Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

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FOOTBALL: Another American Dilemma Unfolding

September 16, 2012

As we move into the 21st century, advancements in research and brain science are challenging many 20th century “realities and truths” in our society.

Most of you know I feel strongly about how that impacts our education system.  When I say education is an issue today in America, I  am not referring to the inclination of one of our political parties to underfund education or use education budgets to make up deficits or support a favorite war cause where those same uneducated become disposable human resources.   And I do not mean more funding to support the early 20th century educational system that was designed to complement an industrial age that no longer exists and which we continue to hold up as our model.

Instead, I am focusing on a larger issue and mean we need funding for the thought-leaders in education who understand the rapidly emerging societal, business, and labor changes of the 21st century.  We need open minds, a review of new emerging world theories and practices, experimentation, and careful evaluation of results; followed by funding to support and retrofit our own outdated educational system top to bottom to meet the needs before us for the next 75-100 years.

But education aside, that same research and brain science calling for educational reform is also challenging our infatuation with high school, college, and pro sports and changes needed therein. A strong relationship between impact sports and brain damage is emerging.  Unfortunately it meets head on with “winning is everything”.  It seems that without a world war to feed our patriotism as it did in the first half of the 20th century, we have turned our carefully-honed “winning” instincts to business and sports. Winning became everything; workers and players became dispensable.

And today, the Wally Hilgenburg story in the Strib brings home that unfolding dilemma where emerging understanding of our brains is on a course to intersect with that “winning is everything” American culture.   And we as a country need to take this seriously!

[Disclosure:  I like football; however, I am not passionate about it.  All sports are trumped, for me, by meaningful conversations and interaction-which by definition exclude cheering, cursing, hollering- with family and friends, or occasionally even work. In those instances, sports/entertainment  take a second seat.  Generally, I am happy for “our team” if they win—but I neither despair nor mourn if they do not]

And so with a view of sports as entertainment, it may be easier, I guess, for me to recognize the dilemma before us as a nation.   What do we choose when dollars are limited – investment in sports programs or educational systems?  When entertainment pleasure is gained through sacrifice of human beings; is the personal gratification worth it?

I don’t pretend to know the answers; I only ask that we don’t just sweep this under the rug.  It could be YOUR child that is impacted; it could be YOUR mother or father that is injured.  I only ask that we weigh American culture and history against that of the Romans and the gladiators and intelligently move forward to ensure that above all else, we value the quality of human life and continue to make adjustments to protect it, as we learn how revered entertainment practices may endanger it.

 

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The Jobs Debate We Ought To Have

July 16, 2012

FINALLY, a reprint in the STRIB of editorial from Bloomberg News that makes some sense!

This entire argument about off-shoring and out-sourcing, may have been appropriate in the 1950s, but come on, people, we LIVE in a world of globalization!  And more important, as a country, we benefit from it and will continue to benefit from it when we act like collaborative partners with those countries that are increasingly playing important and contributive roles in the global economy.  And let’s not forget where the innovation came from that allowed for the rapid growth of globalization.  If we don’t like it, and would prefer to lock to the doors to the country – no immigrants in; no jobs outsourced – we have no one to blame but ourselves!

However, like it or not, the world around us has awakened and moved forward.  We have good examples of what has happened to countries like China and Russia in the past, when afraid, or unable to keep up, chose to lock the doors and wither inside.  

 Think about this argument in the article:

For U.S. corporations , globalization isn’t just about cheaper wages.  Companies create jobs outside the country to pursue sales opportunities in new markets, get closer to suppliers in fast-growing regions and employ people who understand local tastes.  Even if labor costs were equal, companies would still hire abroad because that’s where the talent pool is.  Companies that don’t do any of this for patriotic reasons will be at a disadvantage to European and Asian competitors, probably resulting in lost market share and more U.S. layoffs.

Are there downsides to globalization?  Of course.  Can we minimize the impact if we address the right issues?  Probably.

But the two little boys fighting in the national presidential sandbox today are not going to solve the problem with their approach. 

Those that follow my blog will recognize the thinking expressed in the last two paragraphs of the editorial:

An honest discussion would require both sides to face…unpleasant facts.  Many jobs have been lost to automation, not necessarily just to off-shoring.  That [ is} why employment in the middle-wage occupations is declining rapidly.

If the presidential candidates want to be constructive, they will tell voters the hard truth:  Well-paying midlevel jobs may have to wait for new industries to be born, and the wait could be a long one.

