March 13, 2008

Six Pieces of Advice Meme, For Boys

Last month, I was asked by Aaminah (in one of the comments on Izzy Mo's blog) to do the "Six Pieces of Advice" meme, but for boys. I've been rather busy the past few weeks (the end of the current school term finished yesterday), but I hadn't forgotten about doing it. Now, as I've thought through this meme, I came to the conclusion that all of my advice applies not only to boys but to girls as well, so listen up, kids, Uncle JDsg has somethin' to say to you:

The Rules:
1. Post these rules before presenting your list.
2. List 6 actions or achievements you think every person (or in this case, young women/girls) should accomplish before turning 18.
3. At the end of your blog, choose 6 people to get tagged and list their names.
4. People who are tagged write their own blog entry with their 6 suggestions.
5. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged.

Number 1: Learn to touch type. Doesn't sound like much, but it's one of the best pieces of advice I can give any teenager, boy or girl. When you get to college and you've got a dozen or so reports to write each semester, ranging anywhere between two and thirty pages long, you're gonna wish you had taken that typing course your high school offered when you had the chance. "Hunt and peck" takes for freakin' ever, so learn the language of the fingers while you have the chance. And if you have the opportunity to take a longer typing class (my high school offered both a half-year and full-year course), take the class over the full year. Not being the most nimble of fingers at the time, it took me about 3/4 of the school year to get the hang of touch typing. If I had taken the half-year course, I might never have gotten the brain-finger coordination that's needed. One other thing: boys, remember, typing class is where all the girls are! ;) No kidding. In my class there were four boys, including me, and about 26 girls. (A guy I knew when I was a teenager used the same logic when registering for a home ec class, but that's a different story.)

Number 2: Become fluent in a second language. Considering the number of times I've written on this topic on my blog, it should come as no surprise that I'd bring it up again. But seriously, don't just think, "I'll never leave the U.S." or "I'll never have the chance to use another language." This is not true. Especially if you're an American teenager living in certain states, like California, Arizona, New Mexico or Florida, a second language like Spanish is going to be immensely helpful for you to get a job or expand your career horizons. (American Express in Phoenix was always advertising for Portuguese speakers who could work with their Brazilian offices and customers.) A second language (and even a third) is absolutely vital if you have any interest in living or working overseas. (And, of course, if you're a young Muslim boy or girl, one of those languages should be Arabic.)

Number 3: Start becoming an expert in three subjects. This is something I picked up from Tom Friedman's book, The World is Flat. I once read that the half-life of a college education is five years. Meaning, in five years, half of what you learned at school will become irrelevant, and in ten years 75% of what you learned will be irrelevant, and so on. The sad fact of the matter is that it's true. If you have any desire for a decent-paying job, you need to accept that you've got to keep learning for the rest of your life. You may not necessarily have to go back to school, but you'll have to learn in one way or another. (I, personally, will buy and read through college textbooks on subjects that I think I should know or should refresh myself on.) Friedman's point was that you always need to keep rotating your areas of expertise. You become an expert in one topic; as that topic starts to fade in terms of importance, you start becoming an expert in a second topic. And then you begin learning about a third topic, one that you think may become important for the future. And then you keep on adding and dropping topics to learn about as you progress through your career. The topic may not necessarily be a full-blown subject like "psychology," but can be something as small as a specific job skill (e.g., knowing how to use a computer program). But you continue to learn new things over your lifetime that will help keep your career and job skills relevant.

Number 4: Join a band or a chorus. I'd have included this one anyway, coming from a musical family as I do, but another interesting point in Friedman's "The World is Flat" is that people who belong (or belonged) to musical organizations, such as bands, drum corps, choruses, etc., are more rounded individuals and are better able to interact with other people. Friedman discusses how Georgia Tech's retention and graduation rates improved dramatically when the university began emphasizing the admission of musically-gifted students. (Remember, Georgia Tech is known as an engineering university!) So, if you don't sing or play an instrument yet, by all means do so. (Just don't make a fool of yourself auditioning for American Idol. ;) )

Number 5: Start learning about personal finances and how the money and capital markets work. The simple fact of the matter is, you're going to have to learn this anyway. Earning and spending money is the easy part; trying to save your money and invest it wisely is much more difficult. Start with the basics: learning how to balance a checkbook, putting 10% of every paycheck into a savings account and learning how to live on the remainder, learning how to read the financial section of the newspaper and what all those numbers mean. Then start learning about the different types of investments (stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc.) and how they're bought and sold. (If you're Muslim, you'll also need to know which investments are halal or not.) This is not the sort of topic that you can read about overnight; most of us take years to fully understand it all (and understanding the financial jargon is half the battle). But plug away at it, try investing in some mutual funds and, above all, remember, "past performance is no guarantee of future results." :)

Number 6: Become a hafiz. Milady's suggestion was that Muslim teenagers should read through all of the Qur'an, from one end to the other, a minimum of three times. It's a very good suggestion, but I'll go one better, become a hafiz (or hafizah for the girls). It's so much more difficult to remember things as you get older (trust me on this), but when you're younger, it's much easier to remember (and retain knowledge of) whatever it is you're trying to memorize. And what's more important than memorizing the Qur'an? So crack open that Qur'an (after doing wudu, of course) and start memorizing those surahs.

