Category Archives: education reform

RWPS Support: What Can Be

(Preface: if it seems like this jumps all over the place…well, it does. It’s an overview collection of excerpts from several sources, all in support of a community socio-economic improvement initiative titled “Real-world Prep School”. If you’re one of the few I’m having direct conversations with, you have a leg up. If not, see the first two links in “References / Sources” at the end)

Community Objectives

We are vibrant and growing, economically prosperous and emotionally healthy. Our community development model is a magnet for families with children, new employers, and working adults.

  • Whole-life engagement! We have a community-supported education and development system that produces a highly skilled, fully engaged talent pool that is supported and utilized by community-conscious local employers;
  • Community retention and recruiting! “Want In!” New families and businesses stand in line to come here. Young people have a reason to stay, family roots and stability are rejuvenated;
  • Employability of learners and the current workforce is assured by ongoing and meaningful, targeted education and skills updating: timely and relevant preparation to secure a desirable position with an excellent company that is a pillar of the community;
  • Equal opportunity to develop and grow! Each person has the means to reach their full potential along their desired path, maximizing the opportunity for a long, fulfilling life on “my” terms;
  • Strong community-wide relationships! Respect, appreciation and inclusion regardless of gender, ethnicity, nationality, or social / economic stature is the norm and a shared expectation;
  • Well-informed and highly involved community members! The greater good is elevated above individual gain. Community members are fully engaged in civic matters and there is ample opportunity for all to contribute toward community goals regardless of status or position. The community belief: the good of the many outweighs the good of the few…Ubuntu!

What Is “Real-world Prep School”? (RWPS)

RWPS is an application-intensive enhancement to existing grades 5-12 curriculum, balanced between interpersonal skills / social-emotional development, and workplace preparation / hard skills.  Modular topics range from quick-hitter stand-alones to ongoing projects and full-term coursework.

Curriculum is built around topics employers identify as essential foundational skills. Workplace subject matter experts and instructors are utilized when possible. RWPS content is typically unavailable in traditional education; this isn’t meant to compete with education but to complement by collaborating on needs analysis, co-design and delivery to ensures actual workplace needs are met. With all stakeholders pitching in, time and budget burdens are lifted from the over-extended education system.

Workplace Prep and a Whole Lot More. RWPS is the education component of a broad social well-being and economic development initiative in disguise. CAUTION! Some people could be turned off if this is viewed as overwhelmingly big or too weird, or if they think they will be forced to change their nature. So there is little overt attention beyond the primary target of preparing young people for life. But All People is the actual target, including the working adult population and the community’s families. We can only enable systemic change by engaging families, employers, education, legislators, civic leaders…the whole community. We’re all in this together.

A Radical (Unschooling) Lightning Bolt (from 8-2 New Unschooling Two Parter.doc)

It’s widely acknowledged we must do something different in education. We’re zoned in on post-secondary ed availability and attainment and STEM prep, but the real issues are much deeper. Have we elevated the right targets? We can and must do better for the kids, ourselves, the economy, society.

A strange animal called “radical unschooling” (homeschooling on steroids) has incredible potential. But it’s too weird for mainstream, and education establishment would be hesitant to take a chance on adopting even some of the core philosophies that make RU work—not enough research, data or rigor for educators. I’ve been overly critical of what I perceive is the establishment’s conservatism and resulting inability to adapt. Epiphany: is there such a thing as working within the system, is there value in trying to partially win over traditional educators? While it is perceived as such, RU is not an all-or-none, revolutionary replacement of the current, broken system. Coexistence is possible.

What’s Really At Stake?

Personal attainment and life satisfaction, community and social well-being, Improvement, health and prosperity…that’s “all” that is at stake. As social-emotional development of all community members is critical to the greater good, the RWPS model develops adults, not just kids in school. Community-wide vision, goals and action is the key, with a collaborative effort among stakeholders the catalyst: families, education, employers, legislators / local gov’t / civic and community leaders all aligned and involved.

The real drivers are a sub-surface iceberg of human maladies: bullying, harassment, youth (all ages!) suicide; chronic incivility; anemic values and ethics, social and political polarization, hatred, bigotry. Apathy (+) low awareness of civics and issues (+) social disengagement (=) no community involvement.

A key enabler of economic and social stability is the process of norming and socialization, of simply “growing up”. The institutions of family, education and church have lost their influence on young people, there’s too much busyness to accumulate more “stuff”, to give kids a “better life” than what the parent had. We need to redefine “better”. We need, badly, to get to work stitching our social fabric back together. It was once a beautiful quilt, now it’s just a bunch of grease rags on the shop floor.

Tech giant Google studied the relative importance of hard skills and “soft” attributes. It found that “success” has little to do with algorithms, data crunching or search engine optimization. There is a whole arena of “soft” attributes that Google found are even more critical than technical skills. And research shows that priority should be onpeople needs” first: soft before hard skills. We’ve got it backwards! We can do better by at least balancing our attention on both people and process, but we need to acknowledge that people needs are the prerequisite to achieving optimal “thing” results.

Unspeakables (sure hope this doesn’t ruffle feathers, “let me explain….”)

  • The traditional education system is doing too much harm to too many young people. A top cause of the alarming increase in middle school suicide rate is academic pressure to perform and to conform. Add peer bullying to the mix. America sees alarming spike in middle school suicide rate
  • Young people who survive the education system are ill-equipped for college or the workplace, and unprepared emotionally for life. The traditional system isn’t delivering the goods, and the system isn’t designed to respond to pressures to adapt. (Or it won’t change….)
  • Kids cannot perform outside of standard, canned responses, memorized answers. Still, the US is not doing so well by global performance in standard testing.
  • Level of creativity and critical thinking among US youth is plummeting. Peter Gray examines this in As Children’s Freedom Has Declined, So Has Their Creativity, first posted Sep 17, 2012. It’s even more relevant today as the situation has worsened considerably. Creativity and critical thinking are the two most essential new workplace skills, and we’ve lost our edge. US competitiveness and productivity, and economic and social stability are at stake.
  • Our talent pool is shallow and muddy, our ability to compete globally is in serious danger. The private sector guy in me says that’s unacceptable. If it can be resolved why isn’t it a priority?
  • I love my grandkids. If I live long enough to meet them, I’m sure I’d feel the same about their kids. I want to do all I can to ensure they all have a decent world to call home, a safe and fulfilling life. We cannot get there going down the path we’re on. It’s that simple.

