Architects of Their Own Future

An Educational Action Novel - A Viable Vision - The Goal for Education



Im tired of teachers bearing the brunt of the blame for the problems we see in education. Striving to maintain order in classrooms of 20+ kids with different abilities with testing mandates arriving annually from all directions, I have nothing but admiration for this profession.

But on the other hand, Im also tired of not seeing things in the classroom reflecting what I see in reality: neat math / physics experiments; webcams; lots of neat stuff.

And Im stuck respectful but frustrated. And I dont see things changing.

There are two principal goals of Architects:

1. not to solve the problem of education, but rather to define the reason education does not improve like we think it should;

2. identify the constraint - a limiting factor - and leverage this to achieve rapid progress quickly.



The Principal Conflict

Imagine you're teaching math to a group of 25 kids with differing abilities, having to get through material dictated not by you but by the district curriculum head, with state tests around the corner.  In comes "consultant x" or "person y" carrying "great materials z" to revolutionize math.  What would you say?  "It looks great, but not right now".  What else could you say?  You can't possible do anything with the material, given your situation, right - even if you wanted to!

What's the conflict?  You see the great things possible out there.  New things.  Exciting things.  Great things.  You want to integrate them into your class.  You know things could be a lot better.  You'd prefer things be taught in an interdisciplinary manner.  The realities of your situation don't allow you to, however.  You must focus on the existing curriculum, your specialty, and the important tests right around the corner.

In focusing on the existing curriculum, however, we should be able to improve so much we can integrate the "great stuff" out there - eventually - right?

If we could, why haven't we? 

What if we could?  What if we did? 

What is the relationship between constraint management, the core problem, and simple and complex systems?



The Format of the Book

A word on the layout of the book:  there are three "themes" intermixed.  One regards high-stakes tests, beginning not with "how do we do better", but rather, "Why isn't anybody doing better?", particularly when all of the material is right in front of the kids (in the reading and science sections).  The progression is through the reading, math, and science sections.


The second thread is provided as a "rest" from the first, and it deals with a basketball team struggling with the loss of key players and the eminent shutdown of the school.  How can they compete?  Though seemingly different than education, the issues involved are identical.  Can we (and how) improve rapidly - now?


The third thread is my philosophical thread.  These are Principal Ragnar's nightly walks / self-discussions, trying to make sense of systems, of improvement, of stagnation, etc.  The six "peripatetic adventures", called in the book "Chautauquas", are:





Other Issues Considered

A non-exhaustive list of things considered in the book are as follows:


* The relationship between the core problem and the constraint;

* The "have a seat" injection, where, instead of trying to solve a conflict, you simply show your conflict to the other party;

* The brutal consequences of injecting your "solution" on someone else's problem (The words "do you know what you should do" should be banished from one's vocabulary);

* The "foothold", allowing one the ability to "get grounded" in a body of material;

* "Conduction", integrating "induction" and "deduction" in solving math problems with perfect documentation;

* "Iterative Effect-Cause-Effect", seeking causal explanation for natural phenomena, and integrating new experiences into one's understanding;

* "System A" versus "System B" thinking;

* Debate and Logic, not taught as separate and confrontational disciplines, but integrated into everyday materials.



The Plot Line

A retired principal. A struggling basketball team. Stagnant ACT scores. Washington High was running out of time. To make matters worse, the community was clamoring for more! Foreign language programs. Hands-on science. More technology.

What to do?

This is their story.

A story of survival. Of optimism. Of the possibility of improvement, now AND in the future. Of an achievable goal for education, with students as ...