Growth Mindset: an Essential Tool of Positive Leadership

This past weekend, I was pleased to receive an invitation to help @LeeAraoz prepare for a presentation by sharing my experience with growth mindset. I was asked to post a video on his growth mindset Flipgrid.

Because of a combination of not figuring out how to post my video on his Flipgrid, and the distraction of yet another in a long series of remodeling problems on our home, I missed my opportunity. Given my belief in the importance of a growth mindset, I will share my thoughts, here.

When I first heard the term “growth mindset, I had to stop and think about what it meant. After a little research, I was excited to discover that I have been talking about and teaching the concept for decades. In my leadership consulting practice, I referred to the concept of learning continuously as striving for “relentless improvement.”

I much prefer the more apt and elegant descriptor, “growth mindset.”

I have long believed that this focus on relentless improvement, growth, and learning is an essential tool of positive leadership, whether as a manager or supervisor in a business organization, a principal of a school, or a teacher in the classroom. We must always strive to pry open our minds to growth. We must be willing to challenge our assumptions at any point in time as we work to be better at what we do and produce better outcomes.

Change and growth are an essential part of life for both people and organizations. When the outcomes we produce tell us something is not working, doing nothing is irresponsible. It is a silly analogy, I know, but imagine changing the decorations on a cake but never baking a new cake. Sooner or later you’ll have a mess on your hands.

Someone, many years ago, shared with me the advice of a ski instructor, who said:

“if you are not falling down once in a while, you are not really skiing.”

When we extend ourselves to the cusp of our knowledge and experience, we fall down. It’s what we all do; it is how we learn. The best advice I can give people is “don’t sweat the mistakes we make, celebrate them.”

“Stop complaining,” is another challenge I offer to current or aspiring positive leaders. Complaints are the province of the weak and powerless. When unhappy about some aspect of your life, job, or organization, instead of complaining, offer a better idea or solution. If you do not have a better idea or alternate approach of your own, become a positive advocate for someone else’s proposal for change. If no one has a better idea, put your heads together and discover one.

There will always be a better way if we take the time and teach ourselves how to search for it. Train your mind to push the boundaries of your imagination, to reject complacency, to ask tough questions, and challenge your assumptions. Nothing hampers a growth mindset like complacency and inertia.

My mission in life, for the past decade, has been to stop the failure of disadvantaged kids. These kids are not destined to fail, and they do not struggle because they are incapable of learning, or because they have bad teachers and bad schools. If we listen to these kids, and observe their behavior, it becomes apparent that they are “street smart.” They learn what is important to them and they learn what works for them in their unique environments. The only way to convince them that what we are striving to teach them is important is by convincing them, through our words and actions, that they are important.

Growth mindset is an essential tool of positive leadership.

When disadvantaged kids struggle and fail in school it is because the education process in which their teachers are expected to teach does not allow them to give every student the time, support, and attention they need to overcome their disadvantages. Those disadvantages, un-remediated, leave young people at the mercy of discrimination.

Until teachers give up, themselves, and leave the profession they chose with such high hopes and aspirations, I can assure you they do everything they can to give kids the time and attention they need to learn. The education process in which teachers are expected to work, however,  is not structured to support them in that effort. The education process at work in American schools, both public and private, has become brittle and unresponsive to the changes taking place in the world in which their students must live and teachers must work.

The moment a process, product, service, or idea can no longer be improved is the point at which it becomes obsolete.

That’s why I developed The Hawkins Model©. It offers an education process that has been designed to serve teachers and students as they do their important work, not the other way around. It’s a simple question of “who exists to serve whom?”

Never underestimate your power to influence to the world around you. Cultivate a growth mindset for yourselves and create an environment that fosters relentless growth and learning for the people around you.

What the Data Tells Us

The following graphic speaks eloquently about the problems in public education in America; problems that exist in spite of the heroic efforts of teachers.

Fort Wayne  and South Bend are two of Indiana’s greatest cities and both have many cultural, educational, business, and recreational resources to offer to their citizens. As is true in so many medium- to intermediate-sized communities (populations of 100,000 to 300,000), both communities have diverse populations. What is also characteristic of such communities is the existence of  urban, suburban, and rural public-school districts. Both Fort Wayne Community Schools and the South Bend Community School Corporation, within their district boundaries, have a high proportion of children of color; children from families that are on the lower end of the income continuum, regardless of color; and, the largest percentage children for whom English is a second language. By virtually any criteria, in diverse communities, both have the highest percentage of kids that could be thought of as disadvantaged students.

