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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Thinking Outside the Bubble

Thinking outside the Box Bubble

We've all heard the phrase, "out of the box" thinking. Wikipedia describes the concept as,

"Thinking outside the box is a metaphor that means to think differently, unconventionally, or from a new perspective. This phrase often refers to novel or creative thinking. The term is thought to derive from management consultants in the 1970s and 1980s challenging their clients to solve the "nine dots" puzzle, whose solution requires some lateral thinking. The catchphrase, or cliché, has become widely used in business environments, especially by management consultants and executive coaches, and has been referenced in a number of advertising slogans. To think outside the box is to look farther and to try not thinking of the obvious things, but to try thinking of the things beyond them."

However our schools, in large part as a result of an increased accountability movement based on what can be scored more efficiently (i.e. electronically scanned answer sheets as opposed to essays and written responses) have confined thinking to responses on high stakes tests that can be answered by filling in a bubble.

Assessing the higher order thinking skills that are necessary to address the complex issues we encounter requires us to move "outside the bubble."

Friday, June 12, 2015

When is Enough, Enough?

This post entry is an endorsement of a book with a meaningful message that can be summed up in one excerpt that follows:
"At a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island, Kurt Vonnegut informed his pal and fellow author, Joseph Heller … that their host, a hedge fund manager, had made more money in a single day than Heller had earned from his wildly popular novel (Catch-22) over its whole history.
Heller responds … Yes, but I have something he will never have …


Source: John Bogle, Enough. The Measures of Money, Business, and Life (Bogle is founder of the Vanguard Mutual Fund Group)

A review of the chapter titles of Bogle's book (see below) is "enough" to make you wonder about values and priorities of too many people today. What do you think?
“Too Much Cost, Not Enough Value”
“Too Much Speculation, Not Enough Investment”
“Too Much Complexity, Not Enough Simplicity”
“Too Much Counting, Not Enough Trust”
“Too Much Business Conduct, Not Enough Professional Conduct”
“Too Much Salesmanship, Not Enough Stewardship”
“Too Much Focus on Things, Not Enough Focus on Commitment”
“Too Many Twenty-first Century Values, Not Enough Eighteenth-Century Values”
“Too Much ‘Success,’ Not Enough Character”
Source: Chapter titles from Jack Bogle, Enough.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

An Eruption of Corruption

At what point do the public schools of New York redirect some of the valuable resources of instructional time, materials and curriculum currently expended in preparing learners for fill-in-the-bubble assessments (doing things right), and reallocate a portion to developing a moral compass of ethics and integrity (doing the right thing) for our learners?

Approximately thirty years ago an ivy league university accepted the realization that they were producing financial geniuses who graduated and then embraced insider trading schemes on Wall Street; and they were sending off aspiring legal scholars who chased the money and represented very questionable clients in very questionable practices; and they were preparing outstanding doctors who entered the profession without any sense of personal orientation on controversial issues like euthanasia, for instance.

In other words, they were not providing the conditions for these graduates to have or value a moral compass. I'm not advocating any particular side of an issue and neither was the university, but rather there is a need for individuals to have the wherewithal to develop and articulate their opinions and have a stance on important issues related to their profession, regardless of what side of a debate they represent. The university did not promote a particular orientation, but instead provided the means and conditions that would enable each individual to arrive at their own reference point.Those who pay for and receive services from their stock broker, lawyer, or doctor, for example, should understand the philosophy of their representative as a determining factor in selecting service providers.

As a result, the university reviewed their curricula and inserted classes on ethics to supplement their course of studies in the respective departments.

Here in the shadows of our state capital, Albany, we have been bombarded by the media with stories revealing a rampant crisis in ethics, or the lack thereof. The democratic leader of the state assembly and the republican leader of the state senate have both been separately charged in examples of a breach of ethics that is considered criminal. This is particularly noteworthy given that the state has largely been governed (at least in creating a state budget that drives the operation of the state) by what has routinely been referred to as "the three men in a room," of the Governor, the Assembly leader, and the Senate leader.

As a result, our state-wide politicians talk about ethics reform, but it's largely just boastful rhetoric that will likely end up being more cosmetic than transformational.

When do our political representatives (the same ones shaping education "reform") take a high stakes fill-in-the-bubble test on ethics to determine whether they are learning, and to what standard (ineffective, developing, effective, highly effective)? Will the results be published and available to the public? Will they have an improvement plan designed to assist their progress? Will they lose their position if they are ineffective for two years in a row?