How do we harvest the full potential of every child, regardless of their parents’ education or wealth, regardless of their nation, or of their teachers’ credentialing, regardless of IQ, and without major expense or relocation?
Compare the best College Bound students in the world, achieving a Harvard-level 1505 SAT score (4.3%) -- with the 31% achieving this lofty standard in the Organic Educational Ecosystem. The Organic Educational Ecosystem students are 700% more likely to achieve said astronomical score, exceeding the many PISA international success stories, as well.
Consider the 2000 to 2015 RESULTS of the Organic Educational Ecosystem Experiment.
With all data points verified, the likelihood of the SAT scores of the students educated in the Organic Ecosystem being randomly selected from the college bound population is less than 1 in 500 billion, and from the Private School population is less than 1 in 2 billion. This is not even a fair fight.
Certainly, the teachers and students in each of the various educational systems are dedicated and sincere. Simply put, we have been giving our children and their teachers a shovel and asking them to use the shovel to perform heart transplants with a faulty set of instructions. We’re primarily still using industrial era concepts from the late 19th and 20th centuries, in a 21st century that must instead focus on the advancement of intellectual and creativity platforms. The tools and methods matter. It’s not difficult to measure and compare, thankfully.
Let’s consider another angle. Public Schools cost to the taxpayer, internationally, range between $3,000 and $19,000 per year, per student. This figure is around 6-8% of any nation’s GDP, while often yielding statistically very little chance of Harvard SAT level success. What if we don’t need to spend all that money, and could achieve better results, reallocating the money for solving poverty and infrastructure issues?
Are Private Schools the answer? The same students, for $40,000 per year in private schools, have purchased a mere 120 SAT points for their money. So, you say, maybe we should save that $40,000, and we can make the time to “Home School” the children. If we pretend that most people have the time, you would indeed save some money initially, and perhaps make some money when you begin charging your children rent when they are 30. Statistically, don’t think home schooling is a superior form of education over those “high student/teacher ratio” “one-size-fits-all” public or private schools. You would lose 29 SAT points, not gain, measured against those organized expensive schools you have eschewed, while perhaps leaving the youth without the necessary social skills for college, career, and family.
So then, go ahead and be an A+ student in a public or private school, if you can… and you’ll still average 300 points below a Harvard 1505 score. Not to mention that the average GPA of High School students has risen dramatically in the last 20 years, while SAT scores have not, indicating the arbitrary and perhaps politically biased basis of the school grading systems. Perhaps the graduation rates and grading system are influenced by federal or state financial rewards, teacher tenure, and community accolades?
So, consider daring to spearhead an Organic Educational Ecosystem? Will you see the SAT scores skyrocket to nearly one out of three achieving this Harvard-level success, as documented over 15 years of this journey, this “experiment” of life? Do keep in mind, also, that these results are entirely without emphasis on the SAT, or conjuring and diverting time to SAT preparation, as some schools may do, from time to time. Actually, more emphasis is on elements of serious sports, coding, music and the arts, and growing a surprising and dazzling social acumen for the great journey ahead. The expressed opinions of many college professors and interviewers and employers confirm these points for those students involved in the Organic Educational Ecosystem for their educational experience.
Skeptical? So then, follow this same statistically relevant sample set into their careers and discover that their average salaries are between 300% and 800% higher than their Millennial peers. The student with the lowest SAT in the 15-year Organic Ecosystem experiment proceeded to land a job that paid 360% of the Millennial average salary in his region.
None of this can be taken as “accidental” any more than flipping a coin in a Bernoulli Trial, and it landing on its edge 5 times consecutively, could be “accidental.” Something’s up.
Must it be a genetically advantaged sample set of students? Or maybe it’s that the parents all have advanced degrees and a lot of spare time on their hands to invest in the young students?
Ah, but here are the facts: only 41% of the “teachers” even graduated from college, 35% dropped out of college, 24% never attempted college, and a good number were High School dropouts in their day.
80% of the students in the Organic Educational Ecosystem outperformed their top-performing parent in every category. A recent Economist study has shown that while 30-year-olds in the 1970’s held a salary edge over their 30-year-old parents 90% of the time, the number of Millennials today with a higher wage at age thirty than their parents is only 41%. This number for the Organic Educational Ecosystem sample set is far different, though the “economy” and opportunities are identical. Nearly 100% of today’s 30-year-olds in the Organic Educational group surpass their parents’ wage at age 30. It is not statistically possible that this is an accident.
