Friday, 28 February 2014

Feltag Friday! Is it Rocket Boosters on? ...Or Huston We have a Problem!

I'm a huge fan of FE, Tech and organisational culture so I should be delighted after listening to the panel about the FELTAG report which is due out today, right?

Well... Erm... Yeah... Maybe...

I've not read the full FELTAG report but, based on yesterday's presentation at the Education Innovation Conference I had a few concerns around the rhetoric; 
  • Rocket Boosters on Technology in Learning 
  • 10% of funding for courses needs to be allocated to an online component 
  • No need for more conversations it's action time
The message was one of we should ACT! And ACT NOW! All of which I agree with... after all I write often enough about creative disruption, and am an advocate of the role that tech can play in edu etc etc.

But then on FELTAG Friday I'm suddenly advising caution? Look a bit like trying to make a noise? Or maybe you think this is a little bit of self promotion? Or perhaps this is consistent with the OCR/Invent Ed report and that valid points are being made? Whatever the reason I'm aware that my blog may now be looking like something out of a Monty Python sketch...
But bear with me, allow me to explain... then you can make your own mind up;

1) High Cost/Low Impact Vs High Impact/Low cost interventions 
I think it's great to say "Do something, lets act!" It's also great to say "Let's allocate 10% to online component for courses to make sure we are keeping up with industry changes" 

But when we combine the two together is this a good mix? Or will we find that money gets spend unwisely? If there is one thing that the short history of EdTech tells us its how easy it is to allocate funding to programs that promise much but fail to deliver.

On the other hand finding tech that provides value for money, and is fit for purpose regarding learning outcomes is no easy feat! This is because creating Tech like this is extremely difficult.

Also, I get the rationale and intention behind allocating XX% for online courses but, is this the right message to be sending out? Given all the Freemium models that are out there today, would it not be possible to build a really good online platform without it costing anything?

Now experts like Paul McKean will quite rightly highlight the need for caution regarding free models, they still cost with staff training etc. But just like services that cost money, there will be the good, the bad and the ugly both should be assessed with caution... but neither should they be dismissed out of hand.

I can think of no better way to highlight this than Professor Coe's fantastic "High Cost/Low Impact Vs High Impact/Low Cost model;

Embedded image permalink

2) Scaling too Early 
The #1 cause of startups failing is because they scale too early, they never iterate their way to "Product market fit." This is something that I would argue that the high cost models above, as well as other tech and teaching models suffer from... They should never have been rolled out in the first place!

I have seen articles questioning the value of NLP, multiple inteligence and other teaching models. With regard to emerging technology the "City and Guilds" recent report Unlocking the potential of digital technology in vocational education had this to say about interactive whiteboards; 

Culture, coaching and collaboration reportInteractive whiteboards provide a pointed example of the problems of a national roll-out of one specific technology. Most colleges have interactive whiteboards, but few use them well, and those that do have tested a range of different approaches to find the right place for them. While the technology was rolled-out, it was not entirely clear what the stand-out benefit of interactive whiteboards was, and many teachers used and continue to use them in a similar way to chalk boards.

How much of this early scaling is due to us wanting to find quick fixes for some of the complex educational challenges that we are faced with? How much rigor do we sacrifice and replace with too much optimism? (Or even blind hope?)

3) Rocket Boosters on with Technology and Learning
Is this kind of rehtoric and the recommendations going to see more of the same? Are we going to be heading off full speed ahead with technology in an industry where 50 tech enthusiasts gather but only 5-7 of those people are Tweeting about the event?

I don't wish to dampen any enthusiasm, but when doing some research for another project I came across this article and found it quite interesting and topical (even though it was from 1997) - European Schools Politicians New Mantra: Wiring Up Schools to the Internet

I've seen commercial EdTech companies try to go "Full Speed ahead" and the ensuing crash that their recklessness has caused. So, if this is the direction we're going in, I'll be handing my ticket on board "FELTAG Galactic" to Richard Branson (That is of course provided I had a ticket in the first place?!) Because if you're not prepared to go slow, then I'm taking Zaya's advice and I'm going home! - EdTech in India: Go Slow or Go HomeI've been involved with bad EdTech and refuse to do so again!

