Tag Archives: Community; Society

“Radical” Unschooling–Just Doing What’s Natural

I’m a radical unschooling non-expert, non-practitioner and for some time I wasn’t much more than a highly interested bystander. But I’ve become passionate in my advocacy for RU.

By default, I see my role as limited to outreach–an awareness-builder who is connected to the RU community but mostly working with the general public and private sector.

Result: I’m straddling a barb wire fence, interfacing with experts and practitioners while tailoring my message to uninitiates / neophytes like myself. Worrying about appearing to be a presumptuous, meddling outsider among practitioners, and talking over the heads of non-practitioners. As my blogs begin to find their way into the RU practitioner community, this up-front disclaimer became necessary.

The private sector is critical—we need their support and buy-in for RU specifically, and for the social movement generally. So my intent with this post is to ease private sector angst by showing how RU is very engagement-intensive, something most business leaders are quite familiar with and value highly. They should want, and they NEED unschoolers who have grown up as explorers within a creative and highly engaging environment.

As a neophyte student / non-practitioner, my understanding of the issues is limited. If I’ve  unintentionally ground any sacred cows into burgers I apologize. That said, how do you like yours cooked? Oh…I can do tofu too.


This thing called “radical unschooling” confuses me. I guess it’s “radical” because it’s homeshcooling to the extreme. But it’s not RU that is “radical”. What is radical is the way we try to educate young people then manage them in the workplace, the way we expect all ages of people to happily accept an authoritarian, command-and-control governed life with absolute, limiting boundaries. The way our lives are managed for us is what’s radical, unnatural, causes health and emotion-destroying stress, holds us back from being all we can be, goes against the way we are meant to live.

“Radical” unschooling is based on the way children really learn, the way they are designed to grow and mature. That’s not radical, that sounds abnormally normal to me. Maybe the “radical” perception among the general public needs to go, starting with that inappropriate label? But it’s bigger. RU principles applied to the workplace and to society in general would trigger a radical transformation and take us where we need to go to thrive and survive. Now that’s radical!

Most of what I’ve been studying and writing about lately is how people really learn and grow. RU is the only sensible human development game in town. Then there’s the bigger picture of the desperate need for social change. A connection! “Radical” unschooling represents the springboard to radically transform our world. Thing is, except for practitioners and the occasional accidental converts like me, not enough of the right people know it. And the wrong people—the power wielding establishment—would be scared of the fullness of human development RU represents, if it becomes more than a fringe practice. Docile, compliant creatures are so much easier to control and manipulate.

Radical unschooling must become the New Normal…our profoundly destructive education practices and lifestyles need to be normalized and that will take a major shift away from this current path. There’s so much already written and over-discussed that I started doing a compilation with links and annotations for original blogs and sources, organized by topic with condensed thoughts in summary thumbnails. Very labor-intensive, it can come later. For now, big picture stuff.

Key Themes

  1. RU practitioners don’t deserve being banished into the shadows as a fringe group. RU needs to be Main Street, needs to become The New Normal. The core philosophy and principles are scientifically well-founded and they represent nothing less than the means to unleash our full potential as human beings. What’s the holdup?
  2. “New Normal” must become a highest priority social movement. At stake: social-emotional well-being for all ages which translates into less stress and fewer suicides, greater health, more and better years of life. Also on the table: higher levels of contribution and achievement (the related dirty words are “productivity and performance”) thus greater US private sector competitiveness vs the rest of the world. To be really crass….”MO’ MONEY, OK CEO’s??”
  3. RU’s benefits for young people and their families, and for the workplace and society, needs to be told in simple, concise and compelling terms to achieve broad buy-in from everyday people.
  4. There is so much cross-sector WIIFM for all stakeholders in the RU philosophy and principles that we’re damned silly if we do not systemically embrace it in every sector. The culprit is lack of understanding, no widely shared, credible information. Once the right knowledge is provided there can be no excuse.

Not-so-Radical for the Workplace

There is a clear connection between “employee engagement” and RU. The private sector fell in love with employee engagement going on a quarter century ago because the research and tons of data irrefutably showed monster bottom line enhancements across all private sector entities: a direct and significant correlation between levels of engagement and performance. But it ended up being nothing but a fling, a passion-driven affair that led to over-saturation with throngs of engagement experts hawking high-dollar wares that were nothing but window-dressing enhancements of the Gallup Q-12 model from 1994.

The private sector also flirted with Goleman’s emotional intelligence, Mihaly’s flow, Covey’s principles-centered leadership and even the military’s (seriously!) values-based leadership model. Always in search of a better way to make more money…all that is another story for another time though.

For now, here’s a quick run-down of the leadership and workplace attributes that result in gains in engagement levels, therefore impressively increased levels of productivity, profitability and every other bottom line measure the private sector worships. The findings have been verified, validated and then validated some more. “Gallup Q12” is easy to google, if you do want to learn more. If you do it’s highly recommended that you stick to the original and stay away from the imitations. Same wine, different bottle.

Top Drivers of Engagement per Gallup

I’ve taken some liberties in the wording to fold in other thoughts that came along after the original Gallup Q-12 items and to expand the relevance of the items beyond employees in the workplace. These are in no particular impact level or priority order:

  • I need to know that what I do makes a difference in the grand scheme of things;
  • I do my best work and am most productive when I enjoy the work and have a talent for it;
  • Recognition and praise are more powerful drivers than cash and other extrinsic perks;
  • Values-based relationships are important, especially trust and respect;
  • I need to contribute at a high level, toward something that really matters. Better yet if I like it;
  • I feel like I’ve accomplished something when I am challenged to use my talents and creativity.

That should be enough for you to get the idea. What needs to be made crystal clear is that these attributes of employee engagement are part of what makes RU what it is. And, for the most part, these attributes are suboptimized in traditional education. One engages, the other disengages. As someone who used to hire a lot of people, I would drool over a candidate who I knew grew up learning in the right kind of environment. Most employers are smart enough to understand that too.