Both school districts are led by some of the most highly educated and experienced administrators in the State of Indiana. They are staffed by a diverse faculty of teachers who have been educated in the nation’s finest colleges and universities and who are represented by the same unions and associations as their colleagues from Indiana and around the nation. Teacher salaries are within the same range as other area school districts that compete for qualified teachers and typically exceed teacher salaries the community’s parochial schools offer.

These school districts also offer a variety of programs for students with a broad range of special needs. And, so there are no misunderstandings, they teach to the same academic standards as must teachers in every other school in their state. They also continue to make the best investments in their school buildings and equipment as their constituents will permit.

Both cities have been my hometowns in major parts of my life, and I am proud to have lived in South Bend and Fort Wayne, Indiana. I graduated from one of the two districts, as did all three of my younger siblings, and I spent the greater part of my life and career in the other. All three of my children attended and graduated from Fort Wayne Community Schools and went on to earn both undergraduate and graduate degrees in their chosen fields of interest. There, I also spent ten years as a substitute teacher.  Although my wife and I are in the process of moving from Fort Wayne, that decision had nothing to do with the quality of life offered by the community. We will always love Fort Wayne.

We have the greatest possible respect for the dedicated teachers and administrators of both school districts. We also have a family member who is a principal in one of the school districts and who strives, every day, to make a difference in the lives of his students.

The graphic is offered to illustrate how the combined student bodies from these fine school districts struggle, academically, despite the heroic efforts of public school teachers, not because of them. In this post, I will provide only a few highlights of the data and what I believe they tell us . My new book will allow readers to delve more deeply in the data.

These two school districts are like a thousand other school districts of comparable size and demographics and this just begins to reveal the sheer size of the crisis in public education in America. If we take the total number of students that are struggling in these two districts, divide that number by two, and then multiply it by the estimated one thousand school districts in America of comparable size and demographics, we are talking about eight million school children. Let me repeat that number: approximately 8,000,000 kids.

Add numbers from the roughly fifteen thousand other school districts in the U.S. that are smaller, larger, richer, poorer, and more segregated and the numbers are both staggering and compelling. Anyone who denies that we have a crisis in public education in America must be challenged to take another look and, yes, the degree to which the validity of state competency exams is questioned, is understood.

            The only reason to question the validity of state competency exams is that they are utilized to evaluate the quality and effectiveness of teachers and public schools and this author shares the conviction that their use for that purpose be categorically rejected.

            What educators dare not reject, however, is that, with all the imperfections of standardized competency exams, they are still a measure of the ability of children to demonstrate their mastery of the subject matter set out for them by academic standards of their state.

            MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL, THESE RESULTS ARE A MEASURE OF THE EFFECTIVENESS OF THE EDUCATION PROCESS WITH WHICH TEACHERS AND SCHOOLS ARE EXPECTED TO EDUCATE OUR NATION’S DIVERSE POPULATION OF STUDENTS. I CHALLENGE ANY PROFESSIONAL EDUCATOR, WHO DISPUTES THESE DATA TO LOOK INTO THEIR OWN EYES IN THE NEAREST MIRROR AND TELL, FIRST THEMSELVES, AND THEN THE AMERICAN PEOPLE, THIS IS THE BEST WE CAN DO.

            The essential purposes of this work is to show that this is nowhere near the best we can do for our nation’s children, and to offer a solution. It is a solution engineered to give every child a quality education to develop the knowledge and skills they will need to identify and then pursue their dreams and aspirations. Equality in education is the categorical imperative of our time.

            The other essential purpose of this work is to give the millions of men and women who have chosen to serve our nation and its children as educators, an education model that will allow them to become the teachers they envisioned when they chose to enter this demanding profession. They chose teaching because of their desire to make a difference in the lives of kids and in their communities and we must enable, not just allow, them to do their jobs to the absolute best of their ability.

It is this author’s sincere belief that there is nothing we can do as a society that will have a greater impact on the quality of life of the American people, both individually and collectively, than creating an education process that will prepare all our young people to meet the unprecedented and unimaginable challenges the balance of this 21st Century will present.

