Posted By: Francis Koster Published: February 8, 2021

What gets measured gets managed

When I was in school, one of the most dreaded sentences my teacher uttered was “Close your books, we are going to have a pop quiz.” Over the past few months, I have written a number of columns each teaching little-known facts. Have you been paying attention? Surprise! Here is your quiz: 1.    How much more does the average American adult weighs now compared to 1960? 28 pounds. [1] 2.    What percentage of American school buildings have unhealthy levels of indoor air pollution? Nearly half.[2] 3.    How much invisible microplastic does the average American eat each week? Equal to one credit card.[3] 4.    Is our life expectancy getting longer or shorter? Shorter [4] 5.    Of all the nations of the world, where does America rank on the happiness scale? 35th.[5] One of the major obstacles to improving our society is that a large number of things that need fixing (as you saw above) are not well known. We have to make the invisible visible. One way to do that is to measure indicators of Quality of Life.

Posted By: Francis Koster Published: February 4, 2021

Do you remember your first goldfish?

Do you remember when you were given your first goldfish?  The gift was probably a little bowl of water containing a few tiny fish and some fish food.  I remember receiving mine when I was in grade school.  It was probably the first time I was officially made responsible for caring for other living creatures.   I also remember how sad I was when weeks later I found them floating in cloudy water, dead.  As a child, I felt my failure deeply.   I still remember when my brothers and sisters and I buried them in the garden with a little ceremony overseen by my mom. I will never know what killed that fish, but the range of possibility is large – the amount and kind of food, jimmy germs from failing to wash hands before putting them in the bowl, not enough or too much light, high or low water temperature, and acidity – the list can go on and on.  Just like the list of things that impact the quality of life and health in our cities and towns.  We all live in a ‘human aquarium, and the lives of our friends and neighbors in our cities and towns are just as vulnerable as those little fish.  Any number of elements in our local aquarium can encourage or stop a wide range of physical, emotional, intellectual, and financial growth for our citizens, and impact our collective quality of life.

Posted By: Francis Koster Published: January 10, 2021

The only thing certain in life is

When I was a kid, there is a little ritual that happened in private. I later learned my parents referred to it as “The Talk”. At some age-appropriate point, my dad would invite “just the two of us” out for a fishing trip. After we dropped an anchor and threw our baited hooks into the water, I was trapped. After we caught a fish or two, he would bring up changes he was seeing underway in my body, and how I was probably beginning to face new biological urges. He explained that these changes carried with them moral and ethical responsibilities. The discussion was uncomfortable - but necessary. He was a good parent. As you contemplate your future and think about how your survivors will manage after you leave them, talking with them about your inevitable death is potentially a similarly stressful conversation, but because your parent can no longer trap you in a boat, you can avoid it. Most of us do. We stop behaving like responsible adults and shirk our responsibility as parents.

Posted By: Francis Koster Published: December 6, 2020

We Need To Take Care Of Those Who Are Taking Care Of Us

My father was a fireman and ambulance driver in a small town in Ohio. I have clear memories of going to the funeral of a fireman killed in the line of duty in a neighboring town. I was very young and had to hold my dad’s hand when we walked from the church to the cemetery. Flags at half-mast still have a powerful impact on me. Over Thanksgiving, I had a chat with a friend who is a lifelong member of the law enforcement community. We were discussing the existing and expanding stresses on First Responders as Covid-19 explodes around the coming holidays. I was explaining how awful the next few months are going to be, given the fact that it took 3 months for the first one million Americans to be infected, and 6 days for the latest one million, and the rate is rising.[1] I said I was worried about the stress on our doctors and nurses. He replied, “Do you know that more law enforcement officers die by suicide than are killed in the line of duty?” I did not. After we parted, I could not shake the emotions that statement caused in me. Got out my laptop and started researching. He was right.

Francis P. Koster Ed.D.

Proven local solutions to national problems.


Francis P. Koster, Ed. D.

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Kannapolis, NC 28081

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