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Escaping the Education Matrix? And who is Steve Hargadon?

State of cognitive dissonance?

What are most kids getting out of 12 years of school?

“How do you tell a story that opens the door to rethinking what people have believed for decades?”

Luba Vangelova posted in   this January 8, 2014

Steve Hargadon: Escaping the Education Matrix

“We tell a story about the power of learning that is very different from what we practice in traditional models of school,” says Steve Hargadon, education technology entrepreneur, event organizer, and host of the long-running Future of Education podcast series.

If we really want children to grow up to become self-reliant and reach their full potential, “we would be doing something very different in schools. We live in a state of cognitive dissonance.”

His comments are informed by a recent cross-country tour facilitating community discussions on education, as well as more than 400 interviews he’s logged with a broad spectrum of education practitioners, analysts, and innovators.

What are most kids getting out of 12 years of school?” he asks.

“The honest answer is they’re learning how to follow, and that was the original intent.

Public schools were based on the belief that what was needed was a small group of elites who would make the decisions for the country, and many more who would simply follow their directions” — hence a system that produces “tremendous intellectual and commercial dependency.”

And the notion that the smartest students rise to the top, regardless of family and social circumstances, “sends a message to the majority of students that they are losers,” Hargadon notes, which doesn’t square with a professed belief in the inherent value and capacity of every child.

“How do you tell a story that opens the door to rethinking what people have believed for decades?”

The system’s fundamental design also leads to a host of unintended consequences, including bullying.

“We’re placing kids in an artificial environment,” he says, “telling most of them they’re not good at things, and then expecting them not to explode at each other? Of course they will. The ‘mean girls’ thing is not a natural part of childhood—it’s more a reflection of how kids are being treated than a reflection of kids. It’s shocking that we put up with it.”

The reason so many adults find the situation tolerable, he says, may stem from the fact that they experience little control over their own lives.

Additionally, they themselves are products of the system and, as such, find it difficult to envision an alternative.

“People are almost in this Matrix-like existence,” Hargadon says. “They don’t question schooling. How do you tell a story that opens the door to rethinking what people have believed for decades? So much in their lives depends on that story being what they think it is.

How do you tell a new story that involves people reclaiming their destinies, children not being defective, and learning not being owned by one organization?”

There are also vested interests in the status quo.

“The people who benefit from us not being active citizens, from all buying the same things, and being willing to take jobs that demand we leave our personal values at the door—they all benefit from the current schooling system, because it produces a populace that does not feel confident in being critical,” he notes.

“At an institutional or personal level, those who benefit don’t have much incentive to promote changes in education that would lead people to question their motives or challenge their practices.”

To Drive Real Change, Focus on the Human Factors

An economic crisis (perhaps the one we’re already experiencing) may provide the financial imperative to overhaul the system, Hargadon says.

But something even more powerful may take precedence: He’s noticed “more and more resonance with the idea of having a moral imperative for education,” pointing to the growing backlash against high-stakes testing as one indication of a shift in thinking.

He sees a need for more people to “stand up and say: ‘This is not the right thing for children—it’s not a healthy childhood.’”

But families must also reclaim ownership of learning, rather than viewing it as the responsibility of schools and government, and also resist the tendency to make decisions for others.

“In some ways, traditional schools have co-opted a lot of traditional parental responsibilities,” he says. “That’s really unhealthy, and it becomes self-fulfilling. And when society says it knows better than the family, it’s a recipe for disaster. Some family circumstances are not ideal, but it’s a slippery slope.

It’s about trusting and respecting the capacity of individuals to make choices.”

Technology can support a transformation, but it’s not a silver bullet. The Internet has ushered in an era of “digital democracy” and increased people’s capacity to question the status quo. Widespread access to unlimited information has also opened many doors.

But “the process of becoming a self-directed, independent learner is a very human process,” Hargadon says. “Recognizing the different needs of every student, and the desire to help each one become personally competent as a learner and find productive things to do in life—that won’t happen online.”