“Systemic” Initiative: More Than a Buzz Phrase

You see it everywhere in the private sector, and in education improvement initiatives. “Systemic” is became the sexy way of saying “across-the-board”. To maximize results and make an idea, or for that matter for anything really take hold, it takes an all-stakeholders-on-deck effort. Isolated pockets of doing stuff is pointless. It blasts noise into the system–churn, chaos and confusion along with it. And isolated activity is unsustainable. For something to have stickiness, for the new to fully replace the old for the old “radical” to become the New Normal, it can’t be just youth development. All-hands-on-deck, systemic, across-the-board. Not isolated activity but a movement. Oh….and it makes sense too.

When it comes to changing the world, radical unschoolers can only go so far on their own.

Summary (more like the preface to the next chapter…I’m Learning!)

Traditional education is broken. It’s failing our kids and their parents, it’s failing employers and society. Kids “graduate” woefully unprepared for higher ed, for the workplace, for life. Essential workplace and life skills attributes like creativity, judgment, civic and social responsibility (principles) are not well-represented in traditional curricula. The US is behind the 8-ball in global competitiveness because our workforce is so anemic. The employment talent pool is a mud puddle and we’re losing our global status along with our quality of life (different from “standard of living” but it’s tanking too).

Kids are hard-pressed to survive being molded into bricks in the wall. So do adults. Too much suffering, stress, burnout, suicide. Stop this radical madness!

Humanity needs a radical intervention!



All Work and No Play, Per Gray

MUST read this piece first to play along: Instead of “Job Creation,” How About Less Work? Increased automation has not reduced our workload. Why not? What if it did? Posted Nov 26, 2016 Peter Gray

This is such a utopian view of a “what if” future perfect that most sane and logical people immediately pooh-pooh it. That’s why I like it. Most of the “we can’t because” boo-birds bring up are excuses, not reasons. But it does take some incredibly visionary thinking to see the possibilities. And it will take some serious work toward big changes to seize the big opportunities.
Gray traces our devolution from hunter-gatherers to beasts of burden serving the 20th century economic model, through the ever-evolving current reality and re-birth where a hunter-gatherer society of child-like play may make sense again.

So, what’s wrong with work?

Start with the disappearing concept of “adding value”. Value to what? Value used to be defined as a product or service that someone would be willing to pay for. But “stuff of value” is more and more produced with high-efficiency automation and very little human labor. What good are we if we aren’t kept busy making or doing value-adding “stuff”?

People must still work for a paycheck to support their families, right? A new generation of work has come along—IT, bottom feeder leisure industry (computer-based games, home entertainment… most folks can’t afford high-end diversions), service jobs (root word: “serve” as in subservient). Financial and insurance sectors have huge numbers of people doing administrivial work—collecting and analyzing mountains of data, creating and issuing all kinds of reports for unknown “users” who immediately delete the work, pushing all kinds of non value-adding info that is intended to help manage something somewhere that actually has “value”. But what value does money and information by itself have? It’s the use of those things that adds value. Armies of other administrators’ existence is somewhat justified because it takes an army to make sense of inefficiencies, disorganization and an overkill of rules and regulations, and it takes a badgillion customer service reps working 24 / 7 trying to keep customers from becoming mass murderers because of those inefficiencies. (why am I thinking “Idiocracy”?)

Huge corporate law firms with huge staffs help huge corporations get away with working huge loopholes in the system to make huge profits so they can pay huge legal fees. The whole loop exists to enable generating non-product with no value. Another army—hired hitmen, lobbyists whose purpose is to grease gears and palms so all that artificial non-value is easier to generate and hoard. A famous longhaired progressive activist once chased money-changers out of the temple. We need another. Oh, just one more army: market researchers, the advertising industry and feet-on-the-street (and cyberspace) sales folks hell-bent on manipulating markets (people!) and packaging and selling non-value stuff.

One of the fads of the process improvement world was “customer focus”–identify customers and what was important to them—their expectations, needs and wants. Then do what’s needed to meet those criteria. The idea was that it would make workers more conscious of what they were doing if there was a real person at the end of their process chain. But what if there was no real person at the end of the chain? Or what if the customer really didn’t care about what you produced, but they had simply been conditioned to buy, buy, buy anyway?

Too many working adults are stuck in a job they can clearly see has no real value in furthering the greater social good, or impacting the grand scheme of things in any way. Work with no purpose. But humans need purpose, need meaning, need to feel they’re making a difference. When there is no purpose, it’s natural for people to get jaded, cynical, uncaring, worn down, worn out, quit, die. We’re dying. What if those stuck in no-value, no-purpose work were redirected toward providing something the world wants and needs? Their individual mojo would be rejuvenated, as would the world’s.

If the Goal is Less Work and More Play, Then What Needs To Change?
Not Much–Just a Few Silly Attitudes and Minor System Tweaks

A few thoughts for starters….

  • Redefine “work” as something with real purpose that adds real value for others and / or improves the condition of the world and / or society. As technological advances and automation takes care of the menial stuff, working on further technological advances adds value because it frees up humanity’s time!
  • No more “I am my job, I am nothing without my job” thinking. Work is a means to a greater end unless a person’s work is something they enjoy that happens to make the world, society, others better. (remember the old Venn diagram on “job happiness”?) My life’s work is to eliminate violence and bullying by championing social-emotional development.
  • Rethink and expand the meaning of “value” from being only a thing / material $$$ transaction-driven concept. Social value and artistic / aesthetic value, environmental and ecological value!
  • Redesign the monetary distribution model of “work 40 hours (or more) to earn your paycheck”. Why does 40+ hours of “work” constitute “full-time employment” anyway?
    There’s not enough meaningful work to go around, because our priority and our passion is profit-generating work. But there’s tons of meaningful “work” opportunities– community, social, environmental, infrastructure things needing attention. Engage people in doing good things, and pay them accordingly. While we’re at it, reinvent “pay”. Money has no value on its own but we literally kill ourselves and others over it. Broader: “currency” is something that is used as a medium of exchange. Exchange of what, for what?
  • Redefine “affluence” from having a lot of stuff for its own sake, to having what you need to be happy…how about “sufficience?” Move past the mindless pursuit of a high standard of living and focus on quality of life instead, starting with defining the individual’s values-based vision of “fulfilled” then right-sizing needs accordingly. Prerequisite: redefine what level of “success” is socially acceptable. So it comes down to an individual values and social perception shift;
  • Rethink brick-in-the wall forced education and the standard curriculum that makes school labor –tedious, compulsory work. Learning should be fun, should come naturally. Same with work;
  • Ditch crass capitalism and profit for its own sake. Demote the 1% and elevate the 99%.
    Scrap our material and transaction-based economy and the norms that go with it, norms like “work hard, get paid, get lots of stuff, support family, be a prolific provider”. Break the trance-the marketing / advertising-driven thirst for conspicuous consumption, material affluence, accumulating stuff that has no real value (see Jagger Consulting’s “Satisfaction” piece);
  • Re-invent corporate entities with the sole purpose of generating profit for investors, corporations with no value-adding meaning justifying their existence! OOPS, need to re-think investors and the investments industry, and making money playing “the market”. There’s those money-changers again! Thinking out loud: how about a reinvestment tax credit, investing in and diverting corporate profits to an approved fund to be used for the greater good?
  • Reinvent government by the people, for the people with people and planet as top priorities;
    Bring back the institutions of Santa Claus and the tooth fairy…

