Saturday, January 30, 2016

Parent Engagement Rules!!

We know that parent engagement matters enormously to the education of our nation's children.  There are countless studies endorsing the influence of parents on things like individual student development, teacher insights to the child's nature, school site improvements, and even district innovations, expenditures, and governance.  Yes, there is a great need for parents to be involved, but...

There Are No
for parents and school districts

It is a process of ever-new negotiations and conclusions.  There are new issues each month, and new players each year.  The experienced parents leave with a wave of resignation and relief, and new parents arrive with their Kindergartners in tow - both with wide-eyed wonder of what awaits them.

Thus, this relationship between district and parents is kept both ever-new and out-of-step as newcomers lag behind the level of knowledge necessary to be a relevant and useful influence.  Only when a few years have passed and the need for intervention becomes obvious enough to warrant an incursion do the parents then risk alienating their children by standing up and demanding better on their behalf.  As the years roll along and new players step to the fore their relevance and usefulness increases but only creates good and useful change when both the parent groups and the district choose to work through their differences for the sake of improving the education of all students.  Regrettably, there are no rules to govern this ever-new engagement and it is usually left in a state of frustrated disarray.

Only through an agreeable and respectable process can both sides be heard, be understood, and become effective as a teamed effort on behalf of all the students in the district.  Too often, it is the parents who are too new to this process and their tact may seem lacking at the outset - participating from a place of confusion and frustration.  Professional administrators and veteran teachers have been through these negotiations, incursions, oppositions, and discussions for many years and have seen the trend of their evolutions.  In their experience, too much dissension without resolved solution occurs, creating a natural reticence to having hope for a healthy process. Parents who care, but are not well-informed about the full extent of what is important, legal, and already-been-tried, will struggle in their ignorance.  Another factor is found in parents who may be inexperienced at community engagement as they often flounder in the choices of their influence; not seeing or knowing much more strategy than, "Should we discuss this or just fight against it?"  Feeling ignorant can cause many parents to more easily choose the latter response.

It is entirely possible to create a legacy-based process of successful inclusion whereby parents are introduced to the engagement process in their first year, or even before.  By educating parents (for the sake of their child's future) they can learn how to successfully:

  • Understand the issues upon the perpetual table
  • Understand their role and needed influence
  • Become party to the work of veteran parent participants
  • Know how and when to evoke and take up a new cause

In such a model, the community of inclusion begins as early as possible to reduce the lost years when good-thinking parents never get into the game.  Veteran parents will have formed effective forums for ideas and questions to be heard where no one is ostracized because everyone has been deliberately and effectively apprenticed or mentored into the culture, roles, and practices of the group.  The district will see the value of this inclusion and this mindful process of debate and elucidation, and support it with meeting locations, informed staff, and a centralized library of accurate information.  There will be a dedicated two-way process of exchanging ideas, knowledge, and solution-based decisions.

Measuring the "befores and afters" of such a program's effectiveness can create historical context to encourage the future arguments for keeping to it.  By creating well-defined and documented processes, even if there is a falling-off in the future for whatever reason, the groups beyond that can reach back and resurrect the once useful architecture, form it into something fresh and relevant for themselves, and start again.

Our nation was formed by the ratification of a Constitution that protects the rights of its people and establishes processes dedicated to fairness, equality, freedom, prosperity, and improvement.  The allowance for amendments proves an incredible forethought toward such a system needing future improvements to maintain its fit and relevance for a changing, growing people.  Any system of parent engagement would do well to review the wise and lasting examples of our nation's architects.  We need parents to be well-informed, relevant, and strong advocates for improving our education system.  However, without a constitutional perpetuity there is little or no likelihood for it to happen.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Creating Relevant Learning

As a student of organizational learning I have seen companies strip traditionalism from their instructional practices and build new employee development programs leveraging current technologies.  In recent conversations with principals and teachers from area schools and district leaders I have seen a slow progression toward the use of technology as a strategy changer.  More and more we will see this happen as the advantages found in technology capabilities become the advantages in education that solve problems for teachers and students.