Work on my new book is well underway and it will lay out the education model I have created in great detail. In the interim, the reader is invited to view the latest version of my education model at https://melhawkinsandassociates.com/education-model-white-paper/

You will also find a copy of the white paper written to lay the logical foundation for the model. Please read not in search of reasons to reject rather so you might envision what it would be like to teach in such and environment. Please share it with your friends and colleagues.

More Questions for Administrators, Policy Makers, and Teachers

It is not unusual to hear public school teachers express concern that all the recognition and celebration is directed to “high-achieving students.” Rarely is attention paid to the students who worked hard to receive a lesser grade and many teachers question why the effort of the latter group is not acknowledged and celebrated.

It is a tragedy that so many children go through school without ever having their accomplishments celebrated; the last thing they need, however, is a “participation trophy.” The tragedy is not that we never celebrate the accomplishments of low-performing students rather that they rarely have accomplishments worthy of celebration.

This raises the question, why are we content to preserve an education process that produces such disparate results?

Just because a student does not understand a lesson the first time through, does not mean they are incapable of learning and understanding. It just means they need more time and they need an education process that allows teachers to adapt what they do to respond to a student’s unique needs. Rarely do we give kids an opportunity to keep working until they learn. On the few occasions that we find a way to give kids the extra time to learn, it is because we found a way to circumvent the education process not because the malleability of the process gave us the freedom to innovate.

The current education process is structured like a competition that assumes that all kids are on a level playing field. It rewards the students who learn the most the fastest. Even worse, it requires that we grade kids on how much they have learned in an arbitrary timeframe and then record that score next to their name. Worst of all, we push the students onward without the prerequisite knowledge they will need to be successful on subsequent lessons, not to mention as adult citizens of a participatory democracy.

We go to great lengths to help a student qualify for graduation even though they are unable to perform at the level expected of them with reference to academic standards. It is as if having a piece of parchment that says they qualify for graduation will excuse them when they are unable to qualify for or do a job; when they apply for college admission or seek enlistment in the Armed Services.

What does a young man or woman do when they are unable to obtain and keep a decent job or pursue other meaningful opportunities because they lack the basic skills required to make a place for themselves in mainstream society? If these young adults are black or other minorities the challenges they face are often insurmountable and they are left at the mercy of discrimination. We wonder why so many find themselves in prison or are the victims of an early, violent death. We wonder why so many of them live in poverty and produce new generations of children with needs for which our education process is unequipped to meet.

We shake our heads in bewilderment when so many American voters seem willing to believe anything said by the leaders of whatever political point of view to which they are loyal. Do we not see the connection that we have sent millions of young men and women out into society without the knowledge and skills necessary to evaluate the critical issues of the day and to think independently?

Public school educators seem unable to understand that the motivation of education reformers, as poorly conceived as their solutions might be, is a result of their dissatisfaction with public education and the quality of high school graduates. They are dissatisfied customers seeking to replace their supplier.

The existing education process restricts our teachers’ ability to give students the close personal relationships they need to be healthy, both emotionally and intellectually. The process does not permit teachers to formally assess each student’s level of academic preparedness and, then, design a learning path to meet their unique needs. It does not allow teachers to give students the time and attention they need to learn. It does not give kids however many attempts they need to be able to demonstrate that they understand. The education process is not set up to help kids learn as much as they are able at their own best pace. It does not help them learn well enough that they can apply what they have learned in real-life situations.

Rather than seeking ways to help teachers deal with the stress and frustration of teaching a classroom of kids who have lost hope, have stopped trying, and have begun acting out, why don’t we address the root causes of both the frustration of our teachers and our students’ lost hope. We do not because it is difficult if not impossible for people to stop and look at the big picture when they are immersed in what they are doing; when they are, as the old saying goes, “up to their necks in a swamp full of alligators.”

Low-performing students, particularly the disadvantaged, have become a norm in public education, particularly in racially and economically diverse communities. While I believe most public school teachers and administrators believe that these kids can learn, one must wonder how many teachers and administrators have come to believe this is the best we can expect.

What educators must do is find a vantage point from which they can see the entire education process, as an integral whole, and then ask themselves whether they are doing what they should be doing. The fact that our classrooms, grade-levels, and the way we organize teachers and students has been in place for generations does not mean it is the only way to do what we do.

