Sexing it Up on the Moon

I recently had the pleasure of sitting in the park on a warm (but thankfully not sweltering) day, listening to Ben Mezrich, the author of “The Accidental Billionaires” and “Bringing Down the House”, talk about his new book “Sex on the Moon”.  Mr. Mezrich, first of all, is an incredibly engaging speaker and a pleasure to listen to – a man with 101 stories. He recounted the people he’s met, his writing process, and the crazy people who contact him, wanting him to tell their story.  What an interesting life he must lead.

So back to the task at hand. “Sex on the Moon”.  This book, sadly for some, is not really about going to the moon or about having sex on the moon – at least in the literal sense.  The book is, however, about a smart young man named Thad who steals  a 600 pound safe, filled with moon rocks, out of a secure NASA facility.  Why, you may ask? Why for love, of course.

So let me start by saying that the book was definitely well-written.  Unfortunately, however, I didn’t find the premise all that engaging.  It’s not that the story wasn’t interesting.  It was more that the story didn’t need a whole book.  It felt like an amusing anecdote you’d tell a friend.  “Hey, did you hear about that punk kid who stole those moon rocks and thought he wasn’t going to get caught? Seriously, what was he thinking?”  Or maybe a corny rom com.  “Thad worked for NASA.  He thought space was his one and only love, but then he  met… Rebecca.” Okay. So it wasn’t really like that, but you know what I mean.

But amazingly, Thad does come across as a somewhat likable character.  Sure he’s a bit arrogant, a bit swaggering.  But somehow you find a soft spot in your heart for him, for an idealistic kid who did something stupid for love and paid the price, giving up a big chunk of his life to do so.  And I have to say I also somewhat admire the kid – he was able to take a bad situation and approach it with grace, taking a bad situation and making it, well, a positive one.

Looking at the Achievement Gap

These days there’s a lot of talk about the Achievement Gap in the US, which is obviously a huge problem.   But what is often not addressed is the Global Achievement Gap, which Tony Wagner looks at in this book.

In this book, he takes a look not at our worse schools but at our best – and from there compares the skills kids are learning in school with the skills that are necessary in the workforce.  His results in a nutshell? Not so great.

After polling a bunch of company executives, Mr. Wagner distilled the 7 main skills students need today to survive in the workforce:

  • critical thinking and problem-solving
  • Collaboration and lead by influence
  • Agility and adaptability
  • Initiative and entrepreneurialism
  • Effective oral and written communication
  • The ability to assess and analyze information
  • Curiosity and imagination

And scarily enough, these are not really skills that we’re cultivating in schools today.  If you can, think back to your AP tests, the tests that are supposed to pass you out of college level courses.  How many of those tests asked you to solve problems? How many of them really even asked you to analyze information and create a thoughtful written response?  Sadly enough, rarely any. There’s a serious deficit in American education, even for the top students, and we’re not doing anything to fix it.  In comparison, other countries are.  Take China for instance.  Long criticized for lack of creativity and imagination,  they’re actively trying to change their education system, trying to keep the best of their current education system while concurrently trying to instill their students with the qualities they’re lacking.

This, needless to say, does not bode well for America’s future.  I think this book is a great read.  It helps you look at our education system in a slightly different way, from a macro level versus the world rather than a micro level and all the problems we have within.  And both problems do need to be fixed.

Sorry for the long break…

But I hope to be back again soon! I’ve been busy with a new job and a variety of other things, but I hope to be able to blog about all the cool new books I’ve read lately including:

— Ben Mezrich’s Sex on the Moon
— Daniel H. Wilson’s Robopocalypse
— Tony Wagner’s The Global Achievement Gap
— Brandon Sanderson’s The Mistborn Trilogy

And, on a separate note, I was able to attend a reading at Barnes and Noble by none other than George R.R. Martin! Needless to say, it was quite a treat.