Creating a Twenty First Century Education System

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We no longer have an education system that works.  This is true for most people that need education.  A few people still find value in the current system, but it is no longer a system that works for the masses.  It is no longer a democratic education system.  It has become a school system devoid of the benefits and value that it once had.  We now are stuck with a school system designed for the nineteenth century that is expensive, inefficient and much less effective than it could be.  This is true not only in America but also for most of the world.

Times have changed.  Needs have changed.  Our education system has not changed.  It no longer meets the needs of a world economy that has gone from agriculture to industry to information.  A world that has gone from analog to digital.  Changes from the nineteenth century to the twenty first century are incomprehensible.  Changes in our education system have not kept up with the needs of a modern world.  Outside of growing larger and more expensive, our education system is still based on nineteenth century principles of education.

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Nothing is more important to a nation than a democratic education system.  A system that provides equal opportunity to all regardless of gender, age, race, ethnicity, income or religion.  Education provides the knowledge and information that is the foundation for all successful endeavors.  Whether it is a building a great company, finding a cure for a disease, writing a musical masterpiece, developing innovative technology to help people or even fighting a war to defend a country, nothing was ever accomplished without knowledge.  Knowledge may not always be developed in an education system, but an education system is the primary mode of transferal for knowledge.  From Caesar to Leonardo Da Vinci, from Shakespeare to Einstein and from Henry Ford to Mark Zuckerberg, it was education that gave them the knowledge to be successful.  We no longer have a democratic education system.

school fundingToday we have an elite system of schooling whereby the children of the wealthy get to go to charter schools, private schools and high-priced universities that are beyond the incomes of the average person.  These schools may still provide a decent education, but they are “not open to the public.”  This morphing of schools from democratic institutions to elite institutions did not happen by accident.  It became all too clear to many people that the public-school system was collapsing.  Anyone who has taught in a public school today knows the chaos and bedlam that is called education in these schools.  Discipline has gone out the door and students terrorize each other and even the teachers.  The results of the decay of the public-school system has seen the wealthy shift their funding to private schools while those who cannot afford private schools often opt for home schooling.  The rise in home schooling parallels the decline of the public-school system.

Racial Disparities in School Infographic-AIR-hp-sm-01Teachers sit helplessly by as the school system they belong to sinks slowly but inevitably beneath the waves of societal change.  Like the proverbial fish, teachers are the last ones to see the water.  Asking a teacher how to fix the system is like asking a fish how to fix the ocean.  Adding to the general ignorance are pundits in both the business arena and the political arena who propose solutions based on what worked in the past or worse what they think has worked in the business arena.  Thus, we see proposed solutions such as:

  • More standardized testing for students
  • State wide tests for teacher competency
  • Pay for performance
  • Guards in the school hallways
  • More money for education
  • Smaller class sizes

None of these solutions will work.  None of them have worked.  That is why the rich and privileged have opted to destroy public education by underfunding the present school system.  Teachers all over are clamoring for more money both for salaries and also school improvements.  While, teachers and staff certainly deserve a higher pay for the jobs they do, and students deserve decent facilities, none of the changes that money will bring will improve the school system.  There is a simple but profound reason for this and anyone understanding the concepts of systems change and paradigm shifts will clearly know why.

First, in a system all processes are linked, and each impacts the other.  To change a system, you must change the assumptions upon which a system is based.  A paradigm is a set of assumptions that govern how processes are developed and allocated.  As Thomas Kuhn noted in his book “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” when a paradigm changes what worked in the old paradigm will not work in the new paradigm.  Paradigms change when the underlying forces of a society fundamentally change. These forces include economic, social, technological, political, legal, environmental and even spiritual factors.

“In order to displace a prevailing theory or paradigm in science, it is not enough to merely point out what it cannot explain; you have to offer a new theory that explains more data and do so in a testable way.” — Michael Shermer

In lieu of a train load of data that would make Michael Shermer happy, would you accept that societal forces have changed rather dramatically from the nineteenth century to today?  Do you think that the type of business model that worked in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century would still work today?  Do you think Zuckerberg or Musk or Brin or Bezos could run their business like Ford or Carnegie or Rockefeller ran their businesses in today’s world?  I think the obvious answer to these questions effectively addresses the need for a paradigm change.

