if I told you that you could quickly and easily learn how your computer or smartphone works?

What if I told you that troubleshooting your technology can be easy and painless?

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It walks you through simple steps to fixing common computer problems, so you can get back to using your computer instead of struggling with it.

It explains how to easily solve issues such as sluggish performance and virus infections, so you can keep your computer running smoothly—instead of running out to buy a new one.

And… it includes over 30 full-color pictures, so you can actually see what I’m talking about.

I’ve spent a great majority of my life solving computer problems (and I’m only in my twenties!), and I studied IT in college partly for this reason. I’ve helped kids, seniors, and everyone in between… and now I want to help you.

This book contains all the “secrets” I use to solve computer problems… secrets that everyone can use, including you.

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How Computers Work and What to Do When They Don’t is available on Amazon in all regions for Kindle and in paperback. Why not pick up a copy today and start becoming comfortable with computers?

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In the Wake of Three Shootings

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My heart sank on Saturday when I saw reports of another mass murder—this time in El Paso. My heart sinks every time I hear of a shooting, but this one hit close to home. After all, Texas is my home.

Then I woke up Sunday morning to learn of another mass murder in Dayton, Ohio. Once again, my heart sank.

And this comes hot on the heels of another mass murder in Gilroy, California last weekend.

It’s enough to make one stop and ask a question: What’s going on here?

I’ll tell you what makes me sad and then mad about these shootings. First and foremost, people die. In most cases, they’re defenseless and shot senselessly. Many times, children die. Lives are cut short.

Second, the mainstream media immediately politicizes (polarizes) the narrative and jumps to conclusions. Forget just mourning with the victims and letting people internalize what happened, much less waiting for reports from the front lines. Everything has to fit the preconceived narrative, whether that’s liberal, conservative, or something else. The philosophy is, “If it doesn’t fit the narrative, don’t report it.” Or worse.

Third, the talking heads who immediately start calling for gun bans, gun control, and gun whatever.

You might be wondering, “Why do calls for gun control make you mad, Matthew? Isn’t that a sensible thing to do?”

No, it’s not, because it’s ignoring so many other factors.

I once saw an analysis of four countries’ gun laws and gun violence statistics: Japan, Mexico, Switzerland, and the United States. Here is the essence of that analysis:

  • Japan: Low gun availability, very low gun violence.
  • Mexico: Low gun availability, very high gun violence.
  • The U.S.: High gun availability, very high gun violence.
  • Switzerland: High gun availability, very low gun violence.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

People like to point to gun ownership as the cause of these mass murders. They then demand “gun control” to prevent future mass murders. But that’s like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Switzerland, until recently, had very free gun laws. Every citizen is required to serve in the military, issued a firearm, and then allowed to keep that firearm upon honorable discharge. Consequently, most Swiss households owned guns.

Yet you don’t hear about mass shootings in Switzerland. Ever.

Contrast that to Mexico, the complete opposite. Mexico has strict gun control laws that should prevent even the cartels from owning them, and yet people get shot and killed every day, even in touristy places like Cancún.

Within the United States, one need only look at Chicago, a city with strict gun control laws, to see how well gun control is working out. Chicago banned handguns from 1982 to 2010—at which time the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the ban unconstitutional. During that period, 59% of all murders in the city were committed with handguns. From 2003 to 2010, that figure jumped to 71%.

Gun control worked pretty well for the Windy City, then, huh?

Here’s another piece of data: There are approximately 393 million guns owned by civilians in the United States alone. That’s 1.2 guns for every American citizen.

If guns were the problem, we’d sure as heck know it by now. We’d be seeing shootings on an even more massive scale.

These facts are not intended to diminish gun violence in any way. Gun violence is tragic. Any loss of life is tragic. There’s no argument there.

But realize that guns are just a means to an end. Timothy McVeigh bombed Oklahoma City using fertilizer. Terrorists on 9/11 used airplanes. The Boston Marathon bombers used a pressure cooker.

My point is this: Guns are not the problem. Guns never were the problem.

So, what is?

Mental health or instability? Radicalization? Social isolation?

Race-baiting politicians? Brainwashing? Mind control?

The “Deep State” or the “New World Order”?

Far-fetched, you say? Maybe not entirely. But you have to ask yourself these things and do some digging. Rarely does the “official story” match up with all the facts.

Frankly, I don’t know the answer to why. I wish I did. And until I do, or at least think I do, I’m going to keep looking.

But even if I did, the sad fact is that most people will not think beyond what appears to be the immediate solution: ban guns.

Banning alcohol worked so well in the 1920s that they had to pass the 21st Amendment to overturn the 18th.

What makes anyone think that guns would be any different?

And, I hate to say this, but mass murders make me more in favor of the 2nd Amendment than I was before. I want to have a gun on my person if a bad guy starts shooting at me.

And in the current state of our nation, being shot at has become less and less far-fetched of an idea.

I hope this short article has prompted you to think. Ask yourself these questions. Does it really make sense, what these political talking heads are demanding?

Or are they just pushing a narrative?

Pray for the victims of these attacks and their families, pray for our nation, and pray for our world. May God bless our leaders with wisdom and discernment as they grapple with these tough issues. May our nation get to the root causes of these issues so that innocent people can safely go about their lives without fear of being shot.

And may Truth prevail.


Sources and further reading

Guns in Other Countries — Gun Facts: http://www.gunfacts.info/gun-control-myths/guns-in-other-countries/

Estimating Global Civilian-Held Firearms Numbers — Small Arms Survey: http://www.smallarmssurvey.org/fileadmin/docs/T-Briefing-Papers/SAS-BP-Civilian-Firearms-Numbers.pdf

Gun Control — Just Facts: https://www.justfacts.com/guncontrol.asp