Sunday, December 4, 2011

Philip Glass with Occupy Protesters

Philip Glass, the brilliant composer who wrote the opera, made a statement that was broadcast throughout the crowd by the group, which repeated each line. He made the statement, which is a passage from the Bhagavad Gita, three times:
“When righteousness withers away and evil rules the land, we come into being, age after age, and take visible shape, and move, a man among men, for the protection of good, thrusting back evil and setting virtue on her seat again.”

Philip Glass at Lincoln Center with Occupy Wall Street Protesters

Friday, December 2, 2011

Citizens United Opinion

 In 2010, Justice Stevens along with Justice GinsburgJustice Breyer, and Justice Sotomayor view Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission as having drastically weakened efforts to restrain the effect of money in government. In his dissenting remarks Justice Stevens states:
At bottom, the Court's opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt. It is a strange time to repudiate that common sense. While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.
Citizens United Opinion by Justice Stevens

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Bad Things

People perch in front of their TV keeping watch on the news for the next bad thing.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Declaration of Citizens

Declaration of Citizens

The time has come for Citizens of the United States of America to assert our rights to control the political system.  For too long, others have claimed that governing belonged to the capitalists, the corporations, the special interests and the elite.  Now is the time for Citizens to declare the causes that require us to assert our rights.

Citizens of the United States of America have rights.  Citizens have the right to participate in the political system at the federal, state and local levels.  When that political system and government become unable to protect Citizens from hunger, homelessness, unemployment and poverty then Citizens have the right to change that political system and government by defining principles and rights that assert the Right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness as defined in the Declaration of Independence and assert the rights defined in the Constitution of the United States of America and amendments.

Corporations and other forms of business ownership have had a mutually beneficial partnership with Citizens to participate in the economy of the United States of America.  Tax paying Citizens have provided schools, roads and bridges, firefighters, police and government for the benefit of everyone.  Corporations have competed in the economy to sell goods and services, and hired people who paid taxes.  However, Corporations and other forms of business ownership have caused the Great Recession, the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, and claim they have the power to participate in the political system to maintain their position of dominance.  What are the grievances Citizens have against Corporations and other business entities?

They have abused the laws necessary for the public good by polluting the land, air and water.

They have financed campaigns using false or misleading information to influence people to not support laws for human health and a healthy environment.

They have financed political candidates that support laws that limit Citizens rights and expand the rights of business entities,

They have used their influence in the political system to delay and stop changes unfavorable to their economic agenda, even though the changes benefit the health and welfare of Citizens.

They have benefited in the global economy without creating jobs in the United States of America to protect Citizens from hunger, homelessness, unemployment and poverty.

They have........well, here you get to add to the list.

Next, what are the demands of the Citizens?

To get Corporations out of the political system as much as possible.
Corporations are not Citizens, do not have the right to vote and should not be able to use their superior cash flow  and wealth to get their way and hurt Citizens economic welfare.

Corporations should not be contributing to political campaigns for ballot measures or people.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Poem Inspired by World Trade Center Memorial

My Name My name is not on the Korean War Memorial My name is not on the Vietnam War Memorial My name is not at Arlington National My name is not on the World Trade Center Memorial My name is not on the Pentagon Memorial My name is not on the CIA's wall My name is on my birth certificate My name is on an American Passport My name is on an Honorable Discharge My name is on a pension check My name is on a social security check My name is now Grandpa

Climate Change

Al Gore (An Inconvenient Truth and Our Choice) and Paul Gilding (The Great Disruption). Both Gore and Gilding's declarations of catastrophe caused by global climate change are an important precedent. They are politically premature and true, however they are relegated to the scrap heap of ridiculed ideas about climate change, sustainability and democratic principles. Under ordinary circumstances, articulating the previously unthinkable and using means that appear on the surface to be extra-constitutional, these will cause a reaction from Republicans to oppose the policies at all costs. In 2011, they are ten years too early. Just like anyone warning about Germany or Japan 10 years before WWII.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Public Frustration Grows With GOP Approach to Jobs, Deficit

Public Frustration Grows With GOP Approach to Jobs, Deficit

Public frustration is growing with Republican's approach to deficit reduction and job creation, as the President prepares to unveil the latest plank in his economic roadmap Monday. The tone from the public has changed markedly over the past two weeks. When Obama delivered his jobs speech to Congress earlier this month, GOP leaders greeted the address with blanket statements welcoming the opportunity to work together on proposals that will grow the economy.  But then the president proposed paying for those items with tax increases and the majority of the public agree. And in the president's plan for long-term deficit reduction set for release Monday, he's expected to call for a new tax rate for people making more than $1 million a year.