     If anything makes Americans stand tall internationally it is creativity.  “American ingenuity” is admired everywhere. We are not the richest country (at least not as measured by smallest percentage in poverty), nor the healthiest (far from it), nor the country whose kids score highest on standardized tests (despite our politicians’ misguided intentions to get us there), but we are the most inventive country.  We are the great innovators, specialists in figuring out new ways of doing things and new things to do.

In the business world as well as in academia and the arts and elsewhere, creativity is our number one asset.  In a recent IBM poll, 1,500 CEOs acknowledged this when they identified creativity as the best predictor of future success. It is sobering, therefore, to read Kyung Hee Kim’s recent research report documenting a continuous decline in creativity among American schoolchildren over the last two or three decades. (Gray blog–above)

(from Kids Bully, Big Kids Harass) Too many young people suffer irreversible long-term harm, even commit suicide because of pressures they can’t handle. Key triggers: education demands, bullying, growing up in a vacuum. Too many adults are in pain too, suffering from isolation, lack of purpose, workplace pressures, big kid bullying a.k.a harassment.

     Stress, anxiety, formally diagnosed mental / emotional illness, self-harm, and suicide are increasing across all ages. Hypothesis: we have no purpose or meaning in our own lives, and we’ve forgotten the importance of treating each other like human beings. We’re far too often killing ourselves and each other. We’ve devalued life. Harsh? Reality usually is.

Future Ready Iowa Alliance: Final Recommendations (Craig’s  comments too)

The most relevant section is #5: Develop a grassroots strategy to engage the business community, sector boards, regional workforce boards, STEM regions and other regional collaborations to align with Alliance recommendations.

A few recommendations have been deleted. (Parenths and italics = RWPS relevant element).

  1. Determine if gaps exist where guidance could be provided to a community or region to assist in the development of a collaborative approach toward workforce initiatives. (RWPS will be a benchmark for FRI participants on how to avoid gaps in the collaborative approach)
  2. (“Sector” focus is too broad)
  3. Ensure playbook includes models and best practices for rural businesses. (define “rural businesses”)
  4. Ensure playbook includes models of best practices to strengthen relationships between businesses and education and build new and expand existing career pathways. (Who “ensures”? Is this work-in-process? How long? RWPS is a benchmark for relationship-building among stakeholders. “Expand career pathways” is integral to RWPS design, and grads have much more flexibility in career capabilities, therefore choices)
  5. Design successful strategies, including:
  6. Identify challenges the business community has in attracting and retaining a qualified workforce, including “soft‐skill” challenges, and engage in collaborative solutions. (Needs analysis and flagging challenges are ongoing, real-time and integrated. RWPS is balanced between soft and hard skills, with emphasis on developing soft skills)

iii. Determine how to best leverage existing solutions such as career pathway development and training, work‐based learning experiences, internships, apprenticeships, and K‐12 career exposure opportunities. (All this is built into the RWPS model)

  1. Utilize local, state, and federal programs that already exist to support challenges identified. (of course! FRI is a valuable benchmarking and occasional as-needed consultation resource)
  2. Support successful work or operations of existing business‐community collaborative. Technical assistance for existing or future sector partnerships and other public private partnerships will be provided by the Department of Education, local workforce investment boards, and other relevant partners depending on the strategy selected. (Support from the FRI system and from RWPS back to FRI, truly symbiotic! The Alliance will be interested in the RWPS model once it starts proving itself!)

Potential types of technical assistance may include: providing private sector with necessary partner to “lead” board; conducting research on solutions/issues at request of sector group; marketing and sharing relevant labor‐market data including local occupational outlook data; recruiting the private sector to participate where gaps exist; inviting supporting entities to participate based on issues identified by employers; sharing statewide best practices and success stories; serving as catalyst or engage a catalyst where public‐private workforce partnerships do not exist. (an eventual endorsement of RWPS from the Alliance would lend credibility to the process. And FRI will benefit from collaborating with RWPS as well)

Where Future Ready Iowa (FRI) Misses the Mark

  1. 70% post-secondary education or training goal by 2025;
  2. Sector or region-based needs are not the most effective education and training design driver. There is a really big, convoluted mashup of agencies and players, yet there is minimal action and results! Culprits besides newness: complexity, overkill, programitis.
  3. STEM and high-paying, targeted industry position targets ignore entry-level jobs, which are the more realistic starting point for a young worker. And it’s dangerous to assume even an advanced degree is a reliable indicator of capability to succeed in a specific position;
  4. Employers are asked to contribute to a broad pool for scholarship / grant funding;
  5. FRI calls for collaboration, but it’s still too silo-oriented with minimal direct collaboration among stakeholders.

Re-calibrating Future Ready Iowa with the RWPS Model (numbers reference above list)

(one) By 2025 68% of Iowa jobs will require post-secondary of some kind. What is the 32%? Goal: 70% of all Iowans with some form of post-secondary academic / trades education / certification by 2025. Education or training in what, to meet which specific needs? College-for-all is too general, isn’t necessary. Too many people spend half a lifetime in debt but still miss the employability mark;

(two) RWPS is locally developed and controlled rather than a not-invented–here program. It’s human nature to more fully support something and commit to its success when you have had front-end input. Future Ready Iowa is a great resource to benchmark, not to blindly embrace and somehow make it fit.

(two) The need is for more local, tighter focus. The RWPS community-based model is scaled down from FRI. It is designed to meet specific needs and directly connects and involves the key players.

(two)  The arm swings the hammer, or thumbs get mashed! Too often, the tool controls the craftsman, if the process is sacred the customers’ and users’ needs become secondary. While it is a good resource, the FRI process / program is complex, and hard to fully embrace without significant assistance;

 

(three) FRI is skewed toward STEM careers in targeted industries. Community colleges are favorable toward trades careers. Iowa’s current core businesses, and greatest immediate and near-term needs, besides agricultural are finance, health, banking…service and information processing. The world economy is shifting. How relevant will mfg be in Iowa by 2025? Service and information may be bigger. STEM is essential to our future, but it isn’t the be-all and we can’t bet the farm on STEM alone.

(three) FRI’s heavy emphasis on post-secondary academic attainment locks learners into a specific area of study, and limits their career options. RWPS develops high-potential people who are socially, emotionally, intellectually prepared for success in a variety of fields.

(three) No academic curriculum can adequately provide job skills for a specific position. Specific job skills are better provided post-placement, by specific employers to meet their specific needs.

 

(four) Business leaders like ROI. FRI asks them to support scholarships / grants for unknown recipients to pursue unknown studies… pretty much throwing money into a dark hole. Contributors may or may not see a direct benefit. RWPS builds relationships with young people in the local community’s talent pool starting in middle school, including early introductions to high potentials. Early exposure increases the likelihood of a better employer-to-candidate cultural fit. Last, high potential learners know they are being “scouted” for a future job, a powerful motivator for learners!

