JANA Partners Urges Apple, Inc. to Think Differently

Who is responsible for the vast amount of hours that kids spend using technology today? Should parents be held responsible? Should schools? Or should the creators and distributors of that technology have a part of the responsibility? These are tough questions, and certainly there is much room for debate. One organization, JANA Partners, together with the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, is offering their opinion to Apple, Inc. JANA Partners and Callstrs own approximately $2 billion in shares of Apple.

In the letter called Think Differently About Kids, JANA admits that they aren’t looking for an “all or nothing” approach to technology. They recognize that there are many benefits to today’s technology. As they explain,

“More than 10 years after the iPhone’s release, it is a cliché to point out the ubiquity of Apple’s devices among children and teenagers, as well as the attendant growth in social media use by this group. What is less well known is that there is a growing body of evidence that, for at least some of the most frequent young users, this may be having unintentional negative consequences.” They list many of the consequences and the research that points to the many difficulties dealing with children today and their use of technology in educational, social and family settings.

They are asking Apple for a number of important steps that Apple can follow. These include creating an expert committee, offering Apple’s information resources for research efforts, creating new tools and options, educating the public and reporting.

In response, Apple explained that it already had extensive parental controls that govern the content and applications. They said that,

“We think deeply about how our products are used and the impact they have on users and the people around them. We take this responsibility very seriously and we are committed to meeting and exceeding our customers’ expectations, especially when it comes to protecting kids.”

Certainly, opening channels of communication about technology is the first step in helping today’s kids (and tomorrow’s) to approach their use of technology in a different way.



Reducing Your Footprint

While we tend to think that the choices we make don’t really have a global impact – they do. And this is true for environmental issues and landfill issues as much as it is for other considerations. Of course we all have waste that has to be thrown out, but there really are easy ways that you can limit your waste and keep the landfills from filling even more. Here are three ideas:

Donate Clothes: Don’t throw your clothes away! This is actually one of the biggest contributors to landfills. Instead of throwing away clothes, you can donate them to the needy. You can turn them into rags to use around the house. You can have a garage sale or sell them on eBay.

Take Care of Your Food: What does this mean? Try not to purchase more than you’re going to use, since so much food gets thrown out. See if there is somewhere that you can donate food if you aren’t eating it and it’s packaged.

Buy Less Packaged Food: This could have the added benefit of helping you to eat in a healthier way. If you buy less packaged food this typically means that you are eating more natural items, and you’re keeping the packaging out of landfills.

Ode to the Inventor of Pac-Man

For those of you who love Pac-Man, today is a sad day. And that’s because Masaya Nakamura, the founder of Namco, has died. Namco is the Japanese company started in 1955 that that was responsible for Pac-Man.

Pac-Man was designed by the video game engineer Toru Iwatani and first came to the market in 1980. It was named, by Guinness World Records, as the world’s most successful coin-operated video game.  The company has actually estimated that Pac-Man has been played more than 10 billion times.

The spin-offs of Pac-Man have been never-ending. Pac-Man has been adapted for cell phones and Nintendo, for Xbox and PlayStation, for animated films, for TV series and for loads of merchandise.

And where did Pac-Mac’s classic design start? According to Bandai Namco, it was inspired by none other than pizza. The name comes from the Japanese phrase that describes the Pac-Man eating the dots. It’s called “paku paku” and from that we got Pac-Man.


Lego Building and Coding Set

Now here is a brilliant idea. With the technology world taking us into the future, why not give your kids a leg up and get them building their Legos – while learning to code. Lego is launching a new building and coding set that lets kids build five different smart toy models. These will include a cat, robot and guitar among others.

Last year, Lego launched the WeDo 2.0 robotics kit that teachers science and technology ideas to elementary students. This effort is focused on coding. The kit, which will be called the Boost Kit, comes with a Move Hub (which is a Lego brick with a tilt sensor). Users will then download the app that features 60 coding activities.

The kit will be available later this year for $160.

Daniel Taub is Staying Focused on the Facts for Textbooks and Children

Daniel Taub
Daniel Taub

The vast majority of educated people assume that they are getting a relatively unbiased education through their textbook studies. There is no reason to assume that there are biases in elementary school through the textbooks – but most people would be shocked to see just how prevalent such biases really are. Certainly, many textbooks written in the 1950s in America showed gender and racial bias. The math problems included women who were baking and cooking and men who were going off to work. The story lines would include white people who were successful and black people who were in the fields or in other industries of this sort.

But in today’s world, we don’t expect such biases to continue. And they do. Daniel Taub, a former ambassador to the United Kingdom who headed the Israeli side of the Culture of Peace negotiations at the Annapolis Conference in 2007, has written a great deal about these issues. As UNESCO passes resolutions wiping out Jewish history and Judaism’s connection to Jerusalem, Mr. Taub points out some fascinating, and perhaps not well known truths. In an article in The Jerusalem Post he explained that,

“I served as the head of the Israeli side of the Culture of Peace track of negotiations with the Palestinians during this Orwellian rewriting of history. Our negotiation team was charged, among other things, with examining the role played by schoolbooks and education systems in perpetuating the conflict. In examining textbooks, we chose to place particular emphasis on deliberate distortions of history for political ends.”

He continued by explaining that he actually traveled to Northern Ireland with his Palestinian counterpart, Sufian Abu Zaida, where they learned that both sides of the Irish conflict insisted that history be taught honestly to school children.

Returning from their trip, they developed a program for school textbooks to be reviewed by an independent committee of experts, but the program was rejected by the Palestinian leadership when it became public knowledge.

Daniel Taub gives a concrete example when discussing the bias in Palestinian teachings. As he said, “Palestinian text books were actually rewritten to rename the Tomb of Rachel the Mosque of a Moslem prophet.  And the Guide to the Temple Mount published by the Supreme Moslem Council in the 1920’s said that its identity as the site of Solomon’s Temple was ‘beyond dispute’.”

Certainly, around the world textbooks needs to reflect the reality of the history and the current events as they unfold. When quoting late senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Daniel Taub recalled that Senator Moynihan used to say, “You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.”



Playground Built in One Day in the Bronx

It’s heartwarming when you see ideas that actually get turned into actions. A new playground in the Bronx has done just this. Two nonprofits, DreamYard and KaBOOM! have come together with Delta Air Lines to build a play area on Washington Avenue near E. 166th Street in Morrisania. The project was completely dreamed up by kids.

As Tad Hutcheson, the VP of Community Affairs for Delta explained,

“Three months ago, we had a design day here and kids drew their ideal playground — what they like, swings, slides and all that. Some of those drawings included pools and roller coasters.”

KaBOOM! then used the drawings to develop a playground design with common elements that the kids had suggested. And in one day the playground was built and put into place.

Check out the finished project…and use this idea to dream bigger than you might imagine possible.