For example, in one neighborhood where I have been working to move things forward, a large refugee population has been planted in the low-income housing available there.  The schools in that area were already struggling to meet even minimum expectations within the district, and these new families who spoke no English and had come from areas of very rudimentary schooling, brought test score averages even lower.  Obviously, teaching in a traditional manner - which hadn't been working prior to the arrival of hundreds of refugees - was not going to prove successful under these new conditions.  But, education technology might help.

Two of the mightiest strengths of education technology are digital content and individualization.  With digital content it is possible to create relevant lesson content from the most recently published sources.  This may seem a simple solution at first glance, but once the depths of it have been probed there is much more to take advantage of.  For instance, digital content allows teachers to use metro bus schedules and fees for math content, local non-profits as case studies in social studies, and each student's family story as an extension of world history. Teachers could use entry-level job descriptions for reading, research, report writing, and testing material.  A local business or Chamber of Commerce could be the focus of business studies.  Leasing and insurance knowledge could come from math and English classes, and foods studied in science.  Any of these knowledge points will help the refugee students acclimate to local customs sooner.  Also, since these students are the ones learning the most, their families soon start trusting them to know more about their new culture, economy, and opportunities.  This dynamic places an even greater need for relevant and useful knowledge to be taught to the students instead of the usual.  Even if the students are tenth generation Americans, their need for useful knowledge is just as great; helping them evolve their lives out of the plight and mire they grew up in.

With individualization capabilities it is possible to build personally relevant "learning profiles" for each student.  Just like a first glance at digital content, this can also seem like a simple but minutely beneficial thing - until we look deeper into the advantages it creates.

  • When students find an area of interest it can become a path of interest and eventually a career.  
  • When students struggle with any certain aspect of learning (memory, creativity, discernment, detailed observation, analysis, critical thinking, etc.) each new teacher can focus on specific practices to help solve that student's area of weakness or neglect.  
  • When student's prove they can accelerate through some subjects they could be given a green light to pursue next-level courses before their peers.  
  • When using project-based learning each student's contribution and end achievement can be kept on file for their future assessments - like college entry and job applications - like a resume does.  
Now, when looking at the whole picture we can see how education can become more and more relevant to each student's current level of ability, current interests, and current circumstances.  What if a middle school teacher gave a new refugee student a specialized course that teaches English using local laws, citizenship, and shopping for curriculum content?  What if this student's rate of learning was documented in her individual profile and what she learned was also sent to her parents for discussion at home?  Now imagine hundreds of students getting the same opportunities with their own individualized relevant learning.  Wouldn't the impact of these advantages create positive shifts in the neighborhood?  

One of the first arguments against such a program is going to be the amount of time it takes the teacher to create individualized content for each student.  Again, this seems like a simple and valid point at first glance, but once we dig into it a bit we see it differently.  Yes, each new course created by a teacher would be labor and time intensive, but what happens next?  Those courses are libraried for all the teachers to access.  They are created more and more in smaller chunks - segments - which can then be meta-tagged for quick access.  They can also be tied to an assessment matirix to analyze effectiveness and then rated comparatively. Eventually, teachers will be quickly accessing dozens of segments with associated test questions, combining them into customized courses, and tracking each student's progress in a fraction of the time.  (It is then a short hop to the next phase of the customized curriculum evolution where algorithms automatically analyze each student's learning profile and creates lists of suggested learning segments appropriate for his ability level and interests.  

The point here is to create relevant learning that not only captivates the interests of each student but also develops each student to a maximum knowledge outcome. Teachers who only see what they have already known, or can only see one or two steps down the road instead of miles, will resist these potentialities for better student learning simply because they themselves have not learned what is possible.  Perhaps the place to start is by creating relevant learning for the teachers. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Best Tool... EVER!

Here's a simple question.  What is the greatest tool we will ever own in our lifetime?  Let’s first define what we mean by “tool”.  For this question, tool means anything we may use to benefit our life experience, improve our competitive advantages in life, or simply make anything we are doing easier.  Owning it means we have all rights and permissions to control, change, keep, or destroy it.  So, which one is the greatest?