(four) In addition to direct and early interface with their most likely future employees, employers need substantial input to the education / training curriculum and process, and more direct control over their own talent pool preparation. Ongoing input and re-design ensures that needs remain relevant;

 

(five) The workplace must align with coursework, so front-end employer input kick-starts RWPS: defining near-term position skills requirements and realistic expectations for degree attainment.

(five) Employers aren’t done once they provide a list of needs and contribute to funding. Involvement is in-depth and ongoing, from needs assessment to co-design, through co-delivery and determining placements, even internal employer-provided skills training: the handoff must be seamless from academics to workplace, from education to more specific internal training and development;

(five) Education is not well-versed in workplace concepts, tools and techniques. This is not a slam! It’s unrealistic to expect educators to become content and process experts. Easy remedy: Let the Rabbits Run. Leverage strengths, with education and employers collaborating on material design and delivery.

 

SF475 (Omnibus education bill–Iowa): Online Learning

House passed, Senate is assessing. I’m concerned about the online component (see 1 in the bill) There is no successful model to benchmark, even though there’s probably a multitude of vendors hawking their wares…let the buyer beware! Just a hunch from prior experience. See “Diploma Inflation”. 

What’s driving this legislation, why is this being considered? Are we actually headed down this path for HS coursework? From the bill’s language, it appears the legislation is relevant only when online is “the primary” material (?). Pretty gray, need to operationally define: how much is “primary”?

My view: online learning will require substantial up-front investment for system and coursework licensing. The greatest detractor: working online is efficient and convenient, but it eliminates interaction that is so critical to social-emotional development and deeper learning. We don’t need another handy check-box activity to hasten graduation, we need youth development and lasting results.

Efficiency without effectiveness is like straightening deck chairs on the Titanic. (S. Covey)

Defining Preparation and Qualifications

Employers scream and point fingers: “We need better prepared candidates!” But what exactly is “prepared”? System improvement must begin at the front end: what are employers’ real needs, we need better definition and more realistic application of the “degree required” hiring criteria and what learning is provided to whom and when. Goal: provide the right learning to the right people in the right way at the right place and time. Critical first step is to determine needs, at three levels:

  1. Pre-hire attributes and core capabilities: what kind of people are we looking for generally? May be legally touchy as hiring criteria / interviewing questions but should include “soft fit”… culture, vision, values;
  2. Foundational, broad workplace skills that can be provided and practiced pre-hire, in school;
  3. Position-specific skills Training that is much more tightly focused on real needs specific to the position must be provided post-hire and placement. It’s common sense: this type of training will not stick without immediate on-the-job application and reinforcement.

Closing Thoughts This project is my passion. It has evolved for over a decade, it still needs thoughtful, in-depth analysis, needs to make sense to others. It requires the right champions too. I’ve spent considerable time in both education and the workplace. I realize that marrying tradition-bound academians with pragmatic, results-driven managers is an unnatural partnership. I understand both worlds’ issues and needs, and speak both languages. I want to help ensure our sustainable productivity and ethical quality of life, as a shared resource for education, employers, community—a catalyst / liaison who brings the players together for the greater good.


References, Sources

These blogs and articles provide RWPS project background.

 

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Real-world Prep…Vision or Delusion?

I Had a Dream Last Night…

….a wickedly delicious dream. My small town had somehow pulled together an all-stakeholder collaboration complete with shared community vision, ethics and goals. We had even taken significant coordinated actions with no infighting, no control freaks, no country clubbing. That alone was strange.

What is this thing called “Real World Prep School”? It looked like education, employers, parents, community, civic leaders—all the players—were doing their part, shifting delivery and budget burden away from the overextended education system. Collaborative needs analysis, co-design and delivery by employers, community leaders and educators ensured actual workplace needs were met. It was working…our town was booming! I saw a banner at City Hall, kind of a vision statement-looking slogan:

We are a vibrant, economically and emotionally prosperous community. Our model of development is a magnet for economic growth, attracting families with children, new employers, and working adults to our community.

A smaller wall chart beside the banner had the header “Shared Community Objectives”. As I read the bullets I said out loud “is this Utopia, or what?” At the very least it seemed to be a great environment for families, employers, the whole community to grow. The objectives:

  • Whole-life engagement! We have a world-class talent pool: highly skilled, fully engaged, fully utilized by local employers;
  • Community retention and recruiting! New families and new businesses standing in line to join us. Our generational roots and stability are rejuvenated as young people have a reason to stay;
  • Employability among learners and the current workforce is assured. Free and meaningful “higher education” and skills updating for adults is provided with targeted, relevant topics leading to a great position with an excellent company that is a pillar of the community.
  • Equal opportunity to develop and grow! Each person can reach their full potential along their desired path, maximizing the probability of a long, fulfilling life on their own terms;
  • Strong relationships community-wide! Mutual respect, appreciation and inclusion are the norm, regardless of gender, ethnicity, nationality, or social / economic stature;
  • Well-informed and highly involved community members! The community’s greater good is held above individual gain, and citizens are fully engaged in civic matters. There is ample opportunity for all to contribute toward community goals, regardless of status or position as long as the willingness is there. The good of the many outweighs the good of the few. Ubuntu!

Can you imagine? Pinch myself…it’s only a dream. I didn’t want to wake up but I did. I grabbed a pad and pen and scribbled down details before they faded. As I wrote, the fuzzy dream became more clear.  And I got to thinking…“why not?”

Hold my beer, right?


Why would I dream all this? Maybe it has something to do with the nasty issues that had been consuming my waking thoughts for too long. I’ve been deeply involved in repairing potholes in the intersection of Workplace and Education. There are many issues in the interface between the two, or more appropriately the lack thereof. While academic and workforce issues are well known, I’ve documented a few here. But first…Potholes to Repair: Intersection of Education and Workplace (go here and come back…will make more sense)

What’s Really At Stake? (from Kids Bully, Big Kids Harass)

Too many young people suffer irreversible long-term harm, even commit suicide because of pressures they can’t handle. Key triggers: education demands, bullying, growing up in a vacuum. Too many adults are in pain too, suffering from isolation, lack of purpose, workplace pressures, big kid bullying a.k.a harassment.

     Stress, anxiety, formally diagnosed mental / emotional illnesses, self-harm, suicide are increasing across all ages. Hypothesis: we’ve turned our backs on the importance of treating each other like human beings, we have no purpose or meaning in our lives and we’re far too often killing ourselves and each other. We’ve devalued our humanity. Harsh? Reality usually is.