This sound like capitalism must go. I agree, partially—capitalism in its current form is destructive. Money is OK, money does no evil. What people do or don’t do with it is the issue. Let’s get our really smart business people and economists busy reinventing capitalism!)

Gray closes with a challenge: So, instead of trying so hard to preserve work, why don’t we solve the distribution problem (getting paid for a 40hr week as the only way to do things), cut way back on work, and allow ourselves to play?
Good question.


“Solving the distribution problem” isn’t a cakewalk and there’s lots of other stuff that needs to happen too. I’ve shared my quick take of what needs to change just for starters. What’s missing? And how in the world are we going to do all that? Think about these bullets as goal statements then brainstorm: “what’s it gonna take?” And remember, one of the ground rules of brainstorming is “never say it can’t be done.”

(BONUS) Sneak Peek at Klitgaard: a look at basically the same thinking, slightly different angle.

Many people, affluent and poor, lead hectic and harried lives, struggling at jobs devoid of meaning and often socially and environmentally counterproductive (such as weapons manufacture, hydraulic fracturing, or financial speculation) in order to command a paycheck. In a sustainable society, work should be meaningful as well as steady and productive. Meaningful work allows people to unite their heads, their hands, and their hearts. People should have a say in the design of what they make or do, a variety of challenging tasks, and the opportunity for self-direction.
Unfortunately, the logic of capital accumulation has created work that is much the opposite—routine, without mental exercise, let alone purpose or joy—all in the name of producing more goods and services at ever-lower cost.
The Struggle for Meaningful Work

UPDATE: Johan sent a graphic with his reply (below). Since pics cannot be included in replies here it is! I’d like to suggest that on the “Child” side “work” and “play” are more overlapping and very possibly concurrent!

Johan Work and Play


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?



Where is Education Improvement Headed? It’s Academic

Education Reform Now is the nonprofit arm of Democrats for Education Reform:

We are progressives leading a non-partisan non-profit organization that cultivates and supports leaders who champion America’s public schoolchildren….

Mission Americans of all ages – from cradle to grave – deserve full and fair access to quality education opportunities. 

The education innovation and reform movement has reached an inflection point. There are high-flying charter schools and management organizations, but their impact on public education overall is limited. Because of hard-edged accountability policies, low-income and minority students saw significant achievement gains in the late 1990s and early 2000s. But academic gains have slowed. Those who continue to the postsecondary level complete at appallingly low rates and with questionable knowledge and skill levels. And yet, the education policy discussion has devolved into a near exclusive debate about common core standards, testing, and access to higher education when so much more needs to be considered.

ERN, thank you for this nearly dead-on problem statement. But achievement and accessibility to higher education are not the real issues. Current state:

  • School guidance counselors and parents obsess over prepping students for college-or-bust.
  • Too many high school graduates aren’t ready for college or are unable to attend. College is not appropriate for some and simply out of reach for many, financially or academically.
  • The relevance of higher education is under fire, the workplace market value of over-priced degrees is being challenged.
  • Degree or not, employers are consistently getting unprepared workers. The talent pool is incredibly shallow and murky.
  • The skills gap is partially self-inflicted by employers who unnecessarily inflate academic requirements for positions.

Some positions do not require a four-year degree as much as they do specific job skills training. Yet, college students chase after “just-in-case” degrees then look for a job they might be qualified for, artificially increasing college debt. Education still mass-produces graduates, and grads still assume half a lifetime of debt only to get a job they may be miserable with…if they find one. And employers still get unprepared candidates. Economy suffers, people suffer.

The Education Reform Now blog ran a piece this summer, Not Ready For College by Michael Dannenberg. Bolded excerpts follow (with Craig’s notes)

To the extent issues actually are debated this election year, we can expect the candidates to spend time on college affordability.  It polls as a top-tier, middle class issue. Democrats, led by Hillary Clinton, will call for massive increases in student financial aid (but pouring more funding into an ineffective system without addressing the real issues).  We can expect Republicans led by Donald Trump to call for an expanded number of higher education providers to increase supply and drive down price (education is not a good candidate for mass-production. Diminishing returns, aka overkill. How would providers be regulated? And…how the heck do you start up all these additional institutions? We’ll be overrun with Diplomas ‘r’ Us academic factories issuing plenty of sheepskins, but what value will they hold? ) Both are needed, but going forward what the candidates should pay special attention to is high school academic preparation because it’s inextricably linked to college affordability. (true, but this just drives inefficiencies deeper into the system. The wrong product is being produced and provided because we’re focused on the wrong expectations and requirements)

Today, the typical bachelor’s degree graduate takes more than five years to complete a degree instead of four. One in four rising college freshmen, including a high percentage from middle class families, need to take and pay for remedial courses that regularly don’t apply toward a college degree. Worst of all, nearly one in two postsecondary students overall will drop out.  They’ll be left with debt and no degree. (an unacceptable level of academic attrition, even more damaging to young people and to the economy than it is to productivity and profit margins of companies that suffer from high attrition)

Imagine how much cheaper and better an investment college could be if students were prepared for college-level coursework on Day 1 and graduated in four years instead of five. It can happen on a widespread basis, but it requires commitment and improvement in both high schools and institutions of higher education. (ability to do the work is one thing, but what if it’s the wrong kind of work? Of what real value is a degree?  The real measure of value: does it increase graduates’ ability to be successful and happy in their working career, and in their lives?)

