Reports of “Alleged Terror Cells drawn from the Medical World” mean that I am thinking today about the learning communities that develop such social cohesion, purposefulness and behavioural changes within their membership that after learning together, individual members are prepared to kill themselves and any number of unknown others.
Doctors have been in the news in New Zealand this week for different reasons – The “Keep Smokers and Fatties out – Doctors” article in the NZ Herald saw doctors railing against the cost of treating preventable diseases – those caused by predictable and what should be avoidable human behaviours, that are clogging up the health system.
The NZ Herald headline was provocative. And the response in letters to the editor was mixed. Not many endorsed an international airport customs hall scenario where specially trained dogs sniffed out the nicotine addicted, before rows of disembarking scales culled those with an unacceptable body mass index
The cost of treating preventable disease has always been with us – it’s a bit like the unresolved "litter problem" in the playground, and the permanence of the “discontented by school” students in our classrooms. What should be easily preventable proves surprisingly enduring – seemingly resistant to all interventions designed to change the human behaviours that contribute to the problem.
It seems that in the health system a relatively small percentage of the population eats up the vast majority of the budget. And this small percentage front up with predictable and largely behavioural diseases. Admissions related to how we choose to live our lives are far more significant than admissions for genetic or environmental factors.
Of even greater interest to anyone looking at “changing attitudes and behaviours” is finding out that how we choose to live our lives is largely unaffected by the experience of being saved. Even after life rescuing medical interventions the majority find it impossible to change the behaviours that led to their admission.
"If you look at people after coronary-artery bypass grafting two years later, 90% of them have not changed their lifestyle," Miller
The question that interested me was - so when does change in lifestyle happen? The article suggests that a change in lifestyle occurs when medical interventions look at the socio emotional needs of the whole person rather than at a personalised data profile that reduces the complexity of what it is to be a social human being to a series of statistical data profiles, spread-sheets and graphs.
I suspect that this is why so many of our well meaning initiatives to change behaviours, attitudes and skills in schools (where the consequences of change fall far short of life and death), remain both “well meaning” and “initiatives”. And makes me wonder how future educationalists will view learning interventions like AsTTle and the Key Competencies?
All this new thinking is making me look again at how the Magnet and I help schools integrate the Key Competencies with respect to our SOLO coded learning experiences HOT planning template … and in my idle moments I have been amusing myself by imagining a mashup between NZCER’s Dr Rosemary Hipkins wildly euphoric Key Competencies video presentation –
“… they are something akin to an earthquake that potentially will create all sorts of upheavals and really revolutionalise learning in New Zealand through the curriculum project.”
And Monty Python’s Holy Grail conversation,
Sir Bedevere: ...and that, my liege is how we know the Earth to be banana shaped.
King Arthur: This new learning amazes me, Sir Bedevere. Explain again how sheep's bladders may be employed to prevent earthquakes. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
I want to insert the sheep bladders just at that moment where Hipkins cuts loose into a stream of hyperbole that conflates the Draft Curriculum Key Competencies with earth quiver and insurgency.
I just cannot imagine what precipitated this recklessness in KC conversation, Hipkins is usually more measured in her analysis. The idea that integrating the five key competencies in The draft New Zealand curriculum, [managing self/ relating to others/ participating and contributing/ thinking and using language, symbols, and text], into student’s learning experience , will create “upheavals” and “revolution” sounds more like the outcomes desired by the “Alleged terror cell drawn from medical world” than anything coming from the MoE. But I guess if the KCs reliably and validly represent the cluster of competencies required for people to know themselves as learners then they deserve a closer look.
Nassim Taleb helps me here – he has a fascinating piece in The Edge - “Learning to expect the unexpected” There is a heap of good thinking in his piece. One paragraph in particular clarifies how we might introduce unwarranted assumptions when we accept the Key Competencies as necessary (and sufficient) for students learning to be better learners.
“There is a silly book called A Millionaire Next Door, and one of the authors wrote an even sillier book called The Millionaire's Mind. They interviewed a bunch of millionaires to figure out how these people got rich. Visibly they came up with bunch of traits. You need a little bit of intelligence, a lot of hard work, and a lot of risk-taking. And they derived that, hey, taking risk is good for you if you want to become a millionaire. What these people forgot to do is to go take a look at the less visible cemetery — in other words, bankrupt people, failures, people who went out of business — and look at their traits. They would have discovered that some of the same traits are shared by these people, like hard work and risk taking. This tells me that the unique trait that the millionaires had in common was mostly luck.”
In a similar argument, I can think of plenty of my colleagues who manage themselves, relate well to others, participate and contribute, think, and use language, symbols, and text but could never be held up to others as examples of the MoE’s life long learners.
Indeed simple behavioural observation reveals that like me, most of my colleagues are “lifelong deluders” trapped in ground hog day like activities where we continue to make the “same old same old” mistakes throughout our professional and private lives. Like the coronary-artery bypass patients who stubbornly refuse to learn from experience and modify their behaviours our vices (and our virtues) remain deliciously intact.
Hijacking Taleb’s interpretation it seems entirely plausible that that the few “life long learners” amongst us are mostly a product of happenstance, of luck and nothing to do with the key competencies.
Even if we could exclude observational bias and prove a statistically confident correlation between adoption of the key competencies and "learning to learn" like behaviours, to claim that adopting the Key competencies will create “earth shiver and insurgency” in New Zealand schools seems just a little OTT.
It ignores the reality that creating attitudinal change in humans is complex and unlikely to happen when meeting the needs of the 21st Century learner sees us increasingly fragment, isolate and personalise approaches to learners, learning and learning environments.
The sheep can rest easy for a while yet.