Yet we are not seeing a paradigm change in education.  Even as I write this, teachers are striking all over America for more money.  We are still trying to run our education system on the principles and assumptions that nineteenth century education was based on.  These include the following:

  • Schooling should not start until about six or seven years of age
  • Students need a standardized education curriculum
  • Students need to proceed in assembly line fashion one grade at a time
  • Students should take courses that match their age level
  • Students need tests and diplomas to ensure that they are qualified to go on to the next level of education
  • Students need to go to school in one place
  • Most education will take place in a classroom
  • The teacher is the expert and knows what knowledge the student needs
  • College is the best place to go after high school
  • Students should go to school Monday through Friday
  • Students should finish school and then go on to a career
  • Public education funding is only through high school

Now, what if all these assumptions were no longer valid?  What if they were valid in the nineteenth and even twentieth century but are no longer valid today?  What if we turned them upside down and built an education system on the opposite assumptions?

  • Schooling should start as soon as possible perhaps as early as two or three years of age
  • Students need a customized education curriculum
  • Students proceed according to their progress regardless of age level
  • Students take courses that match their interests and abilities
  • Students need tests only to determine their level of understanding and not for passing or failing
  • Students need to go to facilities that match their interests regardless of where they are in the community
  • Most education will take place in customized facilities
  • The teacher is a facilitator and has the responsibility to aid the student in pursuing their interests
  • College is not the best place for all students
  • Students can go to school on flexible schedules
  • Students never finish schooling and education is life long and career based
  • Public education funding is life-long as needs and careers change

Can you imagine if we designed an education system based on the above assumptions rather the assumptions in the first list?  You would have a totally different education system.  In some ways, it might be like the change in business models from mass production to mass customization.  We would still have a public education system, but it would be customized to meet the individual needs of each student.

“Given the rapid rate of change, the old paradigm of one-off education followed by a career will no longer work: life-long learning is a must, and it is up to governments and employers to invest in training and for employees to commit to constantly update their skill set.” — Alain Dehaze

student failureMany young people who are now either lost in the present system of schooling or who are ill-served by it would be rejuvenated and excited again. Classrooms would no longer be places where the concept of discipline permeated every minute of instruction.  There would be no such thing as failures or dropouts.  No such thing as staying back or not passing.  No detention or hall monitors.  Vocational education, music, art, and drama would be as important as reading and math and science.  Poor kids would get the same education as DISCPLINErich kids.  All kids would find joy and fun in their education since it would be designed to meet their needs and interests and unique abilities.  People from two to ninety-two would be able to receive the education and knowledge they need to be effective members of society regardless of whether they had yet begun to work or had retired.  Education would be for life.  Public funding would be provided throughout a person’s lifetime.

“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” — John Dewey

Some will read this blog and call my vision either Pollyannaish or unrealistic.  I have spent many hours arguing with people over the need for change in our education system.  There is nothing unrealistic or even idealistic about my vision.  It does not represent an ideal.  It represents a decision.  Either we are going to have an education system that benefits all of our citizens or we are going to have a system that only benefits a few.  It is not an ideal.  It is a choice we can make.  Do we have the determination to change a failing system and to look beyond the norms of the past?  Can we take our mental model of education and exchange it for a new model of education?  Either we are going to progress, or we are going to decline.  The direction we go will be based on what we do with our education system.

Time for Questions:

The Socratic Method was based on what?  Why did Socrates feel his method was a better one to instruct his students?  What is “Critical Thinking?”  Do we teach “Critical Thinking” in our schools?  Do you know?  Do you think we should?  Why or why not?

Life is just beginning.

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

 

Endless Horizons:  How We Learn and Develop

horizons and clouds

I have a theory about life and about how we grow as individuals. I call this my theory of “Endless Horizons.”  I developed this theory through experience and observation.  I would like to share it with you this week.  It has been a big inspiration in my life and provided a great deal of motivation for me in my journeys.  It involves the ability to accept the unknown but with a difference that is important.  Whereas many theories posit an “unknown and unknowable,” my theory says that what is unknown may just possibly be “over the next horizon.”  Let me explain more.

Once upon a time, I believed that what we see, feel, taste and smell was all that there was.  It did not get any better or worse than what I was already experiencing.  I was usually a very angry guy.  I was ready to physically fight at the drop of a hat or some perceived slur or insult.  My temper and lack of anger management got me into a lot of trouble.  I was arrested for assault and battery.  I had more fights than I can remember.

“Those who improve with age embrace the power of personal growth and personal achievement and begin to replace youth with wisdom, innocence with understanding, and lack of purpose with self-actualization.” — Bo Bennett

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Perhaps worse was the constant state of fear that it kept my first wife and daughter in.  I never realized how hurtful my temper and lack of anger control was to them.  From my throwing things, to yelling and punching walls, I was like a volcano that might explode at any moment.  Even my sleep time was violent.  I was constantly having nightmares of someone chasing me and trying to kill me.  I would wake up drenched in sweat with my pulse racing a mile a minute.

