On Art and Education

It seems there is a never ending debate on the state of education in our society, which is by no means a bad thing. I think that is healthy or at least an indicator that we truly care about the education of our young. But the level of contentiousness makes me believe that it has become more important to win the debate than it is to determine what is the right direction both for our youth and mankind as a whole. Locally, in Wisconsin, with the roar of Act 10 still echoing, the controversial debate over common core now besieges the senses from all quadrants. And the constant drone of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)… STEM, STEM, STEM, STEM, STEM indicates to me that we have reduced our education system to, “Train them for a skill and get them producing.”Is it no wonder that we are collectively saying, “Something has to change”?And my perception is there has been a distinct shift to social education over the course of my lifetime. Something that is contributing to drive the STEM debate I’m sure but I want to interject another point of view. One that has been overlooked, ridiculed, and laughed at for quite some time by the great majority of society (myself included at times).Perhaps I should give a little background on myself and the reason for my argument to give you a bit of context.I grew up primarily encouraged to study the sciences. I was always told that I could do anything I wanted but any expression in the arts was met with ridicule and contempt. Consequently, I ended up spending over 30 years working in the Avionics industry having graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelors of Science degree in Industrial Technology. And except for the actual learning process I was never enamored with my chosen profession. It left me unquestionably empty.I ended up doing it solely because I had the cognitive ability to do it but certainly not the passion. Deep down I knew I was an artist but the ability to express myself had been suppressed. My path to artistic expression along with my life experience has clearly shown me where we can improve life in regards to our societal woes both professionally and inter-personally and those improvements begin with education.One of the common things I have heard throughout my professional life regardless of where it was or what we were doing is that there has been a collective lack of creativity in plans, solutions, responses, and reactions to virtually all business endeavors. Often this was emphatically stated, “We need more creative ideas!” yet the root solution to the problem isn’t just overlooked, it’s disparaged as a gross waste of resources.The above stated need should lead to the question, “How do we teach creativity?” And what has happened to creativity in our society? The Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking indicates that creative thinking in the United States is actually declining. A clear indication to me that we need to do something and do something about it now.If we want more creative solutions, we need a robust education in and a change of attitude toward the Arts. An area of study that I myself have disdained in the past mostly because I was mimicking my upbringing. But also because I did not know what it was, what its purpose was, or how it could bring value to my life both personally and professionally.I’m not proposing a monumental shift in educational direction rather a more rounded approach with a distinct emphasis on creative thinking within each individual – a proposition that avoids the socially desirable black and white grading standard. I’m convinced our desire for these grading standards are a product and an indication of our deep reverence for STEM.If you consider my example, I began by mastering the multiplication table, moved onto completing the square in a quadratic equation, then finding the third derivation in calculus and I end up applying those skills repeatedly for nearly the rest of my life thereby joining the mechanical cycle of produce and consume. Good skills to be sure but that didn’t prepare me to create at the base level meaning of the word.Intuitively I know that absolutely nothing develops creativity like the study of the Arts. Study and learn a new technique then go and create something fresh and interesting (for the student) with that technique. While grading can be based on the level of mastery of the technique the true education comes in exploring the deeper meaning of creating something. What did you find interesting about creating this piece? What did you learn? What would you do differently next time? Questions that do not necessarily have a right or wrong answer but they are designed to stimulate even more creative thinking.It seems clear to me that we worship creativity in virtually all aspects of our lives. Beyond the obvious movie star or musician, just think of the famous CEO because of his innovative products or the rock star minister able to attract great legions of people to listen to him tell stories that are thousands of years old. And a close inspection of the scientific method, and the conclusions it has brought us, will reveal that it is those that artistically (creatively) apply their vocation to experimentation that are the ones that come up with truly ground breaking results that change our lives.But the question “How do we teach this rare commodity called creativity?” remains. I don’t believe there is a simple answer and we may not even truly know what creativity is.I do know this, if you want to engage a whole group of people in