Category Archives: education

School and Work—One Big Prison System?

Two hypotheses: (1) Forced education and the world of work is one big system of involuntary servitude with compulsory, menial, downgrading labor. Children are sentenced to school until they reach the right age, complete their probationary period and move on to the next sentence. They’re finally granted work release but if they can’t conform to the conditions of probation they are busted down and forced to start over elsewhere. (2) For society to survive we have to re-learn how to behave more like children.

I’m in search of the right way to make a meaningful contribution toward saving the world. My long-time belief is that you must tend to “people” needs or tasks won’t get done nearly as well as they could, so while ecology and environment are in the mix my priority has been the social-emotional state of the species. We’re a mess. The natural focal point is kids’ social-emotional (s-e) well-being, through the education system. But it’s got to be more than kids and education. The roots of our social issues are much deeper. A casual swim turned into a cliff dive into human development—murky! My personal passion has morphed into a big honkin’ project that targets whole-community well-being. Stay tuned.

Peter Gray is no stranger to those who are into education improvement. They’re all good, but two of his articles really grabbed me. In The Culture of Childhood: We’ve Almost Destroyed It Gray makes the case that children learn the most valuable lessons with other children, away from adults. He explains that children are biologically designed to grow up in a culture of childhood. But we’re bound and determined to go against that natural design.

In Seven Sins of Our System of Forced Education, Gray likens the current education system to a compulsory prison sentence.  Harsh, right? Accurate? Pretty much.

It’s much bigger than the education system, and the larger issues are daunting. Many of the social problems adults face are not just rooted in but are shared with childhood. Parenting and the education system, private sector management and organization, social norms, even government…all are impacted by the same forces that are working against our human nature.

One section of Gray’s “Culture” article is subtitled “The adult battle against cultures of childhood has been going on for centuries.” So has a brutal war against adult individuality, creativity, fulfillment and the ability to develop to our full potential. Pink Floyd had it right in Brick in the Wall, the movie excerpt is prophetically dark.

The Floyd Boys didn’t consult with me, so I don’t know for sure if it was by intent. But the song pertains to a whole lot more than kids and the education system. We’re all bricks. Docile, content, mediocre people are much easier to control. Good enough students, good enough employees, good enough soldiers, good enough citizens. But good enough isn’t good enough. We’re collectively being held back from greatness and some feel (I’m one) it’s actually become a survival of the species issue.

The war against children’s culture started in earnest with Francke’s system of compulsory schooling in Prussia, in the late 17th century, which was subsequently copied and elaborated upon throughout Europe and America. Francke wrote, in his instructions to schoolmasters: “Above all it is necessary to break the natural willfulness of the child. While the schoolmaster who seeks to make the child more learned is to be commended for cultivating the child’s intellect, he has not done enough. He has forgotten his most important task, namely that of making the will obedient.” (Gray)

In the early 20th century Frederick Taylor opened another huge skirmish line to break the human will in the exploding industry sector, with his theory of scientific management. “Taylor’s philosophy focused on the belief that making people work as hard as they could was not as efficient as optimizing the way the work was done.” (a simple exploration)

Taylor advocated breaking physical tasks down into the most basic elements possible, throwing an army of mindless man-machine laborers at the work. No thinking needed, just do the same exact task over and over and over. “The Principles of Scientific Management” was published in 1909, and Franck’s factory model of education was the perfectly efficient machine to produce ample bricks in the wall.

The attributes of a children’s culture are vital elements of human nature, not just for young people. Those attributes also have a great impact on adults in their parenting role as well as at work and in society. But they have been stifled. Who needs all that stuff since we’re destined for prison anyway?

School and Work—Life Sentence, No Chance for Parole

Here is a very brief summary of Gray’s reasoning that forced education is prison. I’m buying the whole package with one slight twist…the same issues are prevalent in the workplace and in society. It’s a scary thought: we’re born into incarceration and we die that way.

(one) Denial of liberty on the basis of age, and compulsory movement of an entire group of inmates (sorry, students) as they get older, provided they comply with the conditions of each sentencing period. Passing out of a grade, early probation for good behavior, valuing capability over tenure is rare. The system won’t allow it, isn’t geared up to process one-off exceptions.

(two) Fostering of shame on the one hand, and hubris on the other. Non-stop testing, formal and informal evaluations, observations, grading…all promote peer pressure and competition, coercion and admonishments from parents, teachers, management. Students and employees are either proud or ashamed of their performance, either self-assured or full of angst over their status.