And as long as we continue to use the industrial model and practices of early 20th century to guide our educational systems, we only create more people that can’t get jobs that do not exist.    Since high-skill/high wage jobs are plentiful and U.S. corporations insist they have openings today that can’t be filled, it appears that is a lasting need, that our educational systems need to address. 

Likewise, low-skill/low wage jobs are also available.  Perhaps it is time to RETHINK those service jobs.  Early in the 20th century we had to make a shift….industries at the time were sweatshops and small cottage industries where laborers could barely make a living.  It took a change in thinking  led by the labor unions to create those mid-level well-paying jobs that have now been eliminated- 100 years later -by technology and automation. 

Yes, a change in thinking is what is needed today. Perhaps it is time to look at the value of those providing services to us every day, and determine whether we are paying for the value we receive.  Perhaps it is time to ADJUST those incomes to a point where service laborers can support a family without holding two jobs. 

Perhaps it is time to stop ignoring the practice of using the new immigrants we are trying to stop from coming into the US to groom our lawns, paint our houses,  clean our homes and do our laundry  all for $5 an hour!  

Perhaps as our country evolves into an inter-racial country with “minorities” out-pacing the whites-combined with longer lifes that could be economically productive lives, we RETHINK social security without all the emotion: raise the retirement age to 70.  With average lifespans of 75-80, it is ridiculous to think that it is our RIGHT to work only 25-30 years of a lifetime and play the other 60%!

And definitely it is time to acknowledge that an educational system that was geared to the industrial age creates  people to fill  jobs  that have now disappeared, it might be time to teach them what they need to learn to fill the job markets we will have available – not only now, but for the next 50 years!

 

 

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POSITIVE DEMOGRAPHIC TRENDS in the U.S.

July 9, 2012

Rather than being a victim of the old saying “cannot see the forest for the trees”, I believe I have been so focused on the FOREST, that I overlooked a very important TREE in our world.

The headline of Lee Schafer’s column in the STRIB this morning proclaimed  ”Demographic trends favor US, if we do things right”, and although  I started to read it with some doubt, I quickly realized I had over-looked a very important reality as I ponder the changing demographics  of our future.

I have been so focused on what the growth of minorities mean to MSP, and the need for an understanding of interculturalism and how do we accomplish that in businesses run by whites for whites when our customers of the future will not be whites.  We are redesigning our city and talking about gateways and trying to project into the future-all based on the white world as we know it.  I have been almost overwhelmed as I see over and over that those projections STILL assume a white population in the majority for the duration of the 21st century…and I know statistics show that is not to be…and how do we avoid falling off another cliff in our urban renewal efforts? 

Of course, I know that by the time we realize those effects to the fullest, I will not be here.  However,  the sadness of being a part of a philosophy of city planning that I studied at the University in the 60s and how wrong it was, and how it has us in a box that is hard to escape from is difficult to accept.  We THOUGHT we knew but instead, today we have empty downtowns filled with parking lots and surrounded by interstate infrastructural barriers…all waiting for us to re-do.  We cannot make a second revitalization mistake.

And then, the attitude of disbelief written on faces as I talk about mid-century projections that show the white population will be in the minority causes more worries.  Will we be able to do all this right this time?  

As I think of all that, there are days that the forest seems just too big to conquer.

So Schafer’s column and message was a welcome reminder to me that I have been over-looking a major positive.  “Of the five largest global economies today, only the U.S will see significant growth in working-age population between now and 2050.”  Yes, the WHITE population is aging and there are fewer WHITE people that will be working-age in 2050 than those elderly ….but we will be talking about less than HALF the population of our country by then!

Shafer points out this has not been a government strategy, of course, but is happening by accident .  “To the contrary, many new workers will be children of people here today whom we tried to keep out.” 

Indeed.  Somehow, a good part of our country has forgotten it is built on immigration, or prefers to think, I suppose, that there is a secret document someplace that supports only WHITE immigration.  But white immigrants are not in a majority.  We are talking Hispanics, Asians, and Africans.

All of a sudden, the discussion of Social Security being unsustainable may not be a valid concern or argument. The age distribution changes create a potential for economic growth as well as a source of funding for Social Security.  We might just be caught up once again in a 20th century worry that has changed when we were not looking.

But, as the article states, “Whether or not this potential is captured depends on the policy environment.”

So we need the attention to shift to a bigger concern in my mind, and that is indeed, the policy challenges around educational achievement and access to higher education for these immigrants.