The Republican's say the President is in "class warfare mode" and engaging in class warfare against the people who create jobs.  However the Republicans are the ones engaging in class warfare against the 99 percent of the public that don't make over $1 million a year.

Unfortunately the Republicans believe only in conflict.  As former President Clinton said, "cooperation is good economics, even if conflict is good politics."

Sunday, August 28, 2011

CNN Headlines

Celebs arrive at the 2011 MTV VMAs
Luxury, horror lurk in Gadhafi family compound
Witness: Gadhafi's troops killed nearly 150 prisoners

The media headlines place entertainment next to the horrors of war.  While Americans dance, sing, eat, drink and celebrate, the evil in the world reminds us of the suffering of others at their hands.  Peace is an idealistic fantasy.  War is always going on somewhere in the world.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

President Obama

Prove Obama is a bad President

Republicans have a tactical political skill of blaming others for the consequences of their own ideology driven policies implemented with the signature of President Bush after being passed by Republican controlled Congress for the ten years leading up to the Bush Recession (except for 2 years after 2006 when Democrats controlled the House). The Bush tax cuts and two foreign wars have caused the National Debt to balloon.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Army Supports Sustainability Using Net Zero Goal

From US Army website:

The Army has identified six pilot installations for an initiative to reach net zero by 2020. The Army is focusing on three categories: net zero energy, balancing energy used with renewable energy created; net zero water, limiting freshwater used and recharging water into the watershed from which it was extracted; and net zero waste, minimizing of waste through recycling. In addition to the six pilot installations, in 2014 the Army will encourage twenty-five installations per category to self-nominate for the net zero initiative.
A number of Army installations have already taken steps toward reaching net zero. At Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia, soldiers began replacing hay with wood pellets in stables, creating compost instead of material typically sent to landfills. U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii regularly collects rainwater in rain barrels, which is later used for lawn watering. Assistant Secretary of the Army Katherine Hammack notes that striving for net zero is imperative across the Army because “without appropriately stewarding energy, water, and waste, [the Army is] not able to function."

Fear Drives Republicans

From Huffington Post,
"The economic message illustrates Obama's current dilemma. Republicans control the House and believe that addressing the nation's long-term debt will have a positive effect on the economy; they have no appetite for major spending initiatives aimed at spurring a recovery."

Because short term stimulus would help Obama win re-election the Republicans are against it.
The federal government has sufficient cash flow to pay the interest on the debt at current levels and much higher levels. The Republicans are using fear to try to defeat Obama. Fear of a black man is the underlying emotion behind the Republican rhetoric.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Tea Party vs Obama

The Tea Party baby boomers are about presentation and posture, while President Obama, a Generation X, is more about getting the work done. A boomer might be dressed nicely and at work during the designated hours, whether much work is accomplished or not. Gen X’ers, like President Obama, typically don’t care so much about the suit and tie and designated hours and care more about getting the task done. Obama cared about getting the debt ceiling raised and the Tea Party idealistic baby boomers were all about presentation, posturing and values.

For example, organizers of business conventions know these traits. Tea Party Boomers like motivational speakers. Obama GenX’ers want speakers who provide information that can’t be found in books or online. Tea Party Boomers like ideas. Obama GenX’ers like information. Tea Party Boomers are about values. Obama GenX’ers are about pragmatism.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Raise the debt ceiling

President Obama has a balanced approach to the fiscal decision to raise the debt ceiling. There really is not a fiscal crisis because raising the debt ceiling is a technical requirement. The real problem is the reduced cash flow because of the legacy of Bush era tax cuts for the rich, two unbudgeted wars and the drug benefits for Medicare. America has the cash flow to service the debt. We could increase the debt to twice the current level and still be able to make payments. But idealistic Baby Boomers want to limit government and keep their own taxes low while middle class and low income citizens will suffer another recession without action.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Servicing the Debt

The U.S. Is Not Drowning In Debt Just like a homeowner or business, cash-flow is the key to debt not the total amount of debt.  The ability to service the debt is how the investor makes a decision about making a loan.