We should be asking:

• “Does the education process exist to drive our purpose or should our mission drive the education process?”

• “Does the education process exist to serve children and their teachers or are teachers and their students expected to sacrifice their wants, needs, personalities, and unique capabilities in conformance with the structure or process?” and, finally;

• “Are academic standards a representative guideline of what we think kids need to know in order to have meaningful choices in life, or is it both a road map and time table of how students should get from point A to Z, no matter what their individual potential, capabilities, and interests?”

My challenge to public school teachers, administrators, and policy makers is to believe that designing and creating an education model that can be molded around teachers and students is a simple human-engineering project no different than designing any other production process. All it requires is that we open our hearts and minds to the belief that there is a better way to do what we do and the faith and hope that it can be found just beyond the boundaries of conventional wisdom.

I offer my education model, as an example, of an education process that enables teachers to develop and master their craft for the sole purpose of helping every child develop their God-given potential.

How Do We Reinvent the Education Process to Provide Every Child with the Highest Possible Quality Education?

Educators understand that our students deserve the absolute best that their teachers have to give and also that teachers deserve the gratification that comes from our students’ success. Similarly, many of you recognize that giving kids the time and attention they deserve is often made difficult by the existing education process. You also know that in this environment, made toxic by high-stakes testing, it is hard for teachers to feel appreciated when test results are used, not as a diagnostic tool to help us do a better job, rather to justify blaming teachers and our public schools for the problems in public education

Teachers who have been around for a while know that the teaching profession has been under-appreciated for decades and they have seen many colleagues burn out and leave the profession they entered with such high hopes, expectations, and dedication.

The fact is that the world has changed exponentially over the last half century while the education process has remained relatively static. Certainly, new tools, techniques and technologies have been introduced but not all have made a teacher’s job easier. Many do not work the way they were envisioned in every teaching environment or for all students. Incremental reforms have been going on throughout the lifetimes of most of us and the best measure of their lack of success is the dread teachers feel in the anticipation of a new wave of education reforms.

I urge teachers to consider that there is an entire field of knowledge with respect to organizations and the processes utilized to serve each organization’s mission and purpose and to achieve their objectives. One of the things organizational leaders and specialists come to understand is that a process that continues to produce unacceptable outcomes, no matter how hard people work or how qualified they may be, cannot be patched, jury-rigged, or duct taped to fix that which is broken. Neither can new tools and technologies be utilized to fix an obsolete process any more than we can adapt a 747 for a trip to the moon. Elsewhere I have used the parable of new wine in old wineskins to illustrate why we haven’t been successful in fixing public education for every student through the introduction of new methodologies and technologies.

Systems are complex logical processes where the internal mechanisms that have been designed to serve the organization’s mission and purpose are integrated and interdependent. Like complex software, when we mess with the internal logic without understanding the whole, our changes will reverberate through the process creating an adverse impact on our outcomes and for our customers. Such patchwork solutions also make the work more difficult for every organization’s most valuable resource; its people. Even the best processes will degrade over time, no matter what we do.

The process utilized to reinvent an obsolete process can be replicated in almost any venue. It begins with:

• A re-clarification of an organization’s mission and purpose;

• Listening to and understanding our customer’s ever-changing requirements;

• Challenging all of our assumptions about what we do and why;

• Listening, also, to the people on whom we depend to produce our goods and services and who see flaws of the underperforming process in real time;

• Research to makes sure we are using state-of-the-art tools and technology;

• Creating a process designed to produce the outcomes we seek and that supports all of the people and resources engaged in that effort;

• A performance management system to solicit feedback and measure outcomes against expectations, not to fix blame but to help us learn from mistakes;

• To problem-solve disparate outcomes in a relentless pursuit of excellence; and, finally,

• Research and development to anticipate changes in the dynamic environment and marketplace in which we live and work.

I encourage the reader to examine the education model I have developed as each of the above components have either been completed or are in the process of completion. You can find my education model at my website at https://melhawkinsandassociates.com/education-model-white-paper/ along with an accompanying white paper written to introduce the education model’s logical foundation. You will also find my blog, Education, Hope, and the American Dream, with over 150 posts on the challenges facing public schools, their teachers, and students.

