To do or not to do what? That is the Activist’s Question

So much of this latest learning journey is brand new to me, it’s complex and a steep learning curve. If you have the interest, time and stamina please help me crawl up this incline. There are a lot of links to major resources below, hence the “stamina” thing. To fully grasp all of this will take a good deal of time and deep thought, but I hope you’ll join in the fun. Could be a wild ride once we get to the top and take off, although this is probably more like a never-ending adventure than a destination.

Activist Adam Blakester  noted in a discussion on Facebook that there are many more commentators offering opinions than activists willing to commit to a course of action. He also proposed that there is a greater need for people to commit to social change than environmental / ecological issues. Given the state of urgent crisis of our eco-issues, some would argue that point but I understand and agree. It’s much easier to find a point of entry and the means to be an eco-activist so there is naturally more involvement and progress. Activists like to know they are making an impact.

I am passionate about making an impact and I want to commit to action. It so happens that my passion has always been social change so I guess I’m an anomaly. Specifically, I’m envisioning a sustainable social –emotional infrastructure that will give humanity a fighting chance to survive and maybe thrive. While my initial emphasis is young people, kids are not born intolerant or bigoted. Those are acquired values, so there must also be a concerted effort to impact adult biases—the effort must be systemic, must reach all ages in all sectors–education, home, workplace, communities, society, government. Whew….another fine mess.

Exploring Mr. Blakester’s Starfish organization led me to the Great Transition Initiative.  and a GTI summary post –I won’t go detail GTI any further here beyond this purpose statement:

The Great Transition Initiative is an online forum of ideas and an international network for the critical exploration of concepts, strategies, and visions for a transition to a future of enriched lives, human solidarity, and a resilient biosphere. By enhancing scholarly discourse and public awareness of possibilities arising from converging social, economic, and environmental crises, and by fostering a broad network of thinkers and doers, it aims to contribute to a new praxis for global transformation.

I fully buy into GTI’s current global state assessment and its vision of a feasible preferred future, mostly because that future is the only one that gives us a chance. In GTI’s constellation of values, my passion is human solidarity. My lifetime vision: a catalyst role in a broad greater good movement (Adam’s term for this is “care for the commons”) to rediscover our humanity, which to me is a social survival and planetary sustainability issue of the highest importance. We can partially repair our torn social fabric with common threads of purpose, shared values, social norms…in other words by collectively re-connecting with our humanity. Vehicle of choice: social-emotional learning (SEL).

That big hairy vision is not as far-fetched or out of reach as it may sound.


Build a Fourth Sector social structure with systemic emphasis on the attributes known to promote higher levels of engagement therefore greater social and emotional well-being and performance excellence. (RE Fourth Sector–see diagram 2 from the Fourth Sector organization )

I’ve taught social-emotional learning in grades 4-6. Too academic, too teachy, too canned to grab kids by their emotions, to hit their hearts and get in their heads. Needed: self-discovery and reflection / experiential learning (learn from unlearning…a whole ‘nother ballgame but related).

Education is inundated with demands—STEM, common core, standard test performance. It’s not lack of interest as much as it is lack of bandwidth to be serious about SEL. Conclusion: a purely academic SEL pathway is not feasible. Rather, a partner resource for the education establishment could provides much-needed adjunct services and support. The resource would also build general awareness and be catalyst for a systemic all-stakeholder community environment that supports social-emotional development. Enter the Caring Communities Collaborative (model-diagram 1), a conceptual framework that’s been evolving over the last several years.

Meaningful Work

A recurring parallel theme kept jumping out in my new learning journey—meaningful work:

Our mad rush to accumulate wealth and a standard of living through material things and conspicuous consumption has degraded quality of life and endangered the sustainability of humanity. The way out: “create an environmentally and socially sustainable future that provides decent, meaningful work for all.”

(The Struggle for Meaningful WorkKent Klitgaard February 2017) 

Blakester responded to Klitgaard’s article, be sure to read his thoughts if you (WHEN you!) read The Struggle.  In my opinion, priority focus is not on “work” but “meaningful”. How do people find their purpose, their calling, their One Thing? Once people understand what is truly important to them, they will be thirsty and will demand that thirst is quenched. Services, structures, systems will emerge much more readily out of necessity, driven by demand.  

WHY SEL First?

Social-emotional learning is a vastly powerful and necessary force; it is the enabler of skills development and high achievement. “Really?” This is all backed up by a huge body of research….

The higher the S-E level, the more physical health and emotional well-being increases. Hard costs incurred from the broad spectrum of physical and mental health problems drop, as do related but harder-to-measure social costs. The quality of the workforce talent pool increases and the private sector’s bottom line improves in key measures like productivity, turnover, absenteeism, attrition.

Community prosperity follows private sector prosperity.

In education, higher levels of attainment and achievement are realized by more highly engaged learners. Costs associated with “problem students”—absenteeism and disciplinary issues drop.

Education, workplace and community excellence are directly impacted by mean, uncaring people, conflict and stress.  And one effect of rude, intolerant people is bullying in school and the workplace. The ultimate effect…violent acts against others and self-inflicted harm, up to suicide.

Economic growth requires increased productivity, which in turn requires a better educated, more highly trained and skilled population. The kicker: for people to fully develop their skills and embrace training, it must be meaningful and relevant to them…they must be fully engaged. The enabler: a community of lifelong learners with a high level of social-emotional well-being.

The Caring Communities Collaborative Model (diagram 1)


Diagram 2: from the Fourth Sector organization

Convergence toward a fourth sector, of the best from private, public, non-profit sectors

We can and must get back in touch with what makes us human beings We can and must re-connect with our natural Selves. We can and must re-connect with others and with the world around us. It’s not just our happiness, it’s our survival that’s at stake.

We are stardust, we are golden. We are billions-year-old carbon. And we’ve got to find our way back to the garden.


