>A Natural Education and Enterprise Architecture

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Anyone who has seen the amount of homework and stress our children are under these days would have to admit that our children are losing their childhood earlier and earlier.

The pressure is on for children to get the best early education so they can get the best SAT grades so they can get into the best colleges and universities so they can get the best and highest paying job so they can live a wonderful carefree life. WHAT THE HECK!

Someone please architect a better way to educate our children so that they flourish educationally, but still enjoy those treasured years.

The Wall Street Journal, 14 April 2008, reports that “While schools and parents push young children to read, write, and surf the internet earlier in order to prepare for an increasingly cutthroat global economy, some little Germans are taking a less traveled path—deep into the woods.”

Germany has about 700 Waldkindergarten or “forest kindergartens,” in which children spend their days outdoor year-round. Blackboards surrender to the Black Forest.” The children, ages 3 to 6, spend the day in the forest singing songs, playing in the mud, climbing trees, examining worms, lizards and frogs, and building campfires. This is a natural way for children to spend their time and it aligns well with “environmentally-conscious and consumption-wary” attitudes.

Similar programs have opened in Scandinavia, Switzerland, Austria, and in the U.S. (in Portland, Oregon last fall).

A mixed bag of results:

“Waldkindergarten kids exercise their imaginations more than their brick-and-mortar peers do and are better at concentrating and communication…the children appear to get sick less often in these fresh-air settings. Studies also suggest their writing skills are less developed, though, and that they are less adept than other children at distinguishing colors, forms, and sizes.”

Is the tradeoff worth it?

In the U.S., the notion is generally, we have “to push academics earlier and earlier.” However, the back-to-basics approach of Waldkindergarten is challenging this thinking. One teacher summarized the benefits by simply stating, “It’s peaceful here, not like inside a room.” Another said that this natural education is a way to combat “early academic fatigue syndrome…we have 5 year-olds that are tired of going to school.”

I believe that if we teach children a love of learning and life, then they will thrive more than force-feeding them reading, writing, and arithmetic at age 3, 4, or 5.

We can architect a better education for our children. It starts with letting them be children.

From an EA perspective, we need to acknowledge that there is a baseline, target and transition plan for our children’s education, and we do NOT need to get to the target state of advanced learning by putting undue pressure on children so early in their lives. In fact, if we understand that transition plans are just that—a transition from one state to another, in a phased approach of evolution—then we can indeed let children explore the world more freely and creatively at a young age, and evolve that incrementally with the skills they need as time goes on.

>Doomsday and Enterprise Architecture

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Enterprise architecture is about planning and transitioning from the baseline to the target state.

However, as architects, there are times when we need to plan for the worst and hope for the best, as the saying goes.

As the price of oil has reached and exceeded $100 a barrel and significant new findings of oil are becoming a rarity, some people are starting to get nervous and are planning for a day when oil will be scarce, pricey, and society as we have come to know will cease to exist. Yikes, doomsday!

Are these people simply uninformed, pessimists, or non-believers that technological progress will outpace the demands we are placing on this planet’s resources?

The Wall Street Journal, 26 January 2008, reports about everyday people, like the Aaron Wissner in Middleville, Michigan, a school computer teacher with a wife and infant son, who became “peak-oil aware.” This term refers to his “embracing the theory that world’s oil production is about to peak.

These people fear the worst; “Oil supplies are dwindling just as world demand soars. The result: oil prices ‘will skyrocket, oil dependent economies will crumble, and resource wars will explode.’” Mr. Wissner’s forebodings include, “banks faltering” and “food running out.”

And they believe that we cannot stop this from happening. “no techno-fix was going to save us. Electric cars, biodiesel, nuclear power, wind and solar—none of it will cushion the blow.”

So Mr. Wissner and his family are preparing and transitioning themselves for the worst, they “tripled the size of his garden…stacked bags of rice in his new pantry, stashed gold…and doubled the size of his propane tank.”

According to the article there are thousands of people that adhere to the peak-oil theory.

Of course, there are many doomsday scenarios out there that end in war, famine, disease, and so on. During the cold war, people built bomb shelters in their back yards, and school children had drills hiding under their desks. These days, many fear that globalization will drive this country to economic ruin. Al Gore and other environmentalists espouse the global warming theory. And since 9/11, fears are heightened about terrorists hitting us with nuclear, biological, chemical, or radiological agents. Even Hollywood has entered the fray with movies such as Armageddon about meteors hitting the Earth or The Day After Tomorrow with the greenhouse effect sending us back to the ice-age.

Whether you adhere with any of these various doomsday scenarios or visions of the future (their believed target architecture, not necessarily their desired one) and how they are preparing (transitioning) to it or you think they are just a bunch of nut-balls, it seems important as an enterprise architect to recognize that targets are not always rosy pictures of growth and prosperity for an organization, and the transition plans are not always a welcome and forward movement. Sometimes as architects, we must plan for the worst–hoping, of course that it never comes–but never-the-less preparing, the best we can. As architects, we don’t have to put all the enterprise’s eggs in one basket. We can weigh the odds and invest accordingly in different scenarios. Our organization’s resources are limited, so we must allocate resources carefully and with forethought. Of course, no architecture can save us from every catastrophe.