The Forest, Not the Trees

 21st Century Classroom, School Shootings, Student Success  Comments Off on The Forest, Not the Trees
Feb 162018

The Forest, Not the Trees

With the current shooting tragedy in Florida, there is lots of needed talk on how to prevent this from happening

But, as is common in traditional education, the discussion centers around the trees, not the forest

The goal of education is to effectively, efficiently, affordably, consistently, and relevantly, advance sustained, student success, performance improvement outcomes, for ALL students.

Currently, our students, either graduate with little transferrable relevant skills, or drop out of school completely. Both scenarios create the education/skills gap. The education skills gap results in unemployment and underemployment. Unemployment and underemployment result in the following societal problems: crime, poverty, violence, substance abuse, along with chronic rehab and incarceration.

I haven’t documented each school shooters background, but I remember hearing that the Florida shooter was a school drop out ( failed by a flawed system of 20th century, one size fits all teaching, that directly creates the education/skills gap)

Okay, this is not a single issue problem, so a single issue solution will not fix it. This means if we only label guns as the problem, gun control alone, will not fix the problem

Let me explain. Traditional education is primarily lecture based. I call this one size fits all, or teaching to the middle. The problem is that this is not how relevant learning occurs, that is transferable to the real world. Put another way, the best possible classroom outcome from a lecture, is superficial, initial understanding, which soon will be forgotten, for the middle of the class.  This teaching approach is too slow for the gifted and too fast for others. I’m guessing that, at best, it’s just right for 30/100 – 30% of the class and not right for 70/100 – 70% of the class. And that’s making the assumption that the educational goal is superficial initial understanding, not competency. Competency is required in many subjects like english and math, to be life ready, but competency outcomes, for all students, is certainly not limited to english and math.

What happens when students are bored, or when students are left behind (not to mention lack of relevancy of instruction). They act out.

What happens when students are failed by a flawed, unchanging, 20th century, system of one size fits all teaching? What’s the mindset of those  folks that have dropped out, that don’t have a high school diploma and don’t have any relevantly transferable skills? They act out, which causes the following problems for society: crime, poverty, violence, substance abuse, along with chronic rehabilitation and incarceration.


Now if guns are singled out as the only problem, we’ve missed the forest from the trees. We need to reform traditional education to be relevant and competency based for all students.  Fix the education/ skills gap, fix lots and lots of consequential, societal problems.

But traditional educators can’t see the forest from the trees.  They maintain that all is currently fine with traditional education. They say the problems to fix are outside of education. Let’s look at this thinking:

They say poverty is the problem. Fix poverty, then things will be fine. But, one size fits all education creates the education/skills gap which creates poverty. Fixing poverty is not the solution, when one size fits all teaching directly creates poverty.

They say school choice and vouchers are the problem. Force students to remain in the public education system and things will be fine. But, traditional education is unchanging. They have not/do not embrace and correctly implement educationally innovative methodologies. Maintaining a mediocre monopoly for some of the students is not the solution.

They say the problem is the lack of student grit. Focus on grit and grit alone, then things will be fine. Grit is a subset of the real problem, which is changing paradigms to empower all teachers to empower all students, with relevant sustained success. Fixing student grit alone is not the solution.

They say parents are the problem. Get parents involved and things will be fine. First, we’re not educating the parents, we’re educating their kids. Educationally innovative software integrates tools that parents can use to follow/facilitate relevant learning. Fixing parents is not the solution.

They say lack of money is the problem (overall and teacher pay). Research has shown that money, no matter how much more, if incorrectly utilized, does not advance, relevant, student success outcomes under an incumbent, unchanging, flawed, one size fits all system of teaching (Zuckerberg invests $100 Million in NJ, which is matched by $100 Million. No change in student success, for all students. Also see Kansas City Experiment).

They say the lack of technology is the problem. Then they purchase and implement the wrong solutions; just tablets, chromebooks, videos, whiteboards, clickers, one size fits all elearning.  All of these don’t fix anything, they simply deliver one size fits all teaching to students, faster. Or they purchase the right educationally innovative solutions,  but either don’t use them, or use them incorrectly

They say they are stressed and overworked. Of course they are. They are working harder, not smarter. They have embraced a flawed ineffective, inefficient, 20th century system of teaching that will never directly deliver advanced student success for all students.

They say cheating occurs when stress is high. When the incumbent system is not competency based, but is test and grade based cheating occurs.  Folks  are desperate to improve relevant learning and transfer, but the current teaching methodology, never gets to competency.

They say class size is the problem. Reduce class size and all is fixed. Unfortunately, the correct fix is to reduce the class size to just one teacher and just one student, not one teacher to less students. Try selling one teacher to one student to the funding public. ps the fix is educationally innovative software, correctly installed at the district level and correctly used at the classroom level

They say old buildings and unattractive grounds are the problem. Improve these and things will be fixed. The problem is building and grounds, by themselves, won’t advance student success outcomes for all students.

They say tenure, collective bargaining, union dues automatically collected from paychecks are key.  The problem is that NONE of these things has any positive correlation to advancing student success outcomes, for all students. Some of these are negatively correlated to advancing student success outcomes for all students (I’ve never seen ANY credible research validating a positive correlation)

So, what is the core problem?  The core problem is the way we teach, which is currently one size fits all. ALL the research says this needs to change to a facilitated, personalized way of learning. Fix the way we teach to a way that all can relevantly learn.


Identifying the core problem, then fixing it can eliminate lots and lots of problems that a flawed system of teaching creates. Until we focus on the forest, we will be left with a mediocre system of teaching, that kinda, sorta, benefits some of the students.

Let’s collectively see the forest from the trees. We all will be better off by doing so.

Legitimate food for thought and immediate action.

Looking for the proven research and best practices to empower all of your teachers to empower all of your students with relevant success? My website gives you all you need to know and them some.