If the US Government can service the debt then there isn't a real problem.  Republicans are creating a problem for the Democrats and winning a false debate.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Example of Life Using Sustainable Practices

Read Paul Gilding's book "The Great Disruption".  We will all be living like the Dervaes family by 2020 in order to survive.

In this day and age, finding ways to cut corners can help us all out.  Jules Dervaes and his family may live a frugal lifestyle but he says, “We eat rich I tell ya.  The way we live seems like something we dream of.”
“Growing your own food is recession proof.  You don’t have to worry about the prices.  When you depend on other people you become powerless.”
- Jules Dervaes
Click below to see Youtube video of their house and land.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Communities as a system

Communities are not the sum of their roads, schools and malls. They are the sum of their relationships.

Clean Green Energy

We don't need more electricity, just cleaner electricity
by John Farrell
July 5, 2011

Saturday, July 2, 2011


Some days I'm not unhappy to be
No one you don't know me to be

Scuffing my shoes
Shifting my gaze

Breathing like the wind
Making sounds like the airplanes

Touching the mossy tree bark
Stopping to look up at the dead branches

Practicing being here now
Even when I'm not going to be

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Book to Read

The Great Disruption by Paul Gilding.
Defines the Crisis Era climax beginning around the year 2020.
Optimistic, positive, helpful, action oriented.
Make a plan as if you are going to be in an earthquake or other natural disaster and you will be preparing for what he says is going to happen.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Exponential Growth

  • Computers continue Moore’s Law every two years by having more computing power in a smaller space at a lower cost using the same power.  Wearable computers will be everywhere by 2020.

  • What even Moore couldn't understand at the time was that this process would, at an astonishing rate, extend to every corner of modern life. It wasn't just about chips, because once you put those chips into a telephone, or a desktop calculator, a car or a bomb — those systems also took on the characteristics of Moore's Law.
Where Paul Gilding in "The Great Disruption" talks about the end of growth, we are actually going to experience the consequences of exponential growth caused by the digital revolution that will extend into every developed country and the lives of every person. Millions of the poorest people in the world have cell phones.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


"It is an absolute given that if a teacher is improving their practice, students will do better in school..." -Kim FandiƱo, Lebanon School District
The Chalkboard Project needs to re-examine your strategy. Teachers are not the cause of low student performance.
I agree we need to pay teachers more, give them respect and fund schools properly. I always vote for schools. However the data show that poverty is what causes low student performance. Data that correlate teachers improving their practice with student performance do not stand up to scientific standards using controls, cause and effect, and statistical significance.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Debt, deficits and budgets

The CBPP looks at the source of the public debt (previous charts have examined the source of deficits, i.e. the deficit or surplus in a given year, this looks at the debt which is the accumulation of all past deficits and surpluses). As this notes, "simply letting the Bush tax cuts expire on schedule ... would stabilize the debt-to-GDP ratio for the next decade." We are on the verge of trading tax cuts for the wealthy and spending on wars for large cuts to social programs (the budget hole the recession caused is helping to fuel the calls for austerity).

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Monday, May 9, 2011

Progressives Unite!

George Lakoff wrote about President Obama’s speech on April 13 at George Washington University.  Here is a President with the right message at the right time to deal with a crisis.

As Mr. Lakoff points out this moral vision of America is just what progressives need to use to deal with any topic proposed by conservatives.  You can adopt these ideas to work in any state on any topic.  There is a basic moral vision that can be used to address any topic.  I took Obama’s speech and edited it to apply only to funding public education in Oregon.  I added details about education and deleted much of the deficit talk and references to Social Security and Medicare.  I added details about how teachers are not the ones to blame.  Poverty levels are the primary cause of low student performance in school.