And along with that, we need to remember we cannot build an improved white student’s educational system, we need to build a new intercultural education system .  Do we have any idea how we might do that? 

Maybe we ought to invite a few Hispanic, Asian and African education experts to the planning table because we certainly have not gotten it right with our own African American population!

 

 

 

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ECONOMIC ‘RESETS”

June 18, 2012

It is only June and already, I am tired of the political discourses that fill the news about the economy.  One day Chicken Little is forecasting the “Sky is Falling” and the next day, we read about economic optimism as Neal Anthony reported this morning. 

 And in the back of my mind, there is a nagging thought about our response when it happened….dimly I remember the honest dialogs that shared the viewpoint that this should have been expected; the prosperity of the previous decade was unsustainable and we were in a historical adjustment that we should have expected and planned for. Terms like “A New Economy” and “Economic Reset” filled the news and many of us agreed that the first decade of the 21st century was reminiscent of the “Roaring Twenties” – our thinking was flawed, it was not sustainable, and we needed to adjust.

For all of us, I think, that message has faded.  For some, It’s a childish battle between the political parties driven by the single goal of Republicans to oust Obama and regain power at all costs, paired with  Democrats  who foolishly cling to the idea that this new generation of leadership should be able to walk on water and accomplish dreams  despite the absence of collaboration.  In either case, it is finger-pointing of children.  It’s George Bush and the Republicans fault; It’s Barack Obama’s fault – he said he would fix it and it’s not fixed. 

 As for me, I have continued to focus on the uniqueness of the changes we are going through due to the rapid arrival of the digital age, and have lost sight of the historical perspective that indeed, this is a reset-  created because we as a country have gotten off track.

Richard Florida’s the GREAT RESET, kept coming to mind, and after a thorough search of my library so I could refresh my memory, I realized the book must have suffered the fate of so many others when I moved….it was in my office, not my library, and so did not make the cut when I packed last October.   So recently, when I saw the paperback copy at B&N, I grabbed it, and yesterday, sat down to re-read, and discovered a new preface written last year for the paperback edition.  Those few pages brought it all back….

It will take many years to replace the jobs that were eliminated by the crisis and its aftershocks.  The deep economic and financial trauma that hit America represents a crisis of epochal proportions that reflects a deep structural transformation of the economy…

Florida then went on to categorize our “Great Recession” as a Great Reset similar in characteristics to the Long Depression of 1873 and the Great Depression of the 1930s, and together he named them “generational events”.   It took 30 years to recover from the Crash of 1929; adjustments of this nature cannot be fixed overnight, but more important, lasting recovery hinges on four key factors:

  •         Technological Innovation:  Crises reset the innovative engine of the economy
  •          New Systems of Innovations:  Crises create the impetus for building of broad systems of innovation and infrastructure that undergird long-run growth
  •         Educational Changes:  Crises lead to substantial upgrades in our educational system in ways that increase worker’s skills and improve the human capital that powers the economy.  [They] make us better at using our most precious and critical economic resource – human talent.
  •          A Spatial Fix:  Real recovery hinges on major changes in the very way we live (Move from farm to the city; move from city to suburbs, etc.)

 

Basically, Florida maintains that these changes are not initiated by top-down policies and programs from either political party in power, but happen gradually as millions of people respond by changing the way they live.   The lessons of this crisis should remind us that we need to live within our means, reject defining ourselves in terms of material goods and strive for a more meaningful and sustainable way of life.

Yes! This aligns with my own thinking but I mistakenly have attributed it to a perspective based on age. 

Not so, says Florida:

Individual Americans of all ages have already begun resetting their lives and changing the way they live and spend but our political and business leaders have utterly failed to appreciate and engage this economic transformation.  They continue to look backward, with futile attempts to resuscitate the dysfunctional system of banks, sprawl, and the inefficient and energy-wasting way of life that was the underlying cause of the crisis.

Our leaders just aren’t getting it; their mental models are so determined by the old order that they can’t acknowledge that [that order] has already passed.

We need to break with the past and engage the future that is already upon us.

From my own perspective, let’s also add the PRESS to the list of culprits and then try to move forward together in the LONG FIGHT BACK, recognizing we need to address the underlying problems we created that caused this…and neither Romney nor Obama can provide a quick fix.   But as Florida indicated, if we break with the past and engage the future, there is hope we can speed up the recovery so it does not take the 20-30 years of past Resets of a similar nature. We as the people need to fix this; the politicians cannot-no matter whom we vote into office in November.

