Notes on Education: an outside view
Some of the links on this page need refreshing.
It has been a long time since I worked on this page.
See School and Education as Society’s Center in “A Century of Social Transformation” — unimagined futures
See learning and my education delicious tags
Most everybody has untested assumptions based on yesterday.
Assumptions that don’t fit reality and therefore work against us — they sabotage our futures.
Using these assumptions to plan one’s work and life may not lead where we expect.
Also a lot of our money and energy is pumped into the education system that is wasted or misdirected toward the already disproved ideas of yesterday—see below.
“Pedagogues become intoxicated with the enlightenment of the students. For the smile of learning on the student’s face is more addictive than any drug.”
“When a subject becomes obsolete, we make it a required course.”
Interviewer: What is your opinion of universities today?
Peter Drucker: Unprintable.
Interviewer: Why is that?
Peter Drucker: The American university has become arrogant.
It has become lazy. It has become self-righteous.
And above all, it believes that the student exists for the sake of the university.
This means a radical change in structure for the organizations of tomorrow.
It means that the big business, the government agency, the large hospital, the large university will not necessarily be the one that employs a great many people.
It will be the one that has substantial revenues and substantial results—achieved in large part because it itself does only work that is focused on its mission; work that is directly related to its results; work that it recognizes, values, and rewards appropriately.
The rest it contracts out.
The function of organizations is to make knowledges productive.
Organizations have become central to society in all developed countries because of the shift from knowledge to knowledges.
The more specialized knowledges are, the more effective they will be.
… “For the major new insights in every one of the specialized knowledges arise out of another, separate specialty, out of another one of the knowledges.
Both economics and meteorology are being transformed at present by the new mathematics of chaos theory. Geology is being profoundly changed by the physics of matter; archaeology, by the genetics of DNA typing; history, by psychological, statistical, and technological analyses and techniques.” Chapter 48, Management, Revised Edition
… But now the traditional axiom that an enterprise should aim for maximum integration has become almost entirely invalidated.
One reason is that the knowledge needed for any activity has become highly specialized.
… snip, snip …
It is therefore increasingly expensive, and also increasingly difficult, to maintain enough critical mass for every major task within an enterprise.
And because knowledge rapidly deteriorates unless it is used constantly, maintaining within an organization an activity that is used only intermittently guarantees incompetence.
The second reason why maximum integration is no longer needed is that communications costs have come down so fast as to become insignificant.
… snip, snip …
This has meant that the most productive and most profitable way to organize is to disintegrate.
This is being extended to more and more activities.
Chapter 6 Management, Revised Edition
Notes clipped from chapters in linked books below. Some are out of order, but it will give an indication of future interest. (calendarize this?)
The rise of the knowledge worker
- The Shifting Knowledge Base (from The New Realities)
- All members of society need to be literate
- Reading, writing, and arithmetic
- Elementary computer skills
- Considerable understanding of technology, [Technology, Management and Society] its dimensions, its characteristics, its rhythms
- Considerable knowledge of a complex world in which boundaries of town, nation, and country no longer define one’s horizons
- Knowledge of one’s roots and community is however also becoming more important
- Only through the school—through organized, systematic, purposeful learning—can this information be converted into knowledge and become the individual’s possession and tool
- The knowledge society also requires that all its members learn how to learn
- There is an infinity of knowledge careers to choose from
- Ten years out of school are already “obsolescent” if they have not refreshed their knowledge again and again
- There is no way in which even the best school system with the longest years of schooling can possibly prepare students for all these choices
- All it can do is to prepare them to learn
- The post-business, knowledge society is a society of continuing learning and second careers
- To restore the capacity of the American school to provide universal literacy on a high level—well beyond that of the elementary school—will therefore have to be a first priority
- School and education will be central to American public life and American politics for years to come
- Giving students the capacity and the knowledge to keep on learning, and the desire to do it
- We don’t learn for school but for life
- What they still know of the subjects—whether mathematics, a foreign language, or history—in which they got such wonderful marks
- How people learn how to learn
- Make learners achieve
- Focus on the strengths and talents of learners so that they excel in whatever it is they do well
- No one can predict what a ten-year-old will be doing ten or fifteen years later
- One cannot even at that stage eliminate many options
- The school has to endow students with the basic skills they will need whichever way they choose to go
- They have to be able to function
- One cannot build performance on weaknesses, even on corrected ones
- One can build performance only on strengths
- They will also have to be the “leaders.”