Global Sustainability–The Great Transition Initiative

Sometimes I accidentally stumble across a well-hidden door to a mysterious building. Construction is not always tenant-ready but some dwellings are occupied. Others have completed their entire life cycle and are ready for demolition. The most recent door is to an in-process project–the Great Transition Initiative, and one specific essay in particular from the GTI website on meaningful work. A two- tweetworthy excerpt of the Great Transition Initiative (GTI) narrative from the meaningful work essay:

Our mad rush to accumulate wealth and a standard of living through material things and conspicuous consumption has degraded quality of life and endangered the sustainability of humanity. The way out: “create an environmentally and socially sustainable future that provides decent, meaningful work for all.” (The Struggle for Meaningful WorkKent Klitgaard February 2017) 

A Great Transition is needed. We have maxxed out the earth’s capacity to support humanity, moving  dangerously close to or past the hard limitations of every critical resource needed to sustain the species—water, food, land, air.

Social sustainability may be even tougher to achieve. The Great Transition Initiative  explores the future Klitgaard references. This essay looks only at what and why. The more challenging “how” including meaningful work is later.

GTI first started taking shape a quarter century ago, and their message and approach resonates with me. Their assessment of the current global state and vision of a desired future, as well as the issues and concerns driving the initiative all align with what had been percolating in my head for some time. My goal for this post is to do what I can to promote the cause, we need a vast grass roots movement. As this is important stuff. I hope this short summary will push you to the GTI project.

This is also selfishly motivated. GTI is new to me, and this will help me to better understand the issues, the framework, and where I might fit in. Lots to explore, lots of opportunity for all of us.

About that pesky rubber-hits-the-road “how”:

(1) Meaningful applies not just to work but to the  development of young people and older folk alike, and to lifelong learning and growth. Humanity has lost its mojo—stay tuned.

(2) Engagement theory and the connection to social-emotional well-being, productivity and personal achievement holds great potential.  Leveraging attributes across-the-board for all stakeholders that enable people to more fully engage is a critical “how” in the great transition. See Supercharging Engagement.  Also, Supporting data.

CREDIT WHERE DUE! Italics are excerpts taken directly from GTI. 


Where are we?

“Great transition” refers to a set of core concepts for understanding the contemporary world and shaping its future.

We’re a frog in a water-filled saucepan that’s slowly heating up on the stove top. We’ll be boiled alive before it registers that a life-threatening change is slowly taking place and we really should consider hopping out. The stage has been set for a potentially deadly clash of radically changed current state vs deep-seated past perspectives and practices. Something has to give.

GTI calls our current status the Planetary Phase of Civilization—the profound shift in the condition of society and the dynamics driving change: threads of interdependence—economic globalization, communications technology, and climate change are among the most salient—are binding people, places, and the wider community of life into a single social-ecological system.

These powerful forces are exerting all kinds of pressure on global systems. However….the worldviews and institutions of the past persist…counter-tendencies—local initiatives, post-consumerist subcultures, sustainability and justice campaigns, public awareness and concern, visions of another world—may portend a rising social force for addressing the systemic challenge of the Planetary Phase.

Operative word = “may” portend a rising social force. This isn’t something we can leave to chance.

Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run…..there’s still time to change the road you’re on (Zeppelin, of course)

Where are we going?

…contrasting paths into the future are possible, distinguished by the ways social-ecological crises and our collective response play out. These global scenarios fall broadly into three types: evolution, degeneration, and transformation.

(ONE) Evolution, Let It Play Out which quite likely would lead to degeneration. Basically doing the same old same old. Evolutionary / Conventional Worlds scenarios …incremental responses to 21st century challenges …free market solutions (aka: profit before people and planet, greed, corporate control, short-term focus on profit-earning action and results) and international cooperation for sustainable development (barrier: the uptick in populist movements, nationalism). However, the efficacy of market and policy adaptations is sharply constrained.

Translated: the probability of the same old same old working in this new global environment is slim to none. Or, per GTI:  a state-centric geopolitical order undercuts global imperatives, while the dominant development paradigm privileges profits over needs and economic growth over ecological resilience.

NOW                                   NEED

State-centric                       Global Imperatives

Profit                                   Need

Economic growth              Ecological resilience


The risk of evolutionary drift followed by catastrophic descent is all too real, yet by no means inevitable.

Where do we want to go? Make the Transition to Transformative

The only viable path toward sustainability and nothing less than survival of the species, is transitioning to a new paradigm redirecting the global trajectory toward a socially equitable, culturally enriched, and ecologically resilient planetary civilization. A walk in the park, right?

Very Macro “HOW”

Individualism to Human Solidarity

Consumerism to Quality of Life

Domination of Nature to Ecological Sensibility

  1.  The ascent of a constellation of values—human solidarity, quality of life, and ecological sensibility—to moderate (neutralize or eliminate are more appropriate words, but “moderate” is a start) the conventional triad of individualism, consumerism, and domination of nature.
  2.   Upon this normative foundation, governance and economic institutions can be redesigned to balance the imperatives for unity and diversity, to nurture social cohesion and eradicate destitution, and to support human well-being and a vibrant natural world.

Which is the toughest challenge–(1) to fundamentally change human nature and our core values / social norms?  Or (2) to change the strongly entrenched power base of systems and structures? Regarding the first challenge, humans are rabid about protecting the core of who they are and what they believe. Second challenge…those in economic and political power are violently protective of their gravy train. No rose-colored glasses. This isn’t a no-brainer.

OK…so how about what needs to come first—change people (1)  or change systems / structure, policies / practices (2)? My opinion: If you try to change something while retaining old mental models, perspectives, paradigms, values and norms you’ll go nowhere fast.

So, what would the Planetary Phase of Civilization look like?

Far from the end of history, a Great Transition would be alive with peaceful political contestation, cultural expression, and scientific exploration. Even as it opened a new and hopeful chapter in the story of civilization, a Great Transition would face the lingering scars and instabilities of a fading past and the unfathomable struggles of a distant future.

