Really enjoyed Doubt. This parable definitely going to be reused with students.
“A woman was gossiping with a friend about a man she hardly knew— I know none of you have ever done this—that night she had a dream. A great hand appeared over her and pointed down at her. She was immediately seized with an overwhelming sense of guilt. The next day she went to confession.
She got the old parish priest, Father O’Rourke, and she told him the whole thing. “Is gossiping a sin?” she asked the old man. “Was that the hand of God Almighty pointing a finger at me? Should I be asking your absolution? Father, tell me, have I done something wrong?”
“Yes!” Father O’Rourke answered her. “Yes, you ignorant, badly brought-up female! You have borne false witness against your neighbor, you have played fast and loose with his reputation, and you should be heartily ashamed!”
So the woman said she was sorry and asked for forgiveness. “Not so fast!” says O’Rourke. “I want you to go home, take a pillow up on your roof, cut it open with a knife, and return here to me!”
So the woman went home, took a pillow off her bed, a knife from the drawer, went up the fire escape to the roof, and stabbed the pillow. Then she went back to the old parish priest as instructed. “Did you gut the pillow with the knife?” he says.”Yes, Father.” “And what was the result?” “Feathers,” she said. A world of feathers.
“Feathers?” he repeated. “Feathers everywhere, Father!”
“Now I want you to go back and gather up every last feather that flew out on the wind!”
“Well,” she said, “it can’t be done. I don’t know where they went. The wind took them all over.”
”And that,” said Father O’Rourke,“is gossip!”
“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Negative suggestion is pretty common. “Try not to fall off”, “Don’t push that button” are both examples. The problem is it seems to have pretty standard effects too. You fall off. You end up pushing that button. The suggestion to a person not to do something results in increasing the likelihood that the person will actually do it.
Made me wonder how often my colleagues and I use it at school. And who we might be unwittingly pushing off the tightrope.
The performance of a system depends on how the parts fit, not how they act taken separately. As a result, and to paraphrase Dave Gray, a best practice from one school, or from one teacher, can’t necessarily be applied successfully elsewhere.
Gray quotes systems expert Russell Ackoff‘s rather brilliant car argument:
“If we have a system of improvement that is directed at the parts, taken separately, you can be absolutely sure that the performance of the whole will not be improved.” … I read in The New York Times that 487 kinds of automobiles are available in the United States. Let’s buy one of each and bring them into a large garage. Let’s then hire 200 of the best automotive engineers in the world and ask them to determine which car has the best engine. Suppose they come back and say the Rolls Royce has the best engine. Make a note of it. ‘Which one has the best transmission?’ we ask them, and they go over and test and they come back and say the Mercedes does. ‘Which one has the best battery?’ They come back and say the Buick does. And one by one, for every part required for an automobile, they tell us which is the best one available. Now we take that list, give it back to them and say, ‘Now remove those parts from those cars, and put them together into the best possible automobile, because now we’ll have an automobile consisting of all the best parts.’ What do we get? You don’t even get an automobile, for the obvious reason that the parts don’t fit.
“Why?” questions about objects called systems cannot be answered through analysis.
This, from Jack Welch, makes a lot of sense:
“I’ve always believed that when the rate of change inside an institution becomes slower than the rate of change outside, the end is in sight. The only question is when.”
Given how quickly things are changing outside schools, it makes me wonder how best to keep the rates of change inside them up to speed.
I find this table a little unsettling, and I think the reason why has to do with artificial divides.
It’s part of what looks like an interesting presentation by Bonnie Stewart – and I know I am probably taking it out of context – but I’m going to assume the “academic” vs “networked” are kind of akin to “classroom” vs “social media/how Will Richardson’s son learnt Minecraft”.
Dividing like this is great to show the differences and the extremes of the spectrum, but by focusing on the differences there is a danger we ignore how similar many of the practices are or can be. The black & white either-or ignores the grey both-and. And with that quickly comes a polarising “for” or “against” set of arguments.
There’s a lot of talk about 21st century education. There are the skills that children need, the jobs that don’t exist yet, the access to learning anywhere and all the wonderful things the internet enables us to do. All of this is valuable, I think, but I wonder how much it is side-stepping the real issue?
When I first started teaching, the wonderful Annie Younger pointed something out to me. She said that “children will learn from you even when you don’t want them to. It is a blessing and a curse.” What she meant was that in a school you are constantly observed. Not just in lessons, but in the corridor, talking to colleagues, spilling soup on your shirt in the dining room and the children learn from that too.
Much of the 21st century thinking about schools that I have read has focused on overt areas( e.g. assessment and badges) and times (e.g. homework and flipped classrooms) when we do want children to learn. Badges, flipped classrooms and the like. This is all good. Perhaps, though, we are ignoring think more about the tacit, unintended, soup-spilling messages our 20th century schools are giving out.
The main one, for me, is the structure. Perhaps more out of tradition than intent, schools are hierarchical, command-and-control beasts. While yes it’s good to look at ways to reinvent the classroom, what if we had a closer look at the way our schools were structured? It’s always easier to think in binary terms – hierarchy (bad) vs wirearchy (good) – and there is a danger that that blurs much of the goodness in the overlap but should we be beginning to adjust the organisational structures to fit a more fluid world? Does a school need a head? How do we embed teams? Should we? How do we engage in a less us and them manner with parents and communities?
Dave Gray‘s talk below is a great starting point for thinking about this.
As a teacher it’s hugely exciting to be able to use all the magic of technology. It’s great to be able to tweet and blog and share photos and get classrooms connecting with others around the world. That is, as Annie Younger might have said, part of what I want the children to learn. What I’m not sure I want them to learn is that all of this happens despite, not because of, a school’s structure. The values that are implicit in what I am trying to teach are not necessarily carried through in the way my colleagues and I work. That is the soup on my shirt.
…anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.
There’s lots of chat about schools and how they need to adapt for the 21st Century. Some of it is good, some of it useful, but a lot seems to be edging towards something that was said almost 14 years ago, the Cluetrain Manifesto
Cluetrain.com went live in April, 1999. It was written by four very brilliant men: Chris Locke, Doc Searls, David Weinberger, and Rick Levine. And it was a manifesto for how companies could sensibly engage with the new internet-enabled markets that were springing up, markets which were often smarter than the companies.
I love this! I came across it trying to put together some example for my Year 6s on copying and when it was and wasn’t wrong. By chance one of my students Rudi mentioned the song Harder Than You Think by Public Enemy.
I did some quick YouTubing and it turns out that Chuck D and co lifted Shirley Bassey’s Jezahel (minus the exceptional dancers and ridiculous facial expressions)