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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

Privilege, Bootstraps, And Reality

Wednesday, June 14th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/littlehuw/9410579316/

Yesterday we looked at the hypocritical nature of Walmart’s culture, but perhaps it’s a reflection of what’s happening across the US, as opposed to an attitude unique to Walmart.

In the last half century, economic, political and social changes have altered not only the makeup of the workforce, but also what it takes to get a job and support oneself, let alone a family. 

Public policy does little to mitigate what’s happening, and much of enterprise is retreating.

“You end up with this perfect storm where workplace and public policies are mismatched to what the workforce and families need,” said Vicki Shabo, vice president at the non-partisan National Partnership for Women & Families (NPWF). (…) Overall progress for workers has been slow, because the country is attached to an “ideal myth of America.” One where you pull yourself up by your bootstraps [emphasis mine].

Assuming bootstraps were once real, do they still exist?

Of course, there is no doubt that privilege is real — no matter how often and how much people deny it.

We all need to remind ourselves of our advantages: whether it’s straight privilege, or financial privileges, or able-bodied privilege, or whatever extra boost we’ve gotten. Humans are prone to credit our successes to our own ingenuity, true or not. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, asked randomly selected subjects to play Monopoly. But the game was rigged. The winner of a coin toss got twice the starting cash and higher bonuses for passing Go.

Not surprisingly the advantaged players won. But as they prospered, their behavior changed. They moved their pieces more loudly than their opponents, reveled in triumphs and even took more snacks. Some, when asked about their win, talked about how their strategy helped them succeed. They began to think they earned their success, even though they knew the game was set up in their favor [emphasis mine].

Bootstraps depend on who you are.

Thorstein Veblen’s The Theory of the Leisure Class was published in 1899 and in it he coined the term “conspicuous consumption” — no definition required.

Although you still find that in the 1%, Elizabeth Currid-Halkett, a sociologist, has a new book, The Sum of Small Things: A Theory of the Aspirational Class — a new term that better represents the far-reaching consequences of what’s happening today.

Who is the aspirational class?

Highly educated and defined by cultural capital rather than income bracket, these individuals earnestly buy organic, carry NPR tote bags, and breast-feed their babies. They care about discreet, inconspicuous consumption—like eating free-range chicken and heirloom tomatoes, wearing organic cotton shirts and TOMS shoes, and listening to the Serial podcast. They use their purchasing power to hire nannies and housekeepers, to cultivate their children’s growth [emphasis mine], and to practice yoga and Pilates.

These kids grow up with better health, better education, more enrichment, a solid belief of their place in life.

No matter how liberal their parents’ politics, they consider the world they inhabit the norm.

Few consider it privileged — after all, their parents aren’t actually rich.

Most of these kids are white.

And so the cycle continues.

(Thanks to KG for sending me the first article.)

Image credit: Huw

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

Wasting US Research

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016
https://twitter.com/teachDetroit/status/687090207649325056/photo/1

snow INSIDE classroom window

There is something wrong in the US.

We do the research, but the results are often implemented in other countries, with enviable outcomes, but ignored here.

It was adoption of the work of American Edwards Deming by Japanese industry, especially automobiles, that changed “made in Japan” from a symbol of shoddy work to one of world-class quality—decades before the US moved in that direction.

Despite being honored in Japan in 1951 with the establishment of the Deming Prize, he was only just beginning to win widespread recognition in the U.S. at the time of his death in 1993.

When it comes to education, it’s Finland.

Year after year, Finland is ranked as one of the world leaders in education while America lags far behind.
But it’s not that Finland knows more about how to build effective schools than the US does.
Almost all education research takes place in the US, and American schools can’t seem to learn from any of it — and yet Finnish people do.
Over time, the ideas have helped shape the Finnish education system as one that prizes autonomy, peer learning, collaboration, and varied forms of assessment. These were all ideas developed at one time or another by American theorists, yet modern American classrooms — noted for their heavy reliance on tests and teacher-guided lectures — bear little resemblance to those up north.

Bjarke Ingels, Danish architect of Two World Trade Center, Google North Bayshore and many others, made a telling comment that the US would do well to take to heart.

“The education of our youth is one of the best investments any society can make. In that sense, not investing in our future is simply the worst place to cut corners.”

It took the US 40 years to embrace quality and we’re still playing catch-up.

We don’t have 40 years when it comes to education.

Image credit: @ Detroitteach

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

What Value Liberal Arts?

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/infomastern/15102671073

I constantly read/hear that if you want your kids to have a good life focus on a purely STEM curriculum and they’ll be home free.

Moreover, if they are great at coding they don’t even need college.

While it may be true, at least at this point in time, that they can get a good job if they have strong coding skills, what they are unlikely to get is a promotion that takes them beyond coding, whether in a technical or leadership/management role.

Pulitzer Prize winner (twice) Nicholas Kristof, a columnist for The New York Times, with 1.4 million followers on Twitter, 1.3 million followers on Google+ and 600,000 followers on Facebook (click ‘more’ to see his bio) sums up the value of a humanities, AKA, liberal arts, degree 1, 2, 3.

First, liberal arts equip students with communications and interpersonal skills that are valuable and genuinely rewarded in the labor force, especially when accompanied by technical abilities.