(three) Interference with the development of cooperation and nurturance. Humans are social creatures; we are naturally wired to cooperate with and nurture others. But our competition -based system of ranking and grading works against the cooperative drive…helping others may even hurt the helper. (Gray, Forced Education). Further, age segregation eliminates opportunity for older to younger nurturing and increases bullying. The human tendency to care for and help each other is inhibited at an early age and these inhibitors’ damages continue through adulthood, into the workplace and society.

(four) Interference with the development of personal responsibility and self-direction. Command and control management is rooted in contemporary teaching and parenting practices. Childhood, education and employment are all incredibly disempowering when teacher, parent and boss all resort to “because I said so, that’s why!” It’s easy to fall into a comfort zone: waiting for orders and blindly complying to them. Initiative is effectively squelched, leaving behind compliance, complacency, mediocrity, lost potential. A powerful lesson: ”if you do what you are told to do in school everything will work out well for you.” (Gray) By the same token if you shut up, do your job at work and obey the law you’ll keep drawing a paycheck. You may even stay out of jail.

(five) Linking of learning (and work!) with fear, loathing, and drudgery. Along with our adventurous spirit, we’ve lost our joy. Tests generate anxiety in most….threats of failure and the shame associated with failure generate enormous anxiety…a fundamental psychological principle is that anxiety inhibits learning (Gray) Anxiety also dead-ends creativity and productivity and can lead to dangerous levels of emotional and physical stress. Lesson learned: “you must do your work before you can play” (Gray) …”how can ya have any pudding if ya don’t eat yer meat?” (Floyd)… “this report is due, don’t go home until it is.” (insert-kahuna-name-here)

(six) Inhibition of critical thinking. Even though building critical thinking skills is a stated priority in education, “most students—including most ‘honors students’—learn to avoid thinking critically.” The grading system is a huge barrier as students understand the real goal at school is to get good grades. Period. They quickly learn that the way to do that is to figure out what answers the teacher wants to hear, no matter what the student thinks. Sounds a little like the workplace doesn’t it?

(seven) Reduction in diversity of skills, knowledge and ways of thinking. Only the tiniest sliver of what is really needed out there in the real world can be even touched on in school. So our logical conclusion: everyone needs to study the same thing because we don’t have the resources to do anything else. Enter “standard curriculum”. Private sector entities, especially larger ones, are driven by the same standard practice principles, making it easier to expand managers’ spans of control. The overflowing cornucopia of individuals’ unique capabilities is homogenized, distilled, compressed into uniform bricks all who have an acceptable level of competency.

The factory model is so deeply rooted in our society and economy that we’ll play hell replacing it.

What Can Adults Learn From Kids? Can We Still Learn?

Peter Gray is a highly vocal and credible critic of forced education. He advocates alternative education methods of home schooling and unschooling, at the very least a drastic modification of current educational structures and methods. This really should be a Part Two, but a second Gray blog is just too interrelated to look at separately. Apologies for the length.

One Big AHA from Gray’s Children’s Culture  (also linked in the intro) is that the more adults learn from children and adapt their interactions with children to meet the children’s needs, the easier it will become to change our views and practices on “raising” kids in a manner that is a vastly better fit with kids’ natural wiring. Kids are better off raising themselves by interacting with their peers. So what is it about that peer interaction that works? Does it apply to adults too? I think so.

My first focus in processing Gray’s children’s culture piece was to make the connection between the elements of a children’s culture as they relate to the adult world: what can adults learn from children’s cultures? How can adopting more of a child’s perspective impact individual learning and group dynamics at home, at work, in society?

I figured it might be a bit of a stretch. But it makes perfect sense. Some children’s culture attributes we already know as elements of effective group behavior but we simply choose to ignore them because “we’re all grown up now and things are different”. Subverting natural human attributes is doing a great deal of harm not just to kids, but all ages.

Gray’s thoughts are noted by bold italics. I’ve added some ideas on adult relevance for parenting and family relationships, and work and in society.

For starters: Children are biologically designed to pay attention to the other children in their lives, to try to fit in with them, to be able to do what they do, to know what they know. That, in a nutshell, is the most powerful key to effective group behavior, any group.

Children’s cultures can be understood, at least to some degree, as practice cultures, where children try out various ways of being and practice, modify, and build upon the skills and values of the adult culture.

Adult groups are in continuous growth and change mode, at least they had better be! The worst thing that can happen to any group is to stagnate or fail to adapt to the changing environment. The social-emotional health of the group is paramount. ACTION: groups must continuously monitor their interpersonal dynamics and values. Consider initiating a conscious, formal and frequent process of checking for values alignment, interpersonal barriers, any opportunity to learn and improve the group.