Maybe it’s out there but from what I’ve seen, the GTI project could use a stronger, clearer, more compelling narrative that everyday people will readily embrace. Create the case for change then build a critical mass of awareness and commitment. Schein’s burning platform works for me: if people are leery of making a blind leap of faith toward the new world, set the old world on fire (in a manner of speaking, not advocating arson!).

I am driven to further the GTI cause by boosting awareness in my own meek and minor way, to help make it absolutely clear that it’s life-threatening for the frogs to stay in the pan of water on the stove. To make the case abundantly compelling that to continue in this current reality is certain disaster and will eventually lead to certain extinction. That should be a pretty solid dose of WIIFM.

There’s already a good deal of thought and effort by many to secure a decent future for mankind, on a planet that we haven’t totally messed up.

The big need is grass roots…1) awareness and concern; 2) committed, involved activism-grassroots implies effort from many; 3) collaborative effort, synergy. Too many splintered initiatives can be counter-productive…where do I start, what do I do, who and what can I believe in? And 4) a sense of urgency to change the path we’re headed down.

There’s already a good deal of thought and effort by many to secure a decent future for mankind, on a planet that we haven’t totally messed up.

The big need is grass roots…1) awareness and concern; 2) committed, involved activism-grassroots implies effort from many; 3) collaborative effort, synergy. Too many splintered initiatives can be counter-productive…where do I start, what do I do, who and what can I believe in? And 4) a sense of urgency to change the path we’re headed down.

If you hear the calling share the word about GTI and find your own well-hidden door you’re your own mysterious building. We must build broad awareness by lots of people dropping pebbles into their own little pond. Ripple Power, baby!

Next Up: more in-depth how as proposed by the GTI project.

The 14 Defining Characteristics Of Fascism

Free Inquiry Spring 2003 5-11-3

Note date of the piece: 2003. These characteristics are common among several of the heavy-hitter fascist regimes. A few current examples have been added in parenths after some of the points; there are too many to capture. Add some of your own. Particularly  timely passages have been underlined too.

Dr. Lawrence Britt has examined the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and several Latin American regimes. Britt found 14 defining characteristics common to each:

  1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism – Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays. (Make America Great Again; America First; Build the Wall)
  1. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights – Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of “need.” The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc. (The Ban; Defunding Planned Parenthood, waterboarding)
  1. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause – The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.(Islamophobia, white nationalism, entire campaign run on hate and high emotion)
  1. Supremacy of the Military – Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.
  1. Rampant Sexism – The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.
  1. Controlled Mass Media – Sometimes media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.
  1. Obsession with National Security – Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.
  1. Religion and Government are Intertwined – Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government’s policies or actions.
  1. Corporate Power is Protected – The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.
  1. Labor Power is Suppressed – Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.
  1. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts – Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.(Gutting the National Endowments, no more NPR funding, fed and state levels)
  1. Obsession with Crime and Punishment – Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.
  1. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption – Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders. (Control of fed lands to states, for privatization and profiteering)
  1. Fraudulent Elections – Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.


Why Alternative Ed? Is there more to the story?

For those who have been around the block with alternative education this article will be old news, or maybe just an affirmation. But I’m a neophyte and for others like me this information is extremely vital. I know that putting this together has helped me understand. So this is my small offering of sharing information at a level that newbies like me can grasp.

Why is this such a hot issue? Given the current state of traditional education and the economy’s and private sector’s need for a better qualified workforce with the right skills, and given our social unraveling it is painfully clear: we need to fundamentally change our approach to education. Self-directed learning is a more viable means to address issues than traditional education. But there’s more: we need to expand  our scope to “human development”.

Social and economic issues are a nasty one-two punch threatening to demolish our way of life; we’re being torn apart from the inside with apathy and disengagement at one extreme, modern lifestyle stress and related social-emotional health problems at the other. We are disconnected from each other, from the environment around us, from ourselves. We’re in desperate need of social healing and personal alignment. But who has time for all that?

Self-directed learning only addresses part of the problem and only for young people. The way things are imploding there’s no guarantee things we can hold it together long enough to give future generations a shot at making things better.

Proposed: self-directed learning on steroids.  Whole-person / whole-life learning, continuous whole-person growth…human development. Focus on the front end. To assure quality of outputs you must ensure the inputs are good, then pay attention to process itself. Develop the providers of whole-person / whole life learning, pay attention to the human needs of those providers, and engineer a robust process of human development.

One tiny example: there are fitness centers for health nuts and regular people concerned with their physical wellness. How about centers where people can learn about their social-emotional / mental health and do a regular exercise regimen? Think about a place where a person can reconnect, chill, detox from a stressed out lifestyle. How about a full indoor ecosystem (fancy word for greenhouse) to get a few precious moments of real, plant-purified air, walk barefoot in real grass (earthing) and get drunk on the sounds of nature and soothing stroke of solitude?

I could go on and on. But right now this human development stuff is just a Quixote-esque pipedream for me. Something I can do to contribute: critical mass and increasing evidence of success is great PR. We need to spread the gospel of self-directed learning and human development, and convince the powers that be and the general population. Then, of course, implementation support must be readily available. That’s a whole ‘nother story….

So what follows is a primer for self-directed learning based upon Why Our Coercive System of Schooling Should Topple by Peter Gray which outlines four reasons Self-Directed Education will replace forced schooling. They are compelling. Below: the four reasons with a few of my thoughts–please add yours! Later are some article excerpts. Highly recommended: go to the original for the full text.

Four Reasons, and Reflections

  1.  Our coercive schools have become increasingly and evermore obviously harmful to kids. My most compelling personal mission: find some way to impact young peoples’ emotional well-being. Far too many young people are struggling emotionally, medicated and otherwise being “treated”, needing “special” education services, committing suicide. A national epidemic and a disgrace. The education system is to blame to a large degree, the system MUST change.


