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Ducks in a Row: Education For Tomorrow’s Heroes

Tuesday, August 15th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/dimsis/17826882135/

The talk of heroes and the need to change their traits and profile started last week when I shared a post from Wally Bock.

Sadly, need doesn’t always drive change, so, if our society really believes there is a need to change our heroes, we must look to how we educate our children.

What about education? Is its primary purpose to prepare humans to earn a living?

Mark Zukerberg and other tech titans would have you believe STEM is critical and that tech is the solution to education’s woes.

But if that’s true, why did Steve Jobs limit his kids’ tech at home and why do so many in the tech world send their kids to schools that allow no tech?

If money, tech, and extracurricular opportunities are what’s critical to kids success, why is the teen suicide rate climbing fastest in high-income, suburban, mostly white schools (along with elite colleges and among entrepreneurs, also mostly white males).

Is there more to education than providing workers to Facebook, Google, and the rest of techdom — who will be needed only until AI is trained to write code?

There definitely is more and it was elegantly summed up by Malcolm Forbes.

Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one.

In 2009, there was a boycott by conservative parents over a back-to-school speech by then-President Obama that focused on personal responsibility and personal choice.

However, no such blowup surrounded the speech given this year by Chief Justice John Roberts at Cardigan, his son’s private, all male prep school that addressed similar topics and attitudes. (This is an excerpt, read the entire speech at the link.)

From time to time in the years to come, I hope you will be treated unfairly, so that you will come to know the value of justice. I hope that you will suffer betrayal because that will teach you the importance of loyalty. Sorry to say, but I hope you will be lonely from time to time so that you don’t take friends for granted. I wish you bad luck, again, from time to time so that you will be conscious of the role of chance in life and understand that your success is not completely deserved and that the failure of others is not completely deserved either. And when you lose, as you will from time to time, I hope every now and then, your opponent will gloat over your failure. It is a way for you to understand the importance of sportsmanship. I hope you’ll be ignored so you know the importance of listening to others, and I hope you will have just enough pain to learn compassion. Whether I wish these things or not, they’re going to happen. And whether you benefit from them or not will depend upon your ability to see the message in your misfortunes.

I think if you’re going to look forward to figure out where you’re going, it’s good to know where you’ve been and to look back as well.

But you are also privileged young men. And if you weren’t privileged when you came here, you are privileged now because you have been here. My advice is: Don’t act like it (emphasis mine).

The only way we will change our hero leaders from the shallow ideologues of today is by changing education.

A new breed of heroes requires different skills, such as deep thinking, critical thinking, empathy and the entire range of so-called soft skills.

Ideology, no matter the flavor or parameters, just won’t cut it.

Image credit: Dimitris Siskopoulos

Golden Oldies: Does Education = Thinking?

Monday, June 26th, 2017

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies are a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

With the rise of tech and AI, there’s a big question on what education will give kids a leg up in the future. Pundits and media focus almost exclusively on STEM to boost career opportunities, but is STEM really the answer? What should Gen Z and the following generations study now to assure themselves of a career path in the future? And what is the downside of continuing our current approach?

Join me tomorrow for a look at the kind of education that solves the future, while assuring the continuation of our democracy.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeanlouis_zimmermann/3042615083/Today I have a question for you, what is the real point of education?

Bill Gates emphasizes “work-related learning, arguing that education investment should be aimed at academic disciplines and departments that are “well-correlated to areas that actually produce jobs.””

Steve Jobs says, “It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough — it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing…”

So is the end goal of education to provide the knowledge, skills and tools to work or to teach critical thinking.

The choice is likely to be described as pragmatic and based on available funding.

Years ago a successful business executive I know commented that if people had full bellies, a job and a bit left over to see a movie now and then at the time of the election, then the party in power would be reelected, but if the reverse was happening they would “throw the bums out.”

There are more sinister reasons to find a positive way to avoid graduating legions of critical thinkers.

