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Welcome To Our Children's Ladder!

Our Children's Ladder is dedicated to helping our children climb higher in life. We do this by using the information we have in a more productive and accurate way. We argue for relying less on observation and more on findings from randomized, controlled experimental studies. We provide training to turn numbers we have into truly meaningful information, by examining a number's real size -- how big is big in our real world.

Judith C. Pagel and Frank Schapiro

A Better Life for our Kids

December, 2009

Welcome to Our Children's Ladder! This site is dedicated to helping our children, teens, and young adults climb the ladder to success in today's world.

We are two retired individuals with a broad array of highly technical skills and experience ranging from college professor to corporate executive to entrepreneur.  We’d like to use those skills and experience to help today’s parents, teens, and kids conquer the myriads of complex situations they face today. 

Our Promises to You

Our first promise is that this site will provide you with tips and suggestions that you can carry out yourself.  In other words, it’s up to us to make that positive difference.  The outcome is in our hands.

...clues to living that we can control ourselves and that we can carry out now

As a result, we won’t talk about writing letters to one’s congressman, or school officials, or even running for the local school board.  We’re not going to ask you to wait for the economy to improve or for changes in healthcare, in education, or other policy changes. We're going to deal with the world as it exists now. Our Children’s Ladder will be there to offer clues to living that we can control ourselves and that we can carry out now.

Our second promise is that we will try to remain unbiased and to present more than one side of an issue.  We will try to remain apolitical. Given the changes in the economy and with major political controversies in almost every area, we're not going to get into the middle.

We may try, on occasion, to give you a feel for a particular person’s perspective.  Finally, when we have an opinion, we’ll label it as such. 

The above also implies that we’re not going to be heavily into “frosting the cake”.  We’ll look at the bad side as well as the good, so we can hopefully avoid the consequences of the bad side.  We hope to burst some bubbles.  We will question some of those figures that the media keep throwing at us.  And importantly, in our upcoming message board, we will give all interested parties the opportunity to respond. 

Our Goal and Strategy for Meeting that Goal

What we will try to do is help us all use the information we have in a more productive and accurate way. That is our goal.

Our strategy for meeting that goal is twofold. First, we will do this by relying less on observation and more on findings from randomized, controlled experimental studies. Second, we will do this by turning those numbers into truly meaningful information, by examining the number's real size -- how big is big in our real world.

Our objective here is to give our children a "sense of quantity" -- in other words, how big or small is a number we read about, when that number is turned into meaningful information.

For example, in the Wealth section, we'll actually work out the numbers to look at what you can expect to happen if your child puts $5,000 in a savings account when he or she is 20 and leaves it there untouched until retirement. We were surprised. We think you will be also.

In the Health section, we'll look at what a typical day's eating really looks like for an obese individual who is maintaining his or her weight. (We take the calorie requirements needed and turn them into a typical day's diet.) We'll compare that to what a day's eating would look like for a 110 lb. adult. You will be surprised.

Finally, we'll look at what numbers need to be collected and how to collect them to determine whether a new teaching method is better than the old. We'll look at how much you can realistically expect to save for a child's college education, etc., etc. A lot of the answers are not what you expect, but come about by simply working with the numbers. The assumptions are explicit, and nothing here is beyond simple arithmetic.

Much of this is simply to help us come to more realistic expectations. There are so many misleading statistics out there these days from different advocacy groups that we need to know how to determine what's reasonable.


Our sources and the sources cited at the end of these articles are mostly secondary sources, i.e., newspaper and web articles reporting on research in medical and scientific journals. Few of us want to afford the fees charged to review the original journal articles, and the approach of using the secondary sources gives all of us a better chance to go and read these sources.

Is This Site For You?

We expect that parents and grandparents will be most apt to want to read our articles, including parents of very young children as well as parents of teens and young adults.  However, we hope that more than a few teens and younger adults will also want to take a look for tips to a better life.  In our section “What You Can Do”, we’ll present example exercises appropriate for the younger ones and other exercises appropriate for teens and young adults. 

Work Required

While the content at our site will be eminently practical, it won't always be simple.  Some of the articles and ideas may take a little work to get full understanding.  Most will take work to implement.

Why Us

We're older. Because we don’t have to get involved in the day to day of raising children, we can concentrate on ideas that oft get left behind in the rush to the soccer field or the ballet lessons or the parent-teacher conferences. 

And because we're older, in many cases, we’ve been there—done that.  We have worked in industry and in government. We have run our own business. We have both been consultants. And, very important, as professors, we have advised a lot of students, and as industrial managers, we have mentored quite a few employees on their way up the ladder.

But we have an even stranger advantage.  We were both born just two years prior to the “official” start of the baby boom.  Every time we turn around, we face a problem with no solution.  But, two years down the line, that problem begins to get solved, because it’s now a problem for the many, many boomers (e.g., we both went to high schools under split sessions, until they got the new schools built for the boomers.)  On the other hand, we’ve also lucked out on several occasions by getting there first.  Hopefully, our experiences and our skills will provide a somewhat different perspective than that found elsewhere.

How to Use

Just go up to the top menu and click on a topic (such as “health”).  Then find an article and click on “read this selection”. 

It will help to start with “The Basics”.  Click on “The Basics” in the menu above.  When you’ve read those selections, select a topic of interest from the menu and continue as laid out above.