The education model is based upon my 40 years of organizational leadership and consulting experience; my experience working with kids, which began in 1966 and included nine years as a juvenile probation officer and supervisor, as a board member of a Montessori School, and as a co-founder of a Boys and Girls Club; two masters degrees, an MSEd in Psychology; and an MPA in public management; my own research and writing in the areas of the principles of positive leadership, organizational development, and systems thinking; and, my experience in the classroom over a ten-year period from 2002 through 2011, during which I walked in the shoes of public school teachers as a substitute in a diverse urban, public school district.

Although I have great confidence that my model will work to produce the outcomes we seek, I have and offer no illusions that it is the only possible solution. Also, I can assure the reader that it is and will always be a work in process. The reader is challenged to use my education model as a starting point to help you understand so that you can offer suggestions to improve my model or develop a better solution, if you can. You are advised, however, to relinquish any and all beliefs that the existing model can be modified, incrementally, to meet the needs of all of our nation’s children. Incremental changes to the current process is what got us where we are today and can only complicate things more than they already are.

Finally, I challenge the reader to understand that all the complaining and talk in the world will not fix the problems in public education. Neither will our complaints deter the efforts of the powerful men and women promoting what they call “Choice.” To stop them we must render them irrelevant and the only thing that works to solve such real-life challenges is applying the imagination of human beings working together for a common purpose.

Whether my model or yours, I challenge all of you to rally behind a solution as a united group of professional men and women dedicated to providing the highest possible quality of education for the children of our nation. It public education on which the futures of our nation’s children depends and it is our children on whom our nation’s future depend.

Please share this article, education model and white paper with everyone you know and ask them to join you in a crusade to transform public education in America. It may be the most important thing you will ever be asked to do for your country or for society, as a whole.

Check out Part 3 – Inequality and Education

In this third segment of my series of videos on Inequality and education, which is the civil rights issue of our time, I answer the 2nd of the two most important questions in education:

Why do some kids succeed in spite of the tremendous disadvantages they face?

The first question was “Why do so many kids fail?

Today’s question is the most important of the two because as important as it is that we understand why kids fail, it is even more important to understand how some kids overcome their disadvantage and enjoy academic success.

When we begin to understand what works we can work to replicate that success.

The key to success of these wonderful exceptions is that the kids who break out of poverty to become successful, academically, and go on to lead productive lives is that these children were supported by a parent or guardian who was fiercely determined that an education would provide a way out of poverty for their child.

These parents, grandparents, or other guardians worked hard to instill a powerful motivation to learn in their son or daughter; they did everything they could to prepare their child for academic success; they make sure their child does their work; and, when their child struggles they work patiently with them to make sure they learn.

What they also do is show up at school and get to know their child’s teacher. They often initiate this contact out of suspicion and mistrust because they are fearful that the teacher will not be looking out for their child’s best interests. These parents and guardians are, after all, part of multiple generations of men and women who have always failed in school and have always been poor. Their experiences with their own teachers are often unhappy memories.

Once they get to know their child’s teachers and begin to witness the success that their child enjoys and hear how much their child loves that teacher, these parents or other family members become committed partners, sharing responsibility for the education of their kids.

This partnership is a powerful thing that not only preserves the child’s motivation to learn; it fuels that motivation. It is a crucial variable in the education equation.

It is the creation of such partnerships that we need to replicate. Such replication is easy if the parent is already engaged and committed but it becomes an extraordinary challenge when they are not so engaged. Very often, in addition to their suspicion, these parents and guardians are indifferent and have few positive expectations. How can they have positive expectations when their own experiences were disappointing and disillusioning?

In Part 4 of my series on education and inequality, we will talk about what it is that teachers must do to pull these parents in as partners. Inevitably, the answer depends on creating opportunities for the child to enjoy success.

It is such a sad thing that so many children are failing and the adverse consequences for both the children and society are incalculable. It doesn’t have to be that way but we cannot alter this reality until we change the way we task, structure, support, and resource the education process that is the milieu in which teachers live and work. This requires positive leadership from our principals, superintendents, college professors who train teachers, and policy makers who are in charge of the mission, vision, and values of public education; the people who have strategic responsibility.

What is frustrating is that it is so easy to change. All we need to do is refuse to let kids fail. Teachers, however, are unable to “refuse to let kids fail” when the education process is focused on failure than structured to focus on success.

More about this in my next post.

