Archive for the ‘Government’ Category


Uploaded by Tambour_Unit

 I don’t know if you’d heard the expression, it’s like polishing canon balls.  It goes back to the old quality improvement and reengineering days.  In other words, you’re making improvements that really have no benefits.  Nice shiny canon balls are still obsolete.

So the question is, are the improvements to the education system really meaningful or are we just polishing cannon balls.  Is it a matter of making incremental improvements or trying something completely different? 

At your next meeting where this is discussed try asking the group, are we just polishing canon balls?

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Uploaded by Dean-Melbourne

The reason for this post is to see if we can get a little discussion going about the best approaches for a economic slowdown.  For our discussion, let’s just assume the economy is slowing.  Whether it is or isn’t, is irrelevant for this discussion.  We can also stipulate that both government and business have a range of reactions that will vary from time to time. 

My experience is that there is not only a different reaction but also a different belief system.  Businesses first reaction is usually to tighten the belt and look for ways to be more productive.  Businesses also tend to streamline and focus more on their core business.  Some businesses will see this as an opportunity to grab marketshare or expand into new markets.

This  year we’ve seen the U.S. governments reaction is to borrow money and give it to tax payers so they will spend and stimulate the economy.  I haven’t yet seen a list of programs or agencies that they can cut back or cut all together. 

I think both government and business will try a lot of accounting tricks to move money around and make things look better. 

So this is just a very broad brush on the difference.  I hope what I’ve done is set the stage for a discussion.  As they say, there are no rules in a knife fight (Butch Cassidy).  I will however, edit anything out where one person calls another an idiot. 


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Uploaded by philbeth

 If you were going to teach a lesson about U.S. trade, a good place to start is to ask the question, “What do you believe is true about U.S. trade with other countries?” 

Write down what everyone says or a least the key ideas on a white board without comment.  Whether these ideas are right, wrong or somewhere in between they can prevent learning something new on the subject.

You could expand this by asking questions like,

“Who is the U.S.’s largest trading partner?” 

“What’s are biggest import from China?”

“Who do we buy more from France or Korea?”

 You get the point.  Now present some facts from a reliable, non-bias source.  I prefer getting raw and mostly unfiltered data from places like the Bureau of Labor Statistics or the US Census Bureau.  Usually what you read elsewhere is analysis of this data.

Here’s a great site for US Trade numbers.  US International Trade Commission.

They list every country in order and then break it down by product and services area.

You can also see how much they buy from the U.S. and the balance of trade numbers.

So here’s the big question, “who buys more from us than anyone?”  Do I hear Canada?

I also found it fascinating that in 2006 the second biggest category of imports from China were listed as: nuclear reactors, boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances; parts thereof

Be warned..a quick visit before you’re next political discussion will make you look like a smarty pants.

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Here’s a short collection of quotes about education and learning.  Why not add your favorites?

Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.   Oscar Wilde

To know what to leave out and what to put in; just where and just how, ah, THAT is to have be educated in the knowledge of simplicity. Frank Lloyd Wright

The great aim of education is not knowledge but action Herbert Spencer
“Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.”  Oliver Wendell HolmesSomebody who only reads newspapers and at best books of contemporary authors looks to me like an extremely near-sighted person who scorns eyeglasses. He is completely dependent on the prejudices and fashions of his times, since he never gets to see or hear anything else. Albert Einstein

Personally, I am always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught.  Winston Churchill

In the first place God made idiots.  This was for practice.  The he maide School Boards.  Mark Twain

Learning is not a spectator sport.  Anonymous

It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.  Albert Einstein

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn Alvin Toffler

Many public-school children seem to know only two dates–1492 and 4th of July; and as a rule they don’t know what happened on either occasion Mark Twain

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.  William Butler Yates.

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You read a lot of criticism of big busines such as Big Oil, Big Pharma and now Big Mac.  A lot of the historical anti-big business comes out of the early 1900s when there was a small number of big businesses and an equally small number of captains of industry.

That world has changed dramatically in a hundred years.  The biggest change comes from the sheer numbers of these businesses.  First, if you look at the top 100 companies only a small handful existed a hundred years ago.  In fact their entire industries didn’t exist.  Even companies like GE look nothing like they did.  Their largest business unit is financial services and not manufacturing.

In something like pharaceuticals, you have hundreds of highly competitive companies that often have very little in common.  Instead of conspiring in a big kabal, they are more likely trying ways to take market share from each other.

There is also a tremendous amount of transparancy in the companies because they are publicly traded and often owned by large money funds.  At the bottom line what these companies really care about is a stable set of rules to play by. 

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In the business world, we are always looking for ways to increase output while decreasing costs.  This is what the whole quality movement is about.  So how do you apply these principles to increase education funding.

First, for the sake of argument let’s just freeze education funding at current levels.  If we can provide the same or better education for less money we’ll free up money to do other things.  Second, we let’s assume we can change the funding from “butts in the seat” to some other formula we’re the level of quality of education equals funding.  I’ll come back to this.

Okay, so what we focus on is dramatically reducing time to proficiency for the middle 60 to 70% of students.  I’m leaving out the top and the bottom for right now because the real big dollars are in the middle with all the average kids. 

The first step is to define proficiency as the education the average student gets from K-12.  At the start, whatever the school system defines as proficiency will be our target.  Now, we measure the current time to proficiency.  It may be more or less that 13 years but we want a real time to proficiency not just the day you get the diploma.

Now through applying process improvement techniques that allow us to drive out waste and reduce time on the first pass I guarantee you will find 50 to 100 quick hit improvement ideas.  A quick hit is anything that reduces time to proficiency and that doesn’t require a lot of time or money.  These quick hits come from looking at the current curriculum in depth.  (By the way, my definition of waste is anything a student doesn’t remember after the test.)

A lot of quick hits have to do with our courses are arranged, rearranged, combined, modified and deleted.  You tend to break down subject and grade barriers and instead start to think in terms of start to finish.  For example, you set a reading level and you continue the education until the student reaches that level.  Instead of teaching reading in the first grade it may take several year to reach a certain level of speed and comprehension.  Quick hits are also trying to match the way people actually learn versus they way we traditionally teach it.

Through this effort you will reduce time to proficiency.  Some students will finish in 10 years, some 11, some 12 and some might take 14.  In the business world, we’ve always gotten a 30% reduction initially.  But let’s say you get a 5% reduction.   That means we cut an average education by about 6 or 7 months.  What does it 6 to 7 months of education cost a school system?  It’s a lot.  Now you can take the money and spend it on something like higher teacher salaries or a music program. 

You can read all about how this works in a business environment in my book Learning Paths.  I’ve also posted a whitepaper in my blog. 

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