  1.  Evidence has mounted that children and adolescents can educate themselves remarkably well without coercive schooling. Further, learners show markedly better results than traditionally educated kids. And there is no comparison between the level of social-emotional well-being: fewer kids diagnosed with “learning disabilities”, fewer kids needing meds or other treatment. It hasn’t been measured but it’s a simple causal link: kids are more well-adjusted, less stressed = fewer suicides. It has been proven: SDL CAN be done with great results.
  1.  Self-Directed Education is easier to pursue now than it was in the past. For various reasons,

SDE has struggled to gain broad acceptance. Two biggies: to too many it’s weird and for most it takes too much time. But results and success has led to growing acceptance, even among educators. And more championing centers have emerged, giving parents much-needed support.

It’s becoming MORE ACCEPTABLE and ACCESSIBLE. Not mainstream, but working on it!

  1.  Changes in the economy favor the skills developed by Self-Directed Education. The workplace demands thinkers, not memorizers. It demands employees who can adapt to changes and quickly accept and learn new things. It requires confidence as well as competence. When comparing traditional and SD education, it’s clear that only one system builds those things, while the other may actually discourage them. The “customers” are learners, parents, private sector, society. SDE meets customer needs

Excerpts From the Original

  1.  Our coercive schools have become increasingly and evermore obviously harmful to kids.

…over the years, the school system has intruded increasingly, and ever more disruptively, into children’s and families’ lives.  The length of the school year has increased (it now averages 5 weeks longer than in the 1950s).  The number of years of required attendance has increased.  The amount of homework has increased immensely, especially in elementary schools.  Recesses have been reduced, or even been eliminated…art and music have regularly been dropped from curricula in favor of more time for worksheets and test preparation.  Teachers have been given less freedom to depart from the standard curriculum, and ever-greater pressure has been placed on children to score high on standardized tests.

Children now often spend more time at school and at homework than their parents spend at their full-time jobs…

It can no longer be believed that schooling is a benign experience for children.  The evidence that it induces pathology is overwhelming.  (evidence in original)

  1.  Evidence has mounted that children and adolescents can educate themselves remarkably well without coercive schooling.

Over the last few decades, many thousands of young people, from a wide range of backgrounds, have educated themselves through these means, and follow-up studies have shown that they are doing very well in life. They have had no apparent difficulty being admitted to or adjusting to the demands of traditional higher education, if they choose to pursue it, and they have been successful in the full range of careers that we value in our society.  As adults, they generally report that their experience with Self-Directed Education benefited them by allowing them to develop their own interests (which often turned into careers) and fostering…personal responsibility, initiative, creativity, curiosity, critical thinking, and ability to communicate well with people regardless of status.

… partly because of increased awareness of the success of Self-Directed Education and partly because of the growing toxicity of coercive schools, evermore families are choosing Self-Directed Education for their children.  As more families are choosing it, more others are getting to know people who have chosen it and can see firsthand the evidence of its success.  At some point, when everyone sees the evidence, the gates will open and the coercive schools will begin to empty out.  People will begin to demand that some of the public funds currently spent on coercive schools be spent on learning centers and other facilities that support Self-Directed Education, so all families, regardless of income, will have that option.

  1.  Self-Directed Education is easier to pursue now than it was in the past.

One reason for this lies in the increased numbers of families taking this route and, consequently, the increased acceptability of Self-Directed Education in the culture at large.  The availability of schools and learning centers designed for Self-Directed Education has been increasing, and the number of homeschoolers engaged in Self-Directed Education has likewise been increasing.  As Self-Directed Education becomes more common, as more and more people, including education authorities, know young people taking this route and see their success, the social barriers against it are decreasing.

Another reason: technologyanyone with a computer and Internet connection can access essentially all the world’s information.  Self-directed learners who want to pursue almost any subject can find articles, videos, discussion groups, and even online courses devoted to it.  They can gain information and share thoughts with experts and novices alike, throughout the world, who have interests akin to theirs.  Students in standard schools must study just what the school dictates, in just the ways that the school decides; but self-directed learners can find subjects and means of study that match their own particular interests and styles of learning.  Self-directed learners are not held back by the slow pace of a school course, nor are they rushed ahead when they want more time to think about and delve deeply into any given aspect of the interest they’re pursuing.

  1.  Changes in the economy favor the skills developed by Self-Directed Education.

Because of changes in how we make our livings, the skills exercised by coercive schooling are even less valuable, and those exercised by Self-Directed Education are even more valuable, now than they were in the past.  We don’t need people who can memorize and regurgitate lots of information; we have Google for that.  We don’t need many people to do routine, tedious tasks dictated by others; we have robots for that.

What we do need, and will continue to need, are people who think critically and creatively, innovate, ask and answer questions that nobody else has thought of, and bring moral values and a passionate sense of purpose into the workplace.  These are the kinds of skills that are continuously honed in Self-Directed Education.  In coercive schools, the requirement that everyone follow the same curriculum, motivated by reward and punishment rather than genuine interest, guarantees that most students will not develop passionate interests, deep understanding, or a sense of purpose other than that of making it through the next hoop.

A Few Final Thoughts From Gray

  • “…these are all good reasons why our forced system of schooling should topple soon; but will it topple soon?”   Yes, it will, because it really is reaching the end of the line.
  • Much of the increased odiousness of school has come about precisely because of the increased recognition that our schools are failing.  Stupidly, in recent times we’ve tried to “fix” the schools by doing more of what doesn’t work.  But that can’t go on forever.
  • The revolution will come not because authorities within the coercive school system become enlightened, but because a growing number of families who are victims of that system will realize that they have an option—a good option—and they will take it.

Let’s not just wait for that social change to occur; let’s push it along.  Let’s develop an organized movement to inform people about this option and how they can pursue it.  That’s the purpose of a new nonprofit organization that I’m a part of, the Alliance for Self-Directed Education.  Maybe you’d like to join it.