WHY? And HOW?
In 1986, at a Parent-Teachers night for first graders, the sight of the bulletin boards in the classroom produced a “light bulb” moment. That is, just after the feeling of being punched in the solar plexus. The factory-like techniques being employed, even by the highly trained and sincere teacher, could only be expected to dumb-down students. It was obviously a throwback to the days when Henry Ford and the Industrialists needed millions of assembly line workers. They knew that “Education Equals Freedom” – so they borrowed from Europe and reinvented a special means of controlling the outcome of schools to create happy assembly line workers. Factory owners could not expect creative and inspired men and women to do repetitive tasks for 10 hours per day without revolting. And so, the factory schools were created, with yellow factory busses taking innocent and brilliant sponges to their destinies, year after year. “Average” material was imparted by lecture format to age segregated and educational “topic” segregated children, who were trained socially and morally by their peers. Functionally, it was required of the student to return that topic-segregated information to the teacher on a “test,” to achieve “success.” Students like the young Albert Einstein never quite fell for that paradigm, thankfully.
Of course, there have always been extraordinary “teachers” who broke the rules and the mold. But, since the best 10% of teachers communicate and impart 300% more information than the worst 10% of teachers (Economist Magazine), what then happens to 90% of our students? Most are slaves to a system where they do not “learn how to learn” – but merely repeat what they’ve been told to repeat. The game is not “thought” or “creativity,” but the game is Simon Says, for a score.
“Teachers” are generally underpaid. Valued against their contribution to the future of our neighborhoods and nations, they are severely underpaid. But, there are the buildings, their upkeep, their staff, busses, vehicles, fuel, and carbon footprint Infrastructure issues for legacy brick and mortar schools. This investment is phenomenal, and unrepeatable in a locale more frequently than once a generation.
Since 80% of all jobs will not exist ten years from now, and the skills for the new jobs of ten years from now cannot yet be taught (Harvard GSD, “Smart Cities”), you see the problem. Money is not the issue since more money spent has no significant impact on results. Clearly then, too much money is entirely misspent, even out of good intentions. More money for orphanages is a good plan in theory, but money will never replace the value of a healthy family under any circumstance. There is an intrinsic heartbeat in a family that cannot be bought. That is our topic, at its essence, regarding the Education models of yesterday, and today.
We MUST teach the next generation to LEARN HOW TO LEARN, and with others, not how to recite information. They must learn to reeducate themselves every 18 months -- for the rest of their lives. THAT is the skill we must teach in the context of relationships not programs, above all else. THAT is the lesson of the Organic Educational Ecosystem.
What is this Organic Educational Ecosystem, where students can graduate with a high quality University Engineering degree and be well into a Masters degree, by the age of 18 and 19? How do three students tie for the Physics Award of a 29,000 student University, as the first time in the school’s history a tie was granted, and all three of those students were educated in this Organic Ecosystem? What are the odds? And, by the way, none of them were even Physics or Engineering majors as they excelled at the highest level in those classes. The Organic Ecosystem has produced many “full-ride” scholarships, as well as valedictorians in language and science and liberal arts, along with many more honors in education, and then accolades and promotions in their subsequent careers. We never even gave it much thought at the time. It was just obvious, it seemed.
Doesn't it sound a little similar to the stories and incredible successes of the “founding fathers” of America, 250 years ago? Often at a very young age, these normal guys excelled in calculus and higher mathematics, science and technology years ahead of their time, medicine, law, military strategy and leadership, business, philosophy, and the arts. A full half of these “founding fathers” were “self-educated” or had mentors -- and never saw a day of college.
“The coin has landed on its edge, five times in a row.” But, see, that’s happened before. We are all rediscovering the math of the new, but ancient music.
How do you get that coin to land on its edge five times in a row?
Here are three of the guiding principles.