A car is a tool.  A computer is a tool.  A smart phone is a tool.  A pan for cooking?  A refrigerator?  Hammers, drills, rakes, shovels, pens, toothbrushes, hairbrushes, lightbulbs, faucets, air conditioners, shoes, and on and on we could go, right?  These are all good tools that benefit us.  But which one is the greatest?  A smart phone can do an incredible amount of work for us – informing, entertaining, storing, tracking, reminding, and connecting.  Our PC and Mac computers drive a ton of global interaction, creative problem solving, thought capturing, and work station activity.  Our cars and trucks move us and others… and our stuff, around the regions we live in.  And ships and planes cover our global transportation needs so we can have our phones, computers, and cars.  Hmmm.  That seems important.  But which of these tools is the greatest?

Once we have figured out and agreed upon which one is the greatest I have another question, “Are our schools teaching children how to master that tool?”  If it is a smart phone, are schools teaching kids how to master their devices, to analyze and evaluate apps, be aware of threats and dangers, or even to care for and maintain them?  Are they teaching kids to understand PCs from the motherboard to each line of code? Or are they barely teaching them the basics – from the Start button to the usefulness of every toolbar, function, and command in every program?  Do the teachers even know this stuff themselves?

I say, the greatest tool we will ever own is our mind.  It is a vast and powerful device and I can think of nothing more important to teach our children than how to master their understanding of how their own minds work.  I’m talking basic stuff like observation, contemplation, recollection, calculation, communication.  Stuff like intake, processing, and output.  How language works.  How we end up with feelings.  How individualized we all are.  How creativity works.  How a mind is strengthened through practice and mental exercises.  How we can be paid for using our minds.  How it keeps us safe.  How it dares and intrigues us into new challenges.

PCs, mobile devices, cars, air conditioners, and power saws, all come with a manual to help us learn about the basics.  If schools are supposed to be preparing children for life, why do they not get a Mind Manual?

Look at any school system and you will see that it is focused on teaching, not learning.  The greatest thing our minds do is learn, but do we teach children how it does that?  Do we ask them to try different ways of learning as the owners of the tool?  Not very well. 

STEAM pedagogy is just starting to open new avenues of “teaching to the mind”, but, by far and away, the progress is badly lagging behind our global needs and the global competition.  This is where the inertia of ignorance hinders our speed of acceleration, our pace of improvement, and our ability to win jobs, win contracts, create better products, and sell to an intelligent global market.  Why aren’t teacher colleges racing ahead to create the best mental development processes?  Why aren’t teachers “learning centric” instead of delivery centric?  It's called ignorance.  They don't know how learning works and they don't know how to teach to it.

Teacher colleges get better and better at teaching teachers how to teach, but the end user is a learner, and without focusing on that, they miss the boat.  Think about a baker.  If a baker goes to baking school and becomes a great baker they can become a baking teacher.  Better and better baking may be good, but if the breads and cupcakes don't taste good, they won't be eaten.  The end user rules the results.  You may have a wonderfully tall and ornate wedding cake, but if it tastes like paste, what good is it?  Learner centric strategies focus on facilitating the learner's process, their issues, their individual ways and needs, and their individual progress.  Honestly, what matters more than that?

The human mind is the most versatile, complex, capable, instantaneous, and enormous tool we will ever own.  So, why don’t schools teach to it directly?  Sure, math develops many cognitive skills.  Language helps to increase our ability to express mental output.  History gives us contextual relevance and “lessons learned by others”, and science teaches us what others have discovered.  Music class teaches us the language of the G and Treble clef notes.  Art class teaches us paint and drawing skills.  And computer class teaches us which buttons to push.  But, do we teach students to engineer their own mental path?  Do we teach them to think like a scientist, asking, "How do we know this?" Do we teach them to study their own history for "lessons learned"?  Or how to write their own songs, how to decide which brush and color best represents their thought, and how to build a new computer program that fits their personal way of thinking?