Human Development Part Three…brain drizzles

This is one of what is (so far) a three-parter, information-sharing among folks working on a project. If you’ve stumbled in from the outside and can decipher where this is going, please join in! In a really big nutshell, this is about a movement to support human potential. Big enough for you?

PART ONE: Don’t Bogart That Vibe, My Friend  A high level look at a Human Development movement that started out as an alternative to traditional education and ballooned. How can we develop children if the parents don’t do the same?

PART TWO: Gonzo Ramblings Continued higher level look, with a little more detail.

PART THREE: brain drizzles.  More specific what’s, how-to’s, what if’s. Potential is unlimited but what is the FOCUS? OR….should there be no focus, let “it” grow organically? The danger: any time you over-structure a movement there’s a risk of formality creeping in that may choke creativity. Structure can lead to power plays and politics….grrrrr.

UNKNOWN, complicated as these things appear to vary state-to-state: are home schooled / un-schooled kids still required to perform against standard tests? What about college entrance exams? Do they still do the ACT / SAT routine?

Here is a solution that is long overdue with crazy college costs and inadequacy of an academic degree to helping people succeed as a happy therefore productive person in their life and in the workplace….

Paradigm Shift! No traditional curriculum can prepare someone for the specific responsibilities of a specific job. That’s what job training is for. A successful new hire must be capable of adapting and learning new things on the fly. They must know how to think, how to learn, how to cope and especially how to interact with others. Employers have finally admitted that “soft” skills are vital and that the talent pool is terribly developed in the social-emotional aspects.

College grads are academically educated but still woefully unprepared for the real world. Employers need to get over their obsession with “college degree required”. We can change that paradigm by showing consistently incredible “grads” who are above the curve in all aspects. Critical thinking skills, high capacity for learning new things, socially and emotionally well-developed and balanced, just “sharp” all the way around. Not to be a crude capitalist, but this is also a marketable differentiation for parents and learners. The Smart Alternative to traditional academics. I have a real aversion to these cutesy word games, but regular folks dig them. These are our deliverables (PLEASE help me with some better words…this is lame!):

Successful and satisfied

Meaningfully connected

Accepting of alternatives

Receptive to learning new things

Total package, whole-person development


Capacity to learn is driven by nimowashe-a Japanese bansai gardening practice, literally preparing the tree for planting-and the right approaches. Strengths-based to unlearning attributes; learner-directed and team / group activities;

Capability to learn comes from resources the learner has free and easy access to: technology, equipment, research materials, software, simulations, games for individual exploration.

Build Understanding and Support! New stuff is often perceived as “weird” and untouchable if it’s not mainstream, and experts tend to protect their expertise turf by cloaking their magic in mystical methods and terms. Not everyone can or will take a chance on doing these things on their own, without someone making it easier with information and assistance. So build a learning lab, awareness / knowledge builder and doing center. Eliminate the airy-fairy pixie dust and replace with liberal doses of WIIFM. Enable people to DO a little at a time through coaching, one-on-one mentoring when needed and workshops for parents and their children.

Prove it works with small successes and build momentum. Nothing delivers recognition, acceptance and growth like success and consistently exceptional results. Expect slow growth, be pleasantly surprised when it takes off. But even so, some people will not or cannot do this on their own. So there must be a solid support network and resources readily available.

Development Centers are adjunct early caregivers, and providers of continued learner development. Centers also provide guidance / information / resources to support DIY parents and other caregivers. Two main points of emphasis: (1) child development and (2) adult education with workshops and resources, open enrollment for parents and other adults not signed on with the center.

A Center is a physical and online resource that supports “whole-person development”…pre-natal through infancy, young learners through adult (all of us!) and seniors. Social / emotional (personal) and physical well-being. These are all elements of one big system, should be served systemically.

DO THE VISION THING….No-Holds-Barred (add attributes, topics, any ideas)

Following are preliminary brain drizzles on some “what” items, just a rough salting of the mine to get things started. NOTE about the following buckets: “Early, Young, Middle, Adult” designations are not age-based! Levels are driven by the capabilities and interests of the individual learner! Last, NO “we can’t do that” allowed at this stage. We can sort out the feasibilities later! Dream!

Early development; Informational

  • Adult workshops: when does consciousness begin? How can we positively impact early awareness? For present and future parents and early caregivers.

Young learners

  • Loose, unstructured exploration, strengths-based, unlearning (identify strengths / interests / natural capabilities)
  • Basic social-emotional skills building. Social skills development, in structured setting (NOTE: employers sing the blues about how lacking in “soft skills” the talent pool is!).

Middle / later

  • Increased levels of S-E learning; civic and social engagement. Academically: sociology, psych, government / civics…even industrial anthropology (the study of workplace group dynamics!)
  • Access to technology=YUGE! State-of-the-industry hardware and software platforms for hands-on experimentation. See “Physical, Facility Features”…How Green Stuff Works
  • Environmental / ecological awareness. Understanding earth’s systemic fragility. Opens the door to science fields, green careers and activism
  • Math and statistics, workplace applications. Lots of experiential stuff, fun learning and hands-on with real workplace stuff (this is kinda my sweet spot and it’s huge for workforce prep)

Adult learners

  • Stress management, coping skills, re-connecting / re-tooling lifestyles. Self-awareness. Mindfulness, everyday relaxation, meditating etc
  • Engagement levers are universal. Provide Big Picture engagement sessions that boost mainstream / private sector buy-in. Whole-person engagement (youth, learner, adult, senior) and whole-life engagement (home / family, school, work, community, society).
  • Promote civic and community activism and volunteerism through increased accessibility. Explore and broker ways to connect.