They’ll be presented very briefly, without much elaboration or specific implementation techniques, since those are very fluid by definition. Yes, existing buildings and teachers can be a vital part of all of this. The more the merrier! It’s just that elitism and the factory system need to probably be out the window. The rows and files and lecture system need to go, and become seats or desks in circles, and facilitators opening the doors and windows into the future. Still, these principles have led again and again to the seemingly statistically impossible result of “no one falling through the cracks” and staggering achievements, worth millions of dollars to the students, their families, and society over the course of their lifetimes. These principles should be given their place, the statistical results being unbelievably stubborn, if not provocatively shocking as they are. Don’t we want to do more than incrementally tweaking past results? Let’s be daring with these principles, now that they are proven beyond question, scientifically:
1) Character matters. No households that were engaged in this rebelliously simple educational journey were part of any religious organization or attended any weekly religious meetings on a calendar. Honest statistical analysis, however, makes it impossible to not mention this, as it relates to character impartation and influencers: nearly every parent or single-parent family expressed great seriousness about knowing and living the teaching of Jesus, who is recognized by every major world religion and historians, at minimum, as a great Man. Why does this matter? Practically, this priority of life seems to translate into qualities of work ethic, honesty, peace, respect for authority, curiosity, creativity, and care for peers of differing age or race.
2) Impart Life, not “subjects.” Subjects and topics can be separated by time, curriculum, and age. If we do that, we lose. After all, what really is so-called mathematics? It’s music, it’s material science, it’s physics, it’s biology and chemistry, it’s sports, it’s computer science and programming, it’s full-duplex nanotechnology radio frequency CMOS circuits, it’s rocket propulsion, it’s carpentry, it’s finance, it’s culinary arts. Know that. Feel that. Impart that. Discover that, together. Wow, so free from pressure, and full of wonder. What is art? What is “phys-ed”? What is “recess”? What is “summer vacation”? What is a “weekend”? What is literature, grammar, writing, reading, earth science, history? They are all the SAME, if we are living and imparting life correctly. And naturally, that truth is embedded in every form of great leadership….
3) Be COLLABORATIVE. Don’t “teach” but rather facilitate “Learning how to learn.” Gather everyone on couches or tables with what laptops, tablets, and smart phones you can find, and ask what interested them in that day. A building under construction? Fine. What’s it made of? How does it stand up? What did it cost? Who is paying for it? Why? What will be inside? How do they pay the lease? What is a lease? How are water and heat supplied? Who pays for this, and who creates the possibility of the energy required to do so? Are the “skin” and “arteries” and lungs” and “bones” of this building “old” technology, or new? What might be better materials or concept? Think. Imagine! Perhaps it’s the next $!0 billion industry in the making on that couch. This is NOT the industrial “cap ex” revolution any longer, when only the elite and privileged can own the future. No more. Research together. Answer together. There are no experts needed! And no one who cares can fail. No explorer left behind.
A new generation of thinkers and entrepreneurs and “geniuses” are on the way, learning to kick a ball like Pelé and play piano like Krystian Zimmerman, in between discussions, and as part of the discussions about coefficient of restitution and tensile strength. And, the good news is this: we don’t have to know a thing to do that, but simply need the will to find the means to discover together, researching, traveling, interviewing others, and brainstorming. We facilitate and mentor, as we rise up and sit down, and walk along the way, with no regard to subjects or the clock or the calendar. Life is a Field Trip: the older facilitating the younger (with more questions than answers), and the young returning the favor. In this way, we will never be “the cork on the bottle” for those who follow behind us… but rather the fuse that ignites their future.
Gather interested neighbors and friends to facilitate "learning how to learn," different adults taking responsibility for blocks of time in various evenings or daytimes, depending on work and travel schedules. The calendar and the clock are not very much dictators or predictors of anything at all, as all are sensitive to others’ responsibilities and families and jobs, but all are investing as they’re able, as well. This process, across age groups and economic strata, altogether BURIES race and educational distinctions that dominate a typical school or workplace environment. Twenty plus years of reality proves out that a twelve-year-old will often find their “best friend” to be a 40-year-old or a nine-year-old, over time. Consider what this “mentorship” and “apprenticeship” and “internship” does to a young child’s ability to think and communicate -- with wisdom and maturity far beyond their years. It’s a proven fact and a lot of fun, with great reward for anyone getting even slightly near this.
Michael H Peters, Rose Hulman Institute of Technology, Harvard Graduate School of Design
Data collection and analysis: Alexander Stufflebeam, Purdue University, Indiana University, ASA, CERA, FSA Benjamin Roberts, Purdue University, Indiana University, ASA
Data Sources include but not limited to, media.collegeboard.org, census.gov, K12.niche.com, forbes.com, nheri.org, economist.com, Harvard Graduate School of Design