Obama Returns To His Moral Vision: Democrats Read Carefully!
Posted on April 17, 2011 by georgelakoff

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Dear President Obama

Dear President Obama, April 21, 2011

When you engage other politicians in negotiating about Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Defense and other significant government expenditures, I believe you should consider the following items:

  • Democrats need to support across the board sacrifice for a significant public purpose.
  • The fiscal crisis era America has entered requires stopping old consumption habits.
  • The federal budget needs to shift away from the non-needy, over 60 toward the needy young.
  • Specific rules need to be enacted to control the unsustainable entitlements of Social Security and Medicare. There needs to be an income and wealth means test so that the wealthy pay for some or all of their own health care. Some kind of sliding scale needs to be passed into law.
  • States and the federal government need to shift the tax base from income taxes toward taxing consumption. Specifically the consumption of carbon emitting energy needs to be taxed so that we can invest in renewable energy sources.
  • Invest in R&D for renewable energy sources but not in mass production. Keep all options open.
  • Retain the ability to remilitarize surplus domestic properties and overseas bases. Maintain a diverse domestic defense infrastructure.


1. What example of sacrifice must be provided to infuse team spirit in a new generation (under 30)?
2. What image of government must be reinforced to infuse a civic spirit in the young (under 30)?
3. What across the board sacrifice will there be for a significant public purpose?
4. What new national purpose will rejuvenate public authority?
5. What is the community world view of the ideal personal sacrifice for a significant public purpose?
6. What can be done to infuse public institutions with a much-needed sense of public purpose?

These questions are really getting at why we want to infuse team spirit and civic responsibility in a new generation. What is the basic belief a majority has about public service? What is the purpose of our sacrifice?

One of the challenges is how to deal with the false choices and individualism communicated by conservatives and the Republican Party. How will Democrats and the majority emphasize civic duties over personal rights?

The Republican quest for individual rights will make public authority more dysfunctional. They seek to starve government of revenues and shutdown whole agencies. Republicans must not be allowed to get their way and prevent the youth from forging a positive bond with government.

They must not be allowed to continue to limit public resources for education and care of children. Their current focus on denying undocumented immigrants public resources is a civil rights issue because they are discriminating against people of color and specifically denying children an education and access to health care.

Republicans are focused on individual rights and that precludes civic mobilization for any significant public purpose.

The primary message of federal programs needs to be personal sacrifice to support public authority, civic virtue, civic spirit and teamwork. The level of public teamwork and self-sacrifice needs to continue to increase as we approach 2020.

There were 40 million people over 65 in 2010. That is the only age cohort of the population growing each year. The retired population of Baby Boomers will increase by millions every year until 2020 when we have a 60% increase from 2010 in the over 60 population.

By engaging millions of healthy and wealthy Baby Boomers, you can get idealistic and motivated people to support the issues outlined above. By engaging the millions under 30, you can get single goal focused and motivated youth to support the same issues as the Baby Boomers. That is a winning combination the conservatives won’t be able to beat.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Federal Debt and Deficit

The real problem with the Congressional control over the federal budget deficit is the same that causes a business to go bankrupt - the cash flow is too low from revenue. Cutting the national debt requires the same thing that an individual or a business has to do to reduce debt - improve net cash flow and allocate some money each month to reducing the debt. The Congress has reduce revenue giving tax cuts to the rich in the Bush era that now need to be reversed before they make cuts to services for seniors, children and the poor.

Threat of Government Shutdown

Even the threat of a government shutdown has had a significant economic effect on people who can least afford to lose income. My granddaughter's school field trip to a federal historical location on Monday was cancelled on the prior Friday because of the uncertainty of paying for the busses, driving for hours and then not getting in. Our state national guard cancelled all but essential weekend activities. These are just two examples. Many people's income was reduce because of the brinkmanship played out by uncaring politicians in DC. Why are we continuing to put up with the lying about the debt and deficit when these are just ideological agendas from the last Century?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

China and why American Food Prices will increase

The story on this blog seems like an opportunity for a high school student to build a system dynamics model to test different policy decisions before food prices actually start rising dramatically.

“Can the United States Feed China?”

Combining an increasing population with environmental damage might create an overshoot and collapse scenario in China.  Over the next ten years, China will add the equivalent of the population of America.  At the same time, as stated in the Sustainablog ( the available land and water in China is shrinking.

This affects America because China will want to import more and more grain and that will cause prices for food in America to increase.  Besides bread and cereals, grain is also used to produce meat, milk and eggs so those prices will increase. China holds $900 billion in American debt that they could use as leverage to make America supply more grain.