Latest 5-Star review of “Light and Transient Causes”

Customer Review

5.0 out of 5 stars Rated 5 stars. This one will become a future classic., March 23, 2017
By vermont reviewer

Verified Purchase(What’s this?)

This review is from: Light and Transient Causes (Kindle Edition)
Light and Transient Causes by Mel Hawkins reminded me of other classics like 1984 and animal farm. Well written and certainly one that will make you think long after you finish reading it. I was impressed with the story and I thought the author did a wonderful job with the characterization in the story. I would love to read more novels by this author. I have rated the story a solid 5 stars.

A Taste of Bigotry

The following story shared from a Facebook post by Jeff Pearlman, a friend and well-known sports writer and best-selling author, relates an experience that includes my son-in-law (Brant) and my grandson (Ben), in which two white men got just a taste of the bigotry that black men and women, gays and other minorities face every day of their lives. For me, the most poignant aspect is that incidents of bigotry and prejudice such as this will be a regular occurrence throughout the life of my sweet two-year old grandson; a child whose heart is as pure as his laughter is engaging.

Two men, a black baby, a small town

Me and my pal, Ben.

So we spent the past few days at a chicken farm (long story) in Walton, N.Y., a tiny town far upstate in Delaware County. It was me, the wife, the kids and two couples who we’ve met up with for the past nine or 10 summers. It’s always fun, always funky, always a unique adventure.

Anyhow, one of the couples (Jeanne and Brant) have two children—one of whom is African-American. He’s an adorable 2-year-old boy named Benjamin Avery, and he’s funny and snugly and owns one of the all-time great laughs; a loud “Heh! Heh!” that brings a person to his knees.

Now, Walton is a crazy, crazy, crazy conservative town; one of those places that goes Republican in every election. It’s very white and very rural and v-e-r-y pro-gun. There aren’t many items one can purchase in Walton. But a firearm? No sweat.

So, on one of the days we needed some supplies at the house, and Brant, Benjamin and I took the 12-mile drive from the chicken farm to downtown Walton. The word “downtown” is a helluva stretch—there’s a CVS, a Subway, a crappy supermarket, a tiny ice cream stand, a bank. That’s sorta kinda it. Oh, and two or three restaurants that should probably be avoided.

The first place we stopped was the supermarket, where we needed to purchase some towels and diapers. We got out of the car. And it was—again—me, Brant and Benjamin. Two white males and a black baby. Shopping for diapers. In a supermarket. In Walton. And it hit me. I mean, it just HIT me: I’ll never look more gay.

I don’t mean “gay” as an insult. I mean gay as in gay. Homosexual. It’s me, my husband Brant and our adopted baby, and we’re shopping for diapers. And, as we walked through the aisles, I felt eyes upon us. Even if they weren’t upon us. Even if nobody noticed or cared—I felt it. I sorta kept my head and eyes down and went about our business. Same thing at our next stop—CVS. Was the clerk being rude because she thought we were gay? Because Benjamin is black? Or for no reason at all? Perhaps that’s just who she is. Quiet. Surly. Who knows?

Before returning home, we made one more trip—to Gifford’s Sport Supply, the gun shop (we needed fishing poles). I opened the car door, walked toward the entrance, noticed some sort of anti-Obama sticker on the window. For a second, Brant thought that, perhaps, he should stay outside. But we both went in. And … and … and … nothing. The clerk was helpful, friendly. No problems. I left, and took a deep breath.

But the whole experience got me thinking: It’s a valuable thing, feeling gay. Or black. Or Hispanic. Or whatever you aren’t. The awkwardness is healthy and eye-opening; the feelings of worry palpable. I think of all the racism remaining in this country; all the homophobia; all the xenophobia.

Some of it comes from pure hatred.

But just as much is a product of ignorance.

Of simply not knowing how it feels.”

What can one teacher do to stop the dismantling of public education in America?

During a recent visit with my daughter and her family, I had an opportunity to talk with the husband of a public school teacher from the Cincinnati area. I was disappointed to learn that this young woman was working hard to prepare herself for a new career outside the field of education.

Like so many public school teachers, today, this husband explained his wife’s frustration with the changes that are taking place in public education in Ohio, changes that are making it difficult for her to teach children.

