In 1984, Bruce Springsteen wrote,
“We busted out of class, had to get away from those fools. We learned more in a three-minute record, baby, than we ever learned in school.”
In 2016, he won the Medal of Freedom.
The Boss was onto something. The idea that education needs fundamental change cannot be overstated. It is here that we have the most leverage to move the world forward, together.
Currently, our avowed purpose for “education” is to make people able to “compete for jobs.” We stamp out the entrepreneurial spirit for 24,000 hours in K-12; another 8,000 hours in college (with plenty of debt to show for it). In 32,000 hours of your young life, no one ever asks you, “What do you love and how can we help you to do it?”
Entrepreneurs, in all fields, create most of the new jobs in the world, while oligarchic oldsters churn jobs. “Education,” conducted like “entrepreneurship” at its best, can transform the world through the passionate, collaborative efforts of free, brave, thinking people, all boldly being the change they wish to see. Ayn Rand meets Mahatma Gandhi.
Our myriad problems are subsets of a systems problem, and a system of thinking that no longer serves us as a world. These problems set us against one another. On all sides of issues, heroic people everywhere are applying band-aids; we exhaust ourselves by sticking fingers in the holes in the dam. As Einstein pointed out, “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”
We can launch a new system now. It starts with a new meme, rooted in what we today call “education” and “entrepreneurship.” Today we think these are separate things. “Education” is listening to a sage on the stage (or computer screen) try to permanently install content into your head so you can compete to get a job someday. “Entrepreneurship” in all fields is doing real things, learning every single day. This is lifelong learning through creating. SPIRITed education!
Click here for my very short, very free eBook on transforming education.
Our current system’s theory for “getting your education” is RAMIT: Regurgitate, Acculturate, Memorize, while you are Isolated and Threatened.
It is you alone against the room, competing for grades, and you will not be an “honor” student if you cannot learn by RAMIT. The structure/process of RAMIT is batch processing of humans for the theoretical permanent installation of content. RAMIT is an anti-entrepreneurial system. It is a pro-bullying, pro-narcissism, anti-compassion, anti-thinking, anti-new-wealth system.
Today we exhort students to be generous, but we incentivize them to try to beat out everyone else for top ranking. We exhort them to be kind, but we create losers of all stripes that no one is kind to. 50% of all students must be “below average,” except in Lake Woebegone, where Garrison Keillor assures us, “All the kids are above average.” We tell the rest of the kids in the world it is a level playing field. If they are “below average,” it is because they did not work hard enough. Where is STEM when you need it? A zero-sum game is a dumb game!
The solution is not hard! The truth is out there! All the pieces exist, and someone is doing each one beautifully. Now we just have to put them together and see a new synergistic system whole; we can build ecosystems for lifelong learning and creating.
Google was running ads and billboards showing “unlikely animal friends.” The owl who loves the pussycat, the hippo who loves the ancient tortoise. The caption always read, “Be together. Not the same.” Called “Friends Furever,” it was then the most shared ad of all time.1
A caretaker of some unlikely devoted pals, a tiger and a lion and a bear, said, “I think they are friends because they knew each other when they were young, and they never had to compete for food.” In a RAMIT system, we have humans together for 24,000 hours while they are young, and we force them to compete for the basic needs of safety, security, belonging, and achievement, every day, every year. Another 8,000 hours of competing to win at RAMIT in college. What a waste of years.
Imagine a system in which each human is passionately deploying their strengths, doing real things for themselves and others, collaborating with, and learning from, others with different strengths and different interests, in different fields, and of different ages and countries! It turns out that this is exactly what entrepreneurs really do! The next-level-system theory for lifelong learning/creating I call “SPIRIT“. It is learning while doing real things, grounded in each individual’s Strengths, Passions, and Interests, cultivating Relationships, and celebrating Individuality in an ecosystem of Trust. If you want STEM or STEAM, start with dreams!
Handy memory device for how to operationalize a new system for learning, whose collateral advantages include compassion and trust is: “The 6 Degrees of Innovation.” This is the structure of what good entrepreneurs do! 1. They do real things. 2. They have peer support. 3. They mentor and are mentored. 4. They use technology to accomplish their purposes. 5. They have an ethos that lets them be trusted (high-leverage, low-friction work). 6. They cultivate serendipity. This is the structure of next-systems-level lifelong learning through creating.
The process you can handily remember as, “The 4Hs of Innovation: Hustle with Honor, Help, and be Helped.” If you do this all your life, everything else you need you will learn, or find someone who does it to help you. Lifelong learning, lifelong creating, like entrepreneurs do.
The truth is out there. It’s just in pieces. For example, Gallup has committed to getting 50,000 Strength Coaches deployed2, so everyone in the world can have one. Encore.org has committed to getting 1,000,000 people over 50 to mentor 1,000,000 million at-risk kids.3 CityAs, a high school full of at-risk kids, has no competing for grades, and every student does an internship in New York City4. (There is no bullying. No suicides.)
The technology is in place: the Internet and accessibility to it, and the components of “empathy machines”, which are the VR goggles and 360 cameras that let us meet intimately across the world, to “Help and Be Helped”. Also, we can begin to make a case for how/when we can replace expensive, and often crippling, credentialing with a combo of cameras and ratings for doers.
Kate’s students created a playlist series to share their experiences in SPIRITed classes. The playlist is called “Understanding Giinius” and is hosted on YouTube (it contains 19 videos). Of the 19, here are four videos that her students highly recommend viewing/sharing with others:
- Vulcan Professor Kate McKeown on Education Systems Change – Part 1
- Vulcan Professor Kate McKeown on Education Systems Change – Part 2
- Mediocre Humans: The American Dream? Bruce Lee Speaks Out on Education
- Saving Education with Anu!
1 Google Android’s “Friends Furever” Campaign Is Most Shared Ad of 2015 https://unruly.co/news/article/2015/11/19/most-shared-ads-of-2015/
2 Gallup Global Strengths Coach(formerly Accelerated Strengths Coaching) https://www.gallup.com/learning/310019/accelerated-strengths-coaching.aspx
3 Generation to Generation, a new campaign to mobilize 1 million adults over 50 to help young people thrive and unite all ages to create a better future. https://encore.org/generation-generation-encore-org-new-campaign-unite-generations-support-youth/
4 A New Kind of Classroom: No Grades, No Failing, No Hurry. https://www.businessinsider.com/what-its-like-to-attend-alternative-high-school-2015-3