My first wife and I divorced after sixteen years.  My daughter who was fifteen at the time eventually cut off all contact with me.  I have not seen or talked to her for over twenty years now.

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“Building a better life for every child is a lot harder than becoming a world champion. Both goals take dedication and commitment.” — Kim Yuna

I knew I needed some help and I joined a treatment program for violent and abusive men.  About ½ of the men were in treatment voluntarily and about ½ were court ordered.  It was sponsored by the Wilder Center in St. Paul, Minnesota.  I completed the program (which met weekly) for about 16 weeks. After that I continued with a support group for another two years or so.  The support group also met weekly and was restricted to men who had finished the regular treatment program.  I had a buddy (Jerry) whom I could call if my temper flared up.  Jerry was part of my process or control plan for dealing with my anger issues rather than acting out.  There was more to the plan that included walks and other means of cooling off. 

I do not know whether my marriage would have been saved if I had gone through this program earlier.  I do know my wife would have been a lot happier and my daughter would probably still be speaking to me.  Another thing I know is that my nightmares went away.

Getting back to my “Endless Horizon Theory,” I first observed it in the anger support groups that I went to weekly.  Before coming to these groups, most “angry” men were in denial.  It was always, “they or she made me do it.”  “It was not my fault.”  The horizon of most men in terms of their awareness of themselves was very short.  After they went to treatment, they made it to a new horizon of sorts.  From this new horizon, many men could now understand that it was their fault not the fault of others around them.  If they chose to, they did not have to go through life angry, violent and abusive.  Standing at the horizon of having accepted their responsibility for their anger, they could see a new horizon.  This horizon was one of equanimity and if not happiness, at least not misery.  The support groups offered a way to get to this next horizon.  As they say, “Rome was not built in a day.”  Well, dealing with anger problems involves a trip of years.  It would not be an easy journey for many of these men.

I stayed in the group for nearly two years.  Many of the men I met during these two years were also long-timers.  Our support group seemed to grow together as friends and comrades along the journey.  I think many of us made it to the next horizon.  When I arrived there, I saw another horizon just beyond the one I had reached.  We had all assumed that the best we could get would be a life without being constantly angry and explosive.  When I came to this new horizon, I began to understand that there was more that I could accomplish.  The next horizon promised happiness and a positive outlook to life.  Many of us had gone from a negative outlook on life to a neutral outlook and now saw a horizon that promised a positive outlook.

“We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.” — Joseph Campbell

Unfortunately, the Wilder Center did not see that as the role of these support groups.  They saw their mission as helping to curb domestic abuse.  They did not see their mission as helping men grow and develop beyond their ability to control their anger issues.  With the lack of support and even hostility towards our new goal, many of the long-termers in my group simply quit and went away.  I kept in touch with a few men, but the years have melted these relationships away. 

“Growth is painful. Change is painful. But, nothing is as painful as staying stuck where you do not belong.” — N. R. Narayana Murthy

I realized that when I reached one horizon, I could now see beyond it to a new horizon. It was clear to me that there was possibly an infinite number of new horizons.  If one has the tenacity, discipline and determination, there is no end to the development that we potentially can reach.  Another experience gave me more proof for my theory of “Endless Horizons.”

journey_shutterstock_576382054

My second wife Karen and I have both been to two Marriage Encounter weekends.  We went to our first Marriage Encounter weekend about five years into our marriage.  The second weekend was about ten years after the first.  Both weekends had very positive impacts on our marriage, friendship and lives.  My horizon theory was further strengthened by events that happened at both weekends.  I will relate the events at the first weekend.

I was long past worrying about anger issues by the time of our first Marriage Encounter weekend.  I had been trying to be more tolerant of Karen and some of the things that she did that annoyed me.  I had reached what I will call a Horizon of Tolerance.  I thought I was doing pretty good when I could practice tolerance.  When I could not, I would be sarcastic, rude and frustrated.  We went to the first weekend as a means of improving our marriage.  I will forever be grateful to the organizations and volunteers that put these weekends on.  We have found that both these weekends helped us to be better lovers, parents and friends.

Well, during the first weekend, we were having some discussion about the issue of tolerance.  I was pretty pumped up because I thought I was doing pretty good with dealing with this issue.  I made the remark that I thought I was very tolerant.  The response I received caught me by surprise.  It was something to the effect that tolerance falls short of respecting the other person. The speaker explained that tolerance simply accepts what is.  Respect on the other hand sees the benefits and appreciates the value of what is.  There is a significant difference between respect and tolerance.  For instance, we can tolerate minorities or people who are different than we are but that is not the same as respecting them.