“Big” targets are a sub-surface iceberg: bullying, harassment, youth (all ages!) suicide; lack of civility anemic values and ethics, social and political polarization, inability to discuss our differences. Apathy, disengagement, low awareness of civics and issues = no community involvement. We can do better.

Real-world Prep School > Community Growth. RWPS is the education component of a broad social well-being and economic development initiative in disguise. “Whole-person / All-person Development” is the macro focus, and it extends into the working adult population and the community’s families.

The Dream Grows Legs: Details

RWPS is an application-intensive enhancement to existing 5-12 curriculum, balanced between interpersonal / social-emotional development and workplace preparation / hard skills.  Modular design ranges from quick-hitter stand-alone lessons to ongoing projects and full-term coursework, all based on employer needs. Learners are coached on how to increase their employability, building portfolios with specific examples of their work. Lessons provide resume-worthy bullets in lieu of job experience.

Initial focus is on high school students who may be unable to go to college, college students nearing graduation or recently graduated; employed, unemployed or underemployed adults needing an upgrade of workplace knowledge, skills and abilities.

The RWPS curriculum consists of topics employers identify as essential foundational skills, and utilizes private sector subject matter experts as adjunct instructors when possible. RWPS is not in competition with education, providing course content unavailable in a traditional education curriculum, and tapping the private sector for much-needed subject matter expertise and adjunct resources.

STEM + SED: Target = Develop People and Save the World

Teaming and STEM-based project assignments are all that right now. But kids are lost when they are assigned to a project team. They have not had the soft skills development needed to ensure success.

A huge concern is bullying and the growing numbers of youth suicides. And bullying morphs into big kid bad behavior…harassment. Society is a mess, there is general disregard for how to treat each other, human life is de-valued and there’s a huge void in ethical leadership to get us out of our funk. Current social-emotional development efforts in education aren’t effective. They’re not deep enough, are too infrequent, have no ongoing adult coaching. And we need to reach out to the adult population too.

Workforce Prep–More Than Job Skills

RWPS coursework is balanced between (1) social-emotional development and (2) mainstream workplace concepts, methods and skills. People before process:

  1. People: purpose / vision, values, social consciousness. Help people develop emotionally and socially; guide learners in personal branding, and in establishing a meaningful connection to themselves, others and their environment. Only then can skills development truly take hold;
  2. Process: toolbox mastery / workplace skills preparation. Provide hands-on experience with mainstream workplace tools and techniques, including direct interface with employers.

It is essential to balance how we prepare learners for the real world. Technology is here to stay, but so is the need for emotionally grounded people. The two are not a one-or-the-other proposition.

Social-emotional development (SED) is typically provided for elementary age kids, if at all, then it stops. Nothing for teens, even though adolescence is a particularly tough road to navigate, with future blues, social issues, peer pressure, raging hormones. Teen years are high-risk and common sense says there should be more and deeper attention given to their social and emotional development.

Employer WIIFM

Employers are a key stakeholder group, and their commitment and direct participation is essential. But there is plenty to gain for them, a hat trick (three!) of benefits in RWPS involvement: (1) additional internal development resources; (2) community CSR that matters; (3) goodwill and connection into their future talent pool, extending into earn while you learn, a highly effective internship program.

Employers develop a workforce committed to strengthening the company and community. A cohesive, sustainable culture grows, and future employees come on board already aligned with the culture and vision. My community is a good example: three employers are green industry and have high turnover, making productivity levels unsustainable. The Green Movement vision: fight environmental destruction especially atmospheric / climate damage, and health problems from fossil fuel production, transport and usage. Go for the jugular by adding “make the world worth living in for your kids.” This shared Green vision could boost retention and recruitment, but it is under-leveraged. Community-wide awareness is the key.

The long-range community and economic development potential: once RWPS is established, it is a highly marketable economic development magnet for additional employers, younger families with school-age children, and working adults (see “Develop People” model). This is CSR on steroids with substantial employer WIIFM. It’s not just the right thing to do. It’s good business.

Parting Shots

Workforce skills have been a long-time career focus. I saw the immediate need fifteen years ago and was closely involved in skills development. We also addressed demographic projections due to baby boomer retirements. RWPS is the original focus of my “career crowning achievement”. And I have a real passion for social-emotional development (SED) from extensive involvement in the classroom, but especially because I’m a crazy grandparent who wants to leave behind a better world for my grand kids. RWPS and SED are a powerful combination that can re-engineer this broken society and world.

These wild notions have evolved for over a decade, this project is my passion. It still needs thoughtful, in-depth analysis to make sure it makes sense. I’ve spent considerable time in both education and the workplace. It’s not a natural partnership to marry theoretical, research-based eggheads with pragmatic, results-driven managers. I understand the issues and needs, and speak both languages.

Here’s my greatest frustration. There is so much going on out there, huge initiatives and some of them are really, really good. But they may be just a bit off target here and there, and there’s no real concentrated focus driving things. Even more frustrating: with all the shotgun effort and in spite of lots of people with the best intentions, nothing sustainable is happening!

I want to help bring things into focus and make it happen—a catalyst / liaison who brings the players together, a resource that is shared among education, employers, community. Most of all, I want to be a proud grand parent who is reasonably sure we’ve done all we can to make things right for the next generations.

11-2017 New Model

Potholes to Repair— Intersection of Education and Workplace

 (Preface to Real-world Prep…Vision or Delusion?)

While academic and workforce issues are well known, I’ve documented a few heavy hitters here.

People Issues  Poor prep for post high school life: (1) socially / emotionally; (2) for the workplace; (3) for higher education. Hopelessness, lack of direction, apathy…why bother? Increased stress, anxiety, substance abuse, self-harm, suicide; youth bullying, workplace harassment, social polarization.

System Issues  Education budget and school resource cuts, talent pool shortage of the right skills, poorly / unrealistically defined skill needs, unnecessary expectations of “degree required” by employers; higher ed identity crisis, rising cost of higher ed, inaccessibility and irrelevance. Real-world expertise is outside the academic wheel house, and education resources are too thin to change.

 “Our talent pool is a mud puddle. We need job candidates who are better prepared!”

“But we’re doing a-b-c already, and x-y-z too. We’re doing what we can the best we can with what we’ve got to work with.” It’s just not enough. And is it truly the right stuff?

Paradigm Buster! It’s not just education’s responsibility. Why not some front-end partnering and ongoing collaboration, including delivery, among education, employers, and community?

Education and Workplace Prep Issues High school graduation rates are unacceptably low. Grads aren’t ready for college rigor or are unable to attend for various reasons. Our obsession with standard test performance and common core is under fire. The battle cry: “we need a new education model” but academia is painfully slow to change. It’s the nature of the education system.

“College is the new high school.” But college is out of reach for many. The relevance and value of higher education is being challenged too, with over-priced and under-valued degrees. Employers set unrealistic demands for “degree required” even for entry-level jobs when there is no real position-based need. Many positions simply do not require a degree as much as they require job skills training. Degree or not, employers consistently hire what they feel is unprepared workers. But education, parents and counselors still push young people into college-or-bust, especially into STEM fields. The issue may well be our current perception of “well-prepared” and unrealistic expectations of how much an education should do to prepare the workforce.

Real-world Prep School (RWPS) is driven directly by employer-identified needs, so content is relevant and timely. The high school RWPS curriculum may therefore be of more value than a post-secondary academic degree.

Wait…There’s More

Economic, demographic and political issues all point to the need to take a different approach to preparing young people for their post-high school lives, especially how we prepare them for life itself and as future workers able to meet the moving target of workplace expectations.

There is no longer much luster in providing a value-adding service or making things people want and need …“that’s blue collar, not good enough for my kid.” No matter if the work is skilled, pays well and has a huge upside. “Get a degree so you can get a professional position” is the only game in town. No matter if you’re miserable jockeying a desk the rest of your life, if you manage to find a desk. No matter if you end up owing a ton of money for the privilege of being miserable. Each of us deserves fulfillment.

Relevance and affordability are an issue. “Free college” is a sexy initiative, but deeper questions need to be answered. For starters, is a degree even necessary for a field, realistic position and required job skills? A trades program may meet immediate workplace needs better than a STEM education and degree. Mike Rowe isn’t an often- quoted academic expert. But he’s a highly regarded champion of workforce skills development. Mike feels that we’ve created much of the skill gap problem ourselves. He points out that we’re millions of workers short for existing jobs in high-paying occupations:

This is the great, underlying fiction that’s allowed the skills gap to widen. It’s the reason vocational arts have vanished from high school, even as those same vocations now go begging. It’s the reason we now hold 1.3 trillion dollars in student loans. And it’s why we continue to lend money we don’t have to kids who can’t pay it back, educating them for jobs that no longer exist.

The skills gap is real, but it’s not the problem — it’s a symptom of what we value…. we have to stop elevating one form of education over all the others, and begin treating all jobs for what they truly are — opportunities.

Employers are part of the problem, imposing artificial “degree required” stipulations even for low-paying entry level positions. As RWPS is built around employer input, it provides pre-job skills training which could be of more value than a degree. Alignment is needed: collaborate with employers to determine realistic pre-employment job requirements: what knowledge and attributes would most likely ensure a new hire’s rapid assimilation?. While we’re at it, help people redefine “good career choice” (hint: “me” is key, not others’ expectations, and values-based is the key to “me”). We also need to redefine higher ed’s role: when is it of value and for whom / what career paths, and what should it consist of?

It’s wrong to recruit, coerce or mislead students into choosing a STEM career path, turning them away from a more desired career choice. While a STEM degree may be of value, technical skill sets vary too much from employer to employer. Fine-tuning job training may be more ideally provided after a high-potential candidate is placed. And, tech giants are realizing that social-emotional “soft” skills can be a greater indicator of employee success than STEM-related chops. See Google’s Ginormous (Non-technical!) Breakthrough. Google’s Epiphany has nothing to do with algorithms or SEO…surprise!

Case Study: Right Here In River City

A local legislator pointed me toward a state-wide education and workforce prep initiative, and some relevant in-process legislation. My original thinking has been critical and confrontational but as RWPS needs allies not enemies, focus must be “Improve on a Good Effort”! Future Ready Iowa (FRI) is here to stay, it’s established, but it can be better. It’s not that “nothing is getting done”.  FRI is a stellar example of good stuff developed by good people with good intentions. It just needs better focus. I am bound and determined to do what I can to help focus and bring this to meaningful action!  You can see the original here: Future Ready Iowa Alliance’s Final Recommendations. There are a few bumps in the FRI highway…..

FRI is driven by projected workforce skill shortages in STEM fields and for high-paying, targeted industry positions. The resulting goal is 70% post-secondary education or training by 2025. This is my biggest concern. While lofty and noble, the post-secondary goal ignores the entry-level jobs that are a more realistic starting point for grads. And it’s dangerous to assume that even an advanced degree is a reliable indicator of capability to succeed in a specific position. College-for-all is not necessary or even appropriate and in the meantime too many people take on half a lifetime of college debt but still miss the employability mark.

The FRI model is based on industry sector and / or region needs. Not an effective education / training design driver–it’s too broad, too big! And even with a convoluted mashup of agencies and players there is minimal action or results! A terminal case of complexity, overkill, programitis.  The need is for more local, laser-sharp focus. The RWPS / community model is scaled down from FRI, key players  are directly connected and involved so coursework is designed to more tightly meet specific needs. Do what makes sense, when it is necessary to do so. Too many times the tool controls the craftsman, the process is sacred and the users’ real needs become secondary. While it is an amazing resource, the FRI process / program appears to be too overly complex to fully embrace without significant help;

Employers are asked to contribute to a broad pool for scholarship / grant funding: to provide financial support for unknown recipients, unknown studies. Contributors may or may not see a direct benefit. RWPS ensures early relationships / first contact with high potentials. RWPS increases the odds of a better employer-to-candidate fit than FRI. RWPS builds relationships from middle school on, with young people in the local community talent pool. High potentials learners are known to employers early on, and knowing they are being “scouted” for a future job is a powerful motivator for learners!

Along with direct and early interface with their most likely future talent pool—local students—employers need direct input to the local education / training curriculum and process, more control over their talent pool’s preparation.

Front end employer input kick-starts the RWPS model: define actual position skills requirements and realistic requirements to be met with a degree program. And workplace must align with coursework.

Employers aren’t done when they provide a list of needs and contribute to scholarship / grant funds. In-depth involvement is ongoing, from needs assessment to co-design, co-delivery and determining placement. Smooth handoff must be seamless from academia to employer, from education to internal training and development.

The need: a co-designed model that promotes systemic change. All we stand to gain is community prosperity, social well-being, personal attainment and whole life satisfaction. Social-emotional development is critical to the greater good.  Community-level action is the key, with the catalyst or enabler being a collaborative effort among community stakeholders—education, employers, legislators / local gov’t / civic and community leaders, families. Shared vision and goals. The RWPS model includes adults, not just kids in school.