My family moved frequently, and in each village or city neighborhood to which we moved I found a somewhat different childhood culture, with different games, different traditions, somewhat different values, different ways of making friends. Whenever we moved, my first big task was to figure out the culture of my new set of peers, so I could become part of it. (Gray)

Individuals change, group membership changes. It sucks to be the new kid on the block, it still sucks as grownups. The new kid asks “who are these people, what do they expect of me? Will they like me? What am I supposed to do on this job?” One of my private sector roles was to help groups transition through changes in leaders, members, roles, assignments. But why wait to react to changes? Already noted: groups should proactively assess not just progress on their goals and meeting deadlines, but most importantly their dynamics. In doing so, any group’s odds of succeeding skyrockets.

Children learn the most important lessons in life from other children. Gray lists several key lessons. All are important and relevant, all are too rich to dissect into highlights here. Read the original!

  • Authentic Communication
  • Independence and Courage
  • Creating and understanding the purpose and modifiability of rules.
  • Practicing and building on the skills and values of the adult culture.
  • Getting along with others as equals.

A Common Thread

Several of Gray’s attributes of a children’s culture pertain to group dynamics and the individual’s efforts to fit in. The same thing is true in the adult world so this macro AHA applies equally to kids and adults whether in education, a work group or any social unit: the interpersonal dynamics of a group and its collective and individual s-e well-being must be elevated in importance for any group to flourish.

It can’t be individual effort from a newcomer or the group’s leader. The whole group must be mindful that without the right interpersonal dynamics and without a high level of individual and whole-group social-emotional well-being, any group will struggle to stay cohesive and meet its goals. When the team wins every player wins. Exceptional teams even strengthen the entire league. That is vastly different from the “me” focus where the best students get scholarships and awards, and in the private sector where promotions are won or lost based on which individual looks most impressive.

This isn’t just about small groups. The same is true for the collective well-being of communities. We’re talking about global society – a network of interconnected individual communities separated only by distance and bound by shared human values and awareness of our global brotherhood.

Crazy Issues Call For Radical Response

It’s ironic. To reach our full human potential it seems we need to unlearn lots of preconceived notions we’ve formed while “growing up”. We pretty much need to relearn how to behave more like children.

There’s a lot of work to do to unseat the deeply held beliefs we have about parenting, to turn away from the factory model of forced education, to counter the traditional principles of workplace boss / follower management, to get rid of the worn-out rugged individualism of the cowboy culture and to replace it with a cooperative, collaborative children’s culture. It truly takes a village, one village at a time. That’s been the evolving focus of the Caring Communities project.

The thought is painful –our humanity is being drained from us, leaving behind empty shells of compassion-challenged, bigoted and hateful creatures. But it’s a self-inflicted illness and it is in our power to kill or at least slow down the mojo-sucking parasite. Education and work systems combined with a fast-food lifestyle beyond diet are partially responsible for the physical, mental and emotional social issues plaguing us. I’ve long thought that resolution starts with children, that we need to carefully guide them along a path of shared human values. Maybe that would help bring us out of this values-challenged skid. But how can we send an army of young, hopeful converts to the new religion out into a hostile land of godless heathens? We can’t realistically expect seeds of genuine compassion and caring to grow in our children when we are sowing those seeds onto barren, toxic soil.

Pipe Dream?

The Caring Communities project promotes social-emotional development for all ages. The intent is to have an impact on making humanity human again through providing readily available support and materials to build a stronger society one community at a time. Standard Quixote save-the-world stuff. More to come, promise.

Coming Soon: More Hugely Radical Future-Perfect Musings

This dovetails into an all-work-no-play  (huh?). Check it out if you’d like

 

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.

WE ARE CAUSING SERIOUS and IRREVOCABLE DAMAGE TO OUR YOUNG PEOPLE!

  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 https://onepondripples.wordpress.com/2016/12/24/dont-bogart-that-vibe-my-friend-pass-it-over-to-me  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 https://onepondripples.wordpress.com/2016/12/25/gonzo-ramblings-you-be-trippin-jimmy Continued higher level look, with a little more detail.

PART THREE: brain drizzles. https://onepondripples.wordpress.com/2016/12/27/human-development-part-threebrain-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

MAXIMUM DEVELOPMENT Through GREATER CAPACITY to LEARN, and ENHANCED CAPABILITY:

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.


SPEED BUMPS, ISSUES

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. ( http://www.npr.org/2016/11/30/503902499/u-s-expected-to-forgive-at-least-108-billion-in-student-debt  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?