I was confronted with a new horizon for my relationship with Karen and our marriage. Again, I realized that this new horizon further supported my “Endless Horizon” theory of growth and development.  I had finally accepted (and thus my theory was born) that there is an endless number of horizons.  Each horizon presents a new possibility for growth.  We cannot see beyond our present horizon, but we can be sure that something new will await us once we reach it.

“Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle.”  — Napoleon Hill

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What does it take to reach a horizon?  I said earlier that you must have determination.  It helps to have support and coaching along the way.  As the song says, “I get by with a little help from my friends.”  It also takes commitment to keep trying.  There are lots of potholes along the way. There are dead-ends.  There are large crevasses, boulders and obstacles to overcome.  There are no straight flat highways to the next horizon.  It is not a straight-line journey.  There are times when you will get lost and times when you will go backwards.  But the journey is not to the fittest but to the ones who are most determined.

Time for Questions:

What horizon are you at in your life?  What new horizons have you found in your life’s journey?  What obstacles have you had to overcome?  Have you given up on finding new horizons or are you still searching for new horizons?  Why or why not?

Life is just beginning.

“The journey is never ending. There’s always gonna be growth, improvement, adversity; you just gotta take it all in and do what’s right, continue to grow, continue to live in the moment.” — Antonio Brown

Notes from a Trump Hater and That Includes Trump Supporters.

free-speech-churchillOnce upon a time I had more friends on Facebook.  I had both Democratic friends, Republican Friends and friends who cared not one whit about politics.  Many of all political persuasions were friends who simply wanted to ignore politics.  During the run-up to Trump’s election, I discussed, debated, argued, reasoned and fought with many friends who wanted to support Trump.  The results were not pretty.  Zero changed their minds.  I was angry and frustrated.

I unfriended many Republican friends.  Many unfriended me.  There seemed to be no middle ground.  It was like the Civil War.  You had to choose a side and the outcome was hatred and disdain for people I formerly called friends.  The loss of many former friends (Or were they simply just acquaintances?) has caused a great deal of soul searching on my part.  I realize that I am not alone in this.

I doubt if anyone wants to be labeled as narrow minded and unwilling to listen to the other side of things.  For years, I accepted Republican politics as a counterbalance to some of the extremism of the Democratic party, particularly when it came to social spending.

Of course, the same extravagant spending by the Republicans was always accepted by my Republican friends since it generally went to building a “strong” military.  A military that it was taken for granted would protect us from the evil doers out there that hate democracy.  It was a party that would create a huge monster that was a glutton for military spending and ever more wars to be fought in the name of democracy and free enterprise.

Dietrich

I believe that choosing sides is not just a matter of politics but a matter of integrity.  It is easier when someone is only a “friend”, but it becomes much more difficult when it is your mother, sister or brother.  I realize that many people think I speak out too much.  I am too opinioned.  I voice my ideas and ideology too much, etc., etc.

“We must take sides.  Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.  Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” –  Elie Wiesel

Furthermore, there is a certain hypocrisy coming from those who condemn people like me.  It goes like this.

Republican Friend to Me: 

“Why do you have to revile, criticize and make such pejorative remarks about Trump?  About Republican politics etc.  Why do you have to have such a negative attitude?  Do you realize that I am a life long Republican and you ‘hurt’ my feelings?”

Republican Hidden Message: 

Keep your mouth shut and do not speak out.  However, it is okay for people in my party to be racists, bigots, xenophobes, greedy and against policies to help the poor and needy.  We are very polite about this, while you are very obnoxious and impolite.  Hatred is ok if it is polite.

Republican Friend to Me:

“I don’t see why you are so negative.  All you do is complain about the way things are in this country.”

Republican Hidden Message:

I don’t see any problems.  All I see are needs.  We need more prisons.  We need more police.  We need a stronger military.  We need more guns.  We need more walls.  We need more free enterprise.  We need less government.  We need less taxes.

Republican Friend to Me:

“Why can’t you be ‘for’ something rather than against everything.  No one likes anyone who is continually criticizing and complaining about things.”

Republican Hidden Message:

It is okay to screw people, to take things away from people, to make life harder for people, to create a bigger gap between the rich and the poor if you do it without “complaining.”

The way many people speak out against anyone who is willing to stand up for their beliefs reminds me of the song in the play 1776.  In the play, John Adams is continually haranguing his colleagues to get them to agree to rebel against the British.  His efforts are often met with disdain by his erstwhile colleagues.