Her husband shared with me that his wife is one of seven or eight teachers at her school who are actively pursuing a career change once the current school year has ended. He also said that his wife’s principal is aware of the fact that she and several of her colleagues are planning to leave and this principal has been pleading with them to reconsider. “You are my best teachers,” he tells them. No doubt this principal is one of many who dread the prospect of leading their schools into an uncertain future without their best teachers.

Can we blame teachers for leaving their profession? Do they not have the right to pursue the best opportunities for which they are qualified? Public school corporations are no different than any other employer. An employer can expect the loyalty of its employees for only as long as that employer can sell them on the importance of the organization’s mission; meet their need for professional and financial fulfillment; and, give them reason to hope for successful outcomes.

Given the degree to which public education is under attack, the school corporations that serve our nation’s most vulnerable communities are being stripped of the power to make any assurances to their faculties, which begs the question of how such corporations, in the absence of a capable faculty, can offer any assurances to their students and their community.

The unpleasant truth with which the American people must come to terms is that our nation’s leaders have created a scenario in which the control over the education of our nation’s children has been placed in the hands of people who have no understanding of the realities of educating children; corporate executives and government officials who function within a logical realm that is corrupted by special interests and who have only their arrogance to guide them.

What kind of future can we have as a democratic society when we have lost our ability to prepare all of our children for the responsibilities of citizenship? What kind of future do the American people want for their children?

The dilemma for the American people is that they do not trust the bill of goods being pushed by corporate and government reformers and, also, that they have lost faith in traditional public education.

Teachers, principals, and superintendents and other educational professionals are the only ones who possess sufficient knowledge to save public education and to offer the American people what they want and need. The American people desperately need professional educators to stand and fight rather than stand by with our hands in our pockets and do nothing or, worse, leave the profession to the reformers.

If professional educators choose to stand and fight rather than flee, we can work together to offer the American people an alternative to the policies of the corporate and government reformers. We can offer them a new reality that is focused on learning and the special relationship that exists between teachers, students and parents. We can offer them a reality in which every child is important and in which no student will be permitted to fail.

It is understandable that individual teachers feel lost and alone and it is natural to feel like there is nothing one person can do. But teachers need not feel alone. They are part of a population of as many as three million professional educators who can come together to create this new reality.

In addition to existing unions and associations at both the state and national level, there is a new group of players in the game: the Bad Ass Teachers Association with a membership of 53,000 professionals and counting. Teachers can become BATS and still be active in their unions and associations, in fact they are encouraged to do so. Get active and demand action!

Teachers are not the only professionals at risk in these challenging times. The future of public school principals and administrators and also the superintendents and other administrative professionals of every public school corporation in the nation are also at risk, particularly those who serve populations in our nation’s most challenging communities.

The leaderships of each of these representative entities must recognize that they are at war for the very survival of public education and mounting a challenge to the corporate and government reformers must become their over-riding priority.

When faced with a common adversary the best strategy is always to unite all those who share a common interest. It is time for the leaders of each and every organization that is committed to public education to step up and find ways to work together to provide the American people with a reason to hope. If we can give them something in which they can believe the people will stand with their children’s teachers. Together, we can reject the forces that are striving to usurp the will of the American people to the great disadvantage of our children.

The future of teachers, public education, and the American people are at stake and the consequences for our failure to stem the tide will be tragic beyond description. In my book, Reinventing Education, Hope, and the American Dream: The Challenge For Twenty-First Century America, I offer a blueprint of a plan to create a new reality in education.

My Interview on The Verbal Edge, hosted by Elizabeth Nulf MacDonald

A Call To Action!

As a result of decisions we have made as a society, since the end of World War II, a society of second class citizens has emerged. These Americans are not full participants in American enterprise. It would be accurate to say that they withdraw far more value than they contribute. Many of these men and women have effectively
disenfranchised themselves and why should we be surprised by this. These are Americans who receive a lousy education from a system of public education that is unable to meet their needs; have little or no access to healthcare to attend to their own medical needs as well as the needs of their families; and, if they are employed at all, they have low paying jobs with no eligibility for benefits and no opportunities for advancement.

This population is like a cancer growing in our body, sapping away our strength and vitality. There is a tipping point at which our nation will begin an irrevocable and unalterable decline.

