Fits & Fugues

Education can be so much more.

A Whole New Mind Book Study Part 4.07.08 -Success and Meaning

We wrapped up the last chapter of the book this weekend with a discussion on Meaning. The next step for participants is to post on our book discussion page to the Now What? section. They get to write (and respond) about what they are going to do with their whole new mind. I’m very interested in seeing the responses. I know for sure one of the art teachers in the group has been having her AP Art students read it.

As we discussed the Meaning chapter, some of my previous thinking surfaced and I found myself (probably) rambling on to the group about the various definitions of success we have in education and how they are tied to meaningfulness. It went something like this…

It doesn’t sit well with me that our primary gauges of success in education are college and workforce readiness. The most obvious response is “if it’s not college or workforce readiness, then what?” It’s a struggle to come up with an answer. However, if we define success (through school mission statements, especially) as economically productive, competitive global citizens prepared for future success (or some derivation like that). Many schools don’t necessarily have that idea explicitly stated, but our practices, often externally mandated, reveal such a focus. The big testing companies sell their world-o-work diagnostic tool as part of their business models so kids can know at 16, 17, 18 where they fit in the world of work or college. How do we reconcile this with some of the labor statistics and college major numbers cited by Did You Know and Shift Happens? I suppose that means we should be producing well-rounded students who have the ability to adapt and continue learning their whole lives. That seems to stand in contrast of streamlining kids into specific career and college paths. Do and will some kids go that route? Sure, but I’m not convinced that we should structure our educational systems so that all kids have to. Regardless, our system is structured to produce college and workforce ready people and that’s how we define our success and how we’ll expect them to define their success. The ways to success are to get a good job either with a college degree or without it.

What does good job mean for many people? Good money. Satisfaction and fulfillment all play a part, but like some fool said in answer to how much money is enough…just a little more. So there it is. If our definitions of success and meaning are closely and inextricably tied to that path of success, then the acquisition of wealth is really our metric. After all, it’s how we evaluate the colleges and businesses that pass dictates and judgements on to our schools. What about colleges why we’re at it. Why so many college drop outs? They want to blame inadequate preparation in high school, but perhaps it’s an inadequate ability for colleges to create meaning for their students as the colleges propel students to corporate bondage.

So now that we have defined education over the last 100+ years in the context of joining corporate America, we have no other way to define education. And that brings me back to “if it’s not college or workforce readiness, then what?” Self determination; the pursuit of happiness; the pursuit of knowledge; the search for meaning, service, caring, compassion, passion, creativity, individual expression, and on and on. Does any of it generate income? Can a corporate society support such an approach? It’s hard to conceive and even harder to see how these directly increase the bottom line. Can we do without college and workforce readiness? No. Can we do without all those other things in the pursuit of college and workforce readiness? Not for very much longer. If you think I’ve missed the mark, then I ask you to ponder the following and give an honest answer.

If a society defines success as the acquisition of wealth and the individual loses the capacity to create wealth, what value and meaning does the individual have to that society?

April 14, 2008 Posted by | Education | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Whole New Mind Book Study Part 2.07.08 –What’s the big IDEA?

As part of the blog and discussions, I have developed some points overall and for each chapter to spark thoughts and conversations. In keeping with the Whole New Mind theme, I call it IDEA. No, not the special education acronym, but one for the book as a whole and then each chapter on the aptitudes.  I ask A Whole New Mind book study participants to consider…

Overall

  • Intersection
  • Discovery
  • Examination
  • Application 

For Design

  • Incorporation
  • Democratization
  • Engagement
  • Alignment

For Story

  • Intention
  • Direction
  • Explanation
  • Association

For Symphony

  • Innovation
  • Determination
  • Elevation
  • Assimilation

For Empathy

  • Intuition
  • Demonstration
  • Emotion
  • Amplification

For Play

  • Invigoration
  • Distribution
  • Enjoyment
  • Advancement

For Meaning

  • Implication
  • Discussion
  • Epiphany
  • Analysis 

One of the interesting parts is that any IDEA in any chapter could be applied to any other chapter. I don’t define the bullets very much leaving the connections to the individual members. My goal is to get them looking at each bullet and find intersections of the book and their professional practice, uncover discoveries of ways to engage themselves (and later kids) in the big-picture ideas, examine the way they (and kids) do what they do, and apply all of it in a 21st century (or a Whole New Mind) context. The results are as mixed and as varied as you might think.

As a side note, besides Dan Pink, I have to give credit to Dan Maas who first made a presentation about A Whole New Mind at a CASE conference session that provoked some thoughts that wouldn’t stop needling me. As a result, I read the book and began thinking about the implications for education.  I needed to hear from others and the book study was born. I still need to hear from others, which is why it’s here now.