Families, employers, learners, education, legislators, community…we’re all on this together.

“RU as a Social Movement”…NEWSFLASH!

If you’ve read some of my more recent articles you’ll know I’ve embraced the notion of “RU as a Social Movement”.  We were set to explore the possibilities in a panel as part of the For the Love of Learning series but a logistical delay allowed time to further ponder social movements. I dove into academic studies and the current state of practices within the RU community, to better understand whether RU should and could be elevated to a “social movement”. Not so sure academia had any answers but the exploration led to bigger questions and one Big AHA.

RU needs and deserves more understanding and awareness in the general public, leading to greater acceptance and increased numbers of practitioners. But not just because it’s the right way to educate and raise kids. RU principles are the right way to live, work and interact with others in daily life settings too. With greater acceptance of the principles, unschooling will be a natural progression. But while it’s a critical piece, RU is not “the movement”. It’s still a key piece to a much bigger puzzle. AHA!

Drive the RU Principles Down Main Street, Not the RU Practice Itself

Emergent strategy: focus on promoting the principles that make RU what it is, rather than the actual process of unschooling. (WAIT …there IS no cookie cutter step-by-step process for RU) So, what are “the” Principles and what is their relevance to life in general? (WAIT again…wouldn’t an official, all-inclusive list of principles be uber un-un?). Practitioners will understand those two points, other neophytes like me not so much.

Unschooling is considered the most allegedly radical among the various approaches to alternative education. But it’s more normal than it appears to be. Radical unschooling extends the philosophy of unschooling into all aspects of life. It involves partnering with our children, not just with regard to academic pursuits, but in daily activities such as eating, television viewing, and going to bed. (From What is Radical Unschooling?)

Practitioner parents practice the philosophies and principles of unschooling with their learner children, even outside of the family relationship. But the outside world can be harsh. Let’s look at  just a few of the philosophies and principles to understand how all this may fit together.

 Driving Principle: TRUST

From the same source as above: The bedrock of radical unschooling is trust: a belief that our children possess an inner wisdom or intuitiveness far beyond what mainstream America gives them credit for. Parents act as guides and facilitators, helping children to connect with that inner wisdom.

Simply backing away and trusting children to follow their own path is contrary to what we’ve been brought up to believe the role of parenting and teaching to be. How much guidance is appropriate? And if learning is “me”-driven, when does socialization and norming happen? In considering “movement” potential how, and how much, is “trust” relevant in the adult world?

Pause just a moment to let the profound absurdity of that last sentence sink in….hurts, doesn’t it?

Principles, Not Rules

Rather than strict rules, unschoolers use principles. Instead of imposing limits, unschoolers work with their children to help them live in a balanced and healthy way. Instead of a strict schedule, unschoolers follow a daily rhythm.

Organic rather than mechanistic. Principles make a heck of a lot more sense across the board than authoritarian, over-structured, black-and-white command and control. It’s as true in education as it is in the workplace. Organic elicits commitment, while mechanistic usually only begets compliance. I used to write management system and operating procedures, work instructions and safety and HR policies. I’m well aware that specific rules are sometimes necessary. But we’ve become so obsessed with (addicted to!) rules, procedures, protocol, policies for every single nit, every possible scenario. For the sake of legal CYA and compliance we’ve over-documented and over-regulated ourselves into a corner and the paint will never dry.

Being principles-centered and values-driven is nothing new or radical in the private sector, it’s just not nearly as prevalent as it should be. Long-standing workplace concepts include engagement and empowerment, and an enabling organizational structure and leadership style. The Dark Side of the Force: hierarchical command and control style and structure. C & C prevails in a work environment with distrust between leader and follower, lack of ability in followers, or task criticality. Mostly, it’s a trust issue. Relationships built on trust require leaders to freely share information needed for people to make good decisions and giving away information is giving away power. But people need credible information to safely make decisions. And they need to know they won’t get hammered if they make an honest, well-informed mistake. Even though trust is free, we still get too much of this stuff….

  • I’m gonna write you up!
  • Just do it, you don’t get paid to think!
  • “They” just don’t get it!
  • Why are we losing money?

FACT: When exploration and learning is fun, more and better stuff gets done. Something is “fun” when it’s intrinsically satisfying—it strikes a nerve with the explorer. The fun factor is driven by a combination of values, natural ability, challenge of the exploration…clearly individual-driven.

Why overwhelm with facts and data that simply require spewing back? Issues with multiple possible “right” answers are a whole lot more thought-provoking than “2 + 2 = ___?___”

HYPOTHESIS: Work can be fun too! (don’t push your luck, Bubba!) Re-read the description above. Why not “work is fun”? Engineers continuously tweak work systems to maximize productivity, ease of use and quality. Why can’t we engineer work systems and environments using the same engaging “fun factor” criteria.

Humans are naturally organic.  Cosmic, right? Seems like an undeniable truth. And roots need room to support healthy plant growth. Also needed: natural fertilizer, water and sunlight.

About Engagement

Engagement theory, when put into practice, delivers big league hard results in the workplace and in academic performance. Not nearly enough organizations are insightful enough to simply do the right things by people. And guess what? The cornerstones of engagement are a mirror of the RU principles that I’ve seen. Would love others’ opinions: see Supercharging Engagement for a summary of seven universal attributes, principles from several of the mainstream engagement models.

Why don’t we set common goals, learn the same language, establish the right norms all the way across the spectrum of education, work, society…life?

 Now, Wait Jest a Gol-durned Minute, Matthew…. of course, civilization could be more civilized. Society,  and therefore every one of us,  would benefit from being more principles-centered, more driven by shared values. So this whole conversation is a bit silly isn’t it? Of course it is. It’s hard to disagree that we need more caring, compassion, understanding, empathy, general civility in how we interact with each other, right? What’s the real underlying issue? The academic analysis: we’re an individual-centered transactional society. Everyday translation: we’re me-first, driven by the pursuit of power and profit at all costs. That’s the root cause, that’s what we need to eliminate or at least minimize.

The question is a whole lot more “how” than “what” do we need to do?

Pardon the crudity, but humanity sucks. It would be so understandable to reach the point of saying “what’s the use in trying?” It’s damned tempting to me sometimes, how about you? This is the reason behind backing away from “RU as a Social Movement” even though I still feel it’s wildly important and high-impact. There’s a more pressing greater good need. Seems like ages ago, I was advocating a community-based model built around whole-person social-emotional development. I’m leaning back that way: drive the principles of RU. When unschooling becomes more recognized as a humanity-friendly, natural practice it will be less “radical” and we’ll have the movement we need.

