I have had plenty of opportunities to retire comfortably. I have been a professor. I’ve worked as a statistical analyst at a large company. I’ve built a consulting company with long-term clients.
If you have a short attention span – I will give you the answer now:
The solution to problems we complain about in our country is us.
Four years ago, along with Maria and Dennis, I started 7 Generation Games. Since then, every day has been like pushing water up hill. We had to go out and get funding for what was just an idea – kids would learn more if we built games that taught multiple subjects, that were more, well game-like, with Easter eggs, more story line.
When we built the first prototype it was SO buggy. I will be forever grateful to the teachers and students at Spirit Lake and Turtle Mountain (yes, my Los Angeles friends, those are real places) for putting up with all the problems, all of their feedback, all of their ideas. I do believe, though, it was a good experience for those students to be involved in developing a product from the beginning and see what it was like.
After our first prototype, we did a full-blown, non-buggy version (thank you USDA for the funding!) , then a better version of two games, then three more games and are now working on Aztech.
Every step, it is asking everyone we know and a lot of people we don’t to TRY THE GAMES in your class, with your kids. Sponsor schools. TELL YOUR FRIENDS about us.
The journey and pushing forward could be a dozen posts, and now that I’m back home, I’ll probably write them. Why do I do it? Why did I (and Maria and Dennis) give up jobs that paid us good money, benefits and retirement accounts to do something that some months doesn’t pay us at all?
At some point, I got tired of citing the statistics and decided to change them.
Only 26% of U.S. High school students are proficient in math, for minority students it’s less than half of that.
I’ve been hearing these numbers, or something similar, for over 30 years, since I was a graduate student. As Maria often says, if current solutions were working, those numbers would be going up – and they’re not.
We’re working hard to change those numbers every day, to make our games better, more fun, better education. Sometimes it gets discouraging – rising above the thousand emails teachers and parents get promising that THIS widget will raise your kids’ test scores and this one will improve your credit score and this one will make you beautiful. We have come an amazing distance with a fraction of the money other game companies have (another post).
One day, I was feeling as if we just were never going to break through the inertia in some schools, and my daughter, Jennifer (the quiet history teacher everyone always forgets) said to me,
“Mom, more than anyone I know, you live the saying ‘Be the change you want to see in the world.'”
It was worth giving up my 401K just to have my children think of me that way. That IS the reason I quit my comfortable job. I didn’t want to stand on the sidelines and bemoan the lack of progress made by teachers and children. I wanted to DO something to make it better.