February 3, 2008 Posted by | Education | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Whole New Mind Book Study Part 1.07.08

This school year I have been meeting with a group of teachers for another book study centering on Dan Pink’s A Whole New Mind.  This time I have two art teachers, a counselor, a special education teacher, three social studies teachers, two English teachers, a technology teacher, a math teacher, and a science teacher. It’s my privilege to be a part of it once again. Be sure to see my post about last year’s book study and what that group did.

I have had some interest in the process I use for leading the book study. So I post here a few guidelines. I’m a little reluctant to put a bunch of content up here because the true power is to customize the study based on the group and their common community. With that said, I did develop some questions for the first three chapters specifically and the remaining chapters generally. I’ve listed some of those below.

The structure of the study has us meeting once a month through the school year (weather permitting) on Saturdays for two hours with the discussion revolving around one chapter. The first three chapters encompass one meeting at the onset. For the chapters on the six senses, we discuss the chapter part and usually transition into some items in the Portfolio section. When I prepare for the group meeting each month, I see what resources I have bookmarked from the Portfolio section and spend some (often too much) time following links and reading blogs and going down digital rabbit trails. Those trails have turned up some goodies that really seem to get great conversations started or help transition to new ideas.

In addition to the meetings, I have created a blog using our district’s web software. I password protect this blog for various reasons, but mostly because I think the sharing among peers is a little more honest and reflective when it’s not subject to the scrutiny of the outside world. Some would argue that we’re missing out on the exchange of ideas on a global scale, but right now, the ideas are for them. I also have them complete a culminating project of some kind to satisfy the fiduciary duty to the district and taxpayers. Projects have ranged from a simple reflection paper to unit designs to in-service sessions to redesigning entire courses and course expectations.

I have approached the first meetings of both studies in much the same insidious way: we’re here to change the world one classroom at a time. The book studies aren’t about complete indoctrination; they’re about giving perspective and providing reflection. The best meetings have often resulted when I have only made the opening welcome and comment or question and have said nothing more. To listen to the conversations, to see the ideas germinate and grow, to feel the energy build as professionals honestly and passionately discuss how they can change the world with their classrooms, that’s why I got into education.

The questions for Chapters 1-3 often start by directing them to a specific point in the reading and turning their thinking to an element of education or culture. Some of them are unsettling once you kind of jump in and get dirty. Some simply elicit a nod of sympathetic recognition. Even though the book is not directly about education, the implications for education are staggering. Should you end up deciding to use the questions, I’d simply ask you to refer to the Creative Commons license on this blog for attribution information. If you’d like more information or to discuss more about the book studies, leave me a comment indicating so with whatever contact information you deem relevant.

A Whole New Mind of Questions -Part 1 -Chapters 1-3 and on

  • What is a knowledge worker?
    • Are schools designed to produce them?
    • What will be the responsibility of schools of the future related to knowledge working?
  • What kind of thinking has dominated the last few decades?
    • Where do schools fit into this structure?
    • What will be the responsibilities of schools of the future?
  • How is the organization of the book metaphorical for the brain?
    • How do schools touch both sides of the brain?
    • How should schools touch both sides of the brain?
    • What are obstacles in making this happen?
  • What is high touch and why is it important?
    • Where is this important in our schools?
    • Who has the aptitude to make this happen?
  • What is high concept and why is it important?
    • Where is this important in our schools?
    • Who has the aptitude to make this happen?
  • What is L-Directed Thinking?
    • Where has been its role in the Information Age?
    • What is the importance of this thinking in the Conceptual Age?
    • What has been education’s role related to this kind of thinking?
  • What is R-Directed Thinking?
    • What is the importance of this thinking in the Conceptual Age?
    • What will be education’s role related to this kind of thinking?
  • What are examples of abundance in education?
    • What do schools in general or our school specifically offer of value and meaning in this age of abundance?
  • Will Asia and related outsourcing be a factor in education?
    • What parts of the educational program could be outsourced?
  • How will automation change education?
    • Note: The question is not will, but how.
  • Why is high tech no longer enough in education?
    • Did education even get there?
  • How have MBA’s (or their thinking) had a place in education?
  • Do MFA’s (or their thinking) have a place in education?
  • Is education at the end of the Information Age if it has it made it there?
  • How does Education currently answer the three questions?
    • What is the value in coming to the schoolhouse?
    • Or how does our school answer the three questions?
  • How should educators respond to the ideas in the IQ and EQ section?
    • Should education emphasize both IQ and EQ?
    • How could this be done?
    • What would an EQ school look like?
  • How does the Money and Meaning section play out in the educational structure?

Big Questions -Part 1 and throughout

  • What are the implications of these ideas for the classroom?
  • What are the implications of these ideas for the school?
  • What are the implications of these ideas for the district?
  • What are the implications of these ideas for the state?
  • What are the implications of these ideas for education in the U.S. and the world?

January 31, 2008 Posted by | Education | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments