Memory Comes In 3’s

So it seems like the human mind can fundamentally only remember things in threes.


Whether it’s a joke about serving 3 meals: Frozen, Microwave, and Take-out. 


Or Even washing your hair: Wash, Rinse, Repeat. 


How about what to do when there is an:


Active Shooter: Run, Hide, Fight


Fire: Stop, Drop, Roll


Earthquake: Drop, Cover, Hold On


G-d forbid there should be 4 or more steps to do something, and mankind would be beyond his/her mental limitations and at a virtual standstill. 


So read, remember, and use this appropriately–that’s the 3 things to do now with this post. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Make The Right Move To Agile Education

So, unfortunately, our education system in this country is highly troubled


Generally, we teach by strict curriculum forcing children to learn what we consider “the fundamentals”.


But they are anything but that and kids come out not knowing how to do the very basics or survive in life. 


Test scores have not been improving–that’s not the student’s fault, but the education system, which cannot force feed what students minds are rejecting as “old school” and out of touch.


Not only don’t we fish for them, but we don’t even teach them to fish. 


We throw at them esoteric subjects to memorize, spit back, and forget. 


Wash, rinse, repeat. 


We waste years of their life and the productivity and creativity of society. 


Ever really wonder why GDP growth is only around 2% despite all the rapid technology that we are rolling out. 


It is just not drones that we are rolling off the assembly line, but human automatons as well. 


This is where agile education comes into aspect. 


Like with software development, we can gather requirements and build, and then show the customer, and then refine again and again. 


We let the development grow and mature naturally as the code takes shape. 


No more years of development and voila here’s something for you, and with the customer exclaiming loudly, “What the F*** is that!”


So too with education, we need to follow the spirit and train of thought naturally. 


Where we let the students guide the teacher to what their questions are, what they are interested in learning about, where their creative juices take them, and what is relevant. 


Rigidity in the education system leaves our students as dead ends, and not as critical thinkers and innovators.


We have a dearth of leaders we can look up to and a plethora of people that couldn’t survive the Spring without their Visa/Mastercard.  


Ever wonder why so many of our great innovators are college dropouts who built their companies in their garages instead of occupying a seat in a classroom and filling their heads with teacher rhetoric. 


Most people learn by seeing, internalizing, and doing useful things for themselves, not by listening and violently rejecting the irrelevant in their lives. 


Let us release the choking reigns of our education system. 


Teachers should be able to follow the questions and interests and natural evolution of thought and creativity and wonderment with their students. 


The mark of learning is not the answers on a standardized test, but the light bulb of critical thinking and innovation from our progeny. 


Exploration and discovery and skills to be self-sufficient and survive are far more beneficial than what we are giving our children today.


We owe them a better education, but we are not delivering because we are the automatons of yesteryear. 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Sleepy Education USA

Education.jpeg

Education is fundamental to learning, development and preparation for career and life. 

We’ve always believed that if you invest in anything, invest in education!

However, despite initiatives like No Child Left Behind and Every Child Succeeds Act, scores in the fundamentals like reading, math, and science all lag behind other advanced industrialized nations.

As of 2015, the U.S. ranked a stinking 38 out of 71 nations in K-12 education

Yet, it is seemingly the complete opposite, with college education, the U.S. has about 75% of the top 25 schools. 

However, the comparison is flawed because university rankings are based not on student academic performance, but rather on research performance, including things like journal articles published and Noble Prize winners. 

When academic proficiency is tested for American adults, the rankings again lag and are at best mediocre. 

While there are many dedicated and good teachers, still too many teachers and unions continue to fight testing and reform so that progress of our education system continues to fail our children and our nation.

We need to end education by memorization, and focus instead on hands-on learning (by doing), critical thinking and problem-solving.

Sleeping through a lecture may not mean a student is missing squat in the current failed education system. 

(Source Photo: The Blumenthals)

The Wrong Way To Test

Test
As educators are pushed to improve students’ test scores, sometimes they run afoul.



In Atlanta, 8 former public school educators were sentenced to prison–three were sentenced to as long as seven years–for a conspiracy inflating student scores by “changing answers” to the tests. 