Physical, Facility Features, Hard Resources

  • Nature Center, indoor / outdoor. Greenhouse ecosystem, healthy environment, lighting and sound, year-round earthing, good air. Compost room inside, organic farm plot, hydroponics (?)
  • Full Solarium with grass …a decompression room, earthing time. Trees, healthy lighting, forest sounds (hell, why not a few birds flying around?! Oh…birds poop! Maybe not so hot an idea….)
  • Green energy (hydro, wind, solar) powers a mini home. Break a model into components & assemble, and a more full-scale, fully functional working model;
  • Compost room, use compost for organic garden plot
  • How Stuff Works…one big area is how does green technology work? Small-scale models to break down, fully functional working model energy producers. GE Energy will get behind this! Wind, water, solar. Program extends to planning, purchase, installation resource / guidance.
  • Application / Implementation Support: information and knowledge is great, especially when it is USED! LEARN about alternative energy, but don’t stop there. Facilitate how to SET UP a system, then guide / coach and advise through the process.

Technology, Learning Aids

  • Top notch a/v, cyber, program access

Special Category: Brain Workouts, backed with exploring brain theory to validate. Our brains are more than a supercomputer, although the human brain is said to have even a greater level of potential processing and storage capability waiting for the switch to flip and the connections to be made. The brain is a muscle where exercises and workout aids are proven to be effective, and a computer too. So we can do cerebral calisthenics as well as learn to “program” our brain to improve its performance.

Mindfulness and other basic, non-threatening, non-weird “meditation / relaxation” techniques.

Music promotes brain capability, as long as it’s the right kind! Rap and metal are not too effective! Baroque is the most effective, for lots of reasons beyond its unobtrusive yet emotion-connecting power.


Noted up-front in Part Three: are home schooled / un-schooled kids still required to perform against standard tests? What about college entrance exams? Do they still do the ACT / SAT routine? In general, what is the legislative / regulatory environment regarding non-traditional education? And, Trump’s nomination for the Dept. of Education head is a proponent of charter, for-profit education. What will the environment become?

Student Loan Bailout Perpetuates the Higher Ed Problem? I heard a piece on NPR November 30th about how the expanded student loan forgiveness program is creating a huge swell in college enrollments. Degree chasers anticipate little relief in the long-term cost outlook, but with the expanded bailout they don’t have to go into hock all their lives for a degree. (  U.S. Expected To Forgive At Least $108 Billion In Student Debt (Nov 30th All Things Considered)

A report released Wednesday by the Government Accountability Office says the U.S. is on track to forgive at least $108 billion in student debt. This is due to the number of people who have enrolled in plans the Obama administration promoted to help borrowers avoid default. The GAO report finds the Education Department also understated the cost of these plans.

Just my opinion–we’re missing the mark. What does higher ed really contribute to productivity and the economy to warrant such a huge investment? We don’t need more people with degrees. We need more people with 21st century skills and the ability to make an immediate contribution to the workplace. What we really need is well-adjusted, personally connected people who are stable and anchored enough to survive a changing workplace and the crazy lifestyle we inflict upon ourselves.

We need to re-examine what we expect out of education, and learning in general…what’s the purpose, what are the goals? Further, HOW are we providing learning? WHY are we still mass-producing bricks in the wall when the factory model is so antiquated? Especially when the customers of that factory model are screaming for something different?

An “unlearned” young person is likely to have their full-strength learning pathways firmly established and S-E development ensures they are well-grounded. Progression into the more skills-based phase (Real-world Prep School) is not set in stone, they can choose to continue on their own path and explore all available options.

A diploma or degree is NOT the ticket to admit the learner into the real world, the job market. It should be mostly irrelevant, a minimal qualifier if any at all. Antidote: early unlearning followed with learner-driven SE development and RWPS to provide maximum strength preparation of high-quality workforce-ready raw material.

Unlearner Proponents Are Highly Individualistic. By its nature unlearning attracts nonconformists, people who rebel against establishment rules, regulations, and academic methods and requirements. “Herding cats” comes to mind when considering the challenge of organizing these uber free spirits. Lack of structure is a key unlearning ingredient, so how can a Center provide a structured approach designed to mainstream unlearning?

GASP! Unlearning is Gonzo: first-person, “me”-centered, free-flowing, rambling, driven by emotion.

That’s all for now…what do you think?

Gonzo Ramblings (You Be Trippin Jimmy)

(Confessions of a really confused human development / education improvement wannabe…)

This is one of what is (so far) a three-parter, information-sharing among folks working on a project. If you’ve stumbled in from the outside and can decipher where this is going, please join in! In a really big nutshell, this is about a movement to support human potential. Big enough for you?

PART ONE: Don’t Bogart That Vibe, My Friend  A high level look at a Human Development movement that started out as an alternative to traditional education and ballooned. How can we develop children if the parents don’t do the same?

PART TWO: Gonzo Ramblings (you are here!) Continued higher level look, with a little more detail.

PART THREE: brain drizzles. More specific what’s, how-to’s, what if’s. Potential is unlimited but what is the FOCUS? OR….should there be no focus, let “it” grow organically? The danger: any time you over-structure a movement there’s a risk of formality creeping in that may choke creativity. Structure can lead to power plays and politics….grrrrr.

I’ve been perfectly straight and sober for over half my life (that’s a LONG time!) but still my mind sometimes takes off on an uncontrollable jag of what seems to be incoherent babblings. Or is this all painfully sane? Not for me to say….but here’s the latest.

It’s humbling for a 62 year old who thought his thinking was on the cutting edge to realize I’m really chasing yet another group of more knowledge trailblazers. I don’t mind it a bit, except I keep chasing different scouts on different adventures. So I have to suspect that I’m a knowmad (a word from John Moravec, Manifesto 15. Nomads are always ready to pick up when the urge or need to move arises. The analogy seems to fit. Hunter-gatherers follow the food source, transients pitching camp every now and then if the herd stops or the climate is right to throw a few seeds out, and there are no hostile rival tribes within striking distance.