From birth, children are very good at knowing what they want.  They have a mind and they use it at a very high rate of speed, and improve its functional ability at a very high rate of adaptation, emulation, and improvisation. By age two they can tell you what they want and why.  By age three, students on pre-school learning programs are already learning basic math and language skills, reading, drawing, memorizing, and much more.  So, why don’t our schools deepen this level of understanding, lengthen these skills and teach the students how this tool works?   Why don't teaching colleges race to understand this and alter what they do because of what they just learned?  Because they are not "learning centric".  Why don't schools teach children how their memory works?  Or teach them about imagination?  They could easily teach them about comparative analysis.  Teach them how to construct their own pedagogical scaffolding.  Teach them to crave meta-cognitive data from assessments.  Not possible?  Wrong.

Ask four students to memorize a series of numbers, let’s say the value of Pi.  Tell them they are practicing a mental function called memory.  Tell them they are not assessed against each other, but only against their own previous efforts.  They will work at their own pace.  They will memorize whatever they do.  3.14 at first.  But, the next time, when they memorize 3.1415926 they will want to know how well they did.   The third time, when they have memorized 3.14159265358979323 they will be able to see their mind doing the work and care about ways of improving their memory skills when such lessons are taught to them.  They will use these lessons to improve their next efforts and their next assessments.  This is a meta-cognitive decision to gain assessment data to evaluate their deliberate efforts to improve how their mind works.  They will be able to own their control of the device and feel responsible for its growth.  If we are teaching people how to drive a car, isn't it worth teaching them how the car works?  Doesn't this enable them better?  Doesn't this allow them to more fully understand how to use the vehicle?

If a student wants to enter the clothing industry, and knows this at age ten, why can’t the schools teach them about the history of clothing, the science of textiles, the engineering of garment manufacturing, the economy of seasonal markets, and the art work of drawing and coloring unique designs?  You've got eight years until they graduate.  Why can’t this student learn these specifics? 

Schools could directly teach students how to manage their own learning, how to strengthen their mental capabilities, how to take responsibility for their tool’s use and worth, and how to use these abilities to take them where they want to go in life.

But, that’s not what school is… is it?

But, it could be.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Of Legacy, Learning, and Cartography

Since the beginning of maritime history, ships’ captains made note of dangerous rocks, shoals, and reefs that lurked just below the surface.  They would record the place and provide bearing references so they could avoid the peril on future voyages.  As sons grew up in captains’ families they were told about the dangers and eventually someone started drawing maps.

It is easy to imagine captains sitting around a rugged table exchanging stories, drinking ale, and looking over a map laid out in front of them.  They would redraw the shoreline, talk of something new that was discovered, and make a mark on the map of a danger or some other importance.  Then someone would take the updated map to the cartographer who would draw a new map including the changes.

This is legacy.  The captains knew they had a responsibility to those who would sail those waters in the years to come.  They knew that someone had helped them to be safer and still alive from what was learned years before, and they knew it was the only honorable thing to do to share what they’ve learned; providing for the future safe passage of people they will never meet. 

As shoals shift with currents, as reefs grow and are destroyed by storms, as ships sink in some distant bay, there has always been a need to record what was discovered and share it for the sake of those who’ll travel the same way years later.  The cartographer is the clearinghouse, the repository, the librarian of such lexicons.  A cartographer will work with the new knowledge and make sure it is accurately represented on the map.  They will combine two or more reports of the same dangerous obstruction and get it as accurate as they can.  As years go by and more and more details come in, the cartographer – having never sailed those waters – keeps updating, editing, and fine tuning the map’s representation and usefulness; for the sake of countless souls who will sail those channels, rivers, and seas while relying on his map.

We are living in a glorious time of legacy building.  Our school systems have proven their obsolescence, their obvious need for updating, and the less obvious dangers of what may befall our students when they reach their adulthood unprepared to be worthy of a job.  We live in a time of huge opportunity.  We are charting new waters of learning.  We are venturing into seas of community involvement, parent groups that have researched the issues and options, and teachers who want to do great things despite the union that drags like an anchor.  We have many new and exciting opportunities to consider.  Like Henry Hudson sailing up river, or Balboa and Cabrillo sailing up the eastern Pacific Coast, we are discovering things that will affect millions who will follow us. 