Interestingly, in another article today, we see that not only are students put to the test, but so are job applicants



In fact, “Eight of the top 10 U.S. private employers now administrator pre-hire tests in their job applications.”



While testing can certainly show some things, they can also miss the point completely. 



I know some people that test wonderfully–straight A students, 100+ on all exams, 4.0 GPAs–and for the most part, they are wonderful at memorizing and prepping for the test…but sometimes, not much else. 



Some of them have no practical knowledge, little critical thinking or creativity, and are even sort of jerky. 



And others who test poorly may be well thought, articulate, hands-on, and good with people–I’d take a million of them. 



“Failing the test” is not necessarily getting it wrong…it may just be errant to the current prevailing educational and professional testing system that values memorization and spitting back over insight, innovation, and practical skills. 



The challenge is how do we compare and contrast students and professionals competing for schools and career advancement, if we don’t easily have something standardized like a test to rally around. 



Maybe there is no getting away from more holistic assessments–where we look at bona fide life and career experience, a wide range of recommendations from teachers, coaches, and supervisors, hard and soft skills (including communications and interpersonal), professional and personal ethics, genuine interest in the pursuit, and the motivation to work hard and contribute.  



Tests–students cheat, educators game the system, memorization and robotic answers are the name of the game to get the A, and boring homogeneity–but it’s often the easy way out to evaluating candidates for a phony success. 😉



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

From Memorization To Thinking

From Memorization To Thinking

Our education system continues to suffer as we rank somewhere between 17th and 20th globally.

This means that our economy will assuredly suffer in the future from the global competition that strangles us.

Some prominent experts in the field, like Walter Isaacson, say that innovation occurs at the intersection of arts and humanities meeting science and math–and I really like that.

Personally, this inspires me to think about whether education reform is perhaps focused too much on the teachers, tests, and core curriculum, and less on changing the way we are approaching education in the first place.

For as long as I can remember (i.e. even when I was in school way back when), we based our education on lots of memorization–multiplication tables, periodic tables, vocabulary, history, and much more.

For those with great short term memory, you could do very well to memorize, spit it out, and forget it, so you can start all over again with the next great wave of facts and figures.

The emphasis on memorization of basics, is important in getting a foundation of knowledge, but seems to me to come at the expense of critical thinking and problem solving skills.

From my own experience and watching my kids in school, I often see boredom at raw facts, and excitement and self-satisfaction at figuring something out.

Yet, too often students are asked to do rote memorization and test accordingly, rather than really think.

You can’t memorize innovation, but rather you need to be able to apply learning.

In this day and age, where facts are but a Google search away, memorization is less important and real analytical, reasoning, problem solving, and communication skills (all anchored in solid core values) are more relevant to our national and personal success.

Yet, have our school caught up with this?

Unfortunately, it seems most have not, and perhaps that is one reason that many of our preeminent innovators are dropouts–from Steve Jobs to Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Ellison, Michael Dell, Henry Ford, Walt Disney, Richard Branson, Ted Turner, etc.

Will we ever get away completely from memorizing the basics? Certainly not. Do we need to spend so much of K-12 education and even college years playing instant recall? What a waste!

The best experience that I remember from my younger daughter in school was her activities in the Ethics Bowl, where schools competed in analyzing ethically challenging situations and arguing the merits of the various sides. They learned to think and articulate their reasoning and conclusions and that is the best education that I can imagine.

Until we stop using education techniques from the dinosaur age–memorizing species and trying to recall where the eggs are buried, I fear we are doomed to subpar educational performance–in a boring, memorizing, and non-thinking way.

No wonder the kids want to develop the next great iPhone app and use their textbooks as a handy-dandy booster seat. 😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Lansing Public Library)

Why Memorize?

Why Memorize?

G-d, I remember as a kid in school having to memorize everything for every class–that was the humdrum life for a schoolchild.

Vocabulary words, grammar rules, multiplication tables, algebraic and geometric equations, scientific formulas, historical events, famous quotes, states and capitals, presidents, QWERTY keys, and more.

It was stuff it in, spit it out, and basically forget it.

This seemed the only way to make room for ever more things to memorize and test out.

In a way, you really had to memorize everything, because going to a reference library and having to look up on the stacks of endless shelves or microfiche machines was a pain in the you know what.