 

 

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THE THIRD INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION

May 24, 2012

 Every day, our politicians and press fill our newspapers, radios and TVs with short silly sound bites about the Economy and Job Creation….All we hear is the way to lowering unemployment is through creating more manufacturing jobs and putting people back to work in factories….and the sad story of those long-unemployed that have given up looking.  Sometimes those stories focus on the over 50; sometimes they focus on the 20-30 year olds that can’t find that first job.

And certainly, these are issues, and certainly business and government ALIKE, need to work together to improve the situation.  Repairing our crumbling infrastructure (yes, that means spend money to FUND these projects) make the most sense to me – it helps provide jobs and income for both ends of spectrum  of the unemployed.

But the argument never seems to focus on real questions.  Of those recent graduates, what have they been trained to do?  Can they not get jobs in their field, or at their salary expectations?  Have they been willing to look at other fields and lower their salary expectations? Are those that cannot get jobs holding degrees based on 20th century skills?  Are there options available in other areas? Are they being enabled by parents who in trying to help,  allow them to move home, and not contribute in some way?   Or, how many of those unemployed that have quit looking for work have quit because they have become entrepreneurs and are now self-employed?  Have we honestly looked at education and how our next generations are still being taught by a method developed to prepare them for the manufacturing world of the early 20th century?    I am not questioning the problems, nor the numbers, I am just questioning where we are putting the emphasis when we report it.

And I do so because as you have all heard me say over and over – the world has changed.  The paradigms of the 20th century have shifted.  I hear little discussion on this, nor what we as a people are trying to do about it…other than grieve for the “good old days” , blame the “other side” and promise to bring them back.

So  I was pleasantly surprised a while ago to see the STRIB report on the “Third Industrial Revolution”.  Yes, this is reality!

The STRIB briefly traced manufacturing history from the first “revolution” in late 18th century  in Britain and the mechanization of the textile industry; weavers cottages disappeared and the factory was born with the cotton mill.  The second phase is one we are most familiar with, when early in 20th century, Ford created the moving assembly line and mass production was born.

And now, what I have been referring to as the impact of technology and digital-everything, combined with customization has created a new environment, that we as a people all live in, use, and push for more of the same…and yet, cannot make the connection with what that means for jobs and education!

The article calls this the “Third Industrial Revolution”.  Technologies have emerged with new software, new materials, better robots, new processes and have created a changing definition of Web-based services.    We all know this; we see the impact in each of our lives…and we think it’s a better world for it…we talk about great strides made in our understanding of our environment, our universe and our minds , but no one stops and reflects on what changes occur in the transition – never to be resurrected again. 

 Although this is my passion and my frustration with our transitional world today, I was surprised by one item in the article…”Some carmakers already produce twice as many vehicles per employee as they didonly a decade or so ago”.  Think of that impact without the emotion.  Are we each buying twice as many cars as we did a decade ago?  How does that all reconcile with the expectation that when production goes up/costs go down…and how in the world do we expect that manufacturers will employ the same amount of workers they did even at the beginning of the 21st century-when it takes half as many to do the same job?!! 

 We are balancing on the precipice between two worlds – pushing for the changes and progress of the future, but seeing no connection to what that means in terms of changing needs that made up our 20th century world.    We want the new and we want it cheaper and faster but we still train our kids for a life in the old world; we pick our leaders on who can best argue how they will BRING BACK the old and none of its fits together for a promising future. 

We cling to old educational theories; when we need to think about what we know today regarding how people learn and what the world needs as expertise; then craft a new educational system that works for the challenges that lay before us.

We judge the existing President on what Truman and Eisenhower, Kennedy , Reagan would have done – all of whom lived, learned, and governed in a world very foreign to the one in which we live today; we consider an alternative to run our country whose business experience all dates back to a time when laptops, and notebooks, I-pods and I-pads were not even words in our vocabulary – let alone what they mean and the changes that they have brought to the very “business world” he boasts about.   The list goes on and on.

In all arenas, we continue to give credence to a hierarchical approach that served tribes and families and even businesses well in the old days, but has been replaced.  To quote the title of a book resting on the corner of my desk, “Collaborate or Perish”.  Big Blue had to face that reality and the strides they have made in RE THINKING their world in a collaborative environment put most other major corporations to shame.