math, teach them music. If you want to elevate everyone’s attention to detail, teach them the visual arts. If you want more people to be passionate about geometry, teach them central perspective (at the right time) and they’ll most likely move on with a fervent eagerness to learn calculus.In many ways, central perspective may be the perfect analogue to what I am trying to say. Most Art Historians will tell you that unlike other ancient discoveries in visual arts, central perspective was discovered in one place and at one specific time because it was such a radical departure from normal that it only came about because of prolonged experimentation and research. While I do not disagree with that, I find it subordinate to the fact that central perspective was discovered during the Renaissance and like the fundamental underlying message of the Renaissance, central perspective was disseminated freely to all who wanted to learn it. And we have been the rich beneficiaries of that teaching for five centuries now.Central perspective could have been discovered in other places at later times had those that discovered it decided to hoard it to themselves. But the Renaissance was about learning and applying those lessons in a creative manner. It wasn’t about learning new applications of geometry, it was about having a creative vision and developing the tools to realize that vision and then giving those tools to fellow human beings so they too could create their vision.Creativity seems to be born out of the free expressive exploration of techniques that stimulate the senses. The key element though is an active exploration of these techniques – it can not be learned passively. We have to engage our offspring in undertakings they can become passionate about and not just teach them to clearly defined objectives that are learned by rote.Just the smallest experience in the creation of art teaches us to make concrete decisions as to why we want something some particular way. It forces us to contemplate more points of view and consider the results of our actions in a more diverse way than our monolithic produce and consume society typically trains us to regard. It gets us out of the superficial exercise of placing check marks in boxes and makes us choose a particular shade and hue (both metaphorically and in real life) for a particular reason and we will succeed or fail based on those decisions. But even if we fail, we eventually succeed as the lesson will come full circle and teach us the reasons for not doing it that way.Earlier I referred to stimulating the senses. We must keep in mind that we have presumably mastered the use of our senses prior to being able to speak. But a modicum of training in the arts quickly reveals that we only attained a journeyman level of proficiency at best. One of the major benefits of artistic growth is we begin to understand that there isn’t a clear demarcation between input (the senses) and processing (cognition) like contemporary education teaches but a gradual transition with each dependent upon the other. I am convinced that it is within this understanding that creativity is born and flourishes.If we look objectively at our educational system, we will come to the conclusion that we primarily train people “what to think.” Whereas the creation of art develops our “how to think” abilities. It seems to me that because of how we presently educate, true creativity is restricted to those gifted with natural talent. While the average person may never contend with the true prodigy regardless of the amount of education, training, and practice provided, they will use the traditional tools taught in schools today in a more creative manner if their education includes well rounded instruction and practice in the Arts. And that is the best direction our education system and our society could possibly go.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Getting Unsecured Loans With Bad Credit: Options Available to Borrowers

Bad credit borrowers can have a hard time of it when searching for loans with good terms. It is a consequence of their bad credit history, and one that usually means costly compromises must be accepted to get an application approved. But there are affordable options available for those seeking even unsecured loans with bad credit.The reason why these opportunities exist is that a low credit score is no longer recognized as an accurate indication of risk. Honest borrowers have been hit by the financial crisis of recent years, and find themselves with low scores. As a result, loan approval is more difficult, but getting loan approval with no collateral is much harder.Collateral is a hugely significant aspect to a loan application, but it can be hard to get when the required loan is large. After all, who has an item worth $15,000 or $20,000 to put up as collateral that they may be willing to lose. So, for most of us, an unsecured personal loan is the best we can hope for.Secured vs Unsecured: Different Terms to ExpectThere are 3 sources that applicants can seek loans from: traditional lenders, like banks; lending firms that specialize in loans but no other financial activities; and online banks and lenders. Each offers very different terms and conditions to those applying for unsecured loans with bad credit.Typically, of course, the terms of a secured loan are going to be much better. Interest rates are lower and loan sizes are limitless, with the only condition being that the value of the collateral matches the sum being borrowed. Certainly, loan approval with no collateral is much harder