Some Solutions Proposed by Dannenberg (with Craig’s notes):  

High schools need to be more academically rigorous and colleges need to change the way they teach students who come in behind. And both need to be held accountable for results (need root cause analysis: WHY do students come in behind if high schools increase academic rigor, and if colleges tighten up on their entry requirements?)

Almost all high school students should get a rigorous course of study – whether based on Common Core standards or not – aligned with requirements to enroll in credit-bearing, entry level college classes. (“almost all high school students” implies that college prep and going to college may not be appropriate for all students. Truth! College may not even be necessary in some cases for a successful working careers and fulfilling life. As tough as it may be, we need to abandon the mindset that college for all is right. And still, the major concern: what if the right stuff isn’t being offered?)


Dannenberg paints a grim picture of the magnitude and impact of poor college preparedness. High schools aren’t ensuring that graduates have the necessary academic chops to handle a college-level curriculum. Colleges accept too many under-prepared students. The need for remedial classes is too frequent, they are costly and ineffective in helping strugglers graduate. Students take five not four years to graduate, and the college dropout rate is unacceptably high.

It’s crazy to point at education’s “failure” alone. The private sector has a big hand: employers’ expectation that graduates should hit the workplace ready to excel in any organizational environment, mastering any organization’s specific stuff regardless of position and tasks is just not possible. We need realistic and clear skills requirements and behavioral expectations defined. WHAT do employers NEED in new hires, so they are ready and able for an employer to take over and do their job—providing skills training and on-the-job experience?

Fundamental Change?

Proposed: the real purpose of education should be to prepare learners for life after their academic career, not just to prepare them to meet their next academic challenge. Colleges, therefore the K-12 pipeline, should be driven by real-world not just academic requirements and expectations. “Real world” includes the work world, society and community. And don’t ignore the most critical job for each of us…plotting and navigating the course toward a successful and satisfying life where we feel we’re making a meaningful difference. Only when we know where we want to go should we fret about how we’re going to get there.

What determines a successful life is driven by each person’s definition of “success” which is a function of their personal values / belief system. A successful, fulfilling career is essential to a successful life, so private sector expectations and civic and social expectations also are a factor. What kind of academic topics currently prepare learners to meet these broad expectations…their own, their future employers, their community, society?

Preparation is way more than academic. The Arts and College Preparatory Academy (ACPA), a public charter school in Columbus, Ohio is just one shining example. (Between Dallas and Orlando, Schools Can Play a Crucial Role in Improving Tolerance and Respect. By Marianne Lombardo July 14th, 2016)

What makes ACPA work? Maximum inclusion, focus on human values and social development. The whole academic community is totally engaged in and committed to the success and ideals behind ACPA. Remember the “e” word for a moment, please…..

“The stakes are clear. And these stakes are high: At the end of the day, what kind of society do we want to have? What kind of country do we want to be? It’s not enough to celebrate the ideals that we’re built on — liberty for all, and justice for all and equality for all. Those can’t just be words on paper. The work of every generation is to make those ideals mean something concrete in the lives of our children — all of our children.”

President Barack Obama.

Not to mess with the words of one of our greatest orators ever, but it’s more than ‘the lives of our children’. We need those ideals to be meaningful in the lives of all Americans.

Current State of Education Improvement: no common goals, shared focus or synergy. Fragmented efforts, inconsistent results. States, communities, districts, buildings set different goals, grasp at different straws. A conference may share great best practices, but participants slice and dice to make it “our own”. This is not the right time for cowboy culture individualism.

ONE COMPELLING MODEL. If someone builds it, will they come? A successful model must be balanced between ready-for-implementation with support, and ease of adaptation to unique situations. A high priority action is to design awareness sessions tailored to each stakeholder group’s WIIFM. Transform interest into commitment when buy-in is sufficient. Basic coalition-building is tricky as stakeholders may have differences in needs and goals: must have a strong narrative.

Chicken or egg? To ensure buy-in and ownership, potential coalition members must provide input up-front to the narrative: what do we want to accomplish? How far will we go?

(SIDE NOTE: Complexity Guaranteed. I set out ten years ago exploring a truly systemic model and how to develop the coalition necessary to drive it. What seems like a book and a half later into the most current version, it’s still mutating and definitely still growing. Terminal scope creep)

Go Large on “Engagement”. Before it was cool I got deeply involved in employee engagement when my employer dove into Gallup Management’s Q-12 process in the mid-90’s. I served as master implementation facilitator. Q-12 became the backbone of the engagement industry’s early efforts. Gallup branched out into studying the impacts of student engagement, partnering with America’s Promise. That triggered my interest in education. Along the way I got to swap ideas with the UK’s government-sanctioned Engage for Success movement in the early days. Kind of an interesting mix of engagement engagements.

It’s not a silver bullet and there’s too much to dive into here, so see the engagement link at the end. This much we know: a handful of attributes encourage people to more fully engage. When they do, performance level increases dramatically: satisfying basic human needs and values significantly impact employees’ productivity, students’ academics. I’m a believer and you will be too.

Against All Odds

This is scary….I’ve chosen to go up against a formidable coalition of adversaries:

  1. The Gates Foundation plans on back-pedaling on their education improvement efforts, but still focused on mechanics and methods. There is so much more to do (see Philanthropists—Butt Out).
  2. Education Reform Now is a PAC with a Purpose, a non-partisan think tank, although the policy recommendations may be shaded toward the blue side. ERN’s stated scope: new methods of content delivery and tools of influence on teaching and learning. The goals have an exclusively academic focus, and to me the GF and ERN are both missing the mark.
  3. Both major parties and their respective candidates have platforms for improving higher ed accessibility and achievement levels. Missing the mark.
  4. The well-entrenched, highly protective…and overwhelmed…education establishment is buried in STEM curriculum, common core, standard test performance…things, things, things, missing the mark (see Re-thinking Purpose and Roles in Education).