4) Early Adopters
The best comment I head yesterday was; "If you're an innovator, you get to run with this."  Great News! But I wonder if SMT will really allow for this, if they will be brave enough to say;

"You know what I didn't have any of this when I was starting out in education, and I really don't know enough about it, so may not be best placed to lead to this... I'm giving you (younger/tech savvy/growth mindset/early adopters) the time, permission and resources to explore this"

These are the people I want to work with wherever they may be I love their energy, enthusiasm and "can do attitude" as well as their ability to have a full and frank discussion about the merits and drawbacks on various ideas.

But I don't want to travel with them, or anyone else, on a rocketship. My prefered mode of transport would be a mini... Well built, nice design, aesthetically pleasing, comfortable, you can control the speed depending on whether you're going full throttle on the race track with an early adopter or taking a technophob out on their first lesson, and it takes me where I want to go.

...You see I'm not so interested in travelling to outer space. My #1 priority has always been, and will always be, the school run. And when we're talking about a journey with my kids I want something that's tried and tested, that can help me navigate my way through all the traffic and pedestrians... and help them arrive safely at their destination.

How many early adopters do you think you can fit in a mini?
It may not be as exciting as space travel but, that's the way we roll. You may even think that this is not a very cutting edge approach, but some ideas can be a little too ahead of their time, and be costly to the early pioneers;
  • MOOCs are now being established but... in 1990s NYU Online at its peak never managed to enroll more than 500 students. After spending $20million on the venture , they shut the programme down in 2001.
  • E-readers have been around since 1998... and are only now gaining traction, being popularised with Amazon leading the charge. Where are the early e-reader companies?
  • MP3 players were around before Apple and Steve Jobs did a fantastic sales and marketing job on the emerging technology. How much market share do early MP3 companies have today? 
I know people struggle to believe that the sales and marketing matter, but they do. Furthermore, I believe that current practices make it very difficult for an effective and efficient roll out. Before you think that my Mini adventure is not ambitious enough, or doesn't have the kind of step-change that's needed... Let me remind you that 1) they are still here and 2) They have moved with the times

Morris Mini-Minor 1959.jpg  
.3) Have experimented with the crazy "oddball" idea from time to time.
4) Some people have customised their Minis... some customised Minis offer the promise of being rocket fuel that will "Give you wings."

By the way, if you'd like to join me on a mini-EdTech adventure and explore different ways that FE and suppliers engage with one another please see this link: Tech Stories - A Mini Adventure

Its the Te@ch Not the Tech
As a tech enthusiast I need to remind myself whats important in the classroom... This is why my online profile is Tech Stories. A comment regarding EdTech that has stuck with me is from KIPP CEO Mike Feinberg at the "Education Innovation Summit" in the US;

"Great teaching and more of it, that's what great EdTech does. Tools that either 1) reduce admin functions so educators can spend more time teaching, or 2) Allow educators to teach for longer by enabling students to learn outside the classroom" Feinberg went on to ask the audience "If you had the choice of a master craftsman or on educator who taught in a bare room OR a mediocre teacher who had all the gadgets and gizmos... Which class would you want your kids to go to?"

The spaceships that put the first astronauts in space had as much tech as we find in a calculator today, what facilitated this was inspiring a generation of scientist by firing up the imaginations of people with the statement  "We're going to put a man on the moon"

I don't care how much tech is in the room, but I sure do care if its an inspiring educator and they have whatever tools they need, that those tools are fit for purpose and, just as importantly, that the educator is comfortable using them.

While I love the energy and what the early adopters create, I also have "laggard tendancies" and know how daunting making changes can be... Whats the use of a rocketship if you've left half your crew stranded?

Will Tech ever replace a good Teacher, I doubt it! Will it replace a bad Teacher? The inclination may be to say "I hope so! They deserve to!" But there are many people who have failed if they system has succeeded in allowing poor teaching to be in the classroom, so hope technology will be able to find ways to improve their skills.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

What's the Difference Between the Cinderella of Edu & Stanford?

There is a term in FE myself and many others have a dislike of, which is any mention of Further Education being the "Cinderella of Education" - a reference to the relationship and comparisons between college and university.

I wrote about some of the reasons for this in my "College Brand Identity - Just Do It" post which I think was a reasonable attempt at explaining why this happens, but would like to add to this post, as I feel better able to articulate one of the significant reasons for this.