I’ve been looking for a crack in the education establishment’s castle walls, for some way to get involved in meaningful education improvement. Workforce preparation, student and employee engagement, social-emotional development, lifelong learning…unschooling principles are among the latest paths I’ve intuitively stumbled down, with my steps illuminated by a good deal of old study and new inputs to validate the old.

Unschooling is a well-kept secret. Why has it not gone mainstream? Are old school educators threatened, or are they very quietly supportive until it’s safer to come out? How can all this awesome unschooling stuff be kept under the radar while common core, standard test performance, and STEM hog center stage?

Traditional education cannot or will not (probably both) flex nearly enough to go down such a radical path as unschooling. Peter Gray wrote that the only kind of change we’ll (maybe) see is “…thousands of little revolutions occurring locally, in different ways in different places, all over the world.” Covert guerilla actions. What about those like me who favor all-out assault on status quo? I don’t think we have long enough to wait for evolution.

What’s really in the way? Is the mainstream’s unschooling information blackout a conspiracy to keep the lid on human potential? Is the industrial / military complex…the “establishment”… calling the shots? Do they simply want to keep an unending stream of cannon fodder coming at all costs, churning out interchangeable bricks in the wall who know just enough to be productive but not nearly enough to challenge or ask questions? Is there a global power struggle, people vs profit, the 1% vs the rest of us, greater good vs evil, with human survival as the prize?

It just doesn’t make sense to me unless there’s something to one of those conspiracy theories….

Education is in the middle of a huge identity crisis. Popular opinion, even among experts, is that there is a need to redefine the purpose of education and learning. I might as well take a whack at redefining.

Learning’s goal is facilitate peoples’ craving to grow into all they can be, to reach the pinnacle of the pyramid–that old Maslow actualization thing. Goals are full engagement (maximum satisfaction, maximum contribution); emotional or spiritual and physical well-being (the two are absolutely connected); mindfulness, finding the flow zone and finding a person’s unique Calling ….basically assisting the quest to find “me” and my humanity. The non-goal: lining up in neat little rows and learning how to do stuff in order to pass a series of standard tests and achieve an acceptable level of competency.

This fits perfectly with my personal core belief that people come before process…that first taking care of human needs enables maximum “thing” attainment, achievement, performance. Without that priority, “thing” achievements are much more difficult. But is there enough compelling evidence to radically shift education’s focus? Not gonna happen….not overnight, maybe not ever.

But the old factory model of academic education is obsolete! Further, “institute of higher learning” has become an oxymoron. Higher education is more of the same compliance and acceptable level of competency.

Classrooms must become learning labs, opportunities to freely explore. It has nothing to do with bricks and mortar. But a couple of “little” things would need to change along with reinventing learning.

  1. New norms, new ways of thinking about “success”. Success must be personal, not driven by somebody else’s definition;
  2. Re-think “productivity” maybe even re-think the economy (?). How will people find the right thing to do that will keep them happy on their way to success?

A New Walden’s Pond / Re-dawning of the Age of Aquarius?

This sounds strangely like the old hippie / Aquarian “do your own thing, go your own way” as long as you don’t hurt anyone else. Chaos and anarchy? Reality check…you have to eventually find your niche, your opportunity to contribute and add “value” so you can get value in return. We’re a transactional society. People must earn their keep, make a contribution. “How am I supposed to pay for stuff, with my looks??” Redefine “value”? Redefine “making a living” too?


Do we need to downsize society, rethink modern living and go back to the basics, something simpler? Is it even possible? People go off the grid all the time. Communes aren’t a new idea. Reinvent “community”? Blue Zones and science tells us the reward is reduced stress, greater satisfaction and longevity.

Pipe Dream? Let’s go with “stretch vision”. Aim high, with the realization that it is a journey not a finite project with milestones and a completion date.

I browsed through Manifesto 15 and it was like coming home, like where I’m meant to be! Every bit of it makes such absolute sense even the stuff I don’t fully understand. “AHA”…I’ve been bloodying my knuckles fighting against the education establishment, trying to beat it into changing. But re-tooling the current reality isn’t the ticket! This, from Peter Gray commenting on the Manifesto, on ways to change:

“…one is through gradual change in existing systems and the other is through the emergence of new systems that occupy the niches of, and thereby replace, the old ones.”

Gray quoted Buckminster Fuller, which really drove it home for me: “you never change things by fighting the existing reality (that would be ME). To change something build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” (that would be unschooling!)

OK…my head hurts now! May as well self-inflict more pain.

Unschooling is for home use only right now. But can we promote a hybrid model within traditional education, maybe using the charter structure, to deploy at least some of the unschooling principles? Just my opinion: we’d have better luck promoting unschooling with a group of outsider / adjunct champions under contract or whatever…a non-threatening enhancement to the traditional curriculum. Educators could use the extra resources, and more learners would feel a little benefit in doing so, and we could start building support for unschooling in the process. “Hey, this weird stuff actually works!”

Brain training…the brain is a muscle, can be developed. Is a supercomputer, can be upgraded and reprogrammed.  Any exercise regimen needs discipline, devotion to development.

Music training




GASP! Unlearning is gonzo!


Don’t bogart that vibe, my friend. Pass it over to me

This is one of what is (so far) a three-parter, information-sharing among folks working on a project. If you’ve stumbled in from the outside and can decipher where this is going, please join in! In a really big nutshell, this is about a movement to support human potential. Big enough for you?

PART ONE: Don’t Bogart That Vibe, My Friend (you are here!)  A high level look at a Human Development movement that started out as an alternative to traditional education and ballooned. How can we develop children if the parents don’t do the same?

PART TWO: Gonzo Ramblings Continued higher level look, with a little more detail.

PART THREE: brain drizzles. More specific what’s, how-to’s, what if’s. Potential is unlimited but what is the FOCUS? OR….should there be no focus, let “it” grow organically? The danger: any time you over-structure a movement there’s a risk of formality creeping in that may choke creativity. Structure can lead to power plays and politics….grrrrr.


