The secular world should realize that the closest thing we have to a multi-cultural meeting of faith and souls only occurs once each two years, and we should all take the Olympics fortnight off as a global vacation. Guess not; back to work (but the iPad and London streams are close at hand!)
Catching up on important reads:
Assumptions are our friends when tested with questions, and the true enemy of good systems-based decision-making when left unchallenged. Erin Paynter suggests another great start-of-the-school-year exercise for faculty and administrative teams: go back and ask ourselves “What assumptions are you holding re: students, parents, teaching, admin, etc. that is either inspiring or motivating you to move forward, grow, develop, change? What assumptions are holding you back? In light of the assumptions that may be holding you back, what can we do to help each other? Why we do what we do, not the what – the grades, the tests, the performance standards, etc.” As I wrote in The Falconer, the longer we go without testing foundational assumptions, the more fragile our systems become. Even one of my students recognized this when she asked, “What happens when you cut off one of the legs of the stool of our own understanding?”
We have all grown used to the metaphor of silos as a measure of how our segmented organizations operate to resist innovation. Kevin Farthing, writing at Innovation Excellence, reminds us that strong intra-school communication, the creation and empowerment of strong interdisciplinary teams, and management creation of shared cultural objectives are critical to silo-busting. One more that he notes that runs contrary to school cultural norms: redefine and recognize innovation heroes. Academic organizations rarely reward those who stick their heads “above the parapet”; yet lacking that courage, innovations is DOA. If you are serious about the need to innovate your academic program, hire, develop, retain, celebrate, and empower employees at ALL levels who are willing to champion risks.
Marion Brady, writing via Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post argues that the quantity and disorganization of content that we place at the core of education is not only wrong-thinking, it is being dramatically exacerbated by adoption of Common Core Standards. CCS is an extension of industrial age thinking, fertilized by subject-specific interest groups and publishers who believe more content is better education. When are we going to learn that in the knowledge age less is more, that we must re-direct time and resources away from trying to dump more stuff into the already overwhelmed and poorly contextualized brain buckets of children? Until school leaders set aside hours each week and significant sections of every curriculum for pure contextual thought and interdisciplinary organization of information, students are going to stay on the same old assembly line.
Finally, as reported around the world, thousands protested in Hong Kong yesterday as authorities imposed China’s state standard history program in the former colony. Yes, China is far more liberal than it was 40 years ago in the horror of the Cultural Revolution. Yes, it is borderline politically incorrect for a Western liberal like me to criticize our Chinese friends. But this is still by far the largest oligarchy/borderline dictatorship on Earth, and brainwashing students with a sanitized version of 19th and 20th Century history is dangerous at best. We cannot forget the recent lessons of communist revisionism. These are utterly antithetical to the trend toward more open and democratic society, and once again call into question the commitment of this generation of Chinese leadership to ever evolve past their passionate hold on central control of mind, economy, and culture. As pointed out above failure to question assumptions is a critical flaw, and the Chinese government just fired a big shot into the bow of learners’ ability to question assumptions.