One policy decision might be to reverse desertification like they are doing in Africa.  The feedback loops are going to have different time delays and so there are short term and long term policy decisions that might be considered.  A model builder would have to learn how to calculate the time constant for each feedback loop.

Monday, March 21, 2011

America is not Bankrupt

Politicians are lying! America is not bankrupt. America has sufficient cash flow to pay our debt and America is paying low interest on new debt issued. Anyone who says America is bankrupt is lying. They are attempting to make people feel afraid. Politicians are attempting to maintain their positions of authority and wealth by spreading fear. When 2012 arrives, the fall election will be a defining point in American politics. Are you going to believe the politicians who paint disaster or are you going to believe in abundance?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Change in the Hands of the People

The tools for change are in the hands of the people of America. In Tunisia, Egypt and Libya the people decided they were not going to be afraid anymore. In America, the people also need to decide we are not going to be afraid anymore. Some are beginning to adopt sustainability in business, non-profits and public agencies. Instead of being afraid, as the conservative narrative would have us behave, the people are beginning to become aware of why we exist as a civilization. Because we welcome diversity, we work together to solve global issues of poverty, we believe in civic duties, public authority and self-sacrifice.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Teachers, Politicians and Philanthropists

Re: “Christie Wants to Grade the Teachers” March 4, 2011, The Wall Street Journal.

Re: “How teacher development could revolutionize our schools” Feb. 28, 2011, The Washington Post.

The real issue is why don’t we think of public education like it was a computer system? A teacher is one element in an organizational system like Microsoft Windows is one element in a computer system. Of course any analogy breaks down if you list too many comparisons. The key point is that public education is an organizational system. If you accept that premise then systems theory applies to public education.

Politicians and philanthropists are thinking systemically by suggesting changes to the feedback loop in the education system to measure, evaluate and reward teachers. That feedback loop already exists but could be improved with technology such as video. However these changes do not take into consideration the system principles that apply to organizations.

Russell Ackoff lists basic principles about a system. “If we have a system of improvement directed at improving the parts taken separately you can be absolutely certain that the performance of the whole will not be improved.”

For example, leadership, students, assessments and curriculum are also parts of the organizational system in public education. By focusing on improving teachers separately from leadership, students, assessments or curriculum we can be absolutely certain that the performance of the whole public education system will NOT be improved.

“The performance of a system depends on how the parts fit together, not how they perform separately.” Improving student outcomes (lower drop out rate, etc.) depends on how the parts of the public education system fit together, not how teachers perform separately from how the other elements of the public education system perform.

This will feel like a lecture if I keep going. There are many great systems consultants. The best program for improving public education is the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program because the process deals with public education as an organizational system.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Systems Thinking "Beyond Continuous Improvement"

Quality - meeting or exceeding the expectations of the customer or the consumer
Quality Improvement - if the customer expectations not met then it's a failure
The reasons for the failures is because they have been anti-systemic applications
A whole that consists of parts, each of which can affect its behavior or its properties.
Each part of the system when it affects the system is dependent for its effect on some other part. The parts are interdependent. No part of the system, or collection of parts of the system, has an independent affect on it.
A system is a whole that can not be divided into independent parts.
Essential, or defining properties of any system, are properties of the whole that none of its parts have.
When a system is taken apart is looses its essential properties.
A system is not the sum of the interaction of its parts but the product of their interactions.
If we have a system of improvement directed at improving the parts taken separately you can be absolutely certain that the performance of the whole will not be improved.
The performance of a system depends on how the parts fit together, not how they perform separately.
Never modify the whole to improve the quality of the parts unless the quality of the whole is also simultaneously improved.
Finding deficiencies and getting rid of them is not a way of improving the performance of the system. An improvement program must be directed at what you want, not at what you don't want. And, determining what you do want requires redesigning the system, not for the future, but for right now, and asking yourself what would you do right now if you could do whatever you wanted to. If you don't know what you would do if you could do what you wanted to do how could you ever know what you would do under constraints?
Continuous improvement isn't nearly as important as discontinuous improvement. Creativity is a discontinuity. One never becomes a leader by continuously improving. That's imitation of the leader. You only become a leader by leapfrogging those who are ahead of you.
Drucker - distinction between doing things right and doing the right things. One might better be doing the right things wrong than doing the wrong things right.
Quality should contain the notion of value not simply efficiency.
Quality should be directed at effectiveness, not efficiency.
The difference between efficiency and effectiveness is the difference between knowledge and wisdom.
Until managers take into account the systemic nature of their organizations most of their efforts to improve their performance are doomed to failure.

