What Should Education Value?

Newsletter cover image

We talk a lot about the value of education, but the value of education is only as good as what education, as a whole, values.

As a student of life and the broader world, I have seen how many industries and disciplines, such as software engineering and project management, have improved by looking at what they value, and realizing that what they previously valued was not sufficient to improve dramatically. From this, the Manifesto for Agile Software Development came forth, which has profoundly impacted and improved how software and other technology is made.

What I appreciated greatly about the original agile manifesto, is that it does not negate the value of the previous paradigm. But, instead elevates a new paradigm. This reduces some of the false dichotomy that happens in our thinking. So, in thinking about what I see as important to value and change in the field of education, I used the same style. So, what follows is the Education SystemONE Manifesto of Values with a similar structure, which also incorporates similar themes.

Education SystemONE Manifesto of Values

Education SystemONE is discovering more effective ways of learning. Through our research and practice we have come to value:

  • Effort over talent
  • Giving over taking
  • Action over planning
  • Real over simulations
  • Humanity over culture
  • Innovation over propriety
  • Learning over teaching
  • Evidence over eminence
  • Openness over ownership
  • Competency over curricula
  • Application over assignments
  • Accepting uncertainty over predictability

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.

Effort over Talent

While it is recognized that there are biological, including neurological, factors that affect our ability to learn and reach specific competencies, it is also recognized that everyone can learn, and that the effort made to learn is what determines whether there is improvement in the outcomes, and it is this improvement that should be focused upon. Although, this focus on effort should not be mistake for a belief that any type of effort will lead to excellence. It is critical that one works both “smarter” and “harder” to be able to gain the competencies that is the goal of their education.

Giving over Taking

While it is recognized that we all have needs and wants, and thus we must and should take at times, it is also recognized that we are part of our family, a community, a humanity, and a world ecology. Each of these are necessary to provide us with our needs and wants, and only if they are healthy can we be healthy. Thus, we strive to take actions that support the health of each of the Circles of Context that we exist within, and work and give how we can, to support this health.

Action over Planning

While there is value in determining how we plan to accomplish things, planning on its own leads to nothing. Thus we must value action higher than planning. Further, it is only through action that we can get further so that we can see what plans are necessary to continue our journey. And thus, when combined with the recognition of the rapid change and actual uncertainty of the world around us, we are often better to take a strategy of “Ready! Fire! Aim!”, then to end up in an endless loop of “Ready, Aim, aim, aim, aim, aim, aim…” And so we recognize that we can plan best, by using an iterative approach which is truly data-driven.

Humanity over Culture

While there is value in the individual cultures and contexts that each human exists within; none the less, it is more important for us to value humanity and help humanity as a whole, more than any form of tribalism that our cultures dictate. Further, while every person is unique in the totality of their DNA, upbringing, skills, knowledge, and beliefs, and with different measures in different contexts, will be greater or lesser than each other; we none-the-less recognize that the inherent worth of each human is the same, and each person has the potential within them to have a fulfilling life and contribute to the world. Also, while it is appropriate and important to take actions that helps oneself, one’s family, and one’s friends; these should not have a negative impact on the world, and we must strive to take actions that lead to the ultimate benefit of all sentience.

Innovation over Propriety

While tradition has brought humanity to the state it is thus far, we can not grow and improve without questioning the status quo. We must be willing to question anything and potentially everything to see if it is still serving us well, or if a newer way can prove better.

Learning over Teaching

While there is often benefit to being “taught”, and there is value to earning “a piece of paper” such as a diploma, degree, etc. We should not confuse the proxy of the piece of paper, nor what a teacher shares with students, nor even the assessment of a student with what is actually learned. Yet, we also know that these proxies can have value, and that we have no choice in using proxies to understand what someone has learned. But recognizing the limitation of knowledge that we have of other’s knowledge, we endeavor to be as careful as possible in our judgement of what has been learned and the value it has to students.

Evidence over Eminence

While teachers and other experts are recognized as critical sources of knowledge, we should not fall into the fallacy of argument from authority. Instead, all of us must have humility in our knowledge and abilities, recognizing that it is always possible for us to be wrong, and that only be having an open mind can we reduce the risk of thinking we are right, when we are not. Yet at the same time, to avoid the fallacy of argument from authority we also need sufficient skepticism of all that we hear from others, to not believe something that does not actually have merit.

Openness over Ownership

While all humans should have a right to receive credit and earn compensation for the work they have done, and have a right to own property, including intellectual property, it is also clear that those who have chosen to share their property, especially intellectual property freely have had a greater probability of doing greater good for the world than by taking a strategy of focusing on profit motives first. Thus we work diligently to be able to release what is created in an open manner that allows for free access to others so that the benefit of the education system is multiplied.

Competency over Curricula

We recognize that learning activities and the the time spent doing these learning activities are necessary to reach the goal of attaining sufficient proficiency in that which is being learned, but that there is more than one way to reach a sufficient proficiency and that the amount of time spent on learning activities does not inherently mean that one has gained sufficient competency in that which they are working on learning.

Application over Assignments

While at the beginning stages of learning, there is a need to practice skills and use repetition to remember knowledge, the ultimate goal of all learning activities is to have students gain skills and knowledge that they can apply to their lives in the real world. Further, there is a recognition that in traditional education, a great deal of student effort is not used to its full potential, because student work usually only serves as a contrived learning activity. Therefore, student work that is real will be valued higher than work that is contrived or simulated. And student work that benefits the world as a whole is valued even higher.

Accepting Uncertainty over Predictability

While there is a natural desire to stand on solid ground, we must recognize that to a degree all knowledge is uncertain. And that the best method humanity has discovered to solve this paradox is to have faith in the process of science and build our beliefs based upon evidence.