Being part of a Community... An Optimally Distinctive One
People identify with others when they are part of a common community. But not all individuals or groups are equally likely to attract this type of identification. When looking for commonalities with others we identify more with "uncommon commonalities" which psycologist Marilynn Brewer has developed;

"On the one hand, we want to fit in: We strive for connection, cohesiveness, community, belonging, inclusion, and affiliation with others. On the other hand, we want to stand out: we search for uniqueness, differentiation and individuality. As we navigate the social world, these two motives are often in conflict. The more strongly we affiliate with a group, the greater our risk of losing our sense of uniqueness. The more we work to distinguish ourselves from others, the greater our risk of losing our sense of belongingness.

How do we resolve this conflict? The solution is to be the same and different at the same time. Brewer calls it the principle of Optimal Distinctiveness: we look for ways to fit in and stand out. A popular way to achieve optimal distinctiveness is to join a unique group. 

Being part of a group with shared interests, values, skills, characteristics, or experiences gives us a sense of uniqueness. Studies show that people identify more strongly with individuals and groups that share unique similarities. The more rare the group, value, interest, skill, or experience is, the more likely it is to facilitate a bond... people are happier in groups that provide optimal distinctiveness, giving a sense of inclusion and uniqueness. These are the groups in which we take the most pride, and feel the most cohesive and valued."

Community Spirit... Didn't the Team do Well?
In my culture report and "College Brand Identity" post I highlight how sports teams excel at bringing diverse groups together using team colours, songs, mascots etc to develop connection and belonging. There is also the fact that the traditions that Red Brick/Ivy League universities resembles what sports clubs do. Stanford psychologist Cliff Nass observes; 

“Workplace similarities within a group are neither clear nor obvious. Therefore you may need to consciously work on team identity by identifying and then highlighting a shared quality. A good example that is that of sport. 

In a college football stadium, people in the stands are bound by only a single characteristic: the team they root for. Nonetheless, students and alumni feel perfectly comfortable screaming, “we are number one” or “we won” even though they had nothing to do with the teams success: they didn’t play, they didn’t coach, they probably didn’t know the players personally, and their individual contributions to cheering were insignificant"  

I recently heard of another fascinating study involving sport that adds to this idea of Common Identity. John Dovidio set up an experiment where groups of friends were on the way to a football match and saw someone fall and twist their ankle. What would you do? Would you help? Or would it depend on the T-Shirt they were wearing? The results of this experiment was that people helped;

92% of the time when the person wore same T-Shirt as fans (Manchester)
70% of the time when the person wore the teams arch rivals shirt (Liverpool)
33% of the time when the person wore a plain T-Shirt.

Education: Stanford University
I got an email in December, which I got very excited about. I had applied to, and was accepted for, one of Stanford University's Innovation and Entrepreneurship Courses. This course costs quite a bit so may be a few months before I can afford it but, with an interest in Tech Startups, what do you think I did when I heard I was accepted? 

I changed my online profiles to say that I would be doing a course at Stanford University of course! I will be extremely pleased when I complete this course and can say that I have a qualification from Stanford... How cool! I was so please when I heard my application was accepted. One of my initial thoughts was

"Hopefully this course will add to my credentials when discussing tech and startups with FE". The next thing to cross my mind was, "What would happen if this was a similar course attended ran by an FE College, would it look as impressive to the FE sector?" I'm not all that sure that it would.

one of the reasons I say this is because I see so many people within and outside of Education making their way to Babson College, which is #1 for entrepreneurship for the last 20 years. On one hand its great that we are collaborating with excellent practitioners; on the other you can't help wonder why there is not a college with the same reputation for entrepreneurship in the UK that people flock to.

Optimally Distinctive Colleges
Not only are these top institutions hard to get into but they also differentiate themselves by focusing in niche areas -  Want a job with Fortune 500 company? Go to Harvard. Want to establish a Tech Startup? Go to MIT or Stanford. To develop a general Entrepreneurship idea, apply to Babson.

Of the UK colleges that do have a stronger "optimally distinctive identity" it may be because the college specialises in specific or unusual subjects and/or are harder to get into because they have a good reputation due to positive Ofsted results etc. Whatever the reason they are oversubscribed as a result of supply and demand, which is what appears to create "optimal distinctiveness" 

I've heard a number of stories about colleges turning very few people away or hardly anyone being permanently excluded (which critics blame on colleges' need of funding). On one hand this has its problems with classroom management and behavioural issues; on the other hand its encouraging that FE is accommodating to our most vulnerable young people.