  • Non-thinkers don’t make waves.
  • Non-thinkers follow the pack.
  • Non-thinkers are easier to control.
  • Thinkers are more creative and innovative.
  • Thinkers are more likely to reject ideology.
  • Thinkers are more willing to take risks.

You have only to look at what is going on in the world to see the effects of an empty belly and education, formal or not, grounded in questions, not answers.

What do you think?

Flickr image credit: jean-louis Zimmermann

Educationally Speaking

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/waldec/4507270630/

No matter your circumstances, married/involved/single, there are probably kids somewhere in your world.

I read a lot of articles about education, but three about kids really stood out for me and I believe will be of value to you.

The first looks at the unpleasant fact that our so-called modern education is producing workers more fit for 19th and early 20th Century jobs than those that will be available when they enter the workforce. In other words, acing standardized tests does not prepare you for anything more than functioning in rote.

In the future, if you want a job, you must be as unlike a machine as possible: creative, critical and socially skilled. So why are children being taught to behave like machines?

Speaking of behind-the-times teaching.

The only thing that can be said for the traditional approach to math, which, along with critical thinking, is one of the most critical skills needed in the future, is that it stinks.

Whether you look at the results by age (including adults), race or gender math skills are sadly lacking in the US and many other countries.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

John Mighton, a Canadian playwright, author, and math tutor who struggled with math himself, has designed a teaching program that has some of the worst-performing math students performing well and actually enjoying math. There’s mounting evidence that the method works for all kids of all abilities.

Finally, or maybe foremost, is culture.

Just as in companies, the culture in a school is the determining factor on whether kids learn — or not.

The prevailing culture of many schools, especially the vaunted charter schools, has been one “no excuses.” A culture focused on regimentation and inflicted mostly on poor children of color.

But as any idiot knows, regimentation is not going to produce the next Marc Benioff or Larry Elison, So what does?

Ascend Public Charter Schools network began to retrain teachers to focus on social and emotional development. This provided the framework for creative problem solving to help prevent conflicts between students, or between teachers and students, from escalating.

Does it work? Is it making a measurable difference? Short answer is a resounding ‘yes’.

Around the same time that Ascend was transforming its culture, it put in place a new curriculum, more closely aligned with progressive schools, that focuses on intellectual inquiry rather than received knowledge. At Ascend’s lower and middle schools in Brownsville, passing grades on the annual state English test increased to 39 percent in 2016, from 22 percent in 2014, while the rate on the math test increased to 37 percent, from 29 percent. It’s hard to isolate the cause for the improvement, but it is likely to be a combination of both the academic and cultural changes, which makes Ascend a bold testing ground for the theory that children from low-income homes can be educated the same way as children from affluent families.

Finally, what about adult education, specifically the much ballyhooed MBA? Does it provide the education that provides the skills to climb the corporate ladder?

Not really, according to Henry Mintzberg, Cleghorn Professorship of Management Studies at McGill University, who looked at CEOs from what is considered the most elite university on the planet: Harvard.

Joseph Lampel and I studied the post-1990 records of all 19. How did they do? In a word, badly. A majority, 10, seemed clearly to have failed, meaning that their company went bankrupt, they were forced out of the CEO chair, a major merger backfired, and so on. The performance of another 4 we found to be questionable.

I sent the article to another Harvard-educated CEO I know. His reaction?

Excellent  article. Very true. It took me years to unlearn what I’d been taught at business school…

The article is well worth your time, especially if you, or someone you know, are considering spending the money/going into debt for your MBA.

One more irreverent note, compliments of CB Insights, that is oh, so, true.

Hack: How to hire MBAs
My co-founder Jon stumbled upon this hack to get lots of MBA resumes which I’m going to let you in on.
Whatever the job title, throw the word “strategic” in front of it.

Image credit: .waldec

Golden Oldies: The Secret of Improving

Monday, December 5th, 2016

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over nearly a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

The year is nearly over, so I thought I’d focus the next few weeks on personal growth.