Whether you are a teacher, a principal, an informed parent, an uninformed parent, a community volunteer, or even a student, you have the responsibility of sharing what you are learning about these waters with a cartographer.  Make notes of what you have seen.  Draw pictures of perils to avoid.  Keep a captain’s log with notes on the good and the bad of your voyages.  And, when you return to port, find a cartographer and share what you have learned about the best and worst ways of education.  Speak to a reporter.  Email a writer.  Create your own blog.  Write an article and share it in your parent group.  Ask teachers and experts to help make it stronger and more accurate.  Write a letter to Congress, state officials, county and district superintendents.  Debate board members seeking your vote.  Get your learning on the map!!

Do not leave some rock, poised like a glass shard on the beach, waiting under the water’s surface for someone who will sail the same way in the years after you did, and have done nothing to warn them.  Did you learn about digital learning? About STEAM education? How to build a parent group into a powerful voice? How to fight bullying in schools?  How to petition the decision makers so they feel included instead of embattled?  Did you speak to someone of vision who changed how you think?  Did you notice the shoal of negativity that drags on the hull and brings things to a halt?  Did you notice the Pirates of Selfishness who steal every good thing for their own sake and leave little or nothing behind for others? 

Who did you tell of what you found?  Whose future voyage did you aid?  What captains did you sit with over ales, or Caramel Machia Lattes, to discuss ventures, perils, and the wonders of discovery?  

What will be your legacy?  Will others have to find their own way, or will you have made it safer for them?  Will you have told someone what you learned for the purpose of aiding others so they can chart new courses to new shores, allowing new lands to be explored, developed and made fruitful?  

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Mountain Peak is At The Bottom of The Pile

Education experts seem to know too much.  I know, this doesn’t seem to make much sense, but bear with me a minute and I think you will agree. 

When people have sought answers they realize how little they know.  Their first question gives an answer, but it also includes many more questions.  In the field of education we have gone from chalkboards with pencil and paper, to Smart Boards and digital tablets.  In order to get from the old way to the new way we went through a million options, questions, and ideas.  But, what do we really know about what works best and what else is possible?  How did we get here?  Was it politics?  Was it budgetary?  Was it provable science?

If we move from paper bound text books to digital text books, how does this change the homework?  What is the cost differential for the publisher?  Can they make profit by killing less trees?  Are editorial versions easier to update and distribute?  Can the text be used in course authorware?  Are tests easier to develop, distribute and grade if done through a web-based database?  Do these databases allow for interstate comparisons?  Can we compare various teachers, teaching styles, teaching experience, teaching colleges, and the impact of district training (professional development) programs? 

As soon as we improve one aspect of education we must automatically wonder – what else is possible, how do we know what’s best, and how can we prove it to others.  Science methods teach us to look for answers and to use methodologies that allow us to document and prove what we’ve learned.  When experts of science state what they have learned we know that they can prove it.  Scientifically proven results become added to the foundations of human knowledge and eventually somebody else will come along and build on it.  This is true progress.
In the world of education there is no science to the changes being made, and therefore there is no way to compare what is being done one way against what someone else does.  Science is a deliberate and managed way of learning.  Yet, it seems education experts would rather argue and stand on rhetorical analysis than deliberately manage a comparative study.  As a result, these education experts become easily satisfied that their latest revelation is an improvement without any real proof.  Perhaps it is simply some confidence and a whim that is required.  With these rules in place anyone can be an expert simply by saying so. 

The people who have worked their way up in the industry should be congratulated for surviving a journey of huge attrition, low morale, and a starvation of passion, but they are not really experts on what’s best or possible.  They are merely experts on how to work within the very machine they are charged with maintaining.  To change the machine they would actually be endangering their own future careers because no one would be able to predict what else might change, what will grow in importance, what will become irrelevant and disposable, and what change is worth the money of today’s competitive choices and the needs tomorrow will demand of it.  Without clear answers there is little room for certainty and too high a risk for guessing wisely.

So, education experts, without relying upon science, conjure their ideas creatively, surmise some sort of theory, and add pragmatic functions to make it work.  It seems ingenious when we compare it to yesterday’s ideas, but are we really improving education?  What proof do we have?