Now here I come in all my blazing nobodyness. These players are way out of my ballpark. But they are essential, and potential champions. But who will recruit them? Who will be the catalyst for the coalition that’s necessary? So far with the minor leaguers I’ve pitched, it’s been a lot like rainfall. They all agree we need it badly, but no one wants to get wet…I don’t stand a chance.

Systemic change starts with well-crafted policy and a strong narrative that stakeholders readily buy into. Policy won’t make it off the paper on its own, regardless of how compelling the narrative may be. Aligned implementation is a real trick without a central direction that has teeth. And there’s a powerful camp of proponents in favor of decentralized education policy. If anyone out there has the Silver Bullet, I’d love to hear about it!




Environment Drives Performance, Results, Success

Trace the private sector’s evolution from the early days of total quality, quality circles and employee involvement to just-in-time, SPC, lean, six sigma…to the present where we’re shifting gears with employee engagement and emotional intelligence. One fundamental truth has been taking shape the whole time: attending to human needs and issues is the gateway to performance excellence. People before process.

Here we’ll look at an article recently published by the Greater Good Science Center, Kids Need More Than Just Brains to Succeed in which Jill Suttie talked with science journalist Paul Tough about his book Helping Children Succeed: What Works and Why. While Tough’s focus is children living in poverty conditions, here we’ll look at broader applications.

Decades of private sector studies have identified core human needs and validated their impacts in the workplace. More recent research suggests that the same needs and impacts are in play in education and even in society. The emerging universal truth: the greater a person’s social-emotional well-being, the higher their level of engagement and contribution to the environment around them. People before process.

We could stand to get a better grip on a few critical causal relationships:

  1. Social-emotional well-being (SEWB) is based on the same attributes as engagement theory.
  2. SEWB and engagement are not directly actionable goals. They are both outcomes of an environment that is right for people to choose to be more engaged, resulting in a greater feeling of well-being.
  3. The same universal human needs and values move people, whether young or old.

Education is locked in on cognitive skills development. Tough’s proposal in Helping Children Succeed is that social-emotional related environmental factors greatly influence learners’ ability to fully learn the how-to-do-stuff, cognitive skills. Maximum learning potential is not realized without social-emotional environmental support.

Tough’s academic investigation findings mirror what I’ve observed in the private sector so regularly that it’s become one of my personal core beliefs: people before process.

Tough observes that non-cognitive attributes like grit, perseverance, self-regulation, optimism are not learned and cannot be taught. These attributes and more govern a person’s ability to learn cognitive skills. They evolve given the right supportive and engaging environment. And….

People Before Process is Relevant Across-the-Board…In Education, Workplace, Community

What specific things can we do to provide the right environment? Tough offers actionable examples for two different environments and phases of development. First in the home, early childhood: “…neuroscientific research tells us that when kids are in early environments that are responsive, interactive, and warm and stable, and involve what psychologists sometimes call “serve and return” parenting, which involves face-to-face, back-and-forth interactions between parents and their babies, that creates secure attachment—a real sense of security that kids have with parents or other caregivers.”

Second, the school environment where consistently providing the right narrative is critical: “…create environments in the classroom that change students’ mindsets by implicitly and explicitly giving them messages around belonging and possibility. When kids are given the message that they belong in the academic community, it has a profound effect on their motivation and on their ability to persevere and to stick with projects and problems for long periods of time. And if you’re in a school where you’re given the message that failure is part of the process of learning and that people change, and that you can improve your abilities, and that challenge is part of that process, those are the kids who are much more motivated to persevere, and work hard, and take on more challenges.”

Two Education Environment Building Blocks

Tough singles out two practices as particularly successful in nurturing non-cognitive attributes:

(ONE) Teacher-leaders stay with one group of students called “crews” for several years. Leader and crew meet for a half hour each day, giving the kids “…a sense of connection, of belonging and relatedness, and all of the psychological research suggests that those are incredibly powerful motivators to persevere at school.”

(TWO) Project-based learning: “…really challenging academic work-rigorous, long-term projects that students take on where they can’t help but learn in a deeper way. In addition to the academic skills that kids are learning…they’re also experiencing a psychological message: I can learn from my mistakes; I can get better at things. I can take on challenges that seem impossible; I can get the right kind of help; and I can solve them.”

You Get What You Measure. So Measure What’s Important

SEL is viewed through the same lens used to assess achievement in cognitive skills development and educators have struggled with accepting SEL as important. What does it do, what are the results? How do you measure it?

SEL’s effectiveness and engagement levels are not directly actionable or measurable objectives.  But there are wildly important outcomes impacted by (1) social-emotional development, (2) designing a supportive environment, and (3) using known engagement levers to encourage people to fully engage. There are known, fully actionable factors for all three. It’s a logical progression:

SE development / environmental engineering -> supportive environment ->

Social-emotional well-being and greater engagement ->

Maximum performance -> achievement, success.

Teacher Assessments

Tough observes “A lot of people feel that test scores alone are not a full measure of what kids are learning or how successful they’re going to be. And yet the problem with trying to put numbers on non-cognitive qualities is that we don’t have measures for grit or self-control that are as reliable as the standardized tests are for cognitive skills.”

Northwestern economist Kirabo’s work on assessing teachers is based on value added to students, using four common measures: attendance, behavior, grade point average, and grade progression. Kirabo found these to be reliable indicators of students who are more motivated and engaged, and that certain teachers consistently had students who performed better in the four measurement areas. Tough explains: If you were a student in one of these teachers’ classes, you were more likely to show up every day, more likely to work hard, and less likely to get in trouble. And that’s an incredible skill for a teacher to have. Using the tools of economics, he showed that those teachers are having a bigger effect on students’ long-term outcomes—including high school graduation, and college matriculation and graduation—than the teachers who were particularly good at raising students’ test scores.”

Tough concluded that There’s something about the classroom environment certain teachers are creating that makes students feel more of a sense of belonging and motivation and the desire to take on challenges.” And their performance shows it. We need more attention here-and that’s not a plea to indulge in endless navel-gazing!

The Engagement Factor

Employee engagement has had peaks and valleys of attention for decades, and engagement in the academic environment is gaining traction. Engagement and social-emotional development are closely related, with many common attributes. That common ground is examined in Supercharging Engagement. Note in particular the detailed description of eight Universal Attributes — basic human values, needs, motivators. Cliff Notes version follows.