But these conditions can make creating "Optimal Distinctiveness" a bit more of a challenge... but not impossible;
  • KIPP is an organisation that has succeeded with Optimal Distinctiveness for low income inner city areas
To become a success at what they do KIPPSTERs have to shed part of their own identity because the cultural legacy they have been given does not match their circumstances – not when middle and upper class families are using weekends and summer vacations to push their children ahead. Their communities do not give them what they need. So what do they have to do? They give up their evenings and weekends and time with friends – all the elements of their old world – and replace them with KIPP
  • While UK Unis may be steeped in years of tradition which might make following their model and route to uniqueness difficult to replicate; this is not the case elsewhere... Stanford was not always such a unique organisation - it took a lot of hard work;

    During the Great Depression in the 1930's Professor Terman was concerned at the lack of employment opportunities in the area for his graduates, it troubled him that they had to leave the area to find work. Terman took action by encouraging his faculty members to get out and get acquainted with local industry and those who were doing interesting and creative things...the result? Silicon Valley contains the densest concentration of innovative IT companies that exists anywhere in the world 
“When we set out to create a community of technical scholars, there wasn't much here and the rest of the world looked awfully big. Now a lot of the rest of the world is here” Fred Terman
  • Today Southern New Hampshire University has became distinctive by becoming "The Amazon of HE" within 5 years
There are a number of advantages of creating this kind of culture, which can have significant implications for attracting new students, behavioural issues while at college as well as for career prospects.

FE in the Age of Uncertainty... and HE Saturation
I constantly see the great work that FE does and how it excels in comparison to other areas of education, including UTCs and modern apprenticeships. But, for some reason, the message is not getting through and more PR campaigns are needed to compete with this pervasive message that "Uni is the only route," as it appears to be so ingrained in our psyche.

This may once have been the case but not getting the FE message out there is having a detrimental impact on career progression - Jobless graduates with they studies a vocational course or the fact that this Ted Talk about "Career in the Age of the App" sounds more like a modern apprenticeship and FE education than other form of career progression.

Go Team FE!
CodeBaby avatars
I hope that our EdTech report highlights the extent that sales and marketing matters... to not find or invest in the right kind of PR campaigns will see people continuing to view HE as the only route to success and/or see FE market share be taken by new competitors - Like Starbucks or is your next teacher going to be an avatarAs Peter Sheahan highlights;

"Not only are the markets that we serve more diverse and more demanding in terms of choice, they are also increasing looking to intangible qualities to differentiate between one offering and another. The truth is most businesses are operating in oversupplied markets, where customers can choose between multiple products with the same functional value. In such markets, customers inevitably base the decision to buy one product over another on previously “superficial” features" (Sheahan, P 19)

I have read a number of case studies on this area (many of which as in my "Culture in FE" report) and would be happy to discuss this with anyone who would like to discuss this further. 

...And, if all else fails "if you can't beat 'em join 'em!" We can at the very least roll with this Cinderella of Education image but with a slight re-brand

"Cinderella of Education? Sure we are... We're made up of a tough bunch, who are under-resourced... but we sure do come out fighting and never give up"

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Grant Vs Rand: An Objective Trial was Roark a "Giver"

Anyone following my Tweets or Blog will have noticed that I've been reading a book that has had a big impact on me - "Give and Take" by Adam Grant. 

I have no doubt that many of the ideas from this book will stay with me for a long time... Even if the book does get consigned to the bookshelf and not picked up for way longer than it should. Or worse, is loaned out to a "taker" never to be returned.

Balancing the Books
When I read the first few pages of Give and Take I wondered;

"How am I going to internalise Grants research and findings with Ayn Rands Objectivism?"

I'm not too sure how many people reading this will be aware of either Grant or Rand's work, so will try to summerise things as best I can. Wikipedia states that part of Objectivisims' philosophy is;

"That the proper moral purpose of one's life is the pursuit of one's own happiness (rational self-interest), that the only social system consistent with this morality is one that displays full respect for individual rights embodied in laissez-faire capitalism, and that the role of art in human life is to transform humans' metaphysical ideas by selective reproduction of reality into a physical form—a work of art—that one can comprehend and to which one can respond emotionally"

While I am a fan of Rands' books I won't pretend for a moment that I fully understand a lot of the subtext (And that's after reading the Fountainhead 4 times!). In fact, I barely understand the paragraph above... and the bits I do understand, when put across in this way i.e. "rational self interest and laissez faire capitalism" I would tend not to agree with.