And although I know thought-leaders through-out the centuries have all experienced similar struggles as they toiled to bring about change, the difference is that the WORLD is changing at an exponential pace around us.  We do not have time to let the influencers in my generation die off; we need to get with the program.   While we doddle along patting ourselves on the back for what we accomplished in World War II, the rest of the world is moving forward – and soon will be moving ahead without us.  Let’s stop re-fighting old battles of the 1950s and 1960s and focus on how we as the US can contribute and influence the world of the future!

Let’s embrace the Third Industrial Revolution and contribute to it, not try to deny and destroy it!

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HOORAY FOR THE LAKEVILLE SCHOOL SYSTEM!

February 8, 2012

In the fall of 2010, I posted a blog entitled “The Fisch Flip” praising the concept not only for its innovative approach to education, but also suggesting those of us in the meetings/events world consider variations on the approach as we contemplate how to  better facilitate adult learning and improve the existing conference education model.

That started a to-be-expected dialog with the nay-sayers that continued offline with colleagues suggesting oh-so-many reasons why it was a far-fetched idea.

But undeterred, our collaborative team has continued to experiment with this and other unique learning exercises within the corporate environment and I have continued to advocate for needed change for improved results. So I was tempted to turn my morning coffee into a champagne breakfast this morning so I could appropriately toast the Lakeville school system whern I read in the Strib about their high-tech plan!

Not only has one instructor, Jason Just, “flipped” his classes by posting lectures online and facilitating interactive discussions and homework in the classroom, but the Lakeville superintendent of schools, Lisa Snyder, has launched a three-year plan to make Lakeville the “most wired” school district in the state -from first to twelfth grade.

Although the article in the Strib captured the students positive reaction, my one disappointment was that no reason(s) were given for why earlier experimentation with high-tech learning in Stillwater, Edina, and Hopkins was abandoned.  That would have created a powerful “learning opportunity” for those willing to continue the search for improved methods.

“These are the tools of the 21st century.” Snyder said.  “It’s a whole new world.  You just have to open  your mind to it.”

AMEN to that!   What a great way to start the day – with the HOPE that my own passion for experimenting with new learning methods is indeed alive and well in Minnesota!

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EDUCATION FOR TODAY AND TOMORROW

February 4, 2012

I am not a scientist, a brain specialist, or educator by profession, but I AM a student of the world around me and I am appalled at the swirling arguments in Minnesota today on how to “fix” Minnesota Schools and our education system.

And so, about the ONLY thing I agree with in the misdirected, emotional and pandering stands on the topic is that YES, we need to examine why as a state we have evolved from a belief in providing a school system that continues to feed our greatest asset – our citizens and their children that make up and will continue to make up our work force pool- to a growing belief that the Minnesota school system is simply a solution to a financial problem.
These are pretty strong words from one that admits to not being an expert in the field, and yet, I would go one step further: I would vote to put a HOLD on the posturing debates and attempts to legislate until we are sure those “in charge” within our school systems and all branches of government have put aside their outdated 20th century positions and pledged that each can provide credentials that certify they have stopped, listened, and evaluated the body of knowledge available today on how our brains work, how we learn, and what will be needed from our labor pool in the future to support a state of which we are proud, Once they have done that, I realize some will still revert to their out-dated modes and fall-back position and at best, all will emerge with new differing views on how we best achieve our common goals. But at least those differences might be based on an understanding of the reality we have before us, rather than the reality of our past.

If my own bookshelves are full of tomes that reflect these advances, from John Medina’s “Brain Rules” to Davidson’s “Now You See It – how the brain science of attention will transform the way we live, work and learn”; why is it a stretch to expect that those to whom we have entrusted our state’s greatest resource should at least be familiar with this body of thought?

In the 19th century, we built our educational system on existing knowledge and our agricultural needs; In the 20th century, we updated our educational system based on existing knowledge and our emerging industrial needs; In the 21st century, it is now time to update our educational system based on existing knowledge and needs of the digital information world in which we already live-and what we envision our state’s needs to be by 2050 if not 2099!

I borrow from the Davidson thinking to challenge us all. When we have answers to these questions, we will be prepared to move forward towards implementing needed change:
• How can we redesign our schools to prepare our kids for the challenges they’ll face as adults?
• What will the workers and workplaces of the future look like?
• And how can we learn to adapt to life changes that seem almost too revolutionary to contemplate?
Of course it won’t be easy. Of course we will not all agree. Of course, what we envision today, will be far different than that which actually emerges in the next 30-50 years. But if we put our heads together, listen to each other and collaborate on potential solutions, we will have a much better chance of success than if we continue to dig in our heels and shout loudly about preserving the out-dated methods of the past.