First we need to ditch this “thing” fixation, replace our obsession for power and profit with passion for people and planet.  THAT’S the one movement that really matters. Open for suggestions, folks….

We’ve amassed an amazing body of information on human dynamics and what enables people to reach their full potential. To have this information and not leverage it into knowledge is unconscionable. Big Concepts waiting to be turned loose:

  • Flow / positive psychology
  • Engagement theory, general motivation
  • Strengths-based learning and leadership
  • Social-emotional development

The Last Great Frontier may be exploring the mind, the human condition, individual and group dynamics—what really makes us tick? Why not focus on the front end of the process, the “people” stuff that drives how well we do stuff and accomplish goals and results?

Why not, indeed?

Radical Unschooling as a Social Movement

(Tweaked and re-loaded November 1st…also see follow-up post:  “RU as a Social Movement”…NEWSFLASH! )

How Did We Get Here? a.k.a. ”another fine mess you’ve got us into this time, Ollie!”

Cliff Notes Version: I wrote a blog, Come Out of the Shadows that got  noticed by the right people. A friend introduced me to Lainie who hosts For the Love of Learning, a series of online panel discussions. Lainie really liked the notion of “RU as a Social Movement” for a future panel topic. I was asked to be a panelist since I threw the first pitch.  So now I’m a non-practitioner instigator swimming with expert do-ers….

We need to establish a little focus to get a running start at this huge plate of spaghetti prior to the panel taking place.  I’m a Big Fan of Shared Vision but this is just my musings until others join in. A collaborative “what-if” manifesto with several contributing thinkers would be nice!

If you’ve just dropped by the panelists and I would love to hear what you think! I don’t go looking for traffic so this blog is a quiet little corner of cyberspace. Please feel free to comment.

What Will the Panel Focus On?

Broadly, we will explore the possibility of elevating radical unschooling’s visibility, of building broad grassroots support for the very attainable vision of helping to create a better world. Call it a social movement because whole-life learning and subscribing to RU principles can be the catalyst for more caring and compassionate communities, creating a more sustainable society. I believe it, as you probably do. But not enough other people have bought in yet, and we’ll discuss changing that! Here are several other questions and topics that would be good to discuss.

(a) What Constitutes a “Social Movement”? (homegrown definition, not textbook. What’s yours?)

Movements are fueled by passionate, like-minded people who share attitudes and perceptions but more importantly, mindsets that lead to action and social change….”movement”…get it? Movements require broad grassroots support–enough critical mass to be noticed, taken seriously, and make a difference. RU isn’t there yet. We have plenty of passionate, like-minded people who mostly share the grand notion that RU can change the world. But RU lives out of sight, underground. We don’t have the needed visibility, we’re lacking critical mass. And, other than that sweeping grand notion, we don’t have a flag to rally around. Changing the world is serious business. We need details.

(b) Even Though RU May Deserve to be Elevated to a “Social Movement” Status, should it be?

It’s easy for an outsider looking in to say “of course! More attention is always a good thing”. But what does the practitioner community think? What are the pro’s and con’s from their perspective? Are practitioners convinced they are champions for a world-changing social movement, and that they need to formally come together? One thing I’ve come to appreciate is that RU folks are extremely independent and adverse to control and structure, to rules and regulations.

(c) Driving things down to an everyday, mainstream, grassroots level of accessibility and relevance. “Radical” unschooling (even the name is intimidating!) and other elements of human growth like mindfulness, yoga, spirituality, social-emotional learning and development, engagement, purpose, values…if RU is to go mainstream and become capable of weathering potential attacks and resistance from the establishment, John and Mary Everyman must be the real targets of an awareness-building campaign. The mainstream can be understandably discouraged, disconnected, frustrated, confused with what looks like voodoo mumbo-jumbo. What does it mean, where do we start? What to do?

(d) Developing a communication strategy: a coordinated PR / marketing campaign, not hit-and-miss. Sounds crass and un-un, but that’s what it is. Message consistency is essential….we really need a powerful narrative.  Following: a few thoughts-in-process on messaging.

(e) Building broad awareness, understanding, support, buy-in of these groups:

  • Private sector is essential for RU to become publicly legitimate.
  • Potential new unlearners: what are the entry barriers? What support do fence-sitters need?
  • General public: awareness leading to open acceptance and inclusion. Driven by a “Greater Good” focus, the realization that RU is whole-life with a huge WIIFM upside for everyone, all ages. RU needs a more cohesive identity, not within the community but externally with the general public. Broad understanding and acceptance of RU would lead to greater societal inclusion and unschoolers being able to practice openly, without fear. Goal: recognition of the legitimacy of RU, and of the impact potential for significant contribution by unschoolers to society and the workplace.
  • Political support, advocacy for RU-friendly policy, a buffer against a potential onslaught by current establishment authoritarians and profiteers who stand to benefit from leaving unwell enough alone. We can go up against the establishment only with critical mass, a huge grass roots support system.

Hot-off-the-presses-thought, from practitioner friend Heather: “RU a a Social Movement” is so big, should we focus our efforts on one group? What is the feasibility and the impact of influencing….

  1. Traditional education, the establishment?
  2. Middle-grounders already into some form of alt ed…charters, home-schoolers?
  3. Fence-sitters still mired in traditional education, wanting to make the Big Jump but not knowing how or where to start?

(f) How can we build awareness and increase acceptance beyond the RU community?  “Acceptance” by whom, and of what?

  • The masses. Encourage more people to embrace alternative ed as practitioners, or at least as community supporters and advocates.
  • They don’t know what they are missing…a talent pool stocked with creative, passionate, purposeful, principles-centered lifelong learners. Just the intrinsic qualities the new workplace most needs. This is my wheelhouse, the private sector can be an incredible ally if there’s greater profit involved.
  • The establishment. We’re looking at a messed up political / education policy horizon with for-profit education and privatization. How can the RU community defend its rights and with what? Non-believers will want to see proof and the more airtight the case the better.
  • The law. Compliance is a nuisance at the very least and a deterrent to more widespread practice at the worst. Needed: strong advocacy with policy makers, and the backing of a solid grass roots movement. “They” won’t be as prone to bully something they can’t whup on.

(g) Identify factual, relevant WIIFM for each target group and reinforce with anecdotal stories

  • There’s plenty of specific “what’s in it for me” for each stakeholder group;
  • Minimize the voodoo, weird incantations, mystical-sounding labels. That’s all great for practitioners, but for the uninitiates, John and Mary Everyman (the critical mass!) it can be scary and intimidating as all get-out;

For both the private sector and youth development: workers deserve an exploration-intensive, creative, fun environment built on trust, honesty, respect, compassion and mutual respect. They perform at an incredibly higher level under those conditions (hey CEO’s…that means big bottom line impacts). Kids thrive in that environment too. Data on job and academic performance, and on peoples’ overall happiness and satisfaction with life is plentiful.

