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“Deja Vu All Over Again”?

  • A seemingly endless war on foreign soil
  • Political upheaval and extreme partisan division
  • Protests by athletes during the playing of the National Anthem
  • Racial injustice and gender inequality
  • Violent demonstrations in the streets
  • Conflict with Russia

As U.S. News and World Reports concluded, those events and others signaled that “…the country’s values and institutions were fraying under enormous pressure.”

Today, right? Actually, U.S. News and World Reports was reflecting back on 1968 – one of the most pulsating years in our nation’s history. Calling on my best Mark Twain, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.”

The rhyme is further spun by the dark clouds of gut-wrenching tragedy. 1968 witnessed the assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. Today, we’re living through COVID-19 and the deaths of more than 200,000 Americans.

But 1968 had something we don’t have today, something that held together the stitching of our national fabric: the Apollo Space Program. By the mid to late 1960s, landing astronauts on the moon and returning them safely to Earth – and beating the Russians in the process – had completely galvanized a large part of our population.

We have nothing like that today – no single effort to cheer us along with “We’re doing it!”; no single effort to keep our national fabric from tearing. Some voices have argued for a “moon shot”-type program to wrestle global warming / climate change to the ground. But as author Charles Fishman carefully explains in One Giant Leap, the Apollo moon program had a singular focus for the United States: get our astronauts to the moon and back safely. Climate change, by comparison, is a multi-headed monster – solvable, but only by the collective action of many nations.

So, where can we turn to for needle and thread? The late educational reformer, Sir Kenneth Robinson, spoke for a growing number of thinkers today when he argued that we need to take a completely different path toward change and innovation. Not big and brawny, but small and spunky. Not top-down driven, but grown from the grassroots.

“It’s a mistake to believe that we just need to wait till some enlightened politician comes along and shows us the way. The real power is with the people. And connecting people is the key to getting people to share ideas, to collaborate, to work together to see future possibilities, and to bring those possibilities about through joint projects and through the joint support that comes from compassionate collaboration.” —  Sir Ken Robinson at the “Call to Unite” global event, May 7, 2020

And the idea of people-driven innovation brings us to this week’s “Getting Unstuck–Educators Leading Change” podcast guest: educator, author, trainer, and innovation thought-leader, David Price – Order of the British Empire.

In The Power of Us — How We Connect, Act, and Innovate Together, David carefully chronicles numerous examples of “people-powered innovation – bottom-up, self-empowering and self-managed movements that challenge business-as-usual” enterprises. And what’s the first enterprise David lists? Education.

As David notes in our conversation, one way educators can shift from education’s business-as-usual is by figuratively and literally moving their students out of their largely staid classrooms, so that they can collaborate with other students anywhere on what are often regional or local problem-solving opportunities. Moon shots need not apply. The good news is that many schools are starting to break away from the standard operating system that so many of us knew when we went to school.

There are now almost one million offerings in the podcast galaxy. Every week, Kirsten Richert and I, and our brilliant engineer, Neil Hughes, believe we are taking one small step for educators and along with other voices of educational change, making a giant leap for kids. So if you listen to our podcast, a huge “Thank you!”

“Déjà vu all over again” is attributed to baseball legend, Yogi Berra.

Jeff Ikler
Jeff Iklerhttps://www.queticocoaching.com/
The river that runs through my career lives – as teacher, publisher, coach, podcaster and author – is helping individuals acquire knowledge, skills, and self-awareness so they can better achieve their desired results and impact. • As Director of Quetico Leadership and Career Coaching, I work with individuals and leaders to overcome obstacles and make sustained changes in their behavior. • I co-host the podcast “Getting Unstuck – Shift for Impact,” where I bring to light inspirational stories of transformation in the field of education. • I am the co-author of the soon-to-be-published book for school educators, Shifting: How Educational Leaders Can Create a Culture of Change.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Really lovely work, Jeff. I so appreciate how you introduce me to people who are doing such terrific work and you always anchor me in the historical perspective of your topics, which is incredibly valuable. Grateful for the work you’re doing in the world and the difference that both you and Kirsten are making. You give me hope.

    • Two of the most rewarding aspects of hosting a podcast are (1) we meet fascinating people who are doing really interesting work on behalf of change and education and (2) we get messages like yours that let us know we’re providing some value. Can’t thank you enough for taking a few minutes to share your thoughts. You give me energy to keep at it.

  2. Hey, Jeff.
    We have been moved in so many ways, and that includes literal movement. You and I both note how much schools and correctional facilities have in common. Now that we’re ‘getting out’ we can introduce change at the micro- and meso- levels and the big picture will be dragged along. Every time we talk about education, we can move the conversation into “what if?” Those possibilities have never been more possible; we need courage and connection to plant the change and prevent ‘snap back.’
    Be well.
    Mac

    • Agreed. One of the most interesting observations I’ve heard / read recently about the slow pace of educational change is that parents (and bureaucrats and politicians) are opposed to change because it doesn’t represent the world they know. Somehow the message has to get to parents that their kids are often / usually being underprepared for the world they’re about to confront.

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Mac.

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