- That requires ethos, values, and morality
- Without theses it conveys indifference, irresponsibility, cynicism
- There is no such thing as a “finished education” in the knowledge society
- It requires that people with advanced schooling come back to school again and again and again
- Continuing education, especially of highly schooled people such as physicians, teachers, scientists, managers, engineers, and accountants, is certain to be a major growth industry of the future
- So far, however, schools and universities, except in the United States and Great Britain to a degree, still view continuing education with grave misgivings if they do not shun it altogether
- Education can no longer be confined to the schools
- Every employing institution has to become a teacher
- The Educated Person
- An educated person is equipped both to lead a life and to make a living
- It can afford neither the schooled barbarian who makes a good living but has no life worth living
- Nor the cultured amateur who lacks commitment and effectiveness
- Education will have to transmit “virtue” while teaching the skills of effectiveness
- But they do respond with enthusiasm to history, to the great tradition altogether, if offered to them in a form that makes it relevant to their experiences, their society, their needs
- Older people, the participants in continuing education, usually cannot get enough of ethics, of history, of great novels, of anything that helps them understand their own experience, the challenges they face in their own life and in their own work
- And they also crave the fundamentals of science and technology, the ways and values of government and politics; in short, everything that constitutes a broad liberal education
- But we have to make all this meaningful and to project it on the realities in which people live
- There is need to make the “humanities” again what they are supposed to be: lights to help us see and guides to right action
- The advent of the knowledge society will force us to focus the wisdom and beauty of the past on the needs and ugliness of the present
- This is what scholars and humanists contribute to the making of a life
- For almost nothing in our educational systems prepares them for the reality in which they will live, work, and become effective
- Elementary skills of effectiveness as members of an organization
- Ability to present ideas orally and in writing (briefly, simply, clearly)
- Ability to work with people (as individuals)
- Ability to shape and direct one’s own work, contribution, career
- And generally skills in making organization a tool for one’s own aspirations and achievements and for the realization of values
- From Teaching to Learning
- What can be taught has to be taught and will not be learned otherwise
- But what can be learned must be learned and cannot be taught
- We know first that different people learn differently
- Indeed, learning is as personal as fingerprints; no two people learn exactly alike
- Each has a different speed, a different rhythm, a different attention span
- If an alien speed, rhythm, or attention span is imposed on the learner, there is little or no learning; there are only fatigue and resistance
- But we also know that different people learn different subjects differently
- Most of us learned the multiplication table behaviorally, that is, by drill and repetition
- But mathematicians do not “learn” the multiplication table; they perceive it
- Some things do have to be taught—and not only values, insight, meaning
- One learns a subject
- One teaches a person
- The New Learning Technology
- “The medium is the message,” is surely an exaggeration
- But the “medium” does imply what message can be sent and received
- Equally important, it determines what messages cannot be sent and received
- And the medium is rapidly changing
- There are more hours of pedagogy in one thirty-second commercial than most teachers can pack into a month of teaching
- The subject matter of the TV commercial is quite secondary; what matters is the skill, professionalism, and persuasive power of the presentation
- The teacher’s job will be to help, to lead, to set example, to encourage; it may not primarily be to convey the subject matter itself
- To create the desire to learn which, in the last analysis, is the essence of being educated
- What Is Knowledge?
- Specialization was the royal road both to the acquisition of new knowledge and to its transmission
- Elsewhere specialization is becoming an obstacle to the acquisition of knowledge and an even greater barrier to making it effective
- Academia defines knowledge as what gets printed
- But surely this is not knowledge; it is raw data
- Knowledge is information that changes something or somebody—either by becoming grounds for action, or by making an individual (or an institution) capable of different and more effective action
- And this, little of the new “knowledge” accomplishes
- We no longer accept the old axiom that it is the duty of people of knowledge to make themselves understood
- What matters is that the learning of the academic specialist is rapidly ceasing to be “knowledge.”
- It is at best “erudition” and at its more common worst mere “data.”
