My Shift, Our Shift

I’m not exactly sure what “it” is but I know what “it” isn’t so let’s start there…

“It” isn’t more of the same.

Right now, all over this country, schools are failing their students. They are drilling a skill set that’s largely irrelevant and instilling a perspective that’s all together corrosive. Computers already know the answer yet the memorization of fact after fact is still the basis of our K-12 curriculums. Worse, teachers are perpetuating a line of thinking that motivates students to play it safe, toe the line, and avoid failure…

“It” isn’t an incremental step-by-step progression.

Following education blogs is like watching a dog chase it’s tail. Back and forth — charter vs. public, reading vs. writing, Scantron A vs. Scantron B. We don’t need a better designed Scantron test. We need a new approach. We need to wipe the metaphorical blackboard clean and start anew. What will adults need to know in 20 years? What challenges will they be required to overcome?

“It” isn’t guaranteed to work.

As I set out to construct the next phase of my professional career in the educational space I can’t help but think about all the failure I’ll likely endure. Such a rate of face-planting comes with the territory of 10x change. Rather than let that deter my efforts I’ll let it guide them. I’ll focus my energy on building testable experiments to see which ideas have the ability to effectively impart change.

What sort of “change” am I referring to?

I think, a change in attitude. Chasing South Korea and Finland in the memory PISA game is fool hearty. Chasing our way back to the spirit of Benjamin Franklin is a more worthwhile destination. Building within our future workforce a growth mindset of doing, making, persevering and pivoting as needed seems to me a much more meaningful change.

Why am I doing this?

Basically, I feel compelled to. My entire family has worked to help raise the bar for others. My grandfather started a company that to this day still trains largely neglected youth how to lead a meaningful life. My grandmother spent her career fighting to secure the same rights and privileges for disabled people that are enjoyed by the rest of us. My other grandparents created a foundation to pay the expenses associated with going to college for high school seniors who couldn’t otherwise afford to go. If helping people use education to find a better life was a Jedi power…the force would be strong within me.

I believe there are a few “course corrections” within life. Moments when there’s a clear before and after. Marriage, divorce, relocation all qualify in a very real sense. However there are others that occur much more subtly. We watch or read something and are forever transformed from the inside out. My course corrections toward education and away from everything else are quite clear to me looking back from this juncture. One was a book, the other a movie.

In 2011, depressed after being dumped by my wife, I picked up a book called “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield. The pages enveloped my mind. More than consume, though, the book clarified my enemy. It was inside of me. A “Resistance” that could trace it’s origin back to the start of man but was groomed by modern society (and school). With a clear enemy I was able to fight back. Taking calculated leaps to start my first company (a success by all measures) and generally living life as I saw it needed living.

In early 2015 I sat down in the Broadway theater during the Sundance Film Festival and felt my mind explode within the confines of my brain. The film “Most Likely to Succeed” succeeded in crystallizing the failings of our schools and illuminating one possible path to a new future of education.

I was hooked.

Over the next 6 months, with highly annoying emails, I bludgeoned the production company into letting me screen the film for a couple high schools in my area.

The screening was wonderful.

Now for the next step.

Build a community that believes we need the same attitude shift.

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