because of the degree of risk the lender must accept.Because of this risk, the interest rate charged is higher. This in turn increases the cost of the loan, which directly affects its affordability, which sometimes means the size of the approvable unsecured personal loan is lower than the sum needed.The Problem With Traditional LendersThere was a time when traditional lenders were arguably the best sources for financing. But in recent years, a large portion of existing loans had to be written off by lenders because borrowers were unable to maintain repayments. The result is that banks and credit unions are nervous about granting unsecured loans with bad credit.Unsurprisingly, these large lending institutions have tightened up their lending policies, introduced stricter terms and penalties for late payments. Interest rates have risen for bad credit borrowers, often making the loan itself too expensive, and loan approval with no collateral has become extremely difficult to attain.In fact, traditional lenders are less likely to lend than ever before, even to applicants with good credit scores. The only way for many people to get the green light on an unsecured personal loan is to look to the alternative lenders, usually to be found online.Advantage of Alternative LendersThe Internet has brought a world of lending options to consumers, and that has made the chances of getting an unsecured loan with bad credit, but at affordable terms, much more likely. There are two types, however.Subprime lenders operate online and approval is almost guaranteed with them, even for large loans. The reason they can afford to accept the risk of granting loan approval with no collateral is that their interest rates are competitive, but the term is long (25 years). So, repayments are kept affordably low, but over the lifetime of the loan a large amount of interest is paid.Private online lenders charge lower interest rates and shorter repayment terms, but the loans are smaller. Payday loans are anything from $100 to $1,500, while larger unsecured personal loans of between $2,000 and $20,000 boast competitive terms compared to traditional loan terms.

Posted in loans | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Is There A Better Way To Finance A Business Loan? Consider An Asset Finance Strategy

When you need asset finance and a business loan in the 2010 economic environment alternatives are great. One of those solid alternatives is an asset based lending arrangement which focuses on what counts, your assets!As a business owner and/or financial manager you are looking for business financing that makes sense. ABL is the acronym for one of the more exciting business financing alternatives that is growing in popularity every year in Canada. Are we actually saying that asset finance via an asset based line of credit is ‘ exciting ‘? We will let you decide that, but if this financing is easier to achieve than bank financing, is cost effective, and provides you with unlimited capital… well our clients are excited… you make your own thoughts on that!Asset based lines of credit simply are drawn down by your firm based on the value of ongoing assets. The assets that are always there are inventory, A/R, and to some degree your fixed assets that aren’t already financed. By collateralizing your assets, and, most importantly, leveraging them to the max if you need to, you are creating available working capital.We are always explaining to clients that this leverage of assets is not taking on debt, you are not borrowing on a long term basis, and you are simply monetizing current and fixed assets based on current values. What are those values, typically they are 90-100% of receivables under 90 days, 40-75% of your inventory, and a liquidation type value on any equipment you want to temporarily monetize. Clients always ask – ‘ Do you mean that we can borrow, if we need to, on a temporary but ongoing basis on our fixed assets?”. The answer is yes, if you are considering this type of financing strategy.Let’s cover off the two key points clients always tend to focus on when they are investigating this unique business loan strategy- namely costs, and timelines to get the working capital facility in place.In some ways cost is the most difficult area of explanation and investigation in an asset finance working capital facility. Putting aside the normal due diligence or commitment fee required to get a facility in place the reality is that there are a couple of key drivers that affect pricing. Asset finance revolvers can be just as competitive as a Canadian chartered bank financing (and less onerous to get approved) but prices varies all over the board in Canada because of the fragmented and specialized nature of this type of financing.Typically we see rates as low as 9% per annum and as high as 1.5% per month. That’s a big spread and ultimately it depends on the size of the facility, the mix of your current assets, as well as any perceived industry or business risk associated with your firm. But again, we remind the reader, what price would you pay for unlimited working capital?Typically it takes 2-4 weeks to close such a facility. In Canada as we noted the market is fragmented and these lenders are very focused, specialized, and by nature experienced in what they do, which is value your assets and finance them!Speak to a trusted, credible and experienced Canadian business financing advisor around asset finance as a business loan strategy if your working capital needs ‘ aren’t working ‘ now!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off