(h)  Where can people go when they need to find the right RU, or any other kind of, information? I took a break from working on the final draft of this to surf my Un network. There were TWO (no wait,  three!) excellent posts, resources for fence-sitters and general awareness, all on Facebook. Here’s the problem: FB posts have an incredibly short shelf life. It’s a drive-by medium where really good stuff is gone in a flash and replaced with other really good stuff. If you’re a surfer, here’s the links.

http://www.radiantlivingandlearning.com/video-top-3-myths-of-home-education-college-life-prep-for-unschoolers/

https://www.facebook.com/ilainie/posts/10155238525627224

3 https://www.amazon.com/Homeschooled-Teens-People-Without-School/dp/0986229040

(i) Why is building concensus among practitioners akin to cat-herding? A practitioner friend warned me “…narrative might be hard to define – many RU’ers are anarchists, and if they aren’t they have been so jaded by the system that they are anti statists. Organization into narrative is almost antithetical. So how to get the buy in for that?”

Indeed, how? We need to sing from one sheet, in one communal Voice, without even a whiff of authoritarian airs and no controlling I’m-the-boss figurehead. How can this delicate balancing act come about? My opinion: through a shared, co-developed narrative–what we do, why it’s important. Clear and compelling for both the community and for the general public. Classic chicken or egg: need a compelling narrative to rally the community, but need community input to self-design the narrative.

(k) A couple of barriers

Barrier to solidarity? The RU practitioner community appears to have more than its fair share of big egos, closely guarded individuality, dueling experts, infighting…generally highly independent people. Is it a by-product of the environment / nature of the beast? WHY the Cowboy Culture, can it be overcome? SHOULD it be?

Barriers to entry? What is difficult, or causes prospective new families to hesitate or back away from committing? How can the community minimize the barriers, and make RU easier to access?

(j) A rose by any other name still packs nasty thorns. Building a stronger, more unified community requires clear vision and focus—a compelling narrative, a cohesive statement of community purpose that is principles-centered and driven by shared values. But maybe first, something needs to be done about what we call it. There’s plenty of debate over this, so I’ll just add my neophyte perspective. “Radical unschooling” is confusing and scary as hell. And I have always been a “radical”. Do you guys, like, occupy schools? Oh…you abandon them! Right on.

(k)  How real is the Fear Factor? Apparently, fear forces some RU practitioners into the shadows where they keep a low profile and quietly go about their business. To me they are doing things the right way: focusing on learners and their needs first. RU deserves to go mainstream, it needs to be fully understood and supported by the public. I’ve stated it many times, I believe it deep in my soul….RU can become the world-changer that society desperately needs. By my book, it’s not just about lifelong learning and social-emotional well-being, but social and physical survival of the species. It’s a major piece to the radical transformation puzzle that humanity needs to figure out.

Vision, Purpose, Values…What’s the Big Deal?

RU as a social movement would be a world changer. Humanity is exterminating itself. Not just nukes, climate change, famines or epidemics, but also extinction triggered by Terminal Lost Mojo, for lack of a better term. We’ve disconnected from our core humanness, society is coming apart at the seams.

RU: anti radicalization elixir? Ex white supremacist Christian Picciolini, author of ‘Romantic Violence: Memoirs of an American Skinhead’ noted young people are much more likely to radicalize into gangs when they have no other source of identity, community, meaning, purpose.

An Iraqi friend is an anti-terrorism expert (I run with a scary fast crowd, huh?) noted that when identity, purpose, values are lacking, the deficiency can even make ISIS appealing to disenfranchised Muslim youth. Was it the same for people buying into Hitler? Is it the same for people buying into our current nationalism? (sorry! I swore I wouldn’t get political…)

Identity, community, principles / values, meaning, purpose are the most powerful universal human drivers. They are right up there with love, compassion, the need to connect and contribute. Those principles are, in my opinion, where society is self-destructing. Those things are also high on the list of what makes RU work.

My Big Honkin Personal WIIFM

I came of age with the Woodstock Generation, lots of bona fide causes and maximum-strength Peace, Love, Rock & Roll. Went to the University of Iowa, not quite Columbia or Berkeley but still an early 70’s hotbed of social activism. I got a Bachelors, heavy on upper level Lib Arts because it was the only way it looked like I could avoid the pain of wearing a suit the rest of my life.

The degree didn’t matter, after graduating I was music-bound regardless. In 1979 I lost a good friend & bandmate to narcotics addiction. I still carry the pain and guilt of being a bystander. In 1987 I magically got too old for the road overnight…r & r burned me out. So I dove into the private sector as a student of human behavior-engagement, motivation theory. Lost a co-worker and friend to chronic depression. I was a bystander again, still hurts. Again.

Since I had been doing adult ed, I got into school teaching when I lost my job economic slowdowns and got hooked on educ improvement. In just the last couple years the evolution intensified with  Standing Rock and the political scene leading me into connecting with the new generation of activists, including radical unschoolers. Kid in a candy store, the prodigal radical has come home!

The Greater Good Big Hairy Deal

I’ve had quite a gradual evolution over the years. But all along, a subtle awareness had been brewing. It finally came to a head. Kids are killing themselves. A beautiful young lady in my home town, then my oldest grand daughter’s 7th grade classmate. I had him in classes.

Suicide at any age is a terrible tragedy. Depression, anxiety, stress are increasing and out of control, and it affects kids, teens, adults. We’re slowly killing ourselves with this modern lifestyle, and too many people grow too impatient with the slow death.

Good people are soured on life. You can see it in their eyes, their spirit is drained. Their expression and demeanor screams “I hate my life!” No purpose, no meaning, no fulfillment. We keep pushing our Selves further and further away from what is natural, starting with the way we raise and “teach” our children to the way we approach life as adults, including the nature of work and the meaning of “success”. We’re in a constant struggle with our humanness, our core values. We’ve done it to our Selves from early childhood on.

We’ve disconnected from our Earth Mother. We rape and poison her in every way possible, and we’ve stretched her way beyond her capacity to support this species.  And we poison ourselves along the way. Then we wonder why we’re stressed out, miserable, literally killing our Selves physically and emotionally.

We’re doing this all wrong. RU can change the world. Am I just drunk on the koolaid? I think not (hic).