Predicting the Future

Friday, February 25, 2011

Neil Howe

New book I want to read about Millennials in the Workplace by Neil Howe.  I believe the 4th Turning cycle that is described in their prior book.

Neil Howe is a historian, economist, and demographer who writes and speaks frequently on generational change in American history and on long-term fiscal policy. He is cofounder of LifeCourse Associates, a marketing, HR, and strategic planning consultancy serving corporate, government, and nonprofit clients. He has coauthored six books with William Strauss, including Generations, 13th Gen, The Fourth Turning, and Millennials Rising. His other coauthored books include On Borrowed Time. He is also a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, where he helps lead the CSIS "Global Aging Initiative," and a senior advisor to the Concord Coalition. He holds graduate degrees in history and economics from Yale University.

Millennial Generation

Ideas from Neil Howe, author of Generations, the 4th Turning, Millennials in the workplace
K12 schools then colleges and now the workplace are realizing that the smartest and best of the Millennial generation (born 1982-2002) bring with them their parents.  Parents invaded K12 schools first. Then colleges embraced parents and celebrated parents. Millennial generation are closer to their parents than any prior generation.
Boomers and GenX are very competitive in the workplace.  However the Millennial generation on the job really do want to help each other.  Millennial like to use social media in the workplace to check on what others think of something.  Millennial want to be the person others rely on, collaborate with others and be a part of a team.  Millennial want feedback, want contact with older people, want to know how they are doing.  Boomers and GenX don’t understand this because we are so independent.
Recruit in groups. To recruit one, recruit friends.
Millennials: Look for a place to work where your friends work. Talk to friends who are working to help get a job. Recruit friends to find a job where they work.
The culture gap between parent and child has gotten smaller.  Boomers and GenX had a big culture gap between themselves and their parents.

Individualism versus the Common Good

Yes, David Sirota gets it! Republican individualism versus Democrats supporting the Common Good. The underlying values of each party need to be called out. The consequences of supporting these values needs to be defined. David Sirota has done a great job with "best and brightest to the "greed is good" financial industry is more important than attracting that workforce to common-good endeavors." This clearly defines the individual right to profit versus the common-good. I support the Common Good.
Two public pay standards, one statement of values

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Economy

There is a mismatch between the policy structure that we have at the federal level and the realities of the economy after 2009 because the laws were passed before the Great Recession.  An example is training people but they can't find a job when what works now is finding jobs and then placing people in jobs.  The training comes on the job.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Income and Wealth Inequality in America

Income and Wealth Inequality in America

In 2004  (the most recent year data is available) the wealthiest 1 percent of families owned roughly 34.3% of the nation's net worth, the top 10% of families owned over 71%, and the bottom 40% of the population owned way less than 1%.

In 2009, 43.6 million people were in poverty in America.  Why aren’t they rioting?
Who speaks for the people in poverty in America?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Revolutionary Measures

Looking at the chart, at the bottom is the United States, listed for comparison.  WOW!  Look at the Income Inequality!  America is ripe for revolution!  Well, not quite, but we do have a problem.

Revolutionary Measures from NYTimes

Saturday, January 29, 2011


Intuition is fast, uncontrolled, and, most importantly, effortless. Computation, on the other hand, is slow, governed by strict rules, and requires tremendous effort.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

One Way

One Way

One way is my way and then
there are other ways that others have
to say or nay say their opinion.
My way is the right way and then
there is their way, the wrong way
others have of doing things that way.
My way is better, has benefits, and then
there are other ways that are false promises,
leading to invalid conclusions, inaccurate decisions.
My way is the way to win the future.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Learning Story

In the Beginning
From the universe of all possible things, select a few to hold in your mind.  Now bring these things into clear focus and find a way to represent them with a symbol or diagram and write a description about how these things fit together.  Include assumptions, elements, parameters, accumulations, flows and other things.  This is defined as a mental model.