In the business world where everything is measured against competitive profitability, there is a constant call for proof.  Every department head must justify their decisions against the bottom line.  As a result their approach to learning – as a necessary and important function of success – is a combination of effectiveness, efficiency, and leveraged outcome.  Did their people learn it?  Was the knowledge transfer done quickly and cheaply?  Are they using it to improve the company’s competitive ability?

The driving force of profits is just an alternative measurement for comparison and whether or not success is being attained.  In sports we have scores.  In medicine we have survival rates.  In politics we have votes.  In education we have standardized tests that measure student ability, but no measure of specific methods. Is this teacher’s college bringing better results to students in life than that teacher’s college?   Who’s measuring these things?  Why aren’t specific instruction methods, theories, and forms of technology integration the object of exploration, measurement, and comparison?  Why don’t education experts dig into the pile of possible choices and perform scientific comparisons? 

We all seek the mountain top; the place supreme where we know we have scaled the cliffs of change, strained against the gravity of institutionalized bureaucracies, and arrived at a place where we can both – see the horizon better than anyone else – and be “looked up to” by others who want what we have found.  To reach the mountain top one must dig.  We must look under every stone.  We must dig into the work of establishing scientific protocols, improving those protocols over time, and sweat our way through the analysis of data.  Learning is about digging into the body of knowledge and exploring what is found.  Only when the pile of options has been thoroughly dug through and sorted can we know that we know.  Only when what we found is proven to be the top choice can we rest at the mountain top and enjoy the view for a few moments before we begin again. 

Only those who think they know enough will refuse to dig.  This is because being an expert without proof allows one to lean on his or her shovel, happily not digging anymore; happily feeling the contentment of their ignorance.  How can that person really be a leader of learning? 

Learners dig. 

Grab a shovel.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Creating Begrudgement of Learning

What a neat trick.

How could we be more clever than to take eager learners and brainwash them into believing that learning is a thing to avoid?

Is it a government conspiracy to create more docile masses?

Pre-K kids are full of wonder and curiosity.  They love to talk excitedly about the new thing they learned today. They can't wait to tell Mommy and Daddy all about the rabbit they met, or the plants they grew in a vegetable garden.  If left alone to decide for themselves, they would eagerly explore a hundred new things each day.  What they lack is a way of managing their search and building long-term search practices.

So, in the 1890's, we became a society that wrestles them under control to force them to learn what someone once thought was needed.  To be relevant today, school needs to find out what the ideal "new employee" needs to have - what skills, knowledge, and drive will serve them and their company the best.

Instead, we continue to create a begrudging, reluctant, disengaged, doubting, and deeply frustrated group of graduates who struggle to know what they are interested in.  When they were three they knew what they were interested in.  What they know now, at a mostly sub-conscious level, is that they no longer like learning, believe they should wait to be told what to learn, and have no real skills for exploring.  Sure, they will learn to get a job and keep a job, but they do so begrudgingly.  If left to their own volition, most products of our school system choose to not be seekers, explorers, or learners.

What a neat trick.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Origins of A New Culture

Just as it takes a wise person to look within and realize their own needs to change; to look long and hard at the truth of themselves, their own shortcomings, and acknowledge their subterranean desires to improve - desires more deeply-rooted than the layers of "brick and mortar reasoning" they have been piling up since birth - it takes a wise culture to realize its flaws and take actions that shift things for the better.

The Roman Catholic Church has adapted to the changing world to remain relevant and accessible so it may serve its flock.  Australia saw the loss of life as too great a price to pay for guns and the mass murders that are part of a gun culture, so they changed.  Communist-bred generations rose up and said, "No more."  And even the narcissistic and brutal culture of the NFL is looking to improve its standards for what is acceptable behavior toward wives and children.  Cultures, like individuals, can take long, hard looks at themselves and decide to make changes.