The temptation to “solve all these problems with data” must also be tempered, he says. “Data does not define the core things in education, such as someone opening your eyes to something.” There’s a lesson to be learned from the world of business, he adds, where “the true value of the ‘total quality’ movement came not from tracking, but from involving workers themselves in using the data for self improvement.”

A Future Marked by Greater Freedom and Collaboration

For models of healthier ways to frame education, Hargadon suggests looking to food and libraries. “No one says that from age six to 17, we will give you all the same food, at the same time, regardless of your individual circumstances or needs,” he says. He envisions a world where families can similarly choose where, how, and what they learn.

What might that world look like? He considers libraries good examples of places that already facilitate such mandate-free learning. “The reason we have a hard time conceiving [an alternate reality],” he says, “is because we so strongly associate education with control.

If I ask you how you choose your own food, you’d probably say that it’s just what you do: Depending on your circumstances at the time, you may go to a farmer’s market or grocery store or restaurant or grow your own food. The difficulty is dismantling something that’s taken away our conception of having that kind of agency.

But when I imagine that world, it includes things like community college classes, apprenticeships at businesses, educational certification programs. You have a range of choices, depending on the child’s interests.”

Hargadon sees connecting people to each other as the most effective way to get from here to there, hence his recent tour. “The tour convinced me that policy changes are not the answer, and that change needs to come from us,” he says.

“As individuals, families and communities, we need to reclaim the conversation around learning, and to do so in such a way as to recognize the inherent worth and value of every student, with the ultimate goal of helping them become self-directed and agents of their own learning.”

Hargadon thinks one way change agents get tripped up is by promoting a particular model, rather than a process by which people can develop (or adopt) models that best fit their needs. He considers deep, meaningful conversations a useful starting point for people to use to shape the future, and to that end, he’s planning to host a series of national conversations in 2014 that probe the deeper questions around education and can serve as models for conversations people initiative in their own communities.

Living in a democracy means involving people in decision making,” Hargadon says. “You can’t just create a new system to implement top down; you have to provide the opportunity to talk about it and build it constructively.”

Luba Vangelova’s work has appeared in numerous print, online and broadcast media outlets, including The New York Times, Smithsonian and Salon.

Explore: 

These Principles are Not for problem solving: Just how people behave on Average

Many articles and books have been published for every single one of these principles, effects and laws.

I stumbled on a term-paper that a student of mine submitted in 2002 for the course of Human Factors in Engineering and I said: Why not? It is a good topic to post

Most of these principles were formulated by psychology researchers and they are good guidelines of what to expect in pitfalls and erroneous judgement when designing for people usage.

These laws and principles cannot be classified as rules for solving problems as is commonly misunderstood in natural sciences.

Many of these principles were the results of experiments with failed hypothesis because they were not tightly controlled.

Basically, if you know how average people behave in your community, you can design for effective results

Consequently, the first critical phase in any project is to comprehend the idiosyncrasies of the particular community in order to design valid solutions

First, check the ones you have already heard of, or read about in your course works.

  1. Hawthorn Effect
  2. Placebo Effect
  3. Occam’s razor
  4. Peter principle
  5. Parkinson’s Law
  6. Murphy’s law
  7. Pareto Principle
  8. Rule of Redundant systems
  9. Zeigarnik Effect
  10. Contrast principle
  11. Cognitive Dissonance
  12. Perceptual Consistency
  13. Turnpike Effect

Actually, last year I read a book “How to think clear” and it developed on many of these biases and effects. I reviewed many of the chapters.

Hawthorn Effect

The motivated people have greater effect than the solution presented to resolve a problem.

In the mid 1930’s a vast experiment involved thousands of employees who were supposed to ignore that an experiment is taking place. It turned out that the employees got wind and overdid their best at work. An example of an experiment that was not very well controlled.

Placebo Effect

A harmless with No pharmacological effects may make sick people feeling better if they were told the medicine is part of the cure.