Next, start doing “what-if” simulations, running through the dynamics based on your mental model.  Imagine what would happen if your assumptions are true, the parameters have specific values, your accumulations reach accurate levels and the flows are just right.  Rerun your mental model over and over again in your mind with different assumptions, accumulations and flows.  What are the best outcomes and the worst?

Maybe there are some conclusions and decisions that might come to mind after running lots of simulations.  After all this work you have three raw materials for learning (1) a mental model, (2) simulation outcomes, and (3) conclusions and decisions.  These are the raw materials available for constructing learning.

When these raw materials are transparent or revealed to others, then communication is possible. The quality improves when all parties to the communication make their raw materials available to each other.

With this background of thinking and communicating how does learning fit into this picture?  How do we construct learning?

Two Types of Learning
One type of learning might be called self-reflective learning.  This is when the simulation outcomes are used to determine what things are selected from all the things available in the beginning. For example, we think of “what-if” and from the results of the simulation we decide to change the content of what we are thinking about.  We add or remove elements from our mental model.

We also use the simulation outcomes to determine how to represent the things we have selected.  For example, we might change the relationships between things or change a parameter into an accumulation.  We add or remove relationships and symbols for the things on our list.  We rerun the simulation.  We rethink our mental model. This self-reflective learning results from changes in our mental model.

A second type of learning might be called other-inspired learning.  This is when communication with others inspires us to change the things we select or the way we represent those things.  We add or remove elements or relationships.  We change our mental model.  We rerun the simulation.  We communicate again and revise our mental model again. When we communicate our conclusions and decisions after running lots of simulations this will also change what things we select and the way we represent those things in our mental model.  This other-inspired learning results from changes in our mental model.

In the Real World
Until now our story has been about thinking, communicating and learning activities that are very cerebral in nature.  In reality of course, once we have come to a conclusion and made a decision, we are probably going to take action.  Our actions cause consequences that spread out over space and time creating impacts on people and things.  This creates another raw material we can use in our story about learning.

As the consequences branch out and become known, there is the potential to change what elements we select or how we represent them in our mental model.  Another possibility is that when we communicate the consequences to others and others inspire use to change the elements and relationships in our mental model.  These changes cascade through simulations, our conclusions and decisions, and our actions.

In summary, we have four raw materials to work with and two types of learning. We have a self-reflective loop and other-inspired loop to construct learning.  Learning happens when this self-reinforcing system changes our mental models.

We can create learning, improve learning and accelerate learning by building skills in any one of the raw materials and following the process outlined in this story.  Learning doesn’t happen unless our mental model changes.

System Dynamics
System Dynamics builds skills to work within this self-reinforcing system. The study of System Dynamics includes improving our skills to select and represent things to build a computer model, running quality simulations, and reflecting on the elements and relationships in the model.  Self-reflective learning happens when our mental model aligns with our computer model as we make changes.

The study of System Dynamics also includes building skills for coming to conclusions and decisions based on the computer model and simulation results.  A key part of System Dynamics is communicating the four raw materials to others.  Other-inspired learning happens when our model changes are based on feedback from others.

The Education System
In American schools, very little attention is paid to developing simulation skills. Memorization is the primary way knowledge is acquired for improving test scores. This means a very strong set of reinforcing feedback loops is being ignored.  This means students do not have a way to improve the quality of their mental models.

The American Education System doesn’t measure learning.  Standardized tests measure what a student can remember based on memorization and test taking practice.  The current system of formal education in America does not build student skills that create self-reflective and other-inspired learning feedback loops.  They do not operate with the reinforcing system defined by the two types of learning.

As Barry Richmond wrote about building systems thinking skills:
“Each skill can be readily implemented into today’s school systems.  The primary barrier to doing so is the view that the mission of the education system is to fill the students’ heads with knowledge.  This view leads to sharp disciplinary segmentation and to student performance rubrics based on discipline-specific knowledge recall.  Changing viewpoints – especially when they are supported by a measurement system and an ocean of teaching material – is an extremely challenging endeavor.  But the implications of not doing so are untenable.  The time is now.”

Richmond, Barry. "The Thinking in Systems Thinking: Eight Critical Skills." Introduction. Tracing Connections: Voices of Systems Thinkers. Lebanon, NH: isee Systems, 2010. 3-21.