  1. Relationships Built on Caring and Trust.  We all need to be nurtured no matter our age. Humans thrive when someone truly cares, not about what we do or how much we do or how well we do it, but when someone actually cares about US.
  2. Clear Expectations and Feedback. We want to make a meaningful contribution…and we need to know we’re doing the right things and how we’re doing along the way.
  3. Sense of Community.  Humans have been social creatures since first banding together in tribes for safety and companionship. More than strength in numbers or birds-of-a-feather, we have a basic human need to be part of a group;
  4. Connected to Community Vision. Connecting to vision can be simple as providing the “why” behind “what”, providing a line of sight from everyday tasks to compelling community or group goals.
  5. Sense of Personal Purpose. We all want and need to leave a legacy. What I am involved in that matters long-term; how can I make a difference in the grand scheme of things?
  6. Values-centered. We’re at ease when our values are aligned with the environment, we’re uncomfortable when our values are stifled or contradicted. Even if we’re not aware of our values, when there’s a conflict we still know something’s not right and we don’t like it. We just don’t know what’s wrong or why we feel bad.
  7. Opportunity to Shine: when people do what they do best and truly enjoy doing, they produce exceptional results. Well-being skyrockets with accomplishment, leading to even more impressive performance.
  8. Opportunity to Grow. The Army has it right. We all want to be all that we can be. We have strengths (#7) but that’s not enough. We want to be more, we want to do more.

BEST PRACTICES! Benchmark the studies and findings from the employee engagement experts. We know it works in the workplace for those attentive to their environment. Similar high levels of improved performance are attainable in education.

The Brass Ring Is In Reach

Tough concludes with the observation that research is still new, but slowly picking up steam over the past three years: “In the K-12 realm, the idea that teachers can be coached to provide a different kind of environment for students and that those environments make a big difference is not mainstream thinking right now in education. As with anything, when you’re trying to change people’s fundamental understanding of the work they’re doing, it takes time.”

Teachers make a difference in the education environment. Doing so improves performance, possibly more than teaching to the test to improve standard test scores. In the face of growing evidence and general acknowledgement of an overwhelming need to improve, what’s the holdup? Let’s get serious about understanding engagement and social and emotional well-being, about understanding what we need to do to create environments where people–young learners, workers, everyday citizens of all ages–not only survive but thrive. Then, let’s roll up our sleeves together and build a system that taps into the abundant common ground among the sectors. We are, after all, talking about universal human values and basic human needs.

The stakes are incredibly high, with minimal risk and maximum reward–no significant monetary investment needed. It doesn’t take Einsteins, it takes involvement and effort from an army of John and Mary Everymans.


If you made it all the way through to the end, you must be interested! Below: a few other relevant articles, on LinkedIn Pulse and here on Ripples.

Environment Drives Performance > Results > Success  (you are here!) review of interview with Paul Tough published at the Greater Good Science Center

Where is Education Improvement Headed? It’s Academic A review of a recent article posted by Education Reform Now.

Supercharging Engagement. We know it works in the workplace and in school. So let’s get serious about it!

Kids’ Epiphany—For Brielle. I am deeply committed to making a difference in young peoples’ lives, for good reason.

Process is Process—Education Too.  Leaning on my manufacturing roots, education could use a little process management discipline.

Philanthropists–Butt Out. A recent game-changing revelation on its education improvement efforts by the Gates Foundation.

We’re All On (or Off!) the Same Bus Universal truths relevant in education, community, private sector.

Re-thinking Purpose and Roles in Education>Training>Development>Skills

(by the way, the Greater Good Science Center is an incredible resource for educators and regular folks who just want to get informed and be involved!)

Process is Process-Education Too

I grew up in manufacturing— making stuff, delivering on customer expectations, process control, hitting the numbers. Time to go back to my roots for some common-sense introductory process management. For those in the education business, this applies to you too.

How Things Work: Three-minute New Hire Orientation

Each process step adds value to incoming material (inputs) by transforming the product in some way. Process specifications are based on customer needs and requirements. The customer may be the next step in the overall process or the end user. Minor defects may be repaired, but if a product is too far out-of-spec it becomes unusable. Too many unusable units from one step can bring the entire process to a grinding halt. If the production schedule is missed, heads will roll.

Internal or external customers do not appreciate having to cover a supplier’s mistakes by reworking substandard units to make the product fit for use. Repairs are costly and repaired units are not as functional as those made right the first time. If product is too far out of spec it is scrapped, a huge bottom line drain and productivity killer. And resources are diverted to make up for lost units. If a supplier cannot resolve its process issues and consistently meet requirements for both quantity and quality, the customer may have no choice but to find another supplier.

Common reasons for missed requirements are simple to resolve: unclear, poorly communicated or ignored customer specs. Business is pretty simple too: customers reward suppliers who meet needs and punish those who do not. In a market-driven world, if you keep the customer happy you stay in business. Don’t and you’ll have trouble keeping the doors open.

perpertual gitRdone2small

Process is Process, Customers are Customers…Usually. Education is the sole supplier of human resources to the employer and community markets. Education is an out-of-control process. Don’t hate on me yet, my academic friends. There’s a valid reason and it’s not all your fault for a change!

Education is not market-driven and finding another supplier is not an option when the vendor is the education system. Employers and communities are captive customers, they are co-designers of their prison. They have not been actively involved, have not helped education set goals and develop curriculum based on customer needs and expectations, have not provided performance feedback, have not helped the supplier meet those expectations.

Wait, you say…”what makes you think Education even wants our outsider help? They’ll only snub us if we meddle in their affairs.” Is that a valid assumption? Think about the eight ball Education is behind with the demand to deliver more with fewer resources. Sounds like your world, doesn’t it Mr. Operations Manager? Maybe you should challenge those assumptions and feather your own nest while you’re at it.

Problem Analysis

Current State: the education process transforms raw material called students. The output of the education process enters the workforce and community. Both customers are impacted by an under-developed talent pool and poorly prepared future citizens. Productivity is falling, social issues are rising, grads do not have a purpose or clear path forward. Outputs can be customers too.