That there is an equally large and growing population of retirees who are checking out of the game at an age from which they are likely to live another quarter of a century, adds greatly to this burden. It does not matter that these retiring men and women have worked hard for their entire lives to earn their Social Security, Medicare and pensions. These facts do not change the economic dynamics that make this population a burden to the Americans in the middle who must work harder to pay the bills. Fortunately, many of these men and women have invested well and their money is working for us even if they are not. The majority of these Americans, however, are dependent on Social Security and Medicare for their survival.

While both of these populations, on opposite ends of the age/productivity continuum create special challenges it is the first group of Americans about which we must be most immediately concerned.

We can neither continue to support this dependent population nor can we continue to enable their dependency and entitlement mentality. Neither can we ignore them; pretend they will disappear; deport them; or, otherwise rid ourselves of them.

The only answer, therefore, is to bring them back into the game as full functioning and productive members of our team, of American Society. Yes, I understand that this will not be an easy challenge to meet or goal to accomplish. The truth, however, is that if we do not find a way to shrink this population and pull them back into the game as contributing members, they will destroy us. The bottom line, then, is that we have no choice but to find a way to win them over to our side.

We can do this by:
1. Reinventing and re-selling the American Dream, and
2. Giving these Americans men and women realistic hopes that the dream can be real for them or, at least for their children.

We accomplish the first by using our unsurpassed talent for marketing and selling products and services. Only this time, we will be selling an idea in which people can believe and to which they can subscribe.
To achieve the second objective, we must re-invent our systems of education in such a way that we not only offer pertinent subject matter but also teach children how to succeed. We are not talking, here, about incremental reforms rather we are talking about a transformation. We must also transform our healthcare system to one that provides high quality, comprehensive healthcare and prescription drugs to all Americans at a price that we can not only afford but that will save trillions of dollars over the next decade.

Impossible, you say?

Accomplishing these things is not only possible it is imminently doable if only we use our imaginations to think exponentially and open our minds to the reality that anything we can imagine, we can do.

Given the extent to which China, Europe, Japan, India, and other developing nations are challenging our supremacy in the international marketplace, we have not a nanosecond to spare. This is clearly the categorical imperative of our time. We cannot continue to trudge down the dry and dusty paths of political dogma, conventional wisdom, or business as usual. We must demand that our elected representatives cease their paralyzing bickering and begin working together in what is a conflict of historical proportions in which the very survival of our nation and way of life is at risk. Never has our very survival as a nation been at greater risk.

You are urged to take this threat seriously and to make a commitment to change the direction our nation is taking. This blog, THE LEADerThinking Exponentially: Leadership, Education, and the American Dream, is here to serve as a catalyst to get people like you involved and to overcome the inertia that keeps people from doing what they know is right. This blog can support you but it is your leadership that will make a difference.

We will also offer articles on healthcare and education both of which, because of the minimal access to the former and the low quality of the latter, contribute significantly to the disenfranchisement of those whom we describe as virtual second-class citizens. Improving the quality of education and the quality, access, and cost of healthcare provide the best point of attack in bringing back this population of men and women who have lost their faith in the American Dream. We cannot invite them back on the basis of empty promises. We must give them real and demonstrable changes.

My book, Radical Surgery: Reconstructing the American Health Care System, published in 2002, addresses the challenges of healthcare and offers an achievable solution that is the antithesis of socialized medicine and that can save the American people trillions of dollars over the next decade.

My book, The Difference Is You: Power Through Positive Leadership will show the reader how every man and woman can be apply the power of positive leadership to bring about changes in the world in which they live and interact.

My book, Re-Inventing Education, Hope, and the American Dream, scheduled for release in a few weeks, recommends a very specific plan of action to re-invent education and to increase the level of commitment of parents to become partners in the education of their children. Changing these things will bring about dramatic changes in the motivation of our children to learn as much as they are able, as quickly as they can, according to each child’s innate abilities and interests.

My novel, Light and Transient Causes, is a story of just one possibility of what could happen in the U.S. if we are unable to address these issues effectively.

Please join me in this campaign by:
-Subscribing to this Blogs RSS feed.
-Following me on Twitter and LinkedIN,
-Encouraging your family, friends and associates to join you in this effort, and
-By applying the principles of positive leadership to help bring about a transformation of American society.

Remember the words of Jane Goodall:
“The most important thing you can do for the future of the world is to realize that what you do matters.”