However I do like her books and, when these same points are expanded upon and explained through the experiences of her heroes (or should that be anti-heroes?), I do agree with the ideas. Something that helped me understand Rand's work and her perspective more was to read Anthem, We the Living, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged in chronological order. 

The Takers & Fakers
Reading four of Rands books in succession may have helped me to understand Objectivism a little better, but it did nothing to improve my outlook on politicians, inept authority figures, bureaucrats or ineffective "jobsworths." 

A central theme of both Grants and Rands books warns us to be wary of people who take but give little in return. One of Grants early case studies looks at the rise of Enron and the CEO's relationship with George Bush, and how they did favours for one another.

I had little time for the bankers or politicians before reading either Grants' or Rands' books, but could only explain my reasons for this in general terms. Today I can articulate the reasons a little better as I can see how the culture is formed at these organisations, and how toxic their cultures are, as well as the far reaching implications that their actions have. 

A comment that resonates with me regarding politicians is from The Fountainhead;

"A man cannot rob, exploit or rule - alone. Robbery, exploitation and ruling presuppose victims. They imply dependence. Rulers... create nothing. They exist entirely through the persons of others. Their goal is in their subjects in the activity of enslaving. They are as dependent as the beggar and the bandit" 

Disagree with this statement? Please see the political argument* at the end of the post

Grant Vs Rand - An Objective Trial 
So there is commonality in that both warn against takers, but did Grants ideas about "giving" unsurp or replace my interest in Rands philosophy that revolves around self interest? The short answer is: No, it didn't. 

My faviourite character of Rands' is the hero in The Fountainhead, a young architect called Howard Roark. We meet Roark as he is being expelled from college on graduation day for committing architectural heresy by not conforming. He is being questioned by the dean and is expelled for something that roughly translates as "But that's not the way we do things around here"

In Give and Take, Grant highlights that there is a difference between people who demonstrates "giver" tendencies and agreeableness. He points out that agreeable people can be takers, just as easily as people with "disagreeable personalities" or gruff exteriors can be extremely generous. 

Roark is someone who most certainly would fall into the disagreeable category. 

We are introduced to Peter Keating at the same time we meet Roark. Keating is a classmate who is a rising star in architecture and has agreeableness in bucket loads! His charisma and charm can only be matched by his need for acceptance, recognition, greed and ambition. But this poster boy most definitely belongs in the taker camp.

But what of the disagreeable Roak? Is he a taker or a giver? Stuborn? Absolutely. His ability to compromise? Non-existent, Never! Emotionally intelligent? Hardly! Caters to his customers tastes and ideas? He'd be an account managers' and PR agency's worst nightmare!    

Roark is uncompromising with his principles, ideas and is generally disagreeable in many ways... But its his uncompromising nature that becomes his redeeming feature because we find, eventually, that his uncompromising nature in a result of integrity (and the ability of critical thinking).

"A house can have integrity, just like a person; and just as seldom... Here are my rules: what can be done with one substance must never be done with another. No two materials are alike. No two sites on earth are alike. No two buildings have the same purpose. The purpose, the site, the material determine the shape. Nothing can be reasonable or beautiful unless it's made by one central idea, and the idea sets every detail. A building is alive, like a man. Its integrity is to follow its own truth, its one single theme, and to serve its own single purpose"

The Verdict
I think most of Rand's heroes end up on trial or under intense scrutiny by the establishment at some point so Roark would not find it unsurprising to find himself in the dock in my humble post.

Having finished Give and Take I have to weigh up the big ideas from these authors... Is Roark a giver, taker or matcher? Are these ideas so conflicting that I need to discard one of them? 

Not only do I think that I don't need to choose, I believe that Roark was the consummate giver. He is extremely supportive of his friends and at every point in Keating's career any time he asks Roark for assistance, Roark obliges - Even though he sees Keating for the "taker" and "faker" he is.