Eye On the Prize

I’ve been so consumed with election crap and bare-knuckles battling over political issues that it took far too long to realize I’ve lost sight of two of my most important personal values, operating principles, whatever you choose to call them:

  1. People before process. Without solid people, processes fail. Phrased differently…when we lose sight of our humanity we’re nothing but a go-through-the-motions shell.
  2. Focus on the front end, and control the integrity of the production processes.

Following:  a short list for each. Raw, needs your input.

Short List: Solid People (please add!)

  • A mountain of private sector and academic research has pointed out that personal well-being drives performance and achievement, in the workplace and the classroom. Reference “engagement theory”.
  • Social-emotional development: kindness, compassion, understanding and appreciating differences (demographic and belief systems).
  • Civic Savvy / Global Citizenship: globalization, current affairs, why democracy does / doesn’t work, making intelligent decisions; volunteerism / being involved and informed.
  • Responsible consumerism—environmental / save the planet issues
  • Spiritual well-being: purpose, values. Something to believe in. Community, family.

Short List: Focus on the Front End and Processes (this could go on forever! Please add)

Stemming from earliest process control / quality management tenets, fine-tuned by the six sigma community and systems thinkers. Quality of outputs is determined by quality of inputs, and by the consistency and capability of the realization processes.

  • Understand the systemic interactions among the various processes, and the systemic connections among allegedly “local” beliefs, actions and practices. Butterfly effect or ripple effect.
  • Kid development, specifically helping our kids to understand what it means to be human (see #1). Example is a great teacher, and it’s more than parenting at home. We’re all teachers of human values and social norms. Parents need surrogate help from the community and especially the education system.
  • Education reform (another humongous area!). How do humans learn best? What do we need to learn about? Who is best equipped to teach what? (loosen the restrictions on who provides learning in the classroom. We could gain a good deal by utilizing subject matter expert adjunct. And education could use the help!) Why do we focus on “process” stuff and ignore human development?
  • Practice what we preach. It’s not enough to espouse a whole bunch of really cool stuff. Reality has to match or it’s meaningless.
  • Election / political system / democratic integrity (many, many sub-thoughts on this!)
  • Media integrity: people need trustworthy information to make intelligent decisions. When real information is withheld people are easily manipulated and make poor decisions.

That’s a decent start, and it’s plenty from me for now. Please offer your thoughts—am I missing the mark? What else can be added?

And, HOW can we do this stuff?

 

 

Reinventing Sesame Street (!!!)

I heard an interview on National Public Radio over the weekend–Erasing Red Ink, Sesame CEO Offers Vision To Preserve Home Of Big Bird http://www.npr.org/2016/10/13/497803214/key-to-big-bird-and-elmos-survival-sesame-workshop-ceo-outlines-vision The means to achieve that end: kindness and empathy! Google “sesame research on empathy and kindness”…this is a serious effort.

Excerpts below are from http://www.sesameworkshop.org/press-releases/u-s-parents-teachers-see-an-unkind-world-for-their-children-new-sesame-survey-shows-2/

(October 13, 2016) – Parents and teachers in the United States worry that their children are living in an unkind world, that people do not go out of their way to help others, and believe that children need strong social-emotional skills to succeed in life, according to a new survey commissioned by Sesame Workshop called “K is for Kind: A National Survey On Kindness and Kids.”

Nearly three-quarters of parents and almost four-fifths of teachers say they “often” worry the world is an unkind place for children. At the same time, parents and teachers clearly see the importance of having strong social-emotional skills. Almost three-quarters of parents believe it is very important for their child to be accepting of others, to be polite, and to have manners, while about three-quarters of both parents and teachers prioritize kindness over academic achievement. “Getting good grades” was one of the least important attributes for children, with less than half of parents and only about a tenth of teachers describing it as “very important.”

Sesame Workshop CEO, Jeffrey D. Dunn: “This survey confirms our concerns. It is time to have a national conversation about kindness. We hope that this is a first step towards doing that.”

For more information on the survey, visit kindness.sesamestreet.org, and to join the conversation on social media, follow #TeachKindness.

 

 

Everybody is a Star

You’re a shining star, no matter who you are

Shining bright to see that you can truly be

What you can truly be.

(Earth, Wind and Fire)

Everybody has a role, everybody has a purpose. Everybody has hopes and dreams. Everybody is a star.

Every. Body.

I just got to spend another day with “special needs” kids at the high school, kids with varying levels of learning issues, autism, downs all the way to profoundly crippling physical challenges. My kind of people.

These kids accept their uniqueness, their challenges and they do the best they can. “Regular” people need to as well. We could stand to learn a good deal from these special people.

