Wednesday, February 27, 2013

"V is for Vulnerable" by Seth Godin

I bought this book a couple of months ago, and have had it on my desk ever since.  Several staff members and even a couple of parents have asked to borrow it.  My only rule- please bring it back!

I've been meaning to write a blog post on the book- but just didn't get around to it.  Then I happened to find this post:

Sums it up quite well!  Rather than try to top it, I thought I'd just share it.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Something's Wrong

There is a shocking article in TIME this week: Bitter Pill.  The article is informative and hard hitting and details many of the things that are broken in our current health care system.  (I really hope that anyone who happens by this post finds the time to read this article, and any article that attempts to paint a non-partisan picture of what's going on.)

This post is not about bashing the health care industry.  I have family members and close friends who are physicians, hospital administrators, pharmaceutical executives, HRA managers, and more.  They are all good people. 

Further, I don't pretend to know enough to assign blame.  What is pretty obvious is that our current health care system is a mess and that medical and insurance costs are unsustainable.

While I'm not going to cast aspersions on anyone in the industry- I'm a little weary of having people blame the health care costs of public sector workers as the primary problem.  I get the impression that some believe that reducing public sector insurance benefits will magically make the American Health Care System better and bring our economy out of the doldrums.

As is the case with much of our modern political discourse- we scream and shout at each other over a host of things that do not represent the real essence of the issue. We "clean the wrong car." (see the youtube video if you don't get the reference) Or, to take that analogy one step further- we clean one part of the car and consider the job to be done.

I don't dispute that some public sector health care plans were in need of being scaled back.  Many steps have already been taken to both reduce benefits and increase employee costs, and more will undoubtedly be done in the future.  OK.  No complaints here.

It just seems to me that what ails us goes much deeper than any reforms that an individual person, or individual company- public or private- can possibly accomplish through benefit reductions and increased co-pays.

Something's wrong. 

It can be fixed, but it will take some comprehensive changes and policies that will most assuredly enrage a few powerful interests and some entrenched political positions on both the 'right' and the 'left.' 

Slippery Slopes

For too many years, too many educational systems delivered a "down the middle" curriculum to all students- with minimal variations on the theme.  The "teach to the middle" syndrome was provided to all students regardless of ability, learning style, or interest.

Over the years, we have tried to correct those mistakes by moving to more differentiated and personalized learning.  I'm all for it.  I think finding ways to harness Personalized Learning represents our path to the future, and ignoring it is a one way ticket to organizational irrelevancy- and maybe even insolvency.

However, I've been in some meetings lately that have given me pause.  Personalized and Differentiated Learning offer great potential, but I do worry about the Slippery Slope to "Center of the Universe" learning.

I was at a meeting with fellow superintendents and some area legislators the other day.  The discussion turned from more specific job readiness skills to the more general notion of work ethic.  One of them noted that work ethic can be tied to how many generations someone is removed from the farm.  One of the legislators seized on that comment and, gratuitously in my opinion, noted that his (self-described) prodigious work ethic is because he is directly from the farm.

I have the utmost respect for farmers and farm life but find that analogy to be dubious, at best.

It is true, however, that learning some hard lessons is good for us- whether those lessons are learned on a farm or somewhere else.

One of those hard lessons is that we are not the center of the universe.

To the extent that personalized learning means that we are taking advantage of individual passions to help optimize instructional programming- I'm 100% in favor. 

Saying that "Collaboration" is an essential 21st Century Skill sounds innocuous enough.  Let's dig just a little deeper into what collaboration entails.  A Collaborative person is someone who can listen, empathize, and work in a diverse group.  No one can learn those skills if they are constantly being coddled, catered, and appeased.

We absolutely need to continue the push towards a more personalized learning experience.  Let's make sure we do so with a boldness to still push and challenge students to develop the skills necessary to live and work in a heterogeneous world.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Personalized Learning Predictions

I found this article via one of my new favorite reads: The Dan Hanrahan Digest.  Dan finds articles from around the blogosphere and compiles them in a handy update.

I especially enjoyed, and agreed with, the sections on Risk Taking and Storytelling.