Baylor tells all

With ACT scores coming in the mail last weekend, the talk of the test may have been brought up again. Whether you were a proud member of the “Five-Point Jump” club or not, and whether or not you hammered the grammar, we thought have an intimate sit down with the man himself would be fitting enough.

We sat down with John Baylor to see if we could find out a little bit more about the guy who has been teaching us how to quick check and all about the grammar rules.

Maggie Davis:  This a non-ACT question at all, but what is your favorite food?

John Baylor: Duck. I love duck.

Emily Dewey: Like asian cuisine?

JB: No, no, no, just roast duck. So delicious, but I like to eat healthy. So when I eat something that’s not healthy, my body just feels- just rejects it almost. Like last night, I had a Wendy’s chicken sandwich, which is about the best thing you can get at a fast food restaurant. It’s just roast chicken and you take one of the buns off, minimize the bread. And I just have to healthy, and it’s tough always eating healthy. But I love roast chicken salad, like roast chicken on top of a caesar salad or a regular salad. I love vegetable. I love lean meat and I love duck. I eat a lot of chicken, so I don’t love it as much as I should because it’s the healthiest thing you can find, so I’d say my favorite food is duck.

MD: What about movies? Are you a movie goer?

JB: I wish I were more of a movie goer. Unfortunately I have a family- not unfortunately, but I mean they don’t work together. Most movies are made for the teenage audience because you guys attend them, but yo hit my age and you just don’t go to movies You can’t, you rarely do. Now you can watch them occasionally at home, but my favorite movie is Good Will Hunting and I love Dead Poet’s Society and I love Family Man with Nicolas Cage, that’s one of my favorites of all time. Those three are like three of my top ten-ers of all time.

MD: Speaking of family…you’ll mention your kids in your videos. Are your kids in high school?

JB: I have a ninth grader and I have a fifth grader and a third grader. So a ninth grade girl, a fifth grade girl and a third grade boy, and I have a twenty six year old step daughter, as well. So imagine what’s it’s like being my ninth grade daughter.

MD: How many times has she taken the ACT?

JB: She’s taken the course two times already, she’ll be taking her first ACT this June, she’ll be taking another one sophomore year, so she’s a victim because she’s my child.

ED: I’m sure it will pay off.

JB: Yeah, she’s doing okay.

ED: And what about music? Do you listen to music?

JB: I love music and I am really sad I cannot create it because when I was in sixth grade I was too cool to continue playing piano and my parents let me quit, so I’m one of those parents that demands/requires his own children play piano, and it’s tough some days, but I just want to make sure that they’re never going to be my age and say “I wish my parents had forced me to play”. I am the parent that forces them to play. So, you know, they’ll be able to, all their lives, create their own music. I can dabble at guitar and dabble at singing, I can dabble at piano, but what kind of music do I really like? Kind of a broad range. I must say, I’m kind of a sap for country. I’ll find myself like crying in the car listening to a new country song, like “what have I done? What’s my problem?”. I love psych-up music, you know? So, I don’t what that means. I like, this is kind of odd, what’s her name? T- you guys all listen to her- Taylor…?

MD: Taylor Swift?

JB: I really like her, but my daughter introduced me into it. I kind of like your music a little but, except I’m not a huge rap guy. I’m really not into music that’s misogynistic. Basically, in my opinion, anti-female. So I don’t like- even if the tune is good. I don’t like any music with lyrics that’s misogynistic, even if it’s sung by a woman. I just- and I don’t like my children listening to it, we talked about that. So much music out there that advocates integration of women and certainly- or worse, and I think it’s a free pass. I’m just not for it so I don’t listen to it.

ED: That was actually an ACT question. Whether or not modern music sends a positive  message.

JB: Well some of it can be. Some of it’s great. Like I love that song that says “we will never ever get together again”, I love that! I mean, that’s awesome! You know, I just love that music that empowers women, but so much rap, and so many other types of music, is just sending a message that women are to be devalued and I just think it’s very dangerous and we see a lot of the results of it. I’m not blaming music for all the problems we have with the treatment of women, but I’m suggesting it’s a contributing factor.