The similarities surprised me after reading both books, when writing this post I looked again at the synopsis of "Give and Take" to remind myself why I wondered this, and found the surprise lay in my assumptions. The synopsis reads;

"The best way to get to the top is to focus on bringing others with you... Give and Take will change our fundamental understanding of why we succeed, offering a new model for our relationships with colleagues, clients and competitors"

Then it dawned on me that I got this book because, after a few prolonged encounters with takers, I was starting to believe the adage that "nice guys finish last" and was contemplating leaving a sector that I love and where I have spent a year working on creating my dream job.

So a book on how to develop generous and "giver" attributes that would help with career progression and prevent being taken advantage of, had significant appeal. 

Grant's book is not advocating that people with generous natures willingly "give" so they can be taken advantage of. Quite the opposite... He provides strategies so that more people who act like Roark can use their natural attributes to identify and assert themselves with takers, so they can continue to give but without it being detrimental to, or hampering career progression as it can have a tendency to do (as it did for Roark's poor old boss, friend and mentor Henry Cameron).

So there is no shift in perspective, I have internalsed both books and come to the conclusion that while Roark can come across as stubborn, disagreeable, principled he is a "giver" who, just like Lincoln, faced a series of catastrophic setbacks but succeeds in the long run.

Meanwhile, just like Enron boss Ken Lay, Peter Keating's fortunes reverse as"takers" like him become undone when people see them for what they really are.

"While you gain in short term benefit by taking, in the long run you pay. Relationships get ruined and cause the demise of reputations"

But look at the damage that these takers cause between their meteoric rise and being found out. In Rand's other classic "Atlas Shrugged" on of the heroes/anti-heroes posses this question;

“If you saw Atlas, the giant who holds the world on his shoulders, if you saw that he stood, blood running down his chest, his knees buckling, his arms trembling but still trying to hold the world aloft with the last of his strength, and the greater his effort the heavier the world bore down upon his shoulders - What would you tell him?"

I…don't know. What…could he do? What would you tell him?"

To shrug.” 

Atlas in the paragraph above is a metaphor for capitalists suffering as a result of regulation and bureaucracy. One of Grants suggestions for people with giver traits to prevent what he calls "The Doormat Effect" is to imagine that you are giving advice to others. 

So what if we were to change the context, Atlas here is a fellow "giver" whose experiences have led him to believe the "Nice guys finish last" and all the life was draining out of him as a result of takers? What advice would you give? If you can't beat 'em join them... become a taker too? 

That's one option. Another is to not change, keep giving but to develop ways to be more assertive with it, thereby avoiding being taken advantage of.

With more assertive givers we just might see the changes required in banking, politics and other areas where the takers do a lot of damage before being found out.

Learning from the Past...
Something that some of the givers go through in both books is a fair amount of hardship, Grant uses Lincoln as an example. I have always seen Lincoln as a role model because of his persistence in the face of adversity. The economic recession and actions of the takers is having a devastating effect on many. I wondered in a previous post if there are Lessons in Adversity & Teaching Resilience and highlight the impact that the Great Depression had on children who grew up during these adverse conditions.

I wonder if a positive outcome of this recession might see the next generation are less materialistic (pictures of millenials with everything they ownand more giving... a utopian dream or a potential reality? Only time will tell...

In the meantime I'll leave you with these links and you can decide for yourself if you think I'm a dreamer... But I'm not the only one;
You May Say I'm a Dreamer.. but I'm not the only One =) 

NB I never was any good at book reviews at school, so on one hand apologies if this post didn't make much sense (or less sense than my other posts?!); On the other hand if the post didn't make complete sense, I hope that it has at least "peeked your interest" and leads you to explore the work of both Grant and Rand... and if you do you can come to your own conclusions.

*Political Argument
With regard to my agreeing with Rands assertion that "politicians need victims" please allow me to play devils advocate for a moment... 
How many adults leave school with a reading age of 5 or the inability of critical thought? 
Do these factors then make certain newspapers their news source of choice?
Are such a newspapers capable of getting our politicians into No10? 
Do politicians get all cozy with the owner of these publications? 
If "yes" why would any politician from any party want to change any situation that delivers power in such a straightforward manner?

This might be especially true if you then consider the implications if politicians were committed to ensuring critical thought was a priority in our young people. After all people may start to wonder;

What is it exactly that politicians do? 

If "we're in this together" can you let us the last time a politician had to visit a food bank? 
If political action is indeed making "people's lives better," who for? Where do they live? 
Why does every encounter with the public need to be stage managed and filled with party political drones, stooges and yes men?
Who is John Galt?