The principle of I/O as applied to ourselves is frequently overlooked as we search role models, gurus and pundits in efforts to grow and  improve.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/findyoursearch/5034002771/Personal and professional growth is a major focus for most people—that’s one of the reasons you’re reading this blog.

We research, dissect, write, discuss, preach, teach, and study, all with the goal of improving ourselves.

No matter what you seek to learn/improve think of yourself as a computer.

Huh?

In computing, the term I/O refers to input, whatever is received by the system, and output, that which results from the processing.

Programmers know that the results coming out of the computer won’t be any better than the information given it and this phenomenon is known as “garbage in/garbage out.”

And there you have the secret.

No matter if it’s career-related, relationship-focused, personal-internal or something else, I/O applies to everything in life.

What comes out is a function of what you put in.

Blindly accepting everything offered by even the most brilliant source will result in garbage out at some point.

Learning/improving requires critical thinking on your part—no one person, past, present or future, has all the answers.

You need to evaluate the available information, take a bit from here and a bit from there, apply it to your situation and, like a computer, process it.

The result will be at least slightly different from what you started with, because you’ve added the flavor of your own life experiences, knowledge and MAP to the mix—and that’s good, it shouldn’t be an exact copy.

Because, as Oscar Wilde once said, “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.”

Flickr image credit: FindYourSearch

Ignoring Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jbrazito/8401682695/

It is said, “as you sow so shall you reap.”

If you had any doubts the results of our educational system over the last five decades should end them.

It’s too bad politicians, especially those in the GOP, ignored (and continue to ignore)  the words of one of the truly great Republicans.

Abraham Lincoln.

Teach the children so it will not be necessary to teach the adults.

“Children” is plural and, since there is no modifier, inclusive.

Something the US educational system isn’t.

Or perhaps that’s what our politicians want.

An ignorant and unthinking population.

Poor Abe.

He must be spinning in his grave like a top.

Image credit: JBrazito

Ducks in a Row: Millennials (and Everybody) Need Quiet

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/izzie_whizzie/2146972746/

If you’re old enough, like me, you remember when open offices for knowledge workers/professionals, i.e., cubicles, happened.

I dodged that bullet in 1980 when my company moved into new space and I got a private office, but only because of my hearing.

In those days, recruiters spent the day on the phone and, even with an amplifier, I needed quiet to hear my clients and candidates.

Everybody complained; nobody liked the bullpen/open office concept. It did not increase productivity.

Originally, the idea that noise equals energy was sold by restaurant designers.

Trendy places started using smaller tables and packing them more closely together. They eliminated sound absorbing items, such as carpeting, and adding more hard surfaces and louder music, which forced customers to talk louder, thus upping the decibel level even more.

The myth that eliminating walls boosted collaboration and creativity was sold by consultants, architects and office designers and eagerly bought into by management, primarily because it saved money — it’s a lot cheaper to build out no-wall office space.

And it became almost holy writ when discussing Millennials.

But a new survey from Oxford Economics, an analysis firm spun out of Oxford University’s business college, proves that’s not the case. Rather than fancy perks and giveaways, most respondents want quiet.

More than half of the employees complained about noise. The researchers found that Millennials were especially likely to voice concern about rising decibels, and to wear headphones to drown out the sound or leave their desks in search of quieter corners. Among the supervisors, 69 percent reported that their spaces had been laid out with noise reduction in mind; 64 percent had engineered the workplace to mute noise intruding from outside of the office, too.

It takes quite to think, to create, to dream.

Neither today’s world nor workplace lend themselves to quiet.

That may change if workers become vocal enough with their demands.

And vocal is something at which Millennials excel.

Flickr image credit: Elizabeth Ellis

Golden Oldies: The Value of Thinking

Monday, March 21st, 2016

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over nearly a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written. Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.  