MD: Can you tell us a little bit about your own ACT experience?

JB: I never took it in high school, because when I went to high school, if you wanted to college on the east or west coast, you only took the SAT, and I knew then I wanted to go to school on the east or west coast, so I only took the SAT. I got the equivalent of a 31, 31.5, so I’m not a genius. I’m bright, but I can empathize with those who struggle, because it didn’t come easily to me. I think that helps me. Back then we only took it twice. There was no such thing as test prep, I didn’t know what it was. We went in there, I was reading the rules for each section, wasting valuable time, trying to figure out what was going on, as I had never seen one before. That’s how it was back then, and the reason is that college was so much less expensive. When I started at Stanford, it was $15,300 a year. It was real money, but not ‘I can’t go there money’. People just took the test one time and called it good. When I came back into the Midwest in my adulthood, I started preparing people for tests here, I realized it wasn’t the SAT, it was the ACT. Since, the ACT has become our specialty.

ED: Would you consider one of them more difficult than the other?

JB: Well the SAT is being transformed starting in the spring of 2016, so it is very much a fluid target. I think the ACT is more coachable. I can get kids’ English and math scores up with an hour, with strategies. The SAT is a little less coachable. There are more questions that require a little more brilliance. Typically, when students take both, they choose the ACT, because it seems to be more similar to what they’re accustomed to at school.

MD: With the recent push for AP and the ACT, do you think the high standard of attending college and doing well is positive, or do you think it could have negative effects?

JB: I think encouraging students to become college graduates with minimal debt is the right thing, because it is improving their lives’ chances dramatically. Insisting we all go to Yale, or Harvard, or Swarthmore- that creates a lot of stress. That is the pressure cooker we need to avoid. When I see a lot of kids going to Wisconsin or ISU,or WMU, they should have had a pretty healthy high school experience, because those schools are not particularly hard to get into. They basically give the tools that young people need to succeed in life. That I think it healthy, but what about this national obsession with diagnostic testing? I think its gone way overboard. I encourage using a diagnostic test that would actually help the student. That’s the ACT, because colleges will look at that score. Not only does it help the school to understand what it is doing, but it helps you realize a realistic college destination for yourself. So, I think a moderate amount of that is quite healthy.

ED: Okay, so when you went to college, what was your original plan?

JB: Good question. I just wanted to study what I was passionate about. So I studied international relations. Frankly, I don’t think anything had changed there, I think students should study what they’re passionate about, and if you do what you love, you’ll be good at it. If you do what you love for a living, you’ll never work a day in your life. I strongly encourage, when you go to college, not to just do what you’re ‘supposed to’, do what you love. Its a little risky to major in art or theatre, so just take up a second major. Definitely do not de emphasize what you love. Right now we’ve got about 21% of all college students majoring in business. To me, I can’t imagine that 1 of every 5 college students loves the study of business. It saddens me because I think these are young people doing what they think they’re supposed to. It soon becomes too late to change their major, and they realize “maybe I don’t dread my classes, but I don’t wake up excited”. And straight out of college, you’re going to the cubicle. To have spent those years doing what you think is going to get you ahead is often short sided. If you do something passionate, you’re going to be able to talk yourself into any job opportunities you want. Follow your productive passions.

ED: What motivated you to want to help improve the ACT scores of others?

JB: Well, I decided when I was a banker, and I disliked it very much, that I wanted to have fun and make a difference. This kind of fits that. I can have fun, crack some jokes, and hopefully inspire, make a difference. Seeing all of you guys (for the most part) on task, excited, its really cool. It’s something not a lot of professionals can do. Teaching at the high school level is such an important job, you can really make a difference. So, I always thought that would fit. Your average worker may not have a lot of fun or feel like he is making a lot of difference as far as serving the greater good. Its something I encourage young people to think about when choosing a career. If you can serve others in a meaningful way, it makes it a lot easier when the alarm goes off at 6 in the morning.

MD: And finally, what do you do in your free time?

JB: I play a lot of tennis, I play a little bit of golf, and I hang out with my kids and sit next to them as they practice their piano and I go to all of their events. I do a lot of reading as well.