- The disciplines and the methods that produced knowledge for two hundred years are no longer fully productive, at least outside of the natural sciences
- The rapid growth of cross-disciplinary and interdisciplinary work would indeed argue that new knowledge is no longer obtained from within the disciplines around which teaching, learning, and research have been organized in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries
- The Accountable School (from Post-Capitalist Society)
- It requires numeracy; it requires a basic understanding of science and of the dynamics of technology; it requires an acquaintance with foreign languages
- It also requires learning how to be effective as a member of an organization, as an employee
- Unless the school successfully imparts these skills to the young learner, it has failed in its crucial duty: to give beginners self-confidence, to give them competence, and to make them capable, a few years hence, to perform and achieve in the post-capitalist society, the knowledge society
- Subjects may matter less than the students’ capacity to continue learning and their motivation to do so
- We need a discipline of learning
- They lead their students to achievements so great that it surprises the achiever and creates excitement and motivation especially the motivation for rigorous, disciplined, persistent work and practice which continued learning requires
- There are few things more boring than practicing scales
- Yet the greater and the more accomplished pianists are, the more faithfully do they practice their scales, hour after hour, day after day, week after week
- Similarly, the more skilled surgeons are, the more faithfully do they practice tying sutures, hour after hour, day after day, week after week
- Pianists do their scales for months on end for an infinitesimally small improvement in technical ability
- But this then enables them to achieve the musical result they already hear in their inner ear
- Achievement is addictive
- The achievement that motivates is doing exceptionally well what one is already good at
- Achievement has to be based on the student’s strengths
- The proudest products of the traditional school, “the all-around A students,” are the ones who satisfy mediocre standards across the board
- They are not the ones who achieve; they are the ones who comply
- There is a second process knowledge to be taught by the schools—or at least learned in them: the process needed to obtain what in the last chapter I called the “yield” from knowledge
- This requires that the process—the concepts, the diagnosis, the skills—will have to be made teachable, or at least learnable
From Managing for the Future
The Learning Society Is Taking Over
In the place of the blue-collar world is a society in which access to good jobs no longer depends on the union card, but on the school certificate.
Between, say, 1950 and 1980 it was economically irrational for a young American male to stay at school.
In three months a 16-year-old school leaver with a job at a unionized steel plant could be taking home more money than his university-educated cost accountant brother would make in his life.
Those days are over.
From now on the key is knowledge.
The world is becoming not labor intensive, not materials intensive, not energy intensive, but knowledge intensive.
Japan today produces two and a half times the quantity of manufactured goods as 25 years ago with the same amount of energy and less raw material.
In large part this is due to the shift to knowledge-intensive work.
The representative product of the 1920s, the automobile, at the time had a raw material and energy content of 60 percent.
The representative product of the 1980s is the semiconductor chip, which has a raw material and energy content of less than 2 percent.
The 1990s equivalent will be biotechnology, also with a content of about 2 percent in materials and energy, but with a much higher knowledge content.
Assembling microchips is still fairly labor intensive (10 percent).
Biotechnology will have practically no labor content at all.
Moreover, fermentation plants generate energy rather than consume it.
The world is becoming knowledge intensive not just in the labor force, but in process.
Knowledge is always specialized.
The oboist in the London Philharmonic Orchestra has no ambition to become first violinist.
In the last 100 years only one instrumentalist, Toscanini, has become a conductor of the first rank.
Specialists remain specialists, becoming ever more skillful at interpreting the score.
Yet specialism carries dangers, too.
Truly knowledgeable people tend by themselves to overspecialize, because there is always so much more to know.
As part of the orchestra, that oboist alone does not make music.
He or she makes noise.
Only the orchestra playing a joint score makes music.
For both soloist and conductor, getting music from an orchestra means not only knowing the score, but learning how to manage knowledge.
And knowledge carries with it powerful responsibility, too.
In the past, the holders of knowledge have often used (abused) it to curb thinking and dissent, and to inculcate blind obedience to authority.
Knowledge and knowledge people have to assume their responsibilities.
Most Education Does Not Deliver Knowledge …
The advent of the knowledge society has far-ranging implications for education.
Schools will change more in the next 30 years than they have since the invention of the printed book.
One reason is modern learning theory.
We know how people learn, and that learning is not at all the same thing as teaching.
We know, for instance, that no two human beings learn in the same way.
The printed book set off the greatest explosion in learning and the love of learning the world had ever seen.