My second reason: We need people conversant with the humanities to help reach wise public policy decisions, even about the sciences.

Third, wherever our careers lie, much of our happiness depends upon our interactions with those around us, and there’s some evidence that literature nurtures a richer emotional intelligence.

Even the most rabid coders don’t want to do it for 40 years.

But if your knowledge of society is limited to code and your ability to interact with others is negligible, then you are left with little choice.

Even a degree in STEM or business won’t give you the broad outlook or emotional intelligence it takes to be promoted, let alone start a successful company.

The best way to assure yourself a bright future, whether you decide to code or earn a “useful” degree, is to patronize your library as so many “self-made” folks did/do

Stay away from your area of expertise, instead wander sections of which you have no knowledge, select books randomly and read at every opportunity.

Image credit: Susanne Nilsson

Ducks in a Row: What to Hire

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/simon_cocks/4308515919/Here are the three main things to consider when hiring in order of their importance.

They aren’t rocket science, but they work.

  1. Attitude—convincing someone to change it is like convincing the horse to drink the water.
  2. Skills—can be learned; look for the frequency of job moves that required new skills.
  3. Degrees—are like new cars that lose value the minute you take them off the lot.

Make sure the culture and management style they expect, based on discussions when interviewing, is what they get.

And practice daily the three main actions that will keep them loyal.

  1. Appreciate them.
  2. Provide ways for them to make a difference and notice when they do.
  3. Provide feedback and challenges to help them grow.

Again, not rocket science.

Flickr image credit: Simon Cocks

Expand Your Mind: Real Innovation in Higher Ed

Saturday, October 20th, 2012

Education, at least higher education, is finally changing and moving forward. And like a jar of olives after you pull out the first one the rest come out faster and faster.

The exorbitant cost of a college education and the spiraling debt of new grads have led many to question the value of a college degree; what no one questions is the need for continual, ongoing education just to stay relevant.

The need to constantly adapt is the new reality for many workers, well beyond the information technology business. Car mechanics, librarians, doctors, Hollywood special effects designers — virtually everyone whose job is touched by computing — are being forced to find new, more efficient ways to learn as retooling becomes increasingly important not just to change careers, but simply to stay competitive on their chosen path.

The recognition that the game needs to change is being combined with an entrepreneurial spark to form new ventures that could make all the difference.

“Higher education will change; the system is unstable,” says Kevin Werbach, a Wharton legal studies and business ethics professor, who is teaching a MOOC on Coursera this summer. “It’s an industry that will be in severe turmoil in the next decade. There are so many schools in distress, and the student loan burden is [huge]. In that environment, online platforms like Coursera are an interesting opportunity.” (…) In April, Coursera announced it had secured $16 million in funding from two Silicon Valley venture capital firms. Udacity is also venture backed. MIT and Harvard contributed a combined $60 million to launch edX, which is overseen by a nonprofit, but program directors have said they plan to make the initiative self-supporting.

The new efforts dwarf the few classes that started being offered online about ten years ago. There are no actual course credits, but with major universities, such as Harvard and MIT jumping in things are getting interesting.

In what is shaping up as an academic Battle of the Titans — one that offers vast new learning opportunities for students around the world — Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Wednesday announced a new nonprofit partnership, known as edX, to offer free online courses from both universities.

Other startups are jumping in along with edX to offer Massive Open Online Courses, AKA, MOOCs, which are true game-changers.

In a new report, Moody’s Investor Service calls MOOCs a “pivotal development” that has the potential to revolutionize higher education. Questions remain whether these online courses can be profitable and whether traditional colleges will award credit for them. But if successful, MOOCs could lead to lower costs for families and access to higher-quality instruction for anyone in the world who has Internet access.

As to the grads, according to the media most of them want to be entrepreneurs or are still looking for riches on Wall Street, but not all. What other career path is attracting interest these days—would you believe farming?

For decades, the number of farmers has been shrinking as a share of the population, and agriculture has often been seen as a backbreaking profession with little prestige. But the last Agricultural Census in 2007 showed a 4 percent increase in the number of farms, the first increase since 1920, and some college graduates are joining in the return to the land. (…) “You don’t get into farming for the money. You do it for the love of the game.” –Calvin Kyrkostas, 25

Flickr image credit: pedroelcarvalho

Drugged Grads for Hire

Monday, June 18th, 2012

http://www.flickr.com/photos/thejavorac/6556949031/Note that the following questions refer to high achievers and not the educationally disenfranchised.

Do you like to hire from top schools?

When filling entry-level positions do you rely on GPAs for insight to candidates’ performance?

Would you hire a candidate who abused prescription drugs?

What will you do when the first two are dependent on the third?

At high schools across the United States, pressure over grades and competition for college admissions are encouraging students to abuse prescription stimulants, according to interviews with students, parents and doctors. Pills that have been a staple in some college and graduate school circles are going from rare to routine in many academically competitive high schools…

Kids are smart and many of them find it easy to con the family doctor in to writing a prescription, which turns them into entrepreneurs as they keep some and sell the rest to their schoolmates.

How will these kids perform when cramming isn’t an option and success depends on more than correct answers on a test?

How will these kids build sustainable, long-term careers, let alone companies?

How will they raise their children?

What will their effect be on America’s ability to compete globally?

What are you doing about it?

Flickr image credit: The Javorac

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