But, it takes leadership.  It takes a single man in Algeria lighting himself on fire to create the Arab Spring.  It took Mikhail Gorbachev manifesting perestroika into a "permission to change" that allowed the Iron Curtain to fail.  It takes a Cesar Chavez speaking for the rights of those who cannot.  It took Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking the truth about what our nation's birthright was missing.  It took Mahatma Gandhi to teach a nation how to win its independence without becoming like the bully it sought to depose.

Our children "in utero" will have no say-so about what school system they inherit.  They will not go shopping for the right fit.  They will not be able to return it for defective workmanship.  They will not be able to get a refund of their time spent trying to fit into a culture that destroys the desire to learn and self-actualize.  But, they could be given a new culture.

Our national school system is crumbling and failing, and the next generation of education systems is waiting in the wings for someone on stage to bring them out from behind the curtain.  But... will those who are on stage share the spotlight?  The audience is booing.  They are screaming for a better act.  And yet the system we have doesn't know how to exit gracefully.  There will come a day and a way for the new generation to make its splash, but until then we are left wondering how it will happen, how it will look, and whether we will really like it or not.

Where do the seeds come from that germinate and grow into a whole new species of schools?  Where do they get planted, watered, fed, protected, and allowed to eventually drop their fruit for new generations of schools?  Would we know what these seeds would even look like if we saw them?  Imagine the orchard grower who brought Johnny Appleseed's "best" south with him to Florida's tropical plains only to have his apple trees not grow very well and not produce much fruit - if any.  Would he realize orange pips would be the answer to his dreams?  Would he buy a sack of them cheap and commit to them by planting an orchard?

The origins of a new school system require wisdom.  The leaders of the current culture must see the need and be willing to not only allow change, but to manage, support, advocate, and commit to "whatever needs doing" to make it happen.  This can be political suicide, and yet it will also be a legacy of historical proportions.

Lincoln's changing of the Union cost him his life.  Martin Luther King, Jr. paid with his own as well.  The Australian Parliamentarians who voted out the guns were not re-elected.  Mikhail Gorbachev is an embittered pariah in his own country.  And there are many stories throughout history where the masses who made up the culture did not understand the need for change as well as the wise ones who made it happen.  It takes guts.  It takes a willingness to serve the children of tomorrow with a better tomorrow, a legacy that gives more than would otherwise be available.

The true culture of our education system is found in the roots of what we currently have.  Before we had any education system we had only a hunger for it.  We had a nation of people wanting more, wanting better, and wanting better for the future generations.  This is our culture... the roots of our greatness.  The hunger for a better tomorrow and the freedom to make it happen is who we are at our national core

The towns that didn't have schools wanted them.  Colleges were too far and too few.  There was only a disorganized, discordant smattering of options, and yet people were happy to have something... anything.  The need for mandated testing to ensure uniformity of quality was way beyond their scope of dreams.  The use of technology to facilitate the flow of ubiquitous knowledge was not even a dream of educators thirty years ago.  And, keeping the old system because "It's what we have" and "It's what we're used to" is not good enough reasoning... it's not consistent with our heritage.  There is a hunger growing in the land and there needs to be a new species of schools.  The same hunger for "better" that was at the root of our present system's birth is here again.  And it is up to us who are here and can see it to create the new and better just as the Committee of Ten did in 1892.

The origins  of a new education culture begin in the lives of the next born as they encounter the concept of school and then follow their own curiosity and "desire to know all things".  The new culture must harken to the wisdom of following the lead of these children - creating education systems that serve (and do not hinder) their natural acceleration of wonder; their natural excitement for learning. The new culture must be compiled of current trends, current knowledge, and the future trends of technology that will carry the perpetuation of this better system, and then we must shift toward that system as gracefully and quickly as possible.

The origins of a new culture are found in two places.  First, it comes from the hunger for a better tomorrow; for a better life for those who follow us.  And, second, it comes from the willing servants who lead us now; the ones who can see the road ahead; who know how to manage the changes that are needed; and who are wise enough to make it happen - even unto their own demise.  Once we have set these two forces free from the constraints of oppressive traditionalism, we will be on our way.  Things will move.  Things will change, and new expectations will arise - and the masses will come around to appreciate their better tomorrows... without really knowing or caring how we got there.