It’s been three years since I wrote this, but crowdthinking has increased geometrically, while independent thinking, let alone deep thinking, has decreased in proportion. You have only to consider the questions on Quora and the crowd’s actions/reactions at any political rally to see just how bad it’s become. Read other Golden Oldies here

http://www.flickr.com/photos/alyssafilmmaker/3286298849/

What do you think?

Do you think?

Or perhaps the question is ‘how do you think’ around the clutter and the noise.

“Nobody can think anymore because they’re constantly interrupted,” said Leslie Perlow, a Harvard Business School professor and author of “Sleeping With Your Smartphone.” “Technology has enabled this expectation that we always be on.” Workers fear the repercussions that could result if they are unavailable, she said.

Of course, there is the alternative of ‘why bother thinking’ when one can just ask and receive crowdsourced thoughts on any subject imaginable; from where/what to eat to raising your kids to how/when to die.

But what happens to the crowd when everybody stops bothering to think?

At that point the old saying, everyone has a right to be stupid, but some just abuse the privilege, kicks in with a vengeance.

Rather than joining the crowd, take time to think; you may be one of the few left who do.

Flickr image credit: Alyssa L. Miller

Entrepreneurs: Wisdom from the Internet

Thursday, August 13th, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/aryaziai/9739828346/

Reading/listening/watching the quantity of cyber stuff we all receive, whether by email or social media, is daunting.

It’s worth it, however, because now and then You’ll find a real jewel among all the costume jewelry and plain, old junk.

As I did with this one,

Today, I asked my mentor, a very successful business man in his 70s, what his top 3 tips are for success.  He smiled and said, “Read something no one else is reading, think something no one else is thinking, and do something no one else is doing.”

which makes a great mantra for every entrepreneur.

Flickr image credit: Arya Ziai

The Secret of Improving

Monday, July 29th, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/findyoursearch/5034002771/Personal and professional growth is a major focus for most people—that’s one of the reasons you’re reading this blog.

We research, dissect, write, discuss, preach, teach, and study, all with the goal of improving ourselves.

No matter what you seek to learn/improve think of yourself as a computer.

Huh?

In computing, the term I/O refers to input, whatever is received by the system, and output, that which results from the processing.

Programmers know that the results coming out of the computer won’t be any better than the information given it and this phenomenon is know as “garbage in/garbage out.”

And there you have the secret.

No matter if it’s career-related, relationship-focused personal-internal or something else, I/O applies to everything in life.

What comes out is a function of what you put in.

Blindly accepting everything offered by even the most brilliant source will result in garbage out at some point.

Learning/improving requires critical thinking on your part—no one person, past, present or future, has all the answers.

You need to evaluate the available information, take a bit from here and a bit from there, apply it to your situation and, like a computer, process it.

The result will be at least slightly different from what you started with, because you’ve added the flavor of your own life experiences, knowledge and MAP to the mix—and that’s good, it shouldn’t be an exact copy.

Because, as Oscar Wilde once said, “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.”

Flickr image credit: FindYourSearch

The Value of Thinking

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/alyssafilmmaker/3286298849/What do you think?

Do you think?

Or perhaps the question is ‘how do you think’ around the clutter and the noise.

“Nobody can think anymore because they’re constantly interrupted,” said Leslie Perlow, a Harvard Business School professor and author of “Sleeping With Your Smartphone.” “Technology has enabled this expectation that we always be on.” Workers fear the repercussions that could result if they are unavailable, she said.

Of course, there is the alternative of ‘why bother thinking’ when one can just ask and receive crowdsourced thoughts on any subject imaginable; from where/what to eat to raising your kids to how/when to die.

But what happens to the crowd when everybody stops bothering to think?

At that point the old saying, everyone has a right to be stupid, but some just abuse the privilege, kicks in with a vengeance.

Rather than joining the crowd, take time to think; you may be one of the few left who do.

Flickr image credit: Alyssa L. Miller

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