Alternatively, the home dictionary, theasarus, and encyclopeda were indispensible, but limited, slow, dated, and annoying.

But as the universe of knowledge exploded, became ever more specialized, and the Internet was born, looking something up was a cinch and often necessary.

All of a sudden, memorization was out and critical thinking was in.

That’s a good thing, especially if you don’t want people who are simple repositories of stale information, but rather those who can question, analyze, and solve problems.

Albert Einstein said, “Never memorize something that you can look up.”

But an interesting editorial in the Wall Street Journal by an old school teacher questions that logic.

David Bonagura Jr. proposes that critical thinking and analysis “is impossible without first acquiring rock-solid knowledge of the foundational elements upon which the pyramid of cognition rests.”

He says, “Memorization is the most effective means to build that foundation.”

As a kid, I hated memorization and thought it was a waste of time, but looking back I find that more things stayed in that little head of mine than I had thought.

I find myself relying on those foundations everyday…in writing, speaking, calculating, and even remembering a important story, principle, saying or even song lyrics.

These come out in my work–things that I thought were long lost and forgotten, but are part of my thinking, skills, and truly create a foundation for me to analyze situations and solve problems.

In fact, I wish I knew more and retained it all, but short-term memory be damned.

We can’t depend on the Internet for all the answers–in fact, someday, it may not be there working for us all, when we need it.

We must have core knowledge that is vital for life and survival and these are slowly being lost and eroded as we depend on the Internet to be our alternate brains.

No, memorizing for memorization’s sake is a waste of time, but building a foundation of critical skills has merits.

Who decides what is critical and worthwhile is a whole other matter to address.

And are we building human automatons full of worthless information that is no longer relevant to today’s lifestyles and problems or are we teaching what’s really important and useful to the human psche, soul, and evolution.

Creativity, critical thinking, and self-expression are vital skills to our ability to solve problems, but these can’t exist in a vacuum of valuable brain matter and content.

It’s great to have a readily available reference of world information at the tips of our fingertips online, but unless you want to sound (and act) like an idiot, you better actually know something too. 😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Chapendra)

The Future In Good Hands

Ethics_bowl

I had the distinct honor to attend the first Washington D.C. High School Ethics Bowl at American University.

There were eight teams competing from local schools in the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia areas.

My daughter’s team won 2nd place!

(Note: the trophys were identical except for the engraving of first, second, and third places.)

I was so proud to see that the schools are educating our students in ethics–both the theory and the practice.

The student teams prepared and competed using 10 case study scenarios that covered everything from oil drilling in Alaska to the death penalty. 

In lieu of the education of yesteryear that relied all too heavily on rote memorization, it was awesome instead to see the students analyzing real life scenarios, using critical thinking, debating ethical and philosophical considerations, and making policy recommendations. 

The students were sensitive to and discussed the impact of things like income inequality on college admission testing, the environmental effects of offshore drilling versus the importance of energy independence, the influence of race of criminal sentencing, and the moral implications of the Red Cross teaching first aid to named terrorist groups like the Taliban. 

I was truly impressed at how these high school students worked together as a team, developed their positions, and presented them to the moderator, judges and audience–and they did it in a way that could inspire how we all discuss, vet, and decide on issues in our organizations today.

– They didn’t yell (except a few that were truly passionate about their positions and raised their voices in the moment), instead they maturely and professionally discussed the issues.

– They didn’t get personal with each other–no insults, put-downs, digs, or other swipes (with the exception of when one team member called his opponents in a good natured gest, “the rivals”), instead they leveraged the diversity of their members to strengthen their evaluation of the issues.

– They didn’t push an agenda in a winner takes all approach–instead they evaluated the positions of the competing teams, acknowledged good points, and refined their own positions accordingly to come up with even better proposals. 

– They didn’t walk away from the debate bitter–but instead not only shook hands with their opponents, but I actually heard them exchange appreciation of how good each other did and what they respected about each other.

I’ll tell you, these kids–young adults–taught me something about ethics, teamwork, critical thinking, presentation, and debate, and I truly valued it and actually am enthusiastic about this next generation coming up behind us to take the reins. 

With the many challenges facing us, we need these smart and committed kids to carry the flag forward–from what I saw today, there is indeed hope with our children. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)