But book learning was for adults.
The printed book is basically adult-friendly.
In contrast, the new learning tools are child-friendly, as anyone with a computer-using eight- or nine-year-old child will know.
By the age of eleven most children except the freaks begin to be bored with the computer: for them it is just a tool.
But up to that age, children treat computers as extensions of themselves.
The advent of such powerful tools alone will force the schools to change.
… So Organizations Must Do It Themselves
But there is another consideration.
For the first time in human history it really matters whether or not people learn.
When the Prince Regent asked Marshal Blücher if he found it a great disadvantage not to be able to read and write, the man who won the battle of Waterloo for Wellington replied:
“Your Royal Highness, that is what I have a chaplain for.”
Until 1914 most people could do perfectly well without such accomplishments.
Now, however, learning matters.
The knowledge society requires that all its members be literate, not just in reading, writing, and arithmetic, but also in (for example) basic computer skills and political, social, and historical systems.
And because of the vastly expanding corpus of knowledge, it also requires that its members learn how to learn.
There will—and should—be serious discussion of the social purpose of school education in the context of the knowledge society.
That will certainly help to change the schools.
In the meantime, however, the most urgent learning and training must reach out to the adults.
Thus, the focus of learning will shift from schools to employers.
Every employing institution will have to become a teacher.
Large numbers of American and Japanese employers and some Europeans already recognize this.
But what kind of learning?
In the orchestra the score tells the employees what to do; all orchestra playing is team playing.
In the information-based business, what is the equivalent of this reciprocal learning and teaching process?
One way of educating people to a view of the whole, of course, is through work in cross-functional task forces.
But to what extent do we rotate specialists out of their specialties and into new ones?
And who will the managers, particularly top managers, of the information-based organization be?
Brilliant oboists, or people who have been in enough positions to be able to understand the team, or even young conductors from smaller orchestras?
We do not yet know.
Above all, how do we make this terribly expensive knowledge, this new capital, productive?
The world’s largest bank reports that it has invested $1.5 billion in information and communications systems.
Banks are now more capital intensive than the biggest manufacturing company.
So are hospitals.
Only 50 years ago a hospital consisted of a bed and a sister.
Today a fair-sized U.S. hospital of 400 beds has several hundred attending physicians and a staff of up to 1,500 paramedics divided among some 60 specialities, with specialized equipment and labs to match.
None, or very few, of these specialisms even existed 50 years ago.
But we do not yet know how to get productivity out of them; we do not yet know in this context what productivity means.
In knowledge-intensive areas we are pretty much where we were in manufacturing in the early nineteenth century.
When Robert Owen built his cotton mills in Scotland in the 1820s, he tried to measure their productivity.
He never managed it.
It took 50 more years until productivity as we understand it could be satisfactorily defined.
We are currently at about the Robert Owen stage in relation to the new organizations.
We are beginning to ask about productivity, output, and performance in relation to knowledge.
We cannot measure it.
We cannot yet even judge it, although we do have an idea of some of the things that are needed.
How, for instance, do famous conductors build a first-rate orchestra?
They tell me that the first job is to get the clarinetist to keep on improving as a clarinetist.
She or he must have pride in the instrument.
The players must be craftsmen first.
The second task is to create in the individuals a pride in their common enterprise, the orchestra:
“I play for Cleveland, or Chicago, or the London Philharmonic, and that is one of the best orchestras in the world.”
Third, and this is what distinguishes a competent conductor from a great one, is to get the orchestra to hear and play that Haydn symphony in exactly the way the conductor hears it.
In other words, there must be a clear vision at the top.
This orchestra focus is the model for the leader of any knowledge-based organization.
Edward de Bono on creativity
Peter Drucker to the rescue
Peter Drucker has been writing about a changing world for decades—bibliography and outline. In his work he has specifically addressed the education system both directly and indirectly. Reviewing the outline in reverse order will help identify areas for further concept harvesting.
Some additional links to explore
How many students in the American education system get any exposure to Edward de Bono’s work on thinking?
Find “educat” in Drucker on Asia — A Dialogue Between Peter Drucker and Isao Nakauchi
Larger view of challenge thinking and an alternative — operacy
Note the fog and reflection ↓
- - -
List of topics in this Folder