My schtick until the last few years was adult personal development–engagement theory / values-based leadership and all that stuff. Then along came working with young people in school, and I fell in love with social-emotional learning, or as it’s called in the workplace emotional intelligence from Goleman.

Epiphany: for the most part, big kids and young kids are driven by the same human behavior basics. Why not develop together? Adults need to be role models and effective coaches / facilitators of learning. But kids teach adults too! Learn together!

Now I’ve become consumed with a big hairy vision for a “human development center” that would save the world and somewhat protect humanity from ourselves. Very Quixote-esque. But I don’t have the expertise or the time for that matter. Saving the world is hard work.

(from Maggie) “…we are pushing kids out of a meat grinder like we are a play dough factory. (see Pink Floyd Brick in the Wall vid from The Wall…a never-ending faceless line of kids on a conveyor belt falling into a meat grinder, coming out as hamburger. ewwww…The factory model of education running full-tilt)

We have to circle back, re-center, reposition, and start them on a trajectory of flow – one where they diverge along non-homogenous paths and learn self love, self respect, and self direction before being held to standardized criteria.

So this human development center – is it a paradigm shift for resolving many societal problems by cultivating an all ages, integrative learning system that self informs and spirals out?”

YES Maggie!  That’s closer to an appropriate mission statement than I’ve been able to come up with. Expanding on a few key phrases:

A paradigm shift for resolving many societal problems. Shift required: there is a weirdness to much of this stuff that is hard for John and Mary Everyman to embrace. Must inform and involve people in doing the weird stuff, so they can see and feel what it is. The new paradigm takes significant unlearning / deprogramming / decompression for adults —parents, leaders and educators alike. The macro target is social change, for the greater good. This actually represents a new way of thinking…the principles apply to the workplace, to social interactions and to society, to democracy, to the global community.

All ages.  Older kids (aka “adults”) and young kids alike go by the same human behavior basics. Why not develop together? Adults need to be role models and effective coaches / facilitators of learning. But kids teach adults too! Learn together!

Integrative learning system based on exploration of a rich array of sources and resources. Integrative system but individuals explore divergent paths…this is not a conflict!

Self informs and spirals out. Self-discovery builds relevance and ownership. Per unlearning: I’ll pay attention to what I connect with. But “self-informing” in this case may include a little guidance for those parents and caregivers who are interested but don’t know where to start. Guidance may situationally grow into ongoing direct involvement or mentoring from afar while they are getting used to things–whatever serves to promote the cause! As far as “spiraling out” there’s nothing like a little success and word-of-mouth to spread the news and generate further interest–NOT in “the center” itself but in what the center stands for!

AHA! Big Kids benefit from all this too!

One big example: constant noise, continuous bombardment of destructive sensory inputs = stress, chaos, confusion. Build awareness about the impacts of a modern lifestyle and provide learning and an environment to decompress from lifestyle stress.  Create a positive, peaceful environment where people can unwind and breathe, get centered again. And basic relaxation / mindfulness can start at an early age–develop the habit when young instead of having to unlearn bad habits! We need to unlearn our grown up fast-food lifestyle if we want our kids to practice healthy habits!  

The Narrative

Mission: Support attaining and sustaining the highest levels of social-emotional, intellectual, and physical human potential, from infancy through the golden years. Promote the new paradigm that “child care” and learning and development is actually whole-family human development within the family unit. Parents need knowledge, resources. They need to personally practice the principles for maximum benefit for their kids and for themselves!

  • Maximize spiritual and physical well-being to give people the chance to have a secure, satisfying and sustainable future;
  • Explore and promote human and environmentally-friendly alternatives in lifestyles, resource utilization, and food and energy production;
  • Promote awareness of and accessibility to human-friendly alternatives in childhood development, growth and lifelong learning;
  • Maximize learning capacity and capability to learn by using the right learner-centered methods., and by providing the right environment and resources to allow unfettered  exploration of the learners’ choosing.

Here are some really simple concepts that I shared in big kid leadership development workshops. There is a direct correlation in these points to kids and their development!

One: involvement builds ownership which results in  commitment. If I have a part in setting my direction, I am damn sure more jazzed up to make sure I get there.

Two: people want to be all they can be. This intrinsic drive is strongest and comes most naturally when people develop in areas where they have a passion and, hopefully, a little natural ability to start with.

Three: my definition of “success and happiness” may be vastly different from most other people’s definitions. But it’s my definition that matters—see #1 above.

Four…if our definitions are different, that’s OK! We’re not competing, we’re helping each other to be fulfilled. African societies were (hopefully still are!) very strong on this, basically “I am complete only through others”. Ubuntu rocks!

Five, people may, or may not, conform well to boundaries–it’s a matter of personal preference. However, most anyone can be driven by purposeful expectations, especially if they have a hand in defining goals and expectations.  That’s a far cry from clear and restrictive boundaries.

Have you ever noticed how school kids act when there’s a fence around the playground? They huddle close to the building, they hesitate to explore the full space of the playground. Remove the fence, and kids feel more free to roam the entire space, while still staying within that distant boundary. No chasing the ball into the street.

Why is it we assume human nature changes drastically somewhere along the way from youth to adulthood? It doesn’t. We cram kids into standardized buckets, we put a fence around their playground and cripple their ability to reach their full potential. We do the same to adults in the workplace, and throughout life in general.

Thankfully, there’s a transformation creeping up on us. Please hurry!

“ENGAGEMENT” in the macro sense is systemic, lots of crossover. It’s a key element in well-being. Everyday engagement working sessions build mainstream support for the voodoo concepts

The Results Are In

Highly engaged people–those who are within their unique flow state–perform better. Kids learn more, working adults produce better results. Social-emotional well-being is a major factor in engagement / flow. And again, drivers for people of all ages are pretty much the same. This common ground is a solid foundation for building better, healthier futures.

So there’s a bunch of disjointed whats and whys. I have specific hows too, but that has to come at a later time!