Priorities. We’ve got to change the Pyramid – one block at a time.
We have lots of pyramids to guide our actions. The food pyramid, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (stay with me now, they are only words), Bloom’s Taxonomy and many more. Basically we put the ingredients of success in a foundational order from most important to least or from most consumed to least. We use pictures so we can all understand – educated or not. And voila! We can all blissfully and blindly follow it to success. But the pyramid is only as good as the information it represents.
For instance, Bloom’s taxonomy is interesting to look at right now. It guides education and teaching methods, and it has made some pretty profound changes in the past ten years or so. Previously it was believed that we should focus from knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and to the all important “evalutation”, at the top of the pyramid. The words are nouns representing knowledge as unmoving, predetermined, concrete facts. And at the top is Evaluation. In other words if we do everything right, we will get a good test result.
But today we know that teaching to a “test result” isn’t a good goal, for many reasons, but mostly because it is not effective. We are educating generations of students who know how to find the “right answer”. They have no idea what to do with the idea, but they are good at finding it, preferably out of a text book, written by someone else, with an arrow pointing to what the right answer is. This is a great way to educate for the mechanical era of yesterday, but not much use today, in the conceptual age of creation.
So Bloom’s adapted. First, and significantly, they moved from nouns to verbs, inferring that knowledge is active, and therefore not a concrete thing to be grasped, boxed, rewarded, and shelved. The verbs are fluid, moving, in action, suggesting an elastic and growing dynamic, which the education process must be in order to adapt to the 21st Century Conceptual Age. So, knowing, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and CREATING are the new pyramid sections. That is a huge change. Creating is at the top! Evaluating is simply a tool to get to creating. If we do everything correctly at the foundation, we are looking for the creation of new things – NOT GOOD TEST TAKERS.
So we’ve been, in all good intentions, teaching in the wrong direction. And it is difficult to change direction, especially when the education system is HUGE, like the Titanic. And it, the education system, is heading directly towards the iceberg. And we know it, and most are metaphorically running for the life boats or stubbornly staying the course. But like the Titanic, it is difficult to turn this monstrous machine in a different direction, especially with everyone running about yelling conflicting orders and jumping ship. At best, we have to go through channels, and by the time we argue for a solution, the ship will already have hit the proverbial fan-berg.
So, while we argue about Common Core, Teaching to the Test, Funding cuts, Vouchers, and getting rid of the Department of Education – ironically as The Every Student Succeeds Act sailed through both houses of Congress this month, the world keeps turning, information keeps growing and changing, and other countries in the world – granted usually smaller and therefore more adaptable – are making changes to enable better education. What are we doing? We cut funding to education while criticizing teachers, and work to put text books on iPads instead of realizing knowledge changes so rapidly that text books are, in some cases, obsolete by the time it goes to press – hard back or virtual! The pedagogy or philosophy of why we do what we do and what outcomes we might expect need to be considered. What about just using the ipad to do independent research, in well designed projects, that ask high quality questions, that the students will find answers to, and create more high quality questions, which they will be hungry to solve? Makes me want to go back to school! After all the information is out there – just not chosen by one text book company that decides what “truth” is carefully wrapped in a predetermined answer – which may be obsolete.
PS: Also, I realize there are security issues accompanying unleashed iPads, but let’s be honest, there are already security issues because the kids all own smart phones.
What is the answer?
That brings me to another pyramid. One we haven’t actually created or talked about straight out, because that would create an uncomfortable question and could lead to a paradigm change in the pyramid. It is the economic pyramid, and at the top sits PROFIT that is most likely at the cruxt of the education problem. If we do everything right we get profit. We can compromise anything – as long as we honor profit. The bottom layers matter, like life, and work, and education, and low taxes, we must keep in mind that the ingredients that determine success are shareholder interest – but most of all Profits. They are the king, at the top, and so will determine what ingredients go into making what we, as capitalists, consider success – whatever we list at the top of the pyramid , in this case Profit – the golden calf so to speak.
The pyramid could also include ingredients like “slave labor” or below market wages (our economic system is dependent on slave labor, but that’s another conversation), labor, education, laws, trade, but at the very top of the pyramid would still be PROFIT. If we do everything right in America, we end up with profit – lots of it. Am I repeating myself? The more profit you have, the bigger winner you are, like monopoly. Not necessarily profit for all, but profit for whoever makes it, with the accompanying inference that they deserve it. We worship those with profit, the golden gods. This, as a Capitalistic Nation is undeniable and unquestionable, like God, or the Constitution.
What would happen if we made one tiny change? What if, instead of “profit” on the top of the pyramid we replaced it with “healthy communities”? Theoretically that is what a democratic capitalistic nation intends isn’t it? The pursuit of happiness? How do we pursue happiness if an entire segment of the population believes it is admirable and ethical to hoard massive amounts of profit, at the expense of all the others. If they were instead hoarding newspapers like they do money, we would call them hoarders and create a reality show and film them as freaks of nature.
I know profit is important. But should it be the final goal? Should we admire people and “corporate people” (who are people now) that hoard massive amounts of wealth while humanity decays? Or should we consider that profit is simply a tool to get us to healthy communities and use it to create opportunities for communities and people to thrive?
The solution will not be simple; it will be complex; like nature. It will also, most likely, mimic nature, if it is operating in a healthy manner; in a symbiotic balanced dance of give and take. Our present economic system is more like a cancer tumor running out of control, eating everything in its path to grow bigger and bigger. Financial hoarding is the parellel of cancer growth. It’s great for the tumor, but sucks for the rest of healthy human existance.
With the tragedy of cancer, we use everything in our power to fight cancer (which ironically makes lots and lots of money for the drug and medical companies, but that is another discussion). But we admire the “tumorous hoarding” of money in our economic system. We honor those who hoard; we want to be them. “Just a lotto ticket away from being a millionaire”; the American Dream. That’s an odd place for the United States of America to find itself.
So, we have a decaying education system and we are looking to a cancerous economic system to solve it. How will we create solutions to change both of these problems? Problems are opportunities, and we are rich with opportunities right now. Nature would start at the local level. Nature would reach out and find the symbiotic resources nearby and reach out, allowing the symbiosis to lay new, more beneficial foundations to flourish.
I suggest we put “healthy communities” as our top priority, and let profit serve that. Profit is a tool, not a goal. Let’s build the new pyramid, realign our thinking, and thrive, one person at a time. Let’s really put Healthy Communities at the top of our pyramid! We will compromise whatever we need to – even profit – to create healthy communities.
Let’s call hoarding of money what it is – hoarding; and let’s stop worshipping profit as the end all goal. Lets us profit as a tool and invest in worthwhile local projects. Let’s allow America to be great again.