Problem Statement:  customers’ needs and expectations have not been clearly communicated to the supplier. Traditional driving metrics are cost per unit, capacity utilization and velocity of product through the system. The new standard is first-time quality: make it right the first time with “rightness” determined by how fully requirements are met. Conflicting goals among performance measures are common in the private sector among the Holy Trinity of cost, capacity, throughput. And then along comes quality. Education faces the same conflicts.

Can you really achieve low cost, rapid production with full asset utilization and high quality at the same time?  Traditional management thinking says there is give and take. But years ago W. Edwards Deming identified variation as Public Enemy Number One. The more a process is in-control, the more consistently high quality the outputs are as the process is more capable of hitting spec dead-on, not just within broad upper and lower spec limits. And Phil Crosby proposed decades ago that “Quality is Free”. Poor quality eats your lunch–rework, scrap, lost production, missed deliveries, poor attitudes.

Marginally out-of-spec outputs can often be reworked. But repair is expensive, it doesn’t add new value, it consumes time, it can never make something as good as an original produced right the first time. The supplier falls behind, and is producing sub-par goods for the customer.

When the process cannot consistently provide in-spec product (students), it’s time to invest in upgrading the process. Universal Truth: the cost of limping along on old, incapable equipment far outweighs the cost of re-tooling an entire production facility. Evolve or die.

Education determines crystal clear academic requirements for students. But there is little input from customers, just after-the-fact complaints. Because customer needs are not being met Education is labeled an unreliable supplier with out of control processes. Impact: the private sector and society have significant problems. Education is in the middle-both impacted by, and part of, the issues.

All Things Considered….

Root Cause: if requirements are not accurate up-front, no amount of downstream fine-tuning can make up for it. And there are no customer requirements in the education process.

Resolution: a customer/supplier partnership to set requirements early in the academic life cycle. Use requirements to develop curriculum, learning objectives and outcomes. Then, set controls in place to ensure those requirements are consistently met throughout the entire education process.

The Spec That Matters Most comes from the customer. Learning objectives must be driven throughout the education cycle by customer needs. Collaboration ensures that needs and expectations are realistic, truly critical to output quality, and clearly communicated.

The Learner Goal That Matters Most is to make sure learners have a vested interest in their education, that they are hopeful for what’s ahead, and they can see that education will help them get to a promising, desirable future.

The Education Process Output That Matters Most is highly engaged young people who are ready to take on the world, regardless of what comes at them.

The US is market-driven, we’re used to it. Process management and customer requirements in a market-driven system are common sense and necessary. We’ve dropped the ball here with education because we’re not very good at Big Picture thinking. Here’s the key:

Until we consider education, society and the private sector as part of one big system we’ll continue down the same path and get the same results.

Those results have been unacceptable.

We’re All On (or off!) the Same Bus (updated 8-11)

Experience and environment shapes our attitudes, beliefs and knowledge base. So I need to share a wee bit about my background as it has everything to do with the following.

     I’m a private sector / education hybrid, and I’ve been in diverse roles in both worlds. “People and process improvement practitioner” is a fitting byline. While I love playing around with cool theories, I’m proud that I’ve earned that last “p” in the eyes of my peers. And I’ve had a blast on this journey of many winding paths that have somehow merged into one big superhighway.

    I died and went to heaven when Senge came out with the Fifth Discipline, especially Vol. II, the Fieldbook for practitioners. It expanded my world view as well as my personal purpose and goals. It’s been one gigantic “AHA” moment that I’ve tried to break down into digestible chunks here.      

     The AHA’s that follow are universally relevant Indisputable Truths. At least I think so.

     After I finished writing this, another “AHA” came along…I make a big deal out of personal values—each of our non-negotiable beliefs. These AHA’s should be an important part of my personal beliefs system. Going back through them, that’s a correct assessment.

    Learning new stuff is one of my long-time core values. I hope it’s not a personality disorder, but I am into a whole lot of different things. Thankfully, by finally understanding the systems view they are all part of one big story.  I’ve been writing lately about education and social improvement, but the essays still have manufacturing roots. Sometimes I’ll call out those connections, but other times they must be discovered by you. But they’re there. Best practices come from unlikely sources. Benchmark everything and shamelessly steal what you can put to good use (another Universal Truth?)

Are You On the Bus, or Off the Bus?

On the Bus2

This “on the bus” thing is not in the same context as Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters and their infamous adventures on Further the Magic Bus. Our bus has left the bus stop and those who are on board are having a ball. Others were just a little late, they’re running behind the bus trying desperately to catch the driver’s attention but to no avail. Still others are sitting patiently on the bus stop bench, waiting for another bus that may or may not come. A few folks are clueless there’s even a bus, they’re nose-down searching for Pokemon. Right off the cliff….

A Few of My Indisputable Truths—What Are Yours?

What’s the priority order? Not sure, because they’re part of one big system. Each impacts the others and point of entry is beside the point. Dig into the relationships and feel free to make up your own connections and add your own Indisputable Truths—that’s half the fun.

Profound Knowledge and Systems Thinking.  From the Deming Institute: Dr. Deming ….defined a system as a network of interdependent components that work together to try to accomplish the aim of the system. The aim for any system should be that everybody gains, not one part of the system at the expense of any other. In a business context this includes shareholders, customers, suppliers, employees, the community and the environment. (Google “Deming Institute profound knowledge” for the Tolstoy version)

I was already a long-time Deming fan, but his System of Profound Knowledge struck a nerve with me.  Then Peter Senge really got me going with his popularization of systems thinking in the Fifth Discipline. What really hooked me was that all that was so contrary to operations managers’ obsession over production-first starting with Taylor’s scientific management, which broke down a process into the most basic repetitive, mind-numbing tasks possible, all in the interest of high volume mass production.

The reinforcing loop diagram below is one example of a system where everything is connected, and all the seemingly isolated components impact one another. We must better understand the interrelationships and the nature of often-hidden impacts if we are to truly resolve our issues.

Process is Process– they all run (or don’t run) by the same basic rules and constraints. My output is someone’s input–my customer. Customer expectations rule. Customers reward suppliers that meet their needs and expectations, and punish those that do not. Basic market-driven economics.