Apparently, placebo has positive effect even though the sick person was told that it is a harmless medicine. (Maybe the sick person doesn’t really believe what he was told?)

William of Occam’s razor

The explanation with the fewest assumptions is the correct alternative in most cases

Peter principle

Employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence. When a competent employee rises to a higher level of complexities then they fall back to an incompetent job where they are not positioned to fill.

Parkinson’s law:

Work expands to fill the time allotted to it: The procrastination effect.

Any work must be subdivided to last a definite time span so that the entire project is finished according to a timetable and on schedule.

Give a student a project that can be done within a few days and he will gladly leave it to the last minutes after a few months for the scheduled time for presentation.

Murphy’s law

If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong. We tend not to expect what we think is an unexpected event or behaviour.

Pareto Principle

A small fraction of people do most of the job. The wealthiest are a tiny fraction of the total population. A fraction of the items sold generate most of the profit or revenue.

Rule of Redundant systems

Every critical system requires a redundant backup system

Zeigarnik Effect

We prefer to have a closure on a task before starting another one. Handling simultaneous tasks is difficult for most people and they are upset when they are asked to interrupt a job in midstream in order to tend to another job.

Contrast principle

The last event in a stream of successive events is retained and valued more than any of the other events. If the latest person seemed nice, he is viewed as nicer than he is. A good suggestion offered after a series of bad suggestions feels better than it is.

Cognitive Dissonance

Hearing about a crime committed creates a dissonance in the belief system of morality and justice and the event that occurred.

If we believe that a certain event should not happen then we tend to find fault in the victim.

Perceptual Consistency

We tend to pigeon-hole people and circumstances into simple generalized entities.

Turnpike Effect

The availability of unforeseen utility of a resource or facility generates greater use than was predicted.

Improve the road condition of a side route and people will drive on it more frequently than expected.

Do you drool when dinner clock chime?

The Ivan Pavlov  reaction

The association bias.

The cognitive dissonance.

The cat who sat on a hot stove-lid is not about to sit again on a stove-lit, cold, warm, or hot.

Regardless of the frequent successful presentations, Kevin’s green polka-dot underpants should not be of any guarantee for further “good luck” experiment.

And it is your good luck to lose the first time you play in a Casino. Otherwise, the beginner’s luck might sober your zeal pretty soon.

Beginner’s good luck played a role in early Internet stocks, house boom in real estates, company acquisitions, quick initial battle victories…

What’s the difference between beginner’s luck and first signs of real talents?

1. Are you much better than the others over a long period?

2. The more people competing, the greater the chances are one of them will repeatedly strike lucky, and it might be your talent in the domain that was fortunate.

3. Consider that besides talents, you probably were also fortunate a couple of times: don’t get overboard imagining a financial empire

4. Are you capable to taking it easy until you disprove your initial theory? Kind of sending your already “accepted” manuscript to ten other publishers to double check their responses that the manuscript is indeed a good one?

Did you lie to yourself every time you interpret a failed attempt as “Not so bad” after all? This is called Cognitive dissonance. and “shoot-the messenger” syndrome is a common case of bad association biases.

For example, a bunch of students were hired to go through a totally boring task for an hour.

After the task was over, Group A was given a single dollar to lie (to wax lyrical about the task) to the waiting second batch of students.

Group B was given $20 to also lie and encourage the students to submit to the task.

Group A has later rated the monotonous task as enjoyable or interesting. Why?

For just a single dollar, Group A preferred to lie to itself instead, and find the task acceptable in order to encourage the incoming subjects.

Group B lied through its teeth and vaunted the exiting nature of the task.

The final outcome was that most incoming subjects believed that the task would be exciting.

 

 

Palestinian youth shot from behind: What Israeli forces are doing in village of Budrus?

A teenage boy was killed by Israeli soldiers on the separation barrier close to the West Bank village of Budrus yesterday, shot from behind as he was running away, according to Palestinian accounts.