Now, whom can I make moan and groan this time? ;) How about Abdurrahman Squires at Mere Islam (who doesn't write nearly as often as he should), Abu Sinan~Sayf (welcome back!), Bin Gregory (for his second meme), the inimitable Dr. M, Rob Wagner (who's not Muslim, but should be), and Brother Saifuddin, who helps me spread the word over at Street Prophets (along with a few other Muslims, like Amad, Dervish and Rockinhejabi).


Anonymous said...

Asalaamu alaikum.

FABULOUS! Thank you for taking time to do this. :)

Although, I am tempted to ask where and when you went to high school where they offered typing classes (you really do not need to answer the when, LOL). Our local public schools do not offer typing. It was briefly offered as a marking period (i.e. half-semester) class at my middle school, but they stopped offering it the year after I took it. I learned to type on my father's army typewriter. Most kids have computer access these days (I didn't) even if only at school or the library, so they can and should teach themselves even if they can't find a class.

JDsg said...

Wa 'alaikum salaam. You're welcome. I went to high school in the late 70s in upstate NY, in what's called the Southern Tier of NY (along the Pennsylvania border). My public high school did have the two typing classes, the full-year business typing class, which was oriented for future secretaries (hence the reason why there were so many girls in the class), and a half-year class that was geared for everyone else. I took the full-year class in my sophomore year; damned near wrecked my GPA. ;) But it's one of those skills that's universally required for white collar workers, and I've never regretted taking that class.

Kay said...

Salam 3alaikum JDSG. This is ironic, I'm actually studying in the Southern Tier right now....small world, isn't it? :p

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Anonymous said...

Isn't Arabic so extremely difficult though that it is almost impossible to keep and maintain fluency unless you live in an Arab country?

Abu Sinan made that point as to why the US military finds it so hard to recruit linguists - people who are fluent in Arabic have almost invariably lived for years in the Arab world, and this means the military doesn't want them because they've picked up pro-Hamas or pro-Hezbollah views...

JDsg said...

Kay: Where are you studying? (E-mail me if you don't want to say publicly.)

George: I haven't been able to learn as much Arabic as I'd like (my wife and I have taken some classes), but from what little exposure I've gotten, Arabic is a very logical language (e.g., in terms of syntax). I don't know that you necessarily need to live in the Middle East to maintain your fluency. Abu Sinan seems to do well enough in the US with his wife to help him. (Go back to the blog post you linked and read Michael Murry's comment.) OTOH, you'll definitely lose your language skills if you don't keep them in practice, regardless of where you live. (Two high school years of German, plus three semesters in college, all down the drain. ;) )

As for the pro-Hamas/Hezzbollah attitudes, I don't know anything about that; however, I suspect that most potential linguist recruits don't agree with the US foreign/military policy with the Middle East to begin with and, thus, aren't interested in being recruited in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Another thing - is there any point in non-Muslims learning Arabic?

I've read some places that Maghrebis (frex) would rather communicate in the old colonial language of French (far easier than Arabic for anglophones) than in MSA, and that when it comes to business in the Middle East, being a Muslim is far more valued than a knowledge of Arabic.

JDsg said... there any point in non-Muslims learning Arabic?

I would advocate more that non-Muslims (and Muslims) learn a second language (if they don't speak one already) that they gain the most benefit from learning. If that's Arabic, fine; if it's Spanish (or any other language), that's also fine. But even if you don't use the second language as much as you'd like, you still benefit from learning the language: the increased understanding of how languages work in general (e.g., syntax, grammar), the other cultures where the languages are spoken, the mental maps that other languages use which help to determine how that other culture thinks, and so on. So I'd never demand that a non-Muslim necessarily learn Arabic, but if they wanted to, then that's great.

Read my post on Kyle Rothstein if you haven't already and see if you think this kid has benefited or not from having learned Chinese.

I've read some places that Maghrebis (frex) would rather communicate in the old colonial language of French (far easier than Arabic for anglophones) than in MSA, and that when it comes to business in the Middle East, being a Muslim is far more valued than a knowledge of Arabic.

That may be for both of these, but I'm no expert on the Middle East, so I can't say with any certainty. However, I'd say the need for guanxi (as the Chinese call it; "connections") is a pretty universal trait.