Connecting with “special needs” people gives a person a special sense of fulfillment. If you haven’t had the opportunity to reach out, you’re incomplete. It may take a little extra effort, a higher level of patience and understanding sometimes. Are you up to it?

The reward is worth the risk and the effort.

*****

In our community’s schools–small town, 15,000–we’re blessed that the vast majority of our non- challenged kids go out of their way to include our “special” kids. They come into the special needs classrooms in their free times to work with / make an extra connection with the kids and it carries over into the community outside of school. “Mainstreaming” is alive and well here. It’s truly heart-warming to see, I’ve noticed it for years now.

Something I feel our community has been lucky enough to learn and practice needs to be more widespread. So often it’s not a matter of kids being mean or not caring, it’s just that they are unaware. Why don’t schools (AND the WORKPLACE!) expand the meaning of “diversity training” to include generally “special” people? How about “inclusion awareness training”.

Everybody is a star, doesn’t matter who you are (Sly Stone).

Trouble is, when educator / administrators (and too many private sector leaders too!) hear “diversity training” they think about compliance only, taking the narrow view of diversity—treating others equally regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual preference. All important, but there is more to true inclusion–sensitivity to others with any kind of differences, accepting others for who they are and what they’ve been given to work with, realizing everyone has a place. Too many just don’t get it that way!

Awareness and understanding needs to start first with us big kids. And we need to accept our roles as stewards of the younger generation’s attitudes toward special people. For the most part, the kids are doing a great job on their own. You think we should try to catch up?

NEED-Youth Suicide Petition –Belay that Thought! 9-16-16

9-16-16 UPDATE: after some very good discussions on Ripple Power (FB closed group) the plan is to scuttle the plan…no value in petitioning to take action on bullying-induced youth suicides. Not going heartless-just a reality. The issues are complex.

 

Comment with your input, I will organize into the main document as best I can. This is posted to gather input from Ripple Power members, but if you’re not part of that closed group and you stumble across it, please add your input. We need action!


HELP! Need input. I want to do a petition (oh no, not another!) to elevate the youth suicide. It’s a mental health issue in part, which needs serious attention on a whole ‘nother level. But we need to specifically address bully-induced suicides. This is an international tragedy – stand in line, right? And there are tons of different things out there—groups, approaches, too many experts and disjointed efforts …and too many kids writing a final end to their personal tragedy. PLEASE lend a hand. NEEDS:

  • Research youth suicide rates and causes,
  • Input on how to REALLY grab peoples’ attention to sign the petition….AND to get involved
  • Specific actions to recommend,
  • Find the right vehicle / outlet for a petition.

PROBLEM DESCRIPTION: Zero tolerance policies are spotty and ineffectively enforced. Awareness and prevention programs are not enough and are not taken seriously (FIRSTHAND observation from my local school system). Social-emotional learning is not a priority, and when it is part of a school’s curriculum is not supported but tolerated. Children cannot be the extent of the focus because they are just the end result of the bigger problem: a society that accepts, allows tolerates bullying behavior.

ROOT CAUSES (partial list!) Domestic violence includes physical and verbal abuse, and it is a leading contributor to making bullying behavior “acceptable” and normal. Women have been speaking out since forever and dying.

Media is to blame: what gets attention? Murder, any outrageous violence. Kids are powerless and when they need help what will get attention? What they see so … “I am hurting. I will hurt someone and someone will see me.”

ACTION PLAN: Don’t just be saddened for an appropriate amount of time, then go about your regular business until the next one is reported! The problem must be addressed from all angles, by all stakeholders: education, parents / families, private sector, community leaders–civic groups, religious communities and government….

Get organizational support from various existing groups…Edutopia, Greater Good Science Center, Area education agencies, school boards etc. TROUBLE SPOT: many of these are country clubby, closed doors, protective of their turf, not open to outsider meddling. But outsider engagement is exactly what they need!

DRAFT WORDING…research other similar-topic petitions for structure! This petition is to call attention to the need for immediate and definitive action to address the frequency of suicides by young people, defined as ages nn to nn. While this is a sub-set of mental health, specific issues related to bullying behavior in schools and social media are the target of this petition. There are currently no legal or civil controls in place, no effective initiative used on a broad scale to address the root causes of bullying that may lead to self-harm by young people.

DISTRIBUTION of COMPLETED PETITION for SIGNATURES. Need high visibility, high exposure. Need viral distribution, some way to circle back to those who signed the petition, as they are the beginning of the grass roots organization of masses that are needed to support this!

  • Social media groups—Facebook, LinkedIn, others
  • Community, friends-local media, church groups