Samir Awad, 17, was among a group of boys who had just completed an exam on the last day of school before a midterm break when they approached the barrier, reports said. The Israeli Defense Forces said the youths were “attempting to infiltrate into Israel“, and its soldiers “responded immediately”. It confirmed live fire was used.

in Budrus posted in guardian.co.uk onJan. 15, 2013 under: “Israeli forces shot youth in the back as he ran away, say Palestinians”

Relatives of Samir Awad

Relatives of Samir Awad 17 mourn his death at a hospital in Ramallah, to where his body was taken after the shooting. Photograph: Issam Rimawi/Zuma Press/Corbis

“According to villagers, Samir was grabbed by soldiers who were concealed in a trench. He broke free and was running away when a soldier or soldiers opened fire. He was hit by three or four bullets, in his head, torso and leg.

Ayed Morrar, a member of the village popular resistance committee, said: “They shot him in cold blood, they shot him in the back. He wasn’t threatening them.” He said there had been no stone-throwing at the time of the shooting.

Samir, one of 15 siblings, was buried in the village cemetery overlooking the separation barrier on Tuesday afternoon. A large group of men and boys, some carrying Fatah and Hamas flags, accompanied his shrouded body to the grave.

His brother Jibril, 23, wearing a blood-soaked T-shirt, said he had rushed to help Samir as soon as he heard about the shooting.

Jibril said: “The soldiers prevented me from getting near him at first. There was a soldier on top of him.”

He said his family had lost more than five acres of land and 3,000 olive trees when the separation barrier was constructed on Budrus land. His mother had been injured in protests against the route of the barrier, and he had been jailed three times for taking part in popular resistance actions. “All our family has suffered from the wall,” he said.

Budrus was the first West Bank village to organize regular weekly protests against the barrier and eventually succeeded in getting its route changed. An eponymous documentary film about the village’s struggle was released in 2009. (See note)

After Samir’s funeral, soldiers fired teargas at village youths who gathered near the barrier.

Mouin Awad said Samir’s death could trigger further confrontations between villagers and the IDF. “We will throw rocks and protest. What else can we do?”

The IDF said an investigation into “reports regarding a wounded Palestinian” was under way.

On Monday a 21-year-old Gaza man died after being shot in the head by Israeli forces, according to Palestinian officials. The IDF denied being involved.

On Saturday a 21-year-old Palestinian was shot dead by Israeli troops while trying to cross the barrier near the southern West Bank town of Dura.

On Friday a 22-year-old man was killed and another injured by Israeli forces in northern Gaza, according to reports.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military said it had discovered a shaft leading to a tunnel dug from Gaza.

The opening was around 100 metres inside Israeli territory and was intended “to execute terror attacks against Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers on Israeli territory”, the IDF said.

Note:

Julia Basha is Brazilian or Lebanese descent who directed and produced the award-winning movie “Budrus” (2009).

This movie is a narrative of the community of Budrus in the West Bank who united to peacefully demonstrate against the Wall of Shame planned to cut the village.  All the political factions of Fateh, Hamas…and families joined forces and were supported by Israeli and foreign activists:  They marched every day to the construction site and girls stood in front of bulldozers that were rooting out olive trees…

Finally, the Israeli authority gave up on the project for the Wall of separation to pass by the village.

Julia explained the cognitive dissonance of why foreign media refused to cover this wonderfully achievement.  It seems that the media professionals had their mental model or coherent story concerning the conflict and this new aspect of peaceful Palestinian cohesion didn’t match the model.  Thus, Julia said that narrative stories are the most effective medium to changing perspectives on a story.

The film was shown to a group of Tea Party sympathizers who believe that private property is the cornerstone for independence of State government plans.  A large man asked Julia: “Didn’t the Israeli government pay for the proprietors of the land?

Israel don’t pay for anything owned by Palestinian, but Julia replied:  “A few accepted to sell but most of them refused.  They believed that if the Israeli government got its way once, it will repeat its nasty behavior.” 