ADAMS –  Vote yes!

CONGRESS – Oh, for God’s sake, John, sit down!

ADAMS – Good God! Consider yourself fortunate that you have John Adams to abuse, for no sane man would tolerate it!

CONGRESS – John, you’re a bore; we’ve heard this before, now for God’s sake, John, sit down!

ADAMS – I say vote yes!

political language

If one is polite about it and not too obnoxious, then racism, sexism and bigotry are tolerable.  Those who protest, those who march and those who speak up are labeled by our polite quiet society as trouble makers, hippies and know nothings.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”  – Martin Luther King

There is a challenge implicit here in being a human.  It is a challenge I offer to all my “Friends” to speak out.  Do not ask why I insult and use derogatory remarks against racists and bigots.  We condone evil with our silence and inaction.   Ask why you are not speaking out against the racists and bigot groups that sow hate and discord in our nation.  When have you spoke out against the KKK?  When have you spoken out against the Neo-Nazi groups?  When have you spoken out against those so greedy that they begrudge a dime spent to help the poor and sick?  Do not come to me and tell me to be quiet and to tone down my rhetoric.

the free press

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” – Edmund Burke

Jesus had this to say about his beliefs:

“Then his mother and his brothers came but were unable to join him because of the crowd.  He was told, ‘Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, and they wish to see you.’ He said to them in reply, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.” — Luke 8:19-21.

Maybe, Jesus was trying to tell us that right actions and right thoughts are more important than relationships.

Time for Questions:

Who would be the man/woman with enough courage to give up a friend who was a racist, sexist or bigot?

Life is just beginning.

  1. “The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict.”
  2. “Every human must decide whether they will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”
  3. “If a person has not discovered something that they will die for, they are not fit to live.”
  4. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
  5. “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'”
  6. “The ultimate measure of a human is not where he/she stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he/she stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
  7. “An individual has not started living until they can rise above the narrow confines of his/her individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”
  8. “Anyone who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as those who help to perpetrate it. Those who accept evil without protesting against it is are really cooperating with it.”
  9. “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Above quotes are all from the speeches or writings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

 

White Privileged Male

privilege

Once upon a time I was a white privileged male.  I had privileges at home.  I had privileges at school.  I had privileges at the bank.  I had privileges in real estate.  I had privileges at work.  I especially had privileges with women, both black and white.

Then along came the 13th amendment.  Then along came the 19th amendment.  Then along came Brown versus the Board of Education.   Then along came Roe versus Wade.  Then along came Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Where have all my privileges gone?

Long time passing

Where have all my privileges gone?

Long time ago.

stop and check picture

Then along came more and more minorities.  Along came the Mexicans; along came the Chinese; along came the Koreans; along came the Japanese; along came the Vietnamese; along came the Hmong; along came the Sudanese; along came the Iranians; along came the Muslims; along came the Buddhists; along came the Hindus.

Where have all my privileges gone?

Minorities have picked them every one

When will they ever be satisfied?

When will they ever be satisfied?

white privilege card

Then along came 911.  Then along came the terrorists.  Then along came Obamacare. Then along came Occupy Wall Street.  Then along came LGBTQ.  Then along came Black Lives Matter.  Then along came #MeToo.

Where have all my privileges gone?

Women and Gays and Liberals and Arabs

 have picked them every one

When will they ever be satisfied?

When will they ever be satisfied?

colorblind-thought

Now they are coming for the Second Amendment.  They want my guns.  They want to take the rest of my privileges away from me.  But I won’t go down without a battle.

  • When guns are allowed, only outlaws will have guns.
  • Guns don’t kill people, people do.
  • You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold dead hands.
  • Only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

fear

I need my guns because I am afraid.  My fear breeds self-hatred.  My self-hatred gets turned on others.  I despise the world.  I hate you.  I hate anyone different.  I hate minorities.  I hate women.  I hate liberals.  I hate homosexuals.  I hate those who have more than me.

Where have all my privileges gone?

When will they ever return?

When will they ever return?

Time for Questions:

 What is the golden rule?  Do we apply it to only those people who are like us?  What did Christ mean when he said, “Love everyone, Love your enemies?” Do we practice tolerance and kindness to only people who look like us?  When do we accept others who are different?

Life is just beginning.

 “Tradition has it that whenever a group of people has tasted the lovely fruits of wealth, security, and prestige, it begins to find it more comfortable to believe in the obvious lie and accept that it alone is entitled to privilege.” — Steven Biko

 

 

 

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