Continuous Improvement is not an option. If you don’t continuously get better customers…and life…pass you by and doesn’t look back. No growth leads to stagnation > atrophy > death. This applies to work processes, meeting expectations, personal growth and lifelong learning.

To Understand It Break It Down, Put It Back Together. Soldiers’ lives depend on knowing their weapon. They learn very early to break it down and put it back together to understand each little component in the context of the entire weapon, and understand the larger, interrelated system. But that’s too much work, right? You have more important stuff to do, right?

If you don’t reach that deep level of understanding, you’ll be continuously putting out the same fires. You may think they’re out, but the embers will smolder and eventually burst back into flames.

Address Root Cause. My favorite “duh” expression: “I know how to fix this. I’ve dealt with it bunches of times before.” Really? You evidently haven’t really accomplished much, have you?

People are People. Young and old, we’re driven by the same basic needs and hold the same human values…at least we all start out at the same place until our unique environments start messing with our humanity. It stands to reason that since we’re all driven by the same things….

“People are People” Applies Globally. No religion, race, ethnicity or nationality is different enough that it’s worth shunning, hurting or killing each other. One race: Humanity. One citizenship: Planet Earth.

Engagement is Engagement. Engagement addresses human needs and appeals to basic human values, with a tweak: what engages me is driven by those values that are most important to me and by my purpose in life, whether I’m aware of them or they’re lurking in the shadows. So engagement works for those who have not been totally led astray from the basic needs and values package. Here’s the payback:  emotional well-being -> reduced stress levels -> physical well-being -> a healthier, longer, more satisfying life. Solid enough WIIFM for you?

Have you taken the time and effort to identify and really understand your personal values? Do you have a clear purpose in life? What you don’t know can kill you before your time is up.

Engagement Theory is Universally Relevant. Why do we suboptimize its potential by limiting engagement to the workplace? Except for a few minor cultural differences, Rules of Engagement cross all geographic and demographic boundaries. See Time to Re-think Engagement especially the Universal Attributes section.

People Before Process. Well-adjusted, satisfied people perform better–young learners, adults, citizens. Ignore personal needs and you’ll never realize the highest possible achievement levels or resolve process issues and achieve those precious desired results. Not long-term. Well-adjusted young people and parents have stronger family relationships.

Well-adjusted students achieve higher academic goals. Well-adjusted workers give their employers maximum effort and deliver maximum results. Well-adjusted citizens freely give their all to community betterment.

Still, we’re obsessed with demanding that people do their stuff as efficiently as possible with little concern for the human issues. We’re really missing the boat on this one….

I Determine Social Norms, Shape Culture. Our individual values and beliefs systems are shaped by our environment and experiences. And social norms emerge from the collective of individual beliefs systems and individual values when they are shared by enough people. Notice the loop?

This means norms can be intentionally shaped, if a large enough group of individuals has common values and beliefs taught to them and continuously reinforced. Manipulative? Yes, if the wrong norms are promoted for the wrong reasons. Safeguard: people will resist a mismatch!

Current State: politely, our social norms, collective values and beliefs are anemic. We’ve had a systemic diluting of the influence held by the institutions that once drove norms: education, religion, family. Without some kind of central direction there is moral chaos and anarchy, with the strongest-willed person or power cartel taking control. We’re there right now.

Bullying is Bullying whether kids or adults, power corporations and governments. Grabbing all the power they can, picking on other allegedly weaker or inferior players…bullying is a finely honed weapon, a slimy art form, a highly destructive force. We will never effectively address bullying at any level until we attack the anemic norms and non-values that make it “OK” to bully.

Stewardship is Serious Business. “As a human being I acknowledge that my well-being depends on others, and caring for others’ well-being is a moral responsibility I take seriously.” If the Dalai Llama buys it, stewardship is good enough for me….

Stewardship used to be all that, the hippest of the hip leadership trends. But it’s faded from view. Stewardship must become a shared human value, and not just a trait owned by leaders. We must all be stewards first and foremost, taking guardianship of our future seriously.

I pledge allegiance to the earth and all the life which it supports. One planet, in our care, irreplaceable With sustenance and respect for all.

Stewardship of others and stewardship of this planet that is (so far) allowing us to exist is a survival issue of the highest order. Humanity is unsustainable without stewardship NOW. If we don’t kill each other off first, Mother Earth will eventually get tired of our crap and evict us. And it won’t be homelessness but extinction. Argue the point, please. It may help me feel better about our chances if we don’t take a radical course of action. But I doubt it.

A Few To-Do’s

Based on my values, beliefs system and these indisputable truths, here are a few things I am focused on. It’s tempting to stretch for that one silver bullet that encompasses all. My one all-consuming project right now is promising in that respect. But the hugeness is daunting, so I need to break it down and put it back together again, to understand all the moving parts. Then, find the engagement levers that will recruit champions to the cause. Working on it!

  1. Educators: understand and meet the needs of customers in the marketplace. Employers, communities, students, parents: what are their expectations? Don’t treat them like they are captive consumers of your product—graduates—just because they are.
  2. Flip priority from process / doing stuff to people. Proven over and over, if you don’t tend to people issues first, you’ll never achieve maximum performance and results. It starts with kids in school, continues to the workplace and community—all ages, all stakeholders.
  3. Leverage the power of engagement systemically. Engagement boosts performance. Piecemeal efforts suboptimize engagement’s potential. Applications: young students and adult employees—and not just in school and the workplace, but social and community engagement as well. And don’t forget seniors. This is a universal, global opportunity!
  4. We need systems thinkers. Understand process–what’s upstream and downstream, not just what you do. Understand how your process interacts with others (the diagram is an example). Systems thinking makes sense even for young learners.
  5. Rediscover Our Humanity. Stewardship, acceptance and inclusion, purpose and values must be ingrained across the board. It’s not so difficult because it’s human nature, the way it’s supposed to be. We must reconnect with our selves, others, our planet.

If you’re not familiar with NCIS Agent Gibbs’ Rules, here’s Rule #1: “there’s always more rules”. And Rule #2: “every rule has exceptions.” Enough for now, except for those you add.

Here’s an example of a reinforcing loop, one of the building blocks of systems thinking.

5-5 Coalition Loop

Remove “Young” from the top box to supercharge the loop