Thursday, December 30, 2010

We need a whole new animal

Sometimes we forget that the education system we take for granted today was invented. It was invented to serve a particular purpose at a particular point in time. In fact, our notion of public education took root during the 1880s, when the Industrial Revolution was in its infancy and pioneers like Henry Ford were inventing solutions to new efficiency challenges of an emerging industrial economy. It’s no wonder that the system of schooling invented over 120 years ago was designed to produce a standardized product as quickly and as cheaply as possible.

That system reflected the ideas of industrial leaders, not education leaders. Compare the impact, for example, of education leader John Dewey and industrial leader Henry Ford. While Dewey espoused “a laboratory for democracy” and advocated for experiential learning, Ford was inventing the assembly line and offering that his customers could have any color of car they wanted, “as long as it’s black.”

The efficiency model won out, and to this day we rely primarily on a public education system invented to serve the mass production needs of a different time.

Yet our economy has changed dramatically over the last century. Today, the fastest-growing industries trade in information and connectivity. They are decentralized and have a flatter more egalitarian structure. They change overnight, sometimes totally recreating themselves. They embrace new tools quickly. Their people are rewarded for being unconventional, pressing limits, and standing up for what they think is right. Today’s economy prizes mass personalization over mass production.

We could take a lesson, here, from an industrial leader in a bygone era. When Ford was engaged in creating the industrial economy, he didn’t work to improve the existing system. He said, “If I asked the customer what he wanted, he’d say a faster horse.” He didn’t tinker around the edges of the horse. Instead, he ignored his critics and created an entirely new mode of transportation and a new way of bringing his cars to the masses.  He created a whole new animal.

Unfortunately, most current education reform plans only ask us to make a faster horse. This is the wrong request. Tinkering with the one-size-fits-all model of schooling is no longer sufficient. We must get straight with ourselves about what it will take to realign schooling and our world economy. How will we consider the needs of the individual and develop a process that allows for continuous adaptation, given the rapid pace of knowledge creation and technological innovation?

Cudos to A.B. Orlik, Adam Braus and Dan Rossmiller for their contributions to this post.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Solitude and Leadership

This lecture was delivered by essayist, William Deresiewicz, to a class of plebes at West Point in October 2009.

The ideas apply to all leaders. Knowing yourself is central to successful leadership.  Knowing yourself, not knowing information, not knowing process, not knowing a large network of people.  Knowing yourself.  What you believe in.  Your vision.  It's that simple and that complex.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

More on community role in determining school district success

In my work with school boards, I often get the comment, "I get it.  But people in my community don't.  They think if paper and pencil was good enough for them it is good enough for kids today."  Sometimes, board members say this.

The world is a vastly different place today.  This week, I came across two iphone apps that have totally blown my mind.

First, check this out: Word Lens.  Changing text right before your eyes.

The second, i-Clickr, turns your iphone into a remote for power point presentations.

We have to help our communities see that technology is not a threat and that if our children are going to be successful, they need more than a sheet of loose leaf and a #2 pencil.

What if school districts had to apply for superintendents?

An interesting idea.  Suggests the need for some self-reflection on the part of board members and the community.

What if school districts had to apply for superintendents?

Monday, December 6, 2010

TEDx is coming to Madison

If you follow TED, you know that the organization is dedicated to spreading good ideas through their terrific conferences and website.  TED talks are an amazing resource for understanding how the world is changing.  The talks are full of hope and promise and ask you to think deeply.

TEDx is a new program offered by TED that provides an opportunity to bring the  TED experience to your community.  Some TED groupies in Madison are working to bring TEDx to town. 

It promises to be an exciting event, bringing together a group of speakers who will challenge us to think about how Wisconsin's economy is changing and what that means for public education.

The event will take place on Saturday, March 5th at the Promega facilities in Fitchburg.  Check out the TEDx Madtown facebook page to learn more about this exciting event.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Homelessness and Poverty in Wisconsin... not just a Milwaukee problem.

As Wisconsin continues to experience economic stress poverty is spreading to places where you might not expect to see it.

Help is available for Homeless and Unaccompanied Youth in the Chilton School District