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Change the Part, Change the Whole.

My approach to shifting the system of education toward a more self-directed learning environment sometimes seems like far too large of a job, too large for anybody, until something comes along and reminds me that I'm not the only one with a similar mindset. In Ezra Klein's new book, "Why We're Polarized", in his introduction, Ezra clearly states his intention "is to zoom out from the individuals to better see interlocking systems that surround them" and that what he seeks "isn't a story but a blueprint, a map to the machine that shapes political decisions." He goes on to reference the words of Sidney Dekker, Founder of the Safety Science Innovation Lab at Australia's Griffith University, writing that "...complex systems often fail the public even as they're succeeding by their own logic. If you discover the screw that failed or the maintenance shift that was missed, you might think you've found the broken part. But if you miss the way the stock market was rewarding the company for cutting costs on maintenance, you've missed the cause of the crisis, and failed to prevent its recurrence." I connect with this perspective because, just this past December, I posted on Corwin Connect an article looking at teacher retention, how Social-Emotional Learning is often seen as a viable solution for lowering student suspension rates, and the correlation that can be made by implementing SEL to address suspension rates to intentionally or unintentionally impact teacher retention. Seeing the education system as the system of parts that it is can allow those of us in that system to shift our perspective to consider how the quality of each part is equally as important as the quality of oversight and accountability related to the interconnectivity of those parts.

There's so many more insights and takeaways in this book - I am only addressing one initial takeaway in the introduction, but I know that when I speak with educators and administrators about small parts of a school's system, such as homework policies and grading practices, it can be difficult to communicate both intentional and unintentional impact those parts have on the larger school system. The focus of those conversations are on the quality of how each part is designed and implemented and it is unfortunate how the interconnectivity of those parts that impact the larger system will not be addressed with intention but rather left to the winds to decide with which consequences will need to be dealt due to today's policy decisions.


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