The man beamed:  this story didn’t contradict his mental model.

Julia Basha co-wrote and edited “Control Room” (2004),  and co-directed “Encounter Point” (2006)

One party is Confronting advancing bulldozers without weapons: Is that a “non-violent” activity? What happened in the Palestinian town of Budrus?

Do you think that a person blocking the advance of a bulldozer or a tank is a non-violent confrontation?

Julia Basha produced a documentary of the non-violent struggle of the Palestinian community of Budrus in the West Bank.  This movie is a narrative of the community of Budrus who united to peacefully demonstrate against the Wall of Shame of Sharon. The Wall of separation was planned to cut the village in half and restrict daily communication and trade with neighboring towns and villages. 

All the Palestinian political factions of Fateh, Hamas…and families joined forces and were supported by Israeli and foreign peaceful activists:  They marched every day to the construction site and girls stood in front of bulldozers that were rooting out olive trees… Finally, the Israeli authority gave up on the project for the Wall of separation to pass by the village.

Do you feel when seeing these kinds of scenes, bare bodies defying the power-to-be machineries, as totally non violent? Which scene is more scary and violent: A body standing in front of an advancing tank or two people shooting at one another? Which scene is more scary and violent: A body sitting in front of an advancing bulldozer or one person shooting at another person hiding behind a barrier?

You have two parties confronting one another: One party is bearing arms and the other party has no weapons, but is ready to stand against indignities, humiliation, and survival of the bullying group who refuses to negotiate according to international human rights laws and rules…

Do you think that confrontations not based on legal and just laws, without strong-arm behavior looming behind the scene, can be labelled non-violent?

A body defying a raging bulldozer has reached a state of no return in a climate of total outrage and impotence to getting his just and fair rights.  The bulldozer driver who presses on the gas pedal and harvest a living person has reached an hysteric state of total apartheid and racist mind-set. Both parties are violent in their confrontations, regardless of weapon imbalance, simply because the political environment, which was emptied of any human rights and social values, is a violent climate and refuses any considerations of equitable human status…

Julia Basha believe that narrative stories are the most effective medium to changing perspectives on a story.  She explained the cognitive dissonance of why foreign media refused to cover this peaceful non-violent wonderfully achievement.  for example, FOX News is watched by over 80 million Americans, and this media has manufactured a violent ideology based on “Your rights are what you gained by strong-arm methods…”  This media then turns around and explains: “Hey, I am delivering what the audience want to watch as news…”  You are not going to expect Fox news or any violent and biased medias to displaying non-violent activities, especially when this activities generate success results…

It seems that the media professionals had their mental model or coherent story concerning the conflict and this new aspect of peaceful Palestinian cohesion didn’t match the model.  Thus, Julia said that narrative stories are the most effective medium to changing perspectives on a story.

The “Budrus” film was shown to a group of Tea Party sympathizers who believe that private property is the cornerstone for independence of State government plans.  A large man asked Julia: “Didn’t the Israeli government pay for the proprietors of the land?”  Israel don’t pay for anything owned by Palestinian, but Julia was witty and replied:  “A few accepted to sell, but most of them refused.  They believed that if the Israeli government got its way once, it will repeat its nasty behavior.”  The man beamed:  this story didn’t contradict his mental model. 

The Palestinians in the occupied territories of West Bank and Gaza have been conducting non-violent marches, demonstrations, and activities for decades, but the US and western medias refrained from showing this side of the story. If the Palestinian non-violent activities are shut-down from the mass audience, how can people pay attention to the Palestinian plights?

If the successive US administrations are refraining to applying UN charters in the Palestinian just cause, and steadfastly side with Israel stron-arm policies, how do you think the Palestinians should behave?

Note: Julia Basha is Brazilian or Lebanese descent who directed and produced the award-winning movie “Budrus” (2009).   Julia Basha co-wrote and edited